Yet the curious fact remains that even though me and my partner knew that this process of combining our genetic material had already occured in all eight of our fertilised embryos, there really was not the slightest sense in which we yet saw them as human beings. That sense of humanity grew gradually as the two surviving embryos developed into what are now our two children. It didn't happen suddenly. It happened by degrees. Obviously it eventually reached the point where death of or harm to either of our children would be utterly devastating to us. I suspect this is generally the way of things. For example, I have observed and experienced that when a miscarriage occurs the would-be mother feels a greater sense of loss and trauma the later the stage of embryonic/foetal development. In general, very early stage miscarriages don't often cause lasting emotional distress.
I would expect that, as a pregnant woman spends more and more time with the baby in her womb, it gains more value and meaning as it comes to resemble a human baby. Spending every hour of every day with its presence would likely make a woman care more and feel more attached to her child. In an earlier post I mentioned how the name of a person becomes central part of their identity after they have accomplished and done things that become unique to their name (relative to the people around them and those who matter to them). It is a similar situation in the case of fertilized genetic material. You stated that, when your genetic material was amalgamated, you did not feel in the slightest sense a human connection to the embryo. Although this makes sense, given it resembles nothing remotely similar to a human being, the same reasoning applies. While in its present state it is only a miniscule egg cell with both parents genetic material, it is, at the same time so much more. It will become, in only 9 months, a baby human being. You could say what is valued is not the fertilized cell itself, but the process it plays a contingent part in, the process that grows it to the baby valued so greatly by the parents.
Had you aborted the child you have today years ago, they would never have existed. Never have been a real, important part of your lives. That is what is killed during an abortion. Although you do not feel a strong, deep connection with the early embryo, given all goes well in 9 months you will have a living, breathing, cared for baby in your hands.
Yes, the connection you may feel early on will be minute, but that doesn't mean that what is lost in an abortion is any less human. Just delayed 9 months.
I have tried to see whether the conclusions that flow from this axiom appear to match the actual moral behaviours of real people. I don't think that they generally do.
I would agree that people don't generally go around condemning abortion to be murder. I think that, more often than we might think, some people's moral axioms come from a basis of personal convenience or interest. This is purely conjecture, but I would say that, more often than not, an abortion will happen because of a problem of convenience as opposed to life or death or for the greater good. Perhaps a condom fails, and neither parent wants the extreme complication of a baby in their lives. Naturally, most people would feel the same. So it is easier for them to get an abortion than see the pregnancy through, and because as humans we need to understand each other, many will sympathize with and support them. So yes, I would agree that it is not a popular opinion.
the problem of explaining why it doesn't intuitively feel that way to the vast majority of people. Are the vast majority of people simply wrong on this issue? Ought we to conclude that the vast majority of people are cold, psychopathic monsters, as we would of a person who killed a child without emotion?
That would surely be an odd conclusion.
In a way, my conjecture above answers this quote. It is a very good question indeed. If abortion is akin to killing, than why are so many okay with it? Well, I would begin by saying that as humans, we typically prefer to take the easier course of action as opposed to the more difficult and yet more proper route. This is why procrastination is so relatable and universal, because so many people and such a majority of the population (at least in the west) can sympathize with the urge to avoid trial, tribulation, work and effort. When an unwanted pregnancy occurs, like a condom fails, for example, the parents will typically rather this extreme complication (a baby) not be a part of their lives. Abortion is the easiest way to escape this, and naturally most people would feel the same in their position. So we sympathize, and as they say "put yourself in his/her shoes" we imagine how difficult it would be to take care of a unexpected baby and manage all your other aspects of life.
From this, we can extrapolate that we are not cold blooded killers, nor psychopathic monsters who murder babies, because it is not out of malice that we perform and support abortions. It is out of kindness, and sympathy for our fellow man. Perhaps, we simply fail to look at the bigger picture, in the face of sadness and difficulty for friends and loved ones.