Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

About tomaspajaros

  • Rank

Previous Fields

  • Country
    United States
  • Biography/Intro
    libertarian / fiscal conservative / social liberal / keep right except to pass
  • Experience with Objectivism
  • Occupation
    business management

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

  1. personally wondered if there was still debate among Objectivism, about where "personhood" or "individuation" began. Many resources take it to be the moment of birth, whether c-section or labor. Below is a different view, from an Objectivist writer. I found it compelling to consider, perhaps others will also: Abortion Rights and Parental Obligations An Objectivist Account Greg Perkins Nov 26, 2016 ~18 min read ***** excerpted from linked article ***** people can also implicitly adopt responsibility for caring for others: If Bob decides to take Mary for a ride out to sea, he does not have the right to then order her off his boat to her death.¹⁶ That would be murder because Bob chose to bring Mary — another person — into a state of vital dependence on him. Mary’s rights would be violated by then arbitrarily removing his support and thrusting her into mortal danger rather than delivering her safely from the dependent condition he created. (And note that such withdrawal of support would be a rights violation no matter whether she was threatened by his explicit design, depraved indifference, or mere recklessness.) Bob is responsible for Mary’s welfare until the dependence he invited has ended. Fetal Rights and Maternal Obligations Recall that rights are rooted in the essential nature of the entity itself, that there is no metaphysically-significant change in the nature of the newborn at birth, and that we recognize its basic human rights at every point thereafter. This indicates that the point of personhood is reached some time before birth. But does this introduce an inherent clash of rights between mother and fetus? Are we faced with any call to compromise, “balance,” or “trade off” rights between them? No. On this account, all people retain all of their rights, completely intact. A mother can have no duties or claims forced upon her in a rights-respecting society; people can only be bound by obligations they choose to create. The principle from the boat ride identifies how maternal obligations arise as fetal rights obtain: in choosing to let her pregnancy proceed to the point of personhood, the mother thereby adopts responsibility for the person she brings into a condition of vital dependence. Like the boat captain, she is not free to then arbitrarily kill or neglect her charge; that would be a clear violation of a person’s rights. She has chosen to shoulder the responsibility of supporting the fetus to independence, and this is a serious obligation she can and should be held to. Attaining Personhood Finally turning to personhood itself, recall that a human being need not be fully developed to be a person (indeed, it cannot be fully developed while in the womb). Nonetheless, a person must necessarily be an actual human being and not a mere potential. The point we seek to identify is where the entity becomes an essentially formed human being — a living human organism with essential organs and a nervous system, operating at least at some basic level to maintain its own existence as an organism.²¹ This captures the basis of the capacity for biological independence explicitly demonstrated in birth, and names what is implicitly recognized in the idea of viability when it is not bound tightly to technology. Importantly, this keeps our attention where it belongs: on the basic nature of the developing entity. A glance at prenatal development makes it clear that this point cannot be in the first trimester, because the embryonic stages of development conclude only as “All essential organs have at least begun formation.”²² Indeed, early on, human embryos are largely indistinguishable from those of other mammals, with higher evolutionary features appearing later (like the cerebrum, the most sophisticated part of our brain, which develops last).²³ Later, in the fetal stages of development, weeks 25–28 feature rapid brain growth and the nervous system finally developing enough to control some body functions. At this point the respiratory system, while still immature, has also developed to the point where gas exchange is possible.²⁴ So the developmental point of personhood appears to be near the beginning of the third trimester, and this point’s candidacy is perhaps urged by the still later appearance in week 31 of “Thalamic brain connections, which mediate sensory input [and] form.”²⁵ Of course this is only a layman’s estimate; determining just when this stage of development is attained is a biological question that must be answered by scientists, not by philosophers.²⁶ It is interesting that, if the start of the third trimester indeed marks the developmental point for attainment of personhood, this would result in my arguing for an outcome which roughly agrees with the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade bottom line that a woman may abort her pregnancy for any reason until the fetus reaches viability (which the Court took to be at about seven months or 28 weeks), while abortion after viability must be available when needed to protect the woman’s life or health.²⁷ Unfortunately as explained above, the point the Court argued for was characterized using the technologically-bound concept of viability, thus clouding the essential issue of personhood. And their position was based on a “right to privacy” and entailed a balancing of rights against “state interests” rather than being an expression and defense of basic human rights as inalienable absolutes.²⁸ This has confused the discussion of rights and obligations, and hobbled our legal system’s pursuit of just and uniform treatment of the myriad issues around and beyond pregnancy and parenthood. Conclusion Prior to the point of being an essentially formed human being — of actually being a human being — an embryo can have no rights to be recognized or violated. So the pregnant woman must be left legally free as a matter of right to choose whether to carry an embryo to the point of personhood. After that point, the fetus is a human being with the attendant basic human rights, and these must be safeguarded in a rights-respecting society. This entails no clash or compromise of rights because parental obligations arise as fetal rights obtain: in choosing to bring another person into a condition of vital dependence on her, a mother elects to shoulder the responsibility of (non-suicidally) supporting that person to independence — a responsibility to which the father can likewise elect to be bound via contract. Thus we have an integrated approach to fetal rights, reproductive rights, maternal obligation, and parental obligation. Importantly, this is an account that demands full and consistent recognition of the basic human rights of all as absolutes, never to be compromised or abridged. https://medium.com/@gregperk/abortion-rights-and-parental-obligations-9acaed799539
  • Create New...