I think that if you want an example of how to confuse the issues, you might try this post about abortion (via: jamelle). Money shot (disclosure or covering my ass or whatever–I’m rather wholeheartedly pro-choice):
This is not about babies, it’s about bodily sovereignty. Grown men are fully formed humans with the right to life, liberty, etc — but an adult isn’t allowed to use a woman’s body against her wishes, either. So whether the fetus is a blob of cells or a child is irrelevant.
This thought actually strikes me as a similar to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s violinist case (the full article is also available: A defense of abortion). A famous violinist has a terminal kidney ailment, but a society of music lovers discover that he can be saved if the two of you are attached by various tubes for nine months. Only your kidneys will serve to keep him alive, for obscure but indubitable medical reasons. One morning, you awake to find the operation performed. Detaching yourself will result in his death.
Incidentally, while many people responding to the paper take it that you are not obligated to stay in bed with the violinist, I find that conclusion absurd and appalling. In letting the violinist die, you’re prioritizing your next nine months over his life. Thomson asks what if it was nine years, or your entire life. I take it those alternatives show that his having a right to life cannot as such rule out your killing him, but they do not speak to your obligation in the case where it is only nine months (note that the appeal to your prioritizing references neither a ‘right to life’ nor a general utilitarian principle).
In any case, what is common to the cases, both Thomson and Daisy, of the internet, is that the both take an analogy past the realm where it makes any sense. The analogies only make sense to the extent that pregnancy is just randomly coming to be attached to another living human being, who might, for all relevant purposes be either a full grown adult or a fetus. If that were true, then the question to ask would be “how does the fetus’s supposed right to life bear on the question of what the mother should do?” But it is not the case that the relevant moral category is merely coming to be attached to another human being whose life depends on your forbearance. That it is not the same moral category is why I resist the inference from “you must keep the violinist alive” to “abortion is impermissible.” I should note that the same point about the moral categories involved applies strongly to many anti-abortion advocates. If I’m right, arguing for a right to life will not get us any insight into the moral situation involved.
If you want to substantiate the claim that viewing the matter as “x‘s autonomy and y’s right to life,” is impressively reductionistic, you could do worse than this post on adoption from bitch ph.d. I suspect she has managed to substantially change my thinking with a single blog post more often than anyone else.
(Side note: while I’m being cagey about what sort of category of moral thought applies to abortion, I’ll note that I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that the pregnancy results from consensual sex (in the cases where it does). So far as I get good intuitions about such things, which I don’t, a single sexed humanoid species that had asexual reproduction at unpredictable times involving a nine-month gestation would face a similar moral situation).
(Double side note: Thomson shows some evidence of feeling the limitations of “right to life” talk, but given that her paper is entitled “A Defense of Abortion,” we might worry that something has gone wrong–it is not clear what considerations she offers other than refuting the idea that the right to life rules out abortion. But if the framework of the right to life is precisely what is mistaken, arguments within that framework will not matter all that much).