The One Minute Case For Abortion Rights

What is abortion?

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the induced removal of the fetus which results in the death of the fetus.

There are two issues raised in abortion debates:

  • Does a fetus have a right to be in a woman’s body against her will?
  • Does the government have the right to restrict reproductive rights to pursue social objectives?

Anti-abortionists confuse the potential with the actual

A human being is a physically distinct being who survives by the use of reason. Prior to birth, a fetus is to a human being what an apple is to an apple tree, or an egg to a chicken. A fetus may superficially resemble a human being, but it is no more a baby than an embryo inside an egg is a chick – a picture is not an argument. It has the potential to be a human being, but does not become an actual human being until it is born.

There is no right to be a parasite

Rights derive from the fact that human beings need freedom from the coercion of others in order to live. Two properties are essential for a being to possess rights: physical independence and the capacity for rational thought. “Physical independence” means that a being’s existence is not necessarily dependent on the sustenance of another.

A fetus is not an independent entity – in order to live, it must drain the resources of the mother – it is literally a parasite until it is born. A newly-born infant is also helpless, but it does not impose a burden on the mother by its very existence – others may choose to provide for it. A parent who chooses to bring an human being into the world accepts an obligation to ensure that it is provided for, but until that choice is made, the fetus has no more right to live of the mother than a thief has to live on other’s wealth.

Humans own their own body

The most fundamental of rights is the right to one’s own life, which means the right to own one’s body. A woman’s body is not the property of the state or society, to be controlled by majority rule. Just as it would be unjust to violate a woman by raping her, so it is evil to force her to remain pregnant.

Pro-rights is the only consistent pro-life, pro-family position

“Responsible parenthood involves decades devoted to the child’s proper nurture. To sentence a woman to bear a child against her will is an unspeakable violation of her rights: her right to liberty (to the functions of her body), her right to the pursuit of happiness, and, sometimes, her right to life itself, even as a serf. Such a sentence represents the sacrifice of the actual to the potential, of a real human being to a piece of protoplasm, which has no life in the human sense of the term. It is sheer perversion of language for people who demand this sacrifice to call themselves ‘right-to-lifers.’ “

— Leonard Peikoff (Objectivism, in the Chapter on Government)

Further reading

21 Comments

Filed under Philosophy, Politics

21 Responses to The One Minute Case For Abortion Rights

  1. I’m sorry, but your argument is lacking God’s authority, and also common sense. Let’s start with the latter:

    According to your argument, a woman who has chosen to fornicate with random strangers and not take any precautions to avoid pregnancy is having her rights trampled upon if she’s told she cannot have the growing child within her vacuumed out in pieces and made into pet food. Does this sound logical? What of the child’s rights?

    Second, what of your lack of authority? Did you ever consider God’s views?

    The greatest authority you seem able to quote is another atheist. Do you honestly believe that the voters or lawmakers in a Christian nation like the United States will care what some atheist — pardon me, “objectivist” — has to say?

    Perhaps you should review what God has to say on the subject. As luck would have it, I’ve recently posted a summation myself. http://feelgoodbible.blogspot.com/2007/04/abortion-what-would-jesus-do.html

    I hope you find it enlightening.

  2. The Christian God is NOT pro life:

    Hosea 9:11-16 Hosea prays for God’s intervention. “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, 0 Lord: what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. . .Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb.” Clearly Hosea desires that the people of Ephraim can no longer have children. God of course obeys by making all their unborn children miscarry. Is not terminating a pregnancy unnaturally “abortion”?

    Numbers 5:11-21 The description of a bizarre, brutal and abusive ritual to be performed on a wife SUSPECTED of adultery. This is considered to be an induced abortion to rid a woman of another man’s child.

    Numbers 31:17 (Moses) “Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every women that hath known man by lying with him.” In other words: women that might be pregnant, which clearly is abortion for the fetus.

    Hosea 13:16 God promises to dash to pieces the infants of Samaria and the “their women with child shall be ripped up”. Once again this god kills the unborn, including their pregnant mothers.

    2 Kings 15:16 God allows the pregnant women of Tappuah (aka Tiphsah) to be “ripped open”. And the Christians have the audacity to say god is pro-life. How and the hell is it that Christians can read passages where God allows pregnant women to be murdered, yet still claim abortion is wrong?

    From: http://www.evilbible.com/god%27s%20not%20pro-life.htm

  3. Humanitiesprof

    It is irrelevant what any ‘biblical’ treatise includes regarding this issue as all of these works were created by males with vested interest in asserting human maleness as the highest life form, aligning it with a male creator. However, their special male creator didn’t give them the ability to grow within another human being. In fact, the second creation in Genesis has that creator making Adam from the dust of the earth, while Eve was made from human material. What a woman does with her body and its capabilities belongs to her alone, as that doggoned male creator made her the highest order of life on earth.

  4. Peter

    @Matthew Valk: Did you even READ it? The whole point is that the “child” doesn’t have any rights, as it’s not a child. Even if it had any rights, the potential life of a fetus that cannot think or act on it’s own CERTAINLY does not have the right to destroy the life of a true and flesh human being, with whom you can talk and love and connect.

    And it is the right of religion only to exclude those who get abortions from their ranks, not to influence a NON RELIGIOUS GOVERNMENT. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what “God” thinks, because that’s not the law’s purpose.

  5. Robert

    Oxymoron: ” a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (as cruel kindness) ; broadly : something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements.” “oxymoron.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008.

    Merriam-Webster Online. 17 December 2008

    For example: “The One Minute Case For Abortion Rights”

  6. Jade

    @ Matthew Valk
    And where does your authority come from?
    Where do you get the right to speak for someone who has never even shown his face to the world?
    What if the women becomes pregnant through rape? What then, do you force the mother to continue having the child?
    What if the rape victim is 15 years old?
    You have no authority and no strong arguments to be posting stuff like that

  7. Don

    I agree with many objectivist writings, but not this 1 minute argument.

    The “fetus” is a developing human and did not choose to be in the mother’s womb. It is rather callous and crude to call it a parasite too.

    I can understand an argument on when does life “begin” or an argument on whether an embryo has “rights”, but this goes to far.

    So a woman who just gives birth with the cord attached to the “parasite” would be ok in just murdering the fetus parasite before the cord, which is the lifeline of such parasite is cut?

    Also, what about the father’s rights or prospective father, since the fetus has 1/2 his DNA? Doesn’t he have a say in the matter?

  8. Ericka

    This case is extremely disappointing. I can’t even begin to list all that it lacks.

  9. @Ericka

    If you are not capable of defending your views, you should question whether they are correct.

  10. It is rather callous and crude to call it a parasite too.

    It’s a factual biological description, and carries no emotional connotation other than the ones you chose to add to it.

    Also, what about the father’s rights or prospective father, since the fetus has 1/2 his DNA? Doesn’t he have a say in the matter?

    No. Morally, the origin of the DNA is irrelevant. Whether the mother or father have 0 or 100% of the DNA makes absolutely no difference. What matter is that the fetus is part of the mother’s body.

  11. Kat

    @Matthew Valk
    The authorities he is apealing to are reason and logic; the authorities that are accepted by, used by and available to ALL human beings. “God’s” authority” is something you choose to apply to your life. Logic and reason apply to your life whether you like it or not.

  12. Pingback: The One Minute Case for Designer Babies | One Minute Cases

  13. P Hawk

    If you are against abortion, don’t have one.

    It is possible for birth control methods to fail and this includes married couples who can not afford or do not want another child.

    Nobody has the right to impose their own beliefs on others.

  14. I find the analogy with the chicken egg particularly lacking. The being inside the fertilized egg is most certainly a chicken. It is not an adult chicken, it is not a chick, it is (I presume) an embryo, but all of these organism are members of the species commonly referred to as a “chicken”.

    You state that “Two properties are essential for a being to possess rights: physical independence and the capacity for rational thought.” I suppose you take these as axiomatic. Many would disagree with this premise, as it can lead to notions that many intuitively find revolting, such as infanticide (an infant cannot be said to experience “rational thought”).

    A great deal of the world views “human rights” as rights that are owed to each and every member of the human species, regardless of mental state, or state of dependence. There is much disagreement over what exactly those rights entail, but there is substantial agreement of what feature earns an organism “human rights”: humanity. Obviously you reject this theory of human rights as based on the dignity of the human being.

    All you have shown, therefore, is that if one is willing to redefine the concept of rights, or redefine “human being”, then you can deny rights at your pleasure.

  15. Adam

    True statement: Abortion is Murder.

  16. HeroicLife,

    EvilBible.com is Dead

    Large portions of evilbible.com have been considered, dissected and declared
    fallacious on very many levels.
    Two examples of this fact are as follows:

    Whilst besmirching the Bible for allegedly commanding rape evilbible.com,
    for some odd reason, neglects to mention the most relevant biblical text
    related to the biblical view of and law about rape. Why this omission? Who
    knows, but it would certainly have gotten in the way of a good session of
    emotive expression of prejudice-it would have discredited evilbible.com to
    reference this most important text. Indeed, those annoying little facts have
    an annoying way of getting in the way of good fallacious assertions.

    Whilst besmirching the Bible for allegedly commanding human sacrifice
    evilbible.com, for some odd reason, neglects to mention that the Bible does
    not command but condemns human sacrifice. Evilbible.com, for some odd
    reason, neglects to mention that when the Bible reports that human
    sacrifices did take place they were carried out by Gentile Pagans who were
    not worshiping the God of the Bible but various false gods. When “Jews” were
    performing human sacrifices it was only when they turned away from the God
    of the Bible and joined Gentile Pagans in worshiping various false gods.
    Yet, in typical militant activist atheist fashion, evilbible.com does not
    condemn Gentile Pagans but only condemns the Jews.

    Further evidence of this is found at this URL:

    http://atheismisdead.blogspot.com/2009/07/evilbiblecom-is-dead.html

  17. Parcil

    @Matthew Valk
    Do you realise that you need help, because you think there is a magic mystical man in the sky who talks to you.

  18. Sid

    A parasitic organism of any kind does not “choose” to enter its host. No parasite has the functional neurological ability to choose anything, be it being propelled from a penis into the host’s body or introduced by water consumption. The fact of the matter is that it is, by the biological definition, a parasite. A pleasant one I imagine it to be for many people, but not for all. The reason a straight out scientific understanding of this matter cannot be accepted by many, primarily religious, ideologies is that it lacks a specific definition, a threshold if you will, of when life starts. Catholisism believes it is upon conception, Lewis Wolpert would perhaps say gastrulation, but like so many other things in biology and science, it simply doesn’t work like that. When did Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens diverge? Who was the first humans, who was the last Cro magnon? Obviously, we all know that such a concept is absurd, as is with the life threshold. I think people need to stop looking to their gods for an absolute answer. There rarely are any absolute answers, and in particular, not here, that is how the world works in many respects. Why conception anyway? Why aren’t each and, in Monty Python terms, every sperm sacred? No, there are no ultimate answers. Besides, the US of A are supposed to have a strict seperation of church and state. This being so, it seems hypocritical for them to then impose laws of which the only basis is religious ideology.

  19. Grant

    “a Christian nation like the United States”-M.Valk

    I highly suggest you look up the treaty with Tripoli before you base an entire argument upon such nonsense. This nation was founded upon enlightenment era reason. Perhaps we are a nation with many Christians, but that does not make us a christian nation.

  20. Aaron

    Granted, this is a “1-minute case,” so it may be unfair to pick it apart, but I’d like to offer some responses nonetheless.

    On the two properties “essential for a being to have rights”—first, where do these? It is a purely philosophical claim, and needs to be worked out a lot more carefully before it can even achieve a standing with the many other philosophies regarding rights. It is arbitrary. Is is also changeable, as fetuses become viable outside the womb earlier and earlier with medical developments. Even “naturally,” no one knows exactly where the line is. But we need not ponder that, because at any rate, physical independence is not changed even at 4o weeks and birth. The article attempts to shift the meaning so that being dependent with more than one possible caretaker does not fall under the same category as being dependent strictly on one person. But what does it matter whether you are dependent on one person or whether that dependence can be shifted to others? How does that have anything to do with rights? It is a stitch to hold together a weak argument. But that too is immaterial because dependence does not change even well beyond birth. Humans, and all living things for that matter, are by nature interdependent with other creatures in order to live. One need not even point out the situation of the disabled. If that means we do not have rights, well, perhaps none of us do, in the autonomous sense in which we use the word today. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were not divine prophets, after all. Our lives are inextricably mingled with the lives of others, and nothing we do is without affect on others. Nothing. We all need others, and others need us. This is a fact of life that does not come easily to modern Western civilization.

    Second, I personally agree fully that an embryo is not really a person. But, getting back to philosophy, reality is teleological. That is, things must be viewed in light of their ends or purposes. An embryo or fetus may not truly be a human person, but it is in some real sense meant to be. The philosophy of compartmentalization and fragmentation that came in with industrialization is at work in the assumption that divides present status from telos. In other words, a fetus, if not a human being, is—like all of us—truly a “human becoming.” To end it may or may not be murder, but it is a violation of a sort.

    One may argue that a full-grown mother has more worth or right than such a “human becoming,” but this is not a question of one life for another, but a question of one life for another’s quality of life.

    Yes, a woman has a right to control her own body. Rape should be punished much much more harshly than it is. There are historic and societal evils that put women in the position of resorting to an abortion. That is where the fault lies, not biology. Any pro-choicer will agree, abortion is a worst case scenario that should not have to be chosen. Nonetheless, sexuality and procreation are integral. That is how things work. Reality is holistic. If a pregnancy is not a willful one, that can sometimes be a horrible thing. Likewise, if someone steals from me, it is a horrible thing—I have been wronged. Can I rectify it by stealing from another? What if I had saved the third person’s life? Surely their existence depends on me anyway, right? Or, must I live with the hunger inflicted on me by a harsh world? It is a harsh thing to say, but unlike Hollywood teaches us, there is not always a way out of horrible situations that is also morally sound.

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