The Baby Lottery (AKA: Gambling, Driving, and Love Letter Writing).

If you have consensual heterosexual sex you are thereby entering the baby lottery. There are a lot of reasons to enter that lottery besides having a baby. You may enjoy the thrill of playing the lottery. You may be doing a favor for a friend. You may enter it out of pity, or guilt, or stupidity. You may just be experimenting as you are a first time gambler. But all of that can be set aside for a moment because it was still you who entered the lottery.

Since you freely, knowingly, and without coercion entered that lottery you cannot say anyone robbed you of your choice, or infringed on your freedom. You have full freedom to choose your consequences but not to renege on those consequences especially when they are biological, traditional, or otherwise naturally binding consequences. And sex is a highly consequential ethically charged action already–hence we have many different laws addressing it for we conventionally presume it to have great ethical import.

Permitting another illustration, I cannot drive recklessly on the highway and then fault other people for being in my way, even if I had no intention of killing pedestrians. I have made my choice to drive dangerously, the consequences therefore are outside of my rightful ability to choose. I should not get to choose whether to go to jail or not, whether to get caught driving dangerously, or whether I get to feel guilty for that dangerous behavior. I have some ability to choose in those areas, but I have no RIGHTFUL ability to separate my reckless (but fun!) driving from the punishment for the lost lives that I caused.

The same works for positive examples. Suppose I give my lover a card with the writing on it, “I don’t have much money, nor do I know the future, but I’m preparing for both and if fate lets us be together this time 1 year from now, I promise to marry you.” If I make that promise I have an “escape” route; we may not be together a year from now. But if we are together, it would be broadly unethical to refrain from marrying her. Now I may have written that card with no sincerity behind it, expecting that our relationship would not last that long, but it might still be fun and meaningful in the mean time. My aim need not be malicious to be convenient for me (supposing I were wanting to be a bachelor for 12+ months). My aim of amusement is retained and I have not broken a promise if we are no longer together after a year. But, if we are still together, I am ethically responsible–all else being equal–to keep my promise. If she breaks it off, or turns me down, or something like that then I can be ethical without marrying her since she freely excused me from my promise. If circumstances override the situation and I am physically unable to follow through on that promise then I might be excused then too, for example, if she has deceased or I have gone senile. But so long as I am physically able and knowingly aware, I am ethically responsible to follow through on that promise.

Likewise, sex is the Baby Lottery such that your choice to enter the baby lottery naturally, normally, and rightfully (i.e., ethically) obligates you to assume the consequences you knew were a live possibility should you enter that lottery.

Now one might object that a person can “win” the lottery and simply opt out of the prize, choosing not to receive it. In that case, the “baby lottery” should allow a person to refuse the baby which, in this case, would mean to end the pregnancy. But here might do well to add a further dimension to our analogy.

What if that Baby Lottery were an adoption lottery. Again, someone may enter that lottery for the wrong reasons, for selfish reasons, or for silly reasons and so they aren’t “in it to win it.” Nevertheless, we can assume they knew what they were getting into, and for the sake of keeping to the analogy, the person might have played the lottery for some secondary effect such as the joy of playing or giving to a good cause, or something like that. They may hope that they don’t “win” and become the chosen few to be able to adopt a child from the harsh and selective “Jeremiah Island.” Many many people would love to have such an adoption but not all of them, even the vast majority of them, do not win. You’ve won. A child’s life now hangs in the balance, as you either adopt or the child starves under the terrible and oppressive conditions of Jeremiah Island their child mortality rate is so high that only the adopted children survive even 9 months. Sure, you may decline, but you are complicit in a child’s death if you do, since only lottery winners get to adopt.

In this modified form of the Baby Lottery it becomes clear why “opting out” of the prize is morally unacceptable. It’s not a neutral choice like declining a vacation (that might have hidden fees and taxes you don’t want to pay), or turning down a cash prize that you didn’t need anyway. Instead, “opting out” is a morally egregious problem where if you do not claim the prize another human being dies.

Even with the modification, there remains a relevant difference. Namely, the “Baby Lottery,” when applied to abortion, deals with preborn/unborn fetuses while the “Baby Adoption Lottery” deals with born children. That difference is a biggie since the “personhood” status of infants is legally established while there is no “personhood” status for preborns that is yet legally established.

Still, there remains a “separability” problem whenever pregnancy is treated not simply as a distinct act from sex but as an ethically separable act from sex. It should not be a surprise to people of the mental age of informed consent that pregnancy results from sex, that is the risk one takes with sex. We would not consider it ethical to “opt out” of any other lottery if that choice meant the death of a human being, so it is not ethical to opt out of the baby lottery by killing one’s preborn living genetically distinct human organism.

Lastly, to bring it all together, our legislation should align with ethical goodness where at all possible. Hence, since it is ethical to treat pregnancy as a natural consequential responsibility of sex our legislation should align with that ethical duty and revoke abortion-on-demand.

6 thoughts on “The Baby Lottery (AKA: Gambling, Driving, and Love Letter Writing).

  1. Someone has suggested that the “Violinist Argument” might undermine my “Baby Lottery scenario.” In this violinist argument, made famous by Judith Jarvis Thomson in “A Defense of Abortion” (see,,Fall02/thomson.htm). I recommend reading her article, it is indeed seminal (no pun intended) to this subject.

    In it, the hypothetical story is told of (a generic) you, being free and autonomous, but one night, as you sleep, and unknowingly, you are surgically attached to a famous concert violinist who needs to share her kidneys for 9 months for medical purposes (his kidneys aren’t working right). If you separate from him you live but he dies. If you stay with him, you’ll be held up in bed for 9 months while his body shares your kidneys to filter and process and heal. According to this story, the author suggests that you would be morally justified in separating from the concert violinist even if that means he dies.

    This scenario, however, fails to illustrate some relevant aspects of sex and pregnancy retained in my Baby Lottery scenario.

    First, the baby lottery speaks of a consensual involvement in the natural process of baby making. One enters the lottery willingly and knowingly. For the violinist argument to retain that aspect the person in question would have to have signed up or otherwise contractually obligated himself to certain “extreme” forms of organ donation and organ sharing. That donor may not have expected to have to follow through on it, but if he or she voluntarily and knowingly signed up for the possibility of having to donate or share organs, then he or she is rightfully obligated to follow through on that.

    Second, there is a natural, normal, and common connection between sex and baby making such that natural law theorists across world history and even legislators and lawyers have recognized that if a man, for example, has sex and a pregnancy or birth occurs as a result he can be legally obligated to that child (at least to some extent) through child support, or through non-coercion of any abortion/adoption/birthing on her part. If he coerces her abortion/adoption/or birth, he could be liable ethically if not legally. Likewise, in soft corroboration, mothers and fathers have a special responsibility for their own children that no one else for their children. The relation between parent and child, and particularly, mother and child, is a special and sacred relationship well respected in family courts throughout national and state law code. No such natural, normal, or common relationship exists between sleeping and being-hooked-up-to-an-adult-to-share-organs-with-him. The violinist argument is conceptually limited by analogizing a very natural relationship with a highly unnatural relationship. Such natural law responsibilities (such as parent to child, or husband and wife) do not seem to be tightly aligned with such unnatural examples where diminished responsibility can otherwise be affirmed.

    Lastly, the violinist argument collapses on its own weight. The individual who was violated in fusion with the violinist has been wronged, but, supposing the violinist did not know this procedure would involve an unwilling participant and did not pick this person out as an intended attack (on top of its being a life-saving attempt for himself), then the violinist is likewise morally innocent. The guilty parties would be the doctors who performed the surgery as this would count as a kind of assault and kidnapping. The most obvious ethical/legal action would seem to be to punish the doctors for forcing such an unnatural violation of personal autonomy, but it is not obvious at all that one’s own autonomy somehow ranks higher than the violinists life such that aiding and abetting his death is ethically justified. Admittedly, the violinist argument is well-crafted enough to where this judgment call isn’t stark or obvious, but that’s just the problem. When a life is on the line, if the decision is a “close-call” our ethical bias should normally favor life as our legal code (and many of our ethical commitments) overwhelmingly seek to honor life as immeasurably valuable, potentially meaningful, generally good, unfit for property status, and foundational to other rights (such as liberty or the pursuit of happiness) and so on. To make her case stronger, J.J. Thomson should have illustrated a true ethical dilemma where a life is pitted against a life, rather than one’s autonomy being pitted against a life.

  2. It has been objected that the “Baby Lottery” does not establish a strong enough or binding enough relationship so that pregnancy and sex can be treated as ethically intertwined. Lets look a little deeper into this problem.

    First, there is a one-way causal relationship between sex and pregnancy. Of course, natural pregnancy is materially and directly caused by sex; sex is not materially and directly caused by pregnancy. It is not a biconditional relation.

    Second, that causal relationship is a conditional relation. Stated logically that is:

    If natural pregnancy has occurred, it was from sex.
    Natural pregnancy has occurred,
    Therefore, it was from sex.

    Affirming the antecedent (pregnancy) necessitates the consequent (sex) but affirming the consequent (sex) proves nothing about the antecedent (pregnancy)

    Stated in plain language, not all sex leads to natural pregnancy but natural pregnancy always comes from sex. This difference calls for some qualifications. It can be said that sex is separable from pregnancy through but natural pregnancy is not separable from sex. Contraceptives can prevent pregnancy no matter how powerful one’s biological ability of reproduction might be. Likewise, natural aging, disease or infirmity can also generate infertility. As such, there are many cases of people who have sex without getting pregnant.

    Third, unnatural pregnancy is simply not in view here. In vitro fertilization or anything comparable constitutes a different act from what I have in view in my baby lottery scenario.

    Fourth, sex and pregnancy are naturally related. Where sex and pregnancy are functioning in an otherwise healthy child-bearing-aged heterosexual couple, there is no technological intervention needed to derive pregnancy from sex. Such natural status may not mean much to some, but to natural law theorists and constitutional lawyers, natural relations are quite interesting and can sometimes suggest “ways of the world” that are not wisely ignored, or rightly trumped.

    Fifth, sex and pregnancy have a biologically complex relation. Many different physical parts must be in functioning order for sex to happen, and even more parts must be working for pregnancy to happen. But their interworking is a majestic marvel of the biological world.

    [more to come]

  3. I do not see what your lottery analogy has to do with the ethics of abortion “on demand”. I expect you agree that playing the lottery does not require you to raise the child. Do you not accept that adoption “on demand” should be legal, if not ethical in many cases?

    As I understand it your objection to abortion is that it is the murder of an individual human being. If, for the sake of argument you were wrong and all abortion is just a woman removing part of her own body, the lottery analogy would not matter.

    Another thought occurs. If abortion were the murder of another human person, why would it become legal and ethical if the mother’s life were in danger. It is no excuse to kill an innocent individual, say to take their heart for a transplant, to murder another. Wouldn’t your lottery analogy say that this risk of dying was the responsibility you took when you had sex? Given your religious views would this not be even more acceptable, since the death of the mother was inevitably part of Gods plan?

  4. I don’t demand that a person raise the child, so long as they see that the child is cared for–through adoption, letting the grandparents become legal guardians, etc. It is however less “natural” and there’s liable to be a slight (or more) uptick in the psychological problems and developmental problems with a child who is not raised by parents. But that thought experiment gets real complicated and it’s hard to make safe generalizations. Still, children of adoption tend to fair a little poorer than children raised by their birth parents.

    Please show how the child-in-utero is merely a part of the woman’s own body such that she can “remove” it without killing (passively or actively) a morally/legally innocent human being, that is genetically distinct from the mother and the father, a fully functioning living organism, of the species homo sapien. This “own” body issue is medically and scientifically misguided.

    As for your last point, “dying” is only the result of non-teleological/accidental/errant effects of sexual intercourse. Yes dying is always a risk, but it’s not a normal, recognized or otherwise natural part of sex, pregnancy such that sex was MEANT to kill people or pregnancy biologically was designed to kill the mother. Some species have this or something similar, but not humans.

  5. There is zero evidence that children raised by adoptive parents fare any worse. But that is a side issue.

    I will not show you here that a fetus is part of the woman’s body. That is what “for the sake of argument” means.

    You are dodging my last point. Why not just let the mom and fetus die, rather than murder the baby to save the mom? Sure it is a small risk from sex, but it is absolutely a natural consequence, easily avoided by abstinence. If God and heaven etc is real why not let them both go there, rather than murder a baby? ( see what I’m doing here, I am adopting some of your premises “for the sake of argument” to show the inconsistencies in your position).

    1. Nor can you show that the fetus is part of the woman’s body. It is genetically and biologically distinct from her body.

      Why not let the mom and fetus die? The question seems too easy it smells fishy. It is ethically better to save one life than to stand idly by and watch two be killed. We are ethically responsible for saving human lives where we are able, be it babies, mothers, fathers or others.

      As for the heaven and hell equation, I’m not a utilitarian nor do I think that Scripture affirms utilitarian ethics like you are using. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing. The ends (heaven’s bliss) do not justify the means (passive neglect of a rescue-able human being). I do not advocate abortion for the sake of abortion (i.e., where there’s no true dilemma context). I would allow for abortion when it is not an effort to kill a baby, but to save a life. Such dilemma charged situations are ethically unique, and rare for that matter, because one literally has to choose between one life or another life (or lives). Ethically that’s a true dilemma context, and it reorients the abortion debate. While I think mothers in those situations should be legally allowed to abort their babies to protect their own life, they can be justified in “risking it” hoping that her 5% chance of survival pays off.

      It’s hardly honoring to God to kill his human creations for the sake of our convenience, to cover over our mistakes, etc. Murdering babies to send them to heaven is also “playing God,” presuming a “right” over life and death without demonstrating a rightful status of “arbiter of human life.” Playing God insults the real God. Plus, and basic to this line of discussion, letting preventable death occur without intervention is in the same family of wrongs as murder. You have not shown that it is necessary in this case (as it might, perhaps, be in cases of self-defense or war contexts). Hence, one is not justified in letting two humans die.

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