That Perennial Western Malady, the Revolt of the Individual Against the Species

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Abortion and the Right to Life

There is an interesting discussion regarding abortion going on at Ken Grandlund's blog, Common Sense. My comments:

I do not suggest that life is sanctified. But the fact remains that every individual is the sole owner of his body and life. This is not a religious principle, it is a rationalist one derived from the facts of nature and reached through reason and common sense. Except when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life, there is absolutely no scenario in which the abortion of a person should be legal.

Congratulations, it's dead.On the flip side, it seems to me that the abortion of a fetus before it becomes a person ought to be totally legal and unregulated. There are many things that are "bad for us" that I am sure you do not advocate state intervention in. I am proud to be able to eat Hardee's Monster Burgers and Oreo cookies and occasionally stay up all night reading blogs. These things are bad for me, but making the personal decision of whether or not or how often I will partake in them confirms my status as a sovereign individual; society has no right to dictate how I use my own personal private property, in this case the property being my body. How do abortions differ? Fundamentally, how are they different than ear piercings, tattoos, or liposuction? From where does society assert the right to dictate to a woman how she uses her own body? This essay and your recent one on the drug war seem to contradict each other.

Essentially, there is no gray area in this debate. Either a given fetus is a person and owns its life, or it is only a part of the mother's body, no more of an individual person than her arm or foot is. If yes, it is murder, in every sense of that word, to abort it. If no, then the question of whether or not to abort the particular pregnancy becomes an amoral one -- the fetus has no rights to consider.

Your attempt to remove religion from the debate also removes ethics, the most central and crucial branch of philosophy. Popular opinion ought not have any weight in this discussion.


At 3:30 PM, Blogger Ne-ess said...

Judith Jarvis Thompson argues that some abortions can be self defence, thereby sidestepping the 'personhood' debate. What is a 'person' any way?

At 3:52 PM, Blogger spenwah said...

What separates a person from a non-person is moral rights. All of our natural, inalienable rights are derived from the right to life. Sometime during the human's development (or possibly sometime after birth), the fetus inherits its right to life, becoming a person and a separate entity. After this point, it is immoral to abort the fetus except when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother (I assume this is the self-defense argument you mention). Before this point, the question of whether or not to abort the fetus does not concern morality at all.

At 4:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just had a thought about this... In our Declaration of Independence it states, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

When is a man (human) created? At conception, thus when a child is aborted it goes against his/her inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, it seems to me that abortion should be illegal by that line of argument alone.

However, it's also possible that it is reaching a bit due to the fact that it is 1:35 AM when I am posting this... hehe... Anyway... just something to think about.

At 10:00 PM, Blogger spenwah said...

Hey, Brad. Thanks for the comment. Just of of curiosity, how did you stumble across my blog?

Certainly, a human is created at conception. But that's a reather dry, scientific way to describe life. Only people have rights, and I think it's a great stretch to define a person as simply the union of an egg and a sperm.

I'd suggest that personhood begins when the mind learns rational thought, when it can build precepts and perform rudimentary logic. (For instance, a toddler touches a hot stove and is burned. From now on, he stays away from the stove. But even this definition is too wide, because most animals can be trained in a similar fashion, and I certainly don't suggest Fido and Flipper are being immorally kept as slaves. Ergo, I believe personhood also somehow deals with the ability to communicate with other individuals. In any case, the moment that the it-human becomes a person-human occurs sometime in the first few months after birth.) Others believe that life begins when there is a hearbeat, or brainwaves, or at the moment of birth, etc. I think these are all highly arbitrary suggestions.

This is why there is so much hostile debate over this subject. Not only must science discover the objective definition of "life," it must also discover the means of determining when a human has reached that point in its development. We are nowhere near discovering these things yet, so I advocate limiting legal abortion to the first trimester. It is better to err on the side of caution than to willfully accept the very real risk that you are committing mass murder.

At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I talked with you the other day on AIM... remember? I found your blog through a friend of a friend of a friend... or something like that. :)

Yes, that is a bit of a dry, scientific way to describe life... but isn't that part of what the discussion is about? At what point is a human being created? Why is it such a stretch to define a person as the union of an egg and a sperm? That one cell contains all the same "person" information that any one of yours or my cells contains.

Your ideas regarding personhood are interesting to think about... but consider the human that is incapable of such thought. (Mental disability? Is that the proper term?) What about the fifteen year old who no matter how many times he puts his hand on the burner, never realizes that is what causes his hand pain? Yet if someone were to suck him through a huge vacuum tube, ending his life (as is done with the "Vacuum Aspiration" abortion method) they would be charged with murder. (BTW- This is a procedure done in the first trimester: )

Even today, legally, when a pregnant mother is murdered, the murderer can be charged with the death of two humans (see Scott Peterson case). In this our legal system is... I don't know the right word... hypocritical, ambiguous, something like that... you get the idea. On one hand it is fine to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, but when a pregnancy is wanted and it is terminated, two lives are to be accounted for.

Anyway... pardon my ramblings... But yes, these are highly arbitrary suggestions as to when life really begins. To me, the simplest time to say it begins is conception, "life is created"... I've said that before, anyway... others have their own ideas of when life begins... but realistically speaking... we can't all be right. I agree that science must discover these things beyond a shadow of a doubt, and until then, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

While I am completely against taking the life of an unborn child in any circumstance, I am most vehemently opposed to it for reasons of "convenience", and in later terms of pregnancy, when it becomes increasingly appearant that the fetus is a human being, that it can see, hear, touch, and most of all... feel (pain). I would advocate any restraint of abortion, even if it only started by requiring my aforementioned "special circumstances" or at such a time when it is clear the child does feel pain during an abortion procedure.

Many people are all gung ho about animal rights and it is a federal crime to slaughter an animal in a way that causes pain... yet after 22 weeks (when the nervous system is fully developed) it has been proven that a fetus does feel pain when aborted... something is dreadfully wrong with this.

Conclusion: Yes, the first trimester is a good place to start while we figure out more "scientifically" about life.

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At 9:03 PM, Blogger TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

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At 9:42 PM, Blogger Blog World said...

A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.
Stewart Alsop- Posters.

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At 2:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fear the path that many teens are facing today with pregnancy and their choices to terminate or abort. it seems that once they find they are pregnant, the first thought is abortion. It seems a easy answer. I read dozens of posts ( ) regarding this exact problem and the attitude is heatbreaking. When can we teach our youth to take precautions to avoid getting pregnant in the first place?

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