Abortion as self-defense

I was discussing abortion with a fairly conservative friend, and an interesting parallel occurred to me. He, like most other conservatives, is big on the right to bear arms for self-defense, but generally opposed to abortion. Even if you grant that a fetus is a person, it seems odd to accept killing someone who breaks into your home, but to be required to accept the intrusion and all the associated risks if someone occupies your *body*. Even if the intruder isn’t actively harming you, or about to, none of these guys would let that person rummage through their stuff and eat their food for a day, let alone nine months.

Sure, the analogy has problems. There are choices and moral culpability on the home intruder’s side, while no one gets to pick who they’re born to. But as a thought experiment, what if you took that away? Say you knew that an intruder in your home was there for reasons beyond their control. Maybe they’re experiencing a delusion, maybe they’ve been drugged against their will, or Kilgraved or taken over by aliens. Pick whatever explanation you like that removes blame or decision-making from them, however far-fetched–because, thought experiment. Assuming their actions are the same and the chance that they will harm you is the same and it doesn’t give you any other options, does that change your right to defend yourself and your property? Morally or legally? I mean, it would change how you feel about it, certainly. And I think it would add more responsibility to look for other options than if the person meant you harm. But I don’t think it would mean you were obligated to let them do whatever they’re going to do (maybe harm you, maybe just break your possessions, maybe nothing at all).

So, then, take it another level. Let’s assume that if you remove them from your house or leave their presence, they’ll die. Kilgrave-style mind control is probably the hypothetical that works best for this. Say they’ve been mind-controlled into following you around, and if you lose them, they’ll die. How long are you obliged to let them go everywhere with you? A week? A month? Nine months? What if they randomly hit you–not hard enough to do damage, just painful? What if they make it difficult or impossible to do your job, and you risk being fired?

In this weird scenario, I’d like to think I would do the paladin thing and help them out until we could un-mind-whammy them and they could go on their way. But I wouldn’t condemn someone who decided they couldn’t take it. And I don’t think it’s reasonable for someone who’d feel no qualms about shooting someone dead for trying to steal their stereo to expect that kind of sacrifice from other people.


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