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Philosophy professor argues abortion is not justified self-defense

| Monday, November 6, 2023

Christopher Kaczor from Loyola Marymount University posed a question Thursday to a room full of Notre Dame students: “Is abortion justified self-defense?”

In a event sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society, Kazor evaluated a thesis that argued “abortion is ethically permissible as a form of justified self-defense.” 

“Abortion cannot be justified in self-defense,” Kaczor concluded. 

Kaczor started his talk by explaining the types of aggressors. A villainous aggressor, often referred to as a formal aggressor, knowingly and willingly attacks another individual. An innocent aggressor, also known as a material aggressor, is an individual who is not knowingly and willingly attacking the person, but only attacking because he or she was involuntarily drugged, hypnotized or mind-controlled. 

Finally, individuals can endanger a person’s well-being without being labeled an aggressor. 

“For example, if a fat man is thrown out of a window by a villain who is about to squash you and thereby kill you,” Kaczor said. 

Kaczor then said each aggressor deserves a different level of punishment for their different intent of harm. 

“The human being in utero is not using violence and is not intending harm,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s accurate to say that a human being in utero could be characterized as an innocent aggressor.”

Kaczor said self-defense must be proportional and justified in order for it to truly be considered self-defense by the court of law. 

“So for example, if a man who is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds is attacked by a 5-year-old girl. She violates his rights, let’s say, by punching him in the face. His defense is disproportionate if he punches her in the face face as hard as he can,” he  said. 

He argued that if an individual adds more violence than necessary, then it is not legitimate self-defense. In order for self-defense to be considered legitimate, he said he believes you must use the least amount of violence necessary.

“So how could this requirement of minimal force apply to an unwanted pregnancy? Is there any other response aside from killing the prenatal human being that would allow the woman to secure what she views as endangered here? The answer seems to depend on why she was having the abortion,” Kaczor said. 

According to research from the Guttmacher Institute, 74% of women who had an abortion said having a child would interfere with their education or work, 73% could not afford a baby and 48% said they did not want to be a single mother or were having relationship problems.

“Now adoption addresses all these problems without killing it,” Kaczor said. “So to kill the human being in utero when another nonviolent option is available, is to use force that is disproportional and not justified by self-defense.” 

In 2021, there were almost 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States and roughly 54,000 children were adopted from foster care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ most recent report. 

“Since abortion properly speaking involves intentional killing of a human being prior to birth, then it is wrong in self-defense for the defender to have the intention to kill the attacker,” Kaczor said. “Then there can be no self-defense argument for abortion.” 

Kaczor received his Ph.D. from Notre Dame and said he was happy to be back.

“One of the basic rights that we have as human beings is the right to live — another way to put that is the right not to be intentionally killed. And so I’m happy to be at Notre Dame to talk to students of goodwill who can understand the arguments that I’m talking about,” Kaczor said.

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