“Ethicist” Peter Singer Surprises, Calling Abortion the Killing of a Human Being But Supports it Anyway

Peter Singer’s analysis of abortion surprised me. First of all, he agreed with many pro-lifers that a fetus, even at six weeks, is a “living human being.” He showed us slides of fetuses, because we should not “run away from what abortion is.”

Singer nonetheless believes that abortion is ethical, because even a viable fetus is not a rational, self-aware person with desires and plans, which would be cut short by death; hence it should not have the same right as humans who have such qualities. Abortion is also justified, Singer added, both as a female right and as a method for curbing overpopulation.

Singer further surprised me—and showed his meta-commitment to democracy and reason–when he said that he, like Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, disliked Roe V. Wade. That 1973 Supreme Court decision, Singer felt, provides a flimsy rationale for abortion and has corrupted the process whereby Supreme Court Justices are chosen. Ideally, Singer said, voters rather than unelected judges should determine the legal status of abortion. Singer nonetheless acknowledged that if Roe V. Wade is overturned, some states might outlaw or severely restrict abortion. “I’m torn,” he admitted.

Neither Presidential candidate, Singer pointed out, has expressed concern for the more than 1 billion people in the world enduring extreme poverty, defined by the United Nations as an income of less than $1.25 a day. This year almost 9 million extremely poor children will die of preventable causes, including malnutrition, malaria and other treatable diseases.

Singer suggested, a bit ironically, that American taxpayers may be prepared to pay much more to help impoverished children. He cited a poll that asked Americans how much of the federal budget goes to humanitarian foreign aid. Respondents came up with a median guess of 25 percent. Asked how much the percentage should be, respondents said 10 percent.

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