Monday, 13 March 2006

The sacrifice at the heart of anti-abortion opposition

There is nothing like sacrifice to bring religionists together -- it is after all at the very heart of most world religions, and the reverence for sacrifice underpins all religionist ethics. Naturally enough then, it is also what underpins the religionists' opposition to abortion. Xavier at Kete Were observes a contradiction with anti-abortionists which he notes but can't explain:
... it is profoundly ironic that those creatures who normally occupy the 'less government meddling' part of the socio-political landscape are just so keen to make an exception in the instance of abortion law... There is a great espousal of an individual owning his or her life, and choices about that life, without 'big government meddling.'

Should, however, an individual choose to exercise personal responsibility, or choice, when it comes to owning her own reproductive life, it is entirely consistent and justified for these moralisers [say the moralisers] to advocate full and invasive state regulation into that person's life... The hypocrisy is breathtaking, but seems to slip out of these people's mouths without them appearing to even take one. The great neo-con/neo-lib chimera, a walking ideological contradiction, positively oozes hypocrisy. It would be funny if it didn't ruin lives.
It would be funny, but it's not a contradiction. The key is the reverence for sacrifice held by reigionsts of all stripes - "the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser value of a nonvalue." Note that it is sacrifice that the anti-abortionists demand from those they would stop from obtaining an abortion. Sacrifice of pleasure to astinence, sacrifice of personal ethics to the religionists' idea of duty, and -- when it comes right down to it -- sacrifice of the actual (real living people) to what is merely a potential (a foetus, not yet a human being). As Ayn Rand said on this point:
Never mind the vicous nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a 'right to life.' A piece of protoplasm has no rights -- and not life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the firt three months. To equate a potential with an actual is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former is unspeakable... Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, ie., the non-living, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives.
As Xavier says, "I don't believe that any man has the right to tell a woman, either by personal force or through legislation, what they can do with their bodies. In fact, another woman justifiably has no right to tell a woman what to do with their own body. I am not 'pro-choice'. I am 'pro-butt-the-hell-out-of-my-business'."

And so am I.

1: Can I suggest you head off to Sir Humphrey's and vote in their poll on abortion asking when a foetus acquires the right to life. The possible answers range from when the foetus is just protoplasm right through from when its brain is formed at the third trimester, and then to birth. I voted third trimester, ie., between six months and birth. Vote, and then join in with the comments. It seems that the basic error is given in the confusion over their title for the question, in other words the equivocation between a foetus and a child.

UPDATE 2: I figured since enough commenters seem to have missed the point, I'd link directly to "the best ten-minute argument" for legal abortion on the internet, philosopher Leonard Peikoff's explanation of why pro-abortion is not primarily "pro-choice"; but pro-life. [Requires Real Player.] The link comes courtesy of the 'Abortion is Pro-Life' page linked below.

The world wide web of fallacies, or: It doesn't logically follow, Ian - Kete Were
Abortion is prolife - Capitalism Magazine
When do you BELIEVE a foetus/child gains full rights to life - Sir Humphrey's

TAGS: Ethics, Religion, Objectivism, Politics


  1. Your logic is odd. No baby can live without the support of adult humans and yet you seem to argue it has far more "potential" to life than a foetus.

    But by correcting your logic, infanticide is allowable?

    Or in other words - it does not follow from your line of logic on foetuses that a baby should have the right to live - unless its "potential" to live exists regardless of the input of the parents.

    By the way, I don't believe a foetus gains full rights as a human being until after it is out of the body of the mother. But that is because it is biological dependent on the mother, and without the mothers continuing biological input it perishes. That to me gives the mother the ultimate moral right to determine the direction of the pregnancy, certainly above a government. But that doesn't mean I morally agree with women terminating a foetus for their own convenience, nor do I agree with some of the methods of abortion - for example I do not think foetuses in their 2nd trimester should be ripped limb from limb to terminate them.

  2. Actually that should read 'the ultimate physical right' to determine the direction of the pregnancy.

  3. What a woman can do to HER body? As soon as the baby is conceived, the woman is no longer in control of her body. From a strictly biological POV.

    My view is, err on the side of life. The usual counter-argument i hear to this is, a foetus isnt alive in the human sense, which does nothing but make me more pro-life.


  4. PC,

    I enjoy the site immensely. That is not going to stop me from dis-agreeing totally on this one.

    There is nothing inherrent in freedom that allows murder. Abortion is murder.

  5. I have always thought that article was one of Peikoff's best.

    Another contradiction...we have all manner of conservatives championing that deadbeat in the so-called "Roe vs Wade for Men" case, saying (quite rightly), that both men and women have a right to control what comes out of their bodies.

    Actually, only men have total rights to control what comes out of their bodies. At a certain point in the process of pregnancy, the state takes over this right for women. So for those of you who think men should have more rights than women, well, they do.

  6. Because some of what comes out of the womans body is another person. Statistcily that person is half female too.

    This is another trick often used by pro-abortionists, removing the thrid party from the debate. We arent talking about a baby, nooooo, this is merely a discussion of what a woman can do with her excretions. Right. Lets just ignore the baby, they dont matter anyway.


  7. The corollary to the argument that a foetus in the first three months is a piece of protoplasm with no rights is that foetuses are potentially tradable commodities. So two questions for those on the pro-abortion side of the fence (and that includes me!):

    (1) Are you willing to support a completely free market in foetuses?

    (2) If it becomes possible to remove living foetuses from the womb and to rear them artificially, what are the obligations of the buyer of such a foetus? For example, could the buyer of a living foetus experiment on it, provided that it is subsequently terminated in a timely fashion?

  8. [1] Yes. And born babies, too!

    [2] The buyer has the same obligations as parents: i.e., none whatsoever. The only obligation parents have to their children is the same obligation all humans have to one another: not to initiate aggression. (Of course, most parents love their children, and choose to take care of them)

    Read This!

  9. Thanks for that link Yacap. It clarified some of issues for me.


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