Contractarians have tried to deal with their scope problems by arguing that duties to some individuals who are not persons can be justified even though those individuals are not contracting members of the moral community. For example, Kant argued that, although we do not have direct duties to animals, we “must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men”. Feinberg argues that infanticide is wrong, not because infants have the right to life, but because our society’s protection of infants has social utility. If we do not treat infants with tenderness and consideration, then when they are persons they will be worse off and we will be worse off also.
These moves only stave off the difficulties with the pro-choice view; they do not resolve them. Consider Kant’s account of our obligations to animals. Kantians certainly know the difference between persons and animals. There- fore, no true Kantian would treat persons as she would treat animals. Thus, Kant’s defense of our duties to animals fails to show that Kantians have a duty not to be cruel to animals. Consider Feinberg’s attempt to show that in- fanticide is wrong even though no infant is a person. All Feinberg really shows is that it is a good idea to treat with care and consideration the infants we intend to keep. That is quite compatible with killing the infants we in- tend to discard. This point can he supported by an analogy with which any pro-choicer will agree. There are plainly good reasons to treat with care and consideration the fetuses we intend to keep. This is quite compatible with aborting those fetuses we intend to discard. Thus, Feinberg’s account of the wrongness of infanticide is inadequate.
Accordingly, we can see that a contractarian defense of the pro-choice personhood syllogism fails. The problem arises because the contractarian cannot account for our duties to individuals who are not persons, whether these individuals are animals or infants. Because the pro-choicer wishes to adopt a narrow criterion for the right to life so that fetuses will not be in- cluded, the scope of her major premise is too narrow. Her problem is the op- posite of the problem the classic opponent of abortion faces.
The argument of this section has attempted to establish, albeit briefly, that the classic antiabortion argument and the pro-choice argument favored by most philosophers both face problems that are mirror images of one another. A stand-off results. The abortion debate requires a different strategy.
The “Future Like Ours” Account of the Wrongness of Killing
Why do the standard arguments in the abortion debate fail to resolve the issue? The general principles to which partisans in the debate appeal are either truisms most persons would affirm in the absence of much reflection, or very general moral theories. All are subject to major problems. A different approach is needed.