Economist Bryan Caplan–himself not a utilitarian–argues that a utilitarian case can be made against abortion. His four main arguments are:
- “Almost everyone is glad to be alive. The unwanted infant may have a below-average quality of life, but below-average is usually excellent nonetheless.”
- “There is a long waiting list – hence excess demand – to adopt healthy infants, so birth mothers need not raise their unwanted children.”
- “Due to the endowment effect, unwanted children often become wanted by their birth mother once they’re born – as many would-be adoptive parents discover to their sorrow.”
- “Women who just miss the legal cutoff for abortion seem to quickly recover emotionally. Pregnant women who think “A baby will ruin my life” are, on average, factually mistaken.”
Utilitarianism isn’t my favorite approach to ethics, but it can yield some fruitful insights.