Wednesday, 11 September 2019

"Abortion is a moral right — which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?" #QotD


"An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not yet living (or the unborn).
    "Abortion is a moral right — which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body? The Catholic church is responsible for this country’s disgracefully barbarian anti-abortion laws, which should be repealed and abolished...
    "Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a 'right to life.' A piece of protoplasm has no rights — and no 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 first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable."

~ Ayn Rand, composite quote from her articles 'Of Living Death' & 'A Last Survey – Part I, ' collected and discussed in Ben Bayer's post 'Ayn Rand's Radical Case for Abortion Rights'
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15 comments:

  1. I used to be 100% definite in my views on this. I remain 100% definite in terms of the right to abort in the first trimester, but it gets increasingly difficult beyond that. The question, to use Ayn Rand's words, is at what point does it stop becoming a "piece of protoplasm", and when does it become a life? I'm not sure we can say it only becomes a life when the umbilical cord is cut, given it's possible for there to be a caesarean and the baby to survive outside it's mother many months before a natural birth occurs.

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    1. The right to life does not mean the right to be supported by another person against her will. If I don't have the right to be kept alive at your expense, the same is all the more true of a fetus. Even if I must be kept alive as a direct result of your actions, it does not mean I have the right to force you to hook yourself up to my body for nine months. And more--if I do have that right, then why do I not have the right to take your money to keep me alive? If slavery is fine, then what is wrong with theft, huh?

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    2. @Mike - Surely you accept that a newborn infant has the right to be supported by the parents that brought it into this world, and not abandoned and left to die?

      If you do, then why does a newborn infant have that right, but a near-fully developed baby inside the mother's womb, capable of surviving outside that womb not have that right?

      Any anti-abortionist, at least one that's not insane would have to agree that an unfertilised egg is not an actual human possessing rights. Otherwise (reduction ad absurdum) a woman would have the obligation to fertilise her eggs every month to realise that potentiality.

      At the other extreme, even the most unrepentant pro-abortionist, also assuming they're not insane would agree that parents have an obligation to look after their offspring from when they're born until they reach a self supporting age.

      So at some point between conception and adulthood we have to stop regarding the developing lifeform as a potential life, and start regarding it as an actual human life possessing rights. I don't think the anti-abortionists are correct in saying it starts the moment the egg gets fertilised, but I'm not convinced it doesn't start prior to the umbilical cord being cut either.

      I don't have a clear answer to this, but seems to me that at some point after conception, but prior to the umbilical cord being cut it's close enough to a human being that we must say it has rights, and from that point onward the parents have an obligation to look after it until it can become self supporting.

      If it's an actual human being (not just a potential one), why should the fact it's sleeping in the womb mean it has no rights, but the moment it pops out and can sleep in it's parents cot mean it suddenly gains all it's rights? In both cases it's dependent on it's parents for survival, so the simplistic principle you're trying to apply doesn't work.

      This discussion would be a lot more productive if both pro and anti sides weren't so bombastic in their pronouncements and addressed the critical issues. i.e.

      1. What is the defining criteria for a human being possessing rights, and

      2. At what stage of development (whether that be within or outside the womb) is that criteria reached?

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    3. First part:

      "Surely you accept that a newborn infant has the right to be supported by the parents that brought it into this world, and not abandoned and left to die?"

      No, not quite. A newborn infant has the right to be supported by someone willing to support it--if not the parents, then adoptive parents or a foster care system, if the mother chooses to carry the fetus to term. My basic view is this: Babies of course are not able to live by their own effort; this capacity develops over a couple of decades and progresses differently in different individuals. Gaining the negative right to life comes when the infant can be transferred freely to another without dying; the right not to be allowed to die of neglect depends solely on someone's accepting that responsibility--the mother's by agreeing to carry the infant to term, the adoptive parents' by legal adoption, the foster system's by the infant being entered in the system officially (essentially as a default in contemporary society when no one else agrees to raise the child). All of these are predicated upon the event of birth--it's hardly an arbitrary line, unlike the age of drinking, driving, voting, forming legally binding contracts, and so on. Basically, then, the mother undertakes in legally binding fashion to care for the child if she carries it to term and does not give it up for adoption, in the same way as the legal guardian of any legally incompetent person does so by agreeing to act as guardian, since at that point the infant can be transferred to another. All this, I would say, is uncontroversial and probably even bog standard.

      So how would (does) a right to life in the third trimester, say, fit in with that? One might argue that by carrying a fetus for the first six months, the mother has, absent changed circumstances, indicated her consent to carry the infant to term and probably to raise it; after all, she has had six months to abort the fetus, so we might as well make this arbitrary line that once a woman has reached that point, she can be taken as having consented to carry the fetus to term. (Now, there is the possibility, of course, that she had been held captive by a rabid pro-lifer and escaped captivity or was released after the six months are up. I leave that aside as extremely silly and unlikely. Much more likely is the changed circumstances of medical knowledge, which is extremely not silly. If a medical condition becomes apparent that greatly increases the responsibility the mother will have to undertake to raise the child, and especially that might pose increased threat to her health, then I say she has every right to abort the fetus. If she doesn’t, then why does she have the right not to undertake the responsibility in other events? Why allow abortion at all? After all, there’s always adoption—why then should women be allowed to abort at all? If you do allow abortion in those cases, then why not in the case of changed medical circumstances?) Note that in the great majority of cases, this criterion is very likely to hold true—most women who have not aborted by that stage do intend to bear and raise the child, so it’s a fairly reasonable standard fitting the general facts. Nor do I have particularly strong opposition to it, so long as a woman’s right to have an abortion in cases of changed medical circumstances is recognized; on the other hand, I have no particular revulsion against allowing free abortion until the mother goes into labor either. The mother’s body and bodily autonomy are basic to her right to life, just as my right to life doesn't allow you to take my kidney without my consent, and if she withdraws her consent to raising the fetus for whatever reason, that is her right, even if she does so for what you consider unwise or trivial reasons.

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    4. “So at some point between conception and adulthood we have to stop regarding the developing lifeform as a potential life, and start regarding it as an actual human life possessing rights. I don't think the anti-abortionists are correct in saying it starts the moment the egg gets fertilised, but I'm not convinced it doesn't start prior to the umbilical cord being cut either…If it's an actual human being (not just a potential one), why should the fact it's sleeping in the womb mean it has no rights, but the moment it pops out and can sleep in it's parents cot mean it suddenly gains all it's rights?"

      Even if it is an actual human being, the question remains whether it has the right to live at the involuntary expense of another. I say no; a couple of the other commenters would doubtless say yes, but I have seen no evidence they would be able or willing to draw a principled conclusion about positive rights to be supported against others’ will in any other circumstances, because fetuses are SPEHSHUL! (Why, it’s as if they carry a spark of the divine that is extinguished upon birth, when they lose all the special rights they possess within the womb and have to actually get the consent of others to support them…because…well, because they’re SPEHSHUL.) If the fetus can be removed from the womb without dying, once it is able to live without the support of its mother, then its negative right not to be killed arises—whether by inducing premature labor or as a consequence of surgical technique; presumably it would even be possible to devise procedures to remove them from the womb and support them mechanically until they can live unaided (but note that this only transfers to living at another’s expense to another party, but I have no doubt other parties would be willing to pay to support it).


      "1. What is the defining criteria for a human being possessing rights, and

      2. At what stage of development (whether that be within or outside the womb) is that criteria reached?"

      I've had my say for a while. How would you draw those lines?

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    5. Actually, I'll just add one more comment to say that to a great extent I agree with this essay of Robert Tracinski's. This part I agree with more than you might expect (my comments focus on rights, his on morality):

      And here is where I will agree with the conservatives. In the third trimester, I think it is immoral to abort a fetus—in the absence of some serious extenuating circumstance, such as a threat to the life of the mother. By the time you have reached the third trimester, you have already made a baby; you’re just waiting for the right time to deliver it. You might decide you don’t want to raise the child, in which case you can pass that responsibility on to someone else. But the baby is already there, ready and able to live, and I cannot think of a moral reason to deny it that opportunity, particularly in a day and age when there are waiting lists for couples eager to adopt a healthy child and give it a good home.

      This part I agree with totally:

      Which makes me strongly inclined to decide the issue in favor of making birth the cutoff for government regulation and relying on what is called the “first breath” rule: a child has a legally enforceable right to life from the moment he draws his first breath out of the womb.

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    6. Mike - Thanks for your comment and links to Robert Tracinski's article. His position on this essentially mirrors mine (albeit he explores it more thoroughly and articulately than I have here). It comes back to what is the source of individual rights (our answer = our rational faculty). This puts us in opposition to the conservative right (their answer = god), which leads to the view that life begins at conception. It also puts us in opposition to the feminist/left (their answer = whatever favours the 'disadvantaged' group - in this case women).

      At this point I can't take it anywhere further than where Robert Trancinksi left it:

      "In the third trimester, I think it is immoral to abort a fetus—in the absence of some serious extenuating circumstance, such as a threat to the life of the mother. By the time you have reached the third trimester, you have already made a baby; you’re just waiting for the right time to deliver it. You might decide you don’t want to raise the child, in which case you can pass that responsibility on to someone else. But the baby is already there, ready and able to live, and I cannot think of a moral reason to deny it that opportunity, particularly in a day and age when there are waiting lists for couples eager to adopt a healthy child and give it a good home."

      "But the moral issue is not necessarily the same as the legal and political issue. To begin with, the fetus is still in its mother’s body and ideally will stay there until full term, so you cannot protect the life of the fetus without regulating the use of the mother’s own body, which raises both legal and practical difficulties".

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  2. An embryo has no rights. Who says? Ayn Rand? Completely disagree with this, the only barbarians here are those who advocate the human sacrifice in abortion clinics. Human rights are absolute. An embryo is a human being. People who think abortion is anything other than murder need to take a look at themselves, because something in your moral being has gone horribly wrong. Go and research how abortion is actually carried out. Nobody who sees that information continues to believe abortion is ok after that, unless you are a psychopath.

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    1. What human right--the right to be supported by the slavery of another person? Do you have the right to force me to keep you live? Hell no, and I would gladly refuse to do so, including butchering you to pieces if necessary to implement my right not to live as your slave, whether for nine months or nine seconds.

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    2. Rights are a freedom to think and act in a social context, so the embryo's do not have any rights.
      You have to be born, becoming an actual individual to have rudimentary rights, not a moment before.

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    3. That's true enough, but it doesn't explain why infants have the right not to be killed. Their ability to think and act in a social context so as to recognize the rights of others is also potential, so why does birth suddenly give them the right not to be killed? The point is that once babies are born, they no longer require the use of another's body to survive. If the right to life for a fully adult, fully rational person does not include the positive right to be supported by another: I may not be forced to donate an organ to keep anyone alive, even if he would die without it, so there is no justification for saying that a fetus's supposed right to life gives it the even greater positive right to a woman's entire body for nine months--at least not a justification in terms of the concept of the right to life, but then defending the rationally derivable rights of mere human beings in a secular state is not what motivates the pro-life mob, who essentially raise fetuses to superhuman status.

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    4. So you think an embryo has rights? Does an unfertilised egg also have rights, and the mother has an obligation to maximise human life by trying to fertilise it every month? Both are potential human beings after all. If you answer yes to the first question, but no the second, please explain why.

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  3. Some sickening comments here by narcissistic tiny New Zealander in dark little holes, deciding they think who and what has rights. Zombies like Mike > pay your tax, hand in your guns, salute your diverse replacement, watch TV, vote socialist and die,

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    1. So tell us, then, when you'll be donating your kidney to the first person needing it.

      A fetus is a human being and thus has the same rights as every other human being, correct?

      An adult human has the right to life at your expense, correct? For example, a man have kidney failure and the only way to save his life is to transplant one of yours. However, for whatever reason, you don't want to. Does he have the right to have your kidney transplanted whether you want to or not? If so, then why do you object to your mere money being taken from you in taxes to pay to support him? If he doesn't, then how does a fetus have the right to nine months' use of a woman's body against her will?

      Hint: Yes, the fetus is helpless and will die if removed from the mother's body. So what? Helplessness is not the basis of human rights, otherwise you should be forced to donate your kidney. If you can't be forced to donate your kidney, then the mother can't be forced to donate the use of her body.

      "Zombies like Mike > pay your tax, hand in your guns, salute your diverse replacement, watch TV, vote socialist and die, "

      Now see--isn't it interesting how you can think you know someone oh so well through simple Internet comments and yet be 100% wrong inn every detail?!? In the same way, I'm damned sure Paul Scott doesn't have the intellectual or emotional wherewithal to even grasp (or at least allow himself to grasp) the point of my argument, much less answer any of my questions--but perhaps I'm as bad a judge of people through their words and he'll surprise us.

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    2. Not "deciding who and what has rights" but actually having a proper understanding of the concept.

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