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@ Untitled...

This forum is virtually pregnant with adequate responses to the questions you brought up here. What is your familiarity with Ayn Rand? Do you accept her metaphysics? How about the other aspects of her philosophy? I ask these questions to find out where the common ground ends; I suspect you disagree with the philosophy on a more fundamental level. If so, it would be worth exploring these more fundamental areas before you jump headlong into a debate that relies on them.

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How is a newborn a person?

How is the potential or possibility of a newborn to reason or to develop a distinct personality somehow a valid criteria for distinguishing it from a fetus despite its total dependence on others but an invalid one for a fetus?

To my mind, human embryo, fetus, newborn, infant, toddler, child, adolescent and adult are best described by the concept human being, with each specific term merely denoting a particular stage in their development.

The Objectivist basis for rights is not necessarily applicable only to fully conscious adults, adolescents or children past a certain stage. What I think is overlooked is that rights arise from the requirements of our nature as human beings in a social setting. The nature of the requirements for our survival as human beings varies depending on the stage in our development. Newborns and children require care. By no measure are they capable of survival on their own or through their own efforts. Initially, everything about them that defines their identity and personality is

merely "potential." In this context, recognizing their rights consists mostly, if not completly, of protecting the potential their life represents. Since rights can be violated only through force, this means protecting them against being injured or killed. Since newborns, infants and children lack the ability for fully rational thought and thus complete independence, they have fewer rights than adults. Working backwards, then, rights fall away until all that is left is that of the right to life, which is not just the right to a fully conscious, rational and self-actualized life - something impossible for newborns and even small children - but of the right to exist. I see no fundamental difference between the requirements of the life of a newborn (both metaphysically and politically) and that of a fetus. To my mind, abortion (except in cases of rape - where it is a form of self-defense - or the mother's life being at risk) is actually a violation of individual rights.

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What I think is overlooked is that rights arise from the requirements of our nature as human beings in a social setting. The nature of the requirements for our survival as human beings varies depending on the stage in our development. Newborns and children require care.

At whose expense? What if a person does not wish to provide that care--must she be forced to do so?

By no measure are they capable of survival on their own or through their own efforts.

The same is true of someone in a coma on life support. Is it proper then for the state to force someone else to support him? Is it a violation of his rights not to be supported by someone else?

Initially, everything about them that defines their identity and personality is

merely "potential."

Then the same right must hold just as fully for someone whose personality is already developed--thus, anyone who is unable to support himself has the right to the labor and persons of others to support him: After all, if it's true of a fetus or a child, then it's just as true of an adult. If the only way to save someone's life is for a doctor to provide medical care, however expensive, rare, delicate, long-term, or whatever have you, then by what right may a doctor refuse? Doing so would condemn the patient to death, and everyone, even potential human beings like fetuses, has the right to exist--and in any case, it's much less of a violation of a doctor's person than nine months of having one's body occupied by someone else. If socialized medicine is a violation of doctors' rights, then how is forced pregnancy not a violation of the mothers' rights?

In this context, recognizing their rights consists mostly, if not completly, of protecting the potential their life represents. Since rights can be violated only through force, this means protecting them against being injured or killed. Since newborns, infants and children lack the ability for fully rational thought and thus complete independence, they have fewer rights than adults. Working backwards, then, rights fall away until all that is left is that of the right to life, which is not just the right to a fully conscious, rational and self-actualized life - something impossible for newborns and even small children - but of the right to exist.

Again, at whose expense?

I see no fundamental difference between the requirements of the life of a newborn (both metaphysically and politically) and that of a fetus.

A newborn can be given over to the care of someone besides the mother; it need not be supported at her expense. A fetus cannot; if a woman does not wish to support it, then you are condemning her to nine months of living against her will so as to support another human being, because there is no way to give the fetus over to another's care. Forcing a doctor to give medical care to someone does not suddenly become moral when the doctor is the only one able to give the care, and the same is true of a fetus's mother. How is it not a violation of her rights and in fact simple slavery in the fullest sense of the word when it's only a potential and not an actual person she must support against her will? (If a woman wishes to carry a fetus to term and give it up for adoption, that's an act of charity, pure and simple, but the fact that some women are willing to do so does not in any way imply all women should do so.)

To my mind, abortion (except in cases of rape - where it is a form of self-defense - or the mother's life being at risk) is actually a violation of individual rights.

And here we come to the dark underside of the whole argument: How in the world is abortion in the case of rape but not in case of voluntary sexual activity a form of self-defense? The only criminal in rape is the rapist, and the right to self-defense then applies against the rapist during the act of rape, not the fetus conceived and either carried to term or aborted some time after the crime has ended; the fetus is not guilty of rape, and being innocent therefore has just as much right to exist as any other fetus. Why does the crime of the father condemn his progeny to death? How does one human being's crime rightfully condemn another to death? How does the conception of the fetus through an act carried out against the woman's will make any difference in the rights possessed by the new human being created thereby? Why does the very existence you insist on protecting of a fetus become a violation of the mother's rights only in the case of rape, and only then does abortion--the killing of an innocent human being--become an act of self-defense? Why does a woman pregnant by voluntary sex not have such a right of self-defense, self-determination, power over her own body and person--a right not to have her body the involuntary host for another human being?

The only difference between the two cases is the possibility that the woman who was not raped might have enjoyed herself in the act--conception is then an unintended consequence of a voluntary act, not an involuntary one. However, if the conception of a fetus is an unintended consequence, then forcing her to carry it to term is itself an act of forcing her to do something against her will, and again--how does a fetus have such a right, one that a dependent adult does not? If I remember correctly, you have argued in the past that she should be "responsible" for her actions--but that is an arbitrarily asserted responsibility that begs the question. If a fetus has the right not to be aborted, then and only then does it follow that the mother has a responsibility to carry it to term (since such a responsibility is a consequence of its right to life), but if the fetus has no more right than any other human being to be supported by force against another's will, then the mother's only responsibility is to herself, and she should get an abortion if she does not want to carry it to term. Saying that a woman's taking responsibility for the consequences of her actions means she must therefore carry a fetus to term against her will is simply to re-assert the conclusion you claim to prove.

Or put another way, if conception is an unwanted consequence of an act undertaken voluntarily for whatever reason, however trivial in your view, then saying the mother should take responsibility for her actions means only that just as with any other activity, she should pay reparations to anyone whose rights were violated as an unintended consequence of her actions--but the consequence, what responsibilities if any are owed to the fetus, depends precisely on the prior question of what rights if any a fetus has. Moreover, conception resulting from rape is just as unintended a consequence as conception from voluntary sex, and therefore a woman should take responsibility for her actions in both cases--how does the fact that rape is involuntary free her from the responsibility to carry the fetus to term? A fetus is a fetus regardless and has exactly the same rights in either case. The very fact that you introduce rape as an exception to prohibitions on abortions shows that it's not just the supposed rights of the fetus that you're concerned with.

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Untitled, your post number 100 is riddled with context-dropping and conflation.

The context-dropping takes the form of isolating my statements while ignoring the complete argument. For instance, you start by isolating my second sentence as follows:

A being is a biologically independent, biologically self-sufficient, separate entity.

Then you react as follows:

Then a 1 week old baby is not a human being. A baby (even after it is born), is not biologically self-sufficient, it still depends on its mother for food. Could a mother simply decide that she doesn't want to feed her baby and just let it die? It is HER body, right?

Thus, by dropping context you leap to a conclusion that is in fact the opposite of the conclusion I reached at the end of the entire post.

You then proceed to more context dropping, this time to conflate a reflex with a volitional consciousness.

I wrote:

The faculty of reason requires a volitional consciousness that can process the information provided by the senses.

You responded:

As stated above, 8 week old fetuses can feel pain and react to it in the EXACT same way that a newborn baby would react.

In fact, an 8 week fetus can not react to pain the same way a newborn can. A fetus can only react by a physical reaction like a reflex. But the mind of a newborn possesses the ability to discriminate one sensation from another and begin the gradual process of retaining sensations to form percepts. How quickly or slowly a given child uses this ability to get to the level of perception varies from child to child -- but that development is possible only after birth, when a volitional consciousness first emerges.

You conclude by reiterating the claim that my argument supports the notion that parents can leave a child to die.

What if the mother didn't "volunteer" to feed her newborn baby? Imagine a woman who births a child alone in the woods. Only her actions can save the baby. If she leaves it alone, it dies. Even though the action is now voluntary that is required to keep the baby alive, how is that different? You offer no explanation.

Yes, I did offer an explanation, as follows:

Once born, all of that changes. Granted, a newborn infant cannot engage in all the actions necessary for its survival, but it does possess a volitional consciousness and can (and does) initiate the process of learning how to use its rational faculty, even if the first steps of that process are something as basic as leaning how to focus its eyes and how to understand the sensations flooding its senses.

Now that it is a human being, the infant possesses all the rights of other human beings. However, it clearly must undergo both physical and mental growth before it can exercise all of those rights. The parents, by choosing to create this human being, assume responsibility for the exercise of those rights until such time as the child becomes an adult.

(Emphasis added this time.)

What part of that last sentence do you not agree with or understand?

The decision to birth a child is the decision to create a being that posses all the individual rights of an adult but is unable to exercise those rights and will perish unless someone exercises them on his behalf. Since morality demands that man accept responsibility for the consequences of his actions, this can only mean that the parents -- who bear sole responsibility for the decision to create the child -- must exercise the child‘s rights on his behalf until he becomes an adult. That means -- for instance -- exercising his right to work by working on his behalf, to earn what is necessary to materially support the child.

And that is why the Objectivist view of rights -- which is based on the Objectivist view of morality -- means that parents cannot simply abandon their children.

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At whose expense? What if a person does not wish to provide that care--must she be forced to do so?

An adult, fully conscious human is capable of supporting his or her own life and so no one is obliged to support it. A child or newborn is entitled to support from those who created it. A fetus is automatically supported if its mother simply cares for herself properly during pregnancy: a positive action is required to end the pregnancy. So, yes, she - and the baby's father - would be compelled to provide it.

What someone wants or wishes is not the determining characteristic in this or many other contexts. Whim worship or a desire to evade responsibility for the consequences of one's actions would be instances in which someone doesn't want to do something but may be required to do so given the context.

The same is true of someone in a coma on life support. Is it proper then for the state to force someone else to support him? Is it a violation of his rights not to be supported by someone else?

This is akin to an emergency and I think a separate case. Being in a coma is not a natural or normal stage of human development and thus the basic nature of the requirements of a person's survival in this context are different. If the person is an adult, his pre-coma status means he is responsible for his life and if he had made no provision for this condition and no one else is freely willing to support him, then he can't demand others do so. If the person is a child, then the parents must make the decision for him. In both instances, though, this is different from actively interfering with an otherwise healthy, living organism.

Then the same right must hold just as fully for someone whose personality is already developed--thus, anyone who is unable to support himself has the right to the labor and persons of others to support him: After all, if it's true of a fetus or a child, then it's just as true of an adult. If the only way to save someone's life is for a doctor to provide medical care, however expensive, rare, delicate, long-term, or whatever have you, then by what right may a doctor refuse? Doing so would condemn the patient to death, and everyone, even potential human beings like fetuses, has the right to exist--and in any case, it's much less of a violation of a doctor's person than nine months of having one's body occupied by someone else. If socialized medicine is a violation of doctors' rights, then how is forced pregnancy not a violation of the mothers' rights?

I think I've largely addressed this in my response to your comment regarding the person in a coma.

Again, at whose expense?

A newborn can be given over to the care of someone besides the mother; it need not be supported at her expense. A fetus cannot; if a woman does not wish to support it, then you are condemning her to nine months of living against her will so as to support another human being, because there is no way to give the fetus over to another's care. Forcing a doctor to give medical care to someone does not suddenly become moral when the doctor is the only one able to give the care, and the same is true of a fetus's mother. How is it not a violation of her rights and in fact simple slavery in the fullest sense of the word when it's only a potential and not an actual person she must support against her will? (If a woman wishes to carry a fetus to term and give it up for adoption, that's an act of charity, pure and simple, but the fact that some women are willing to do so does not in any way imply all women should do so.)

You can't use a fact of reality to invalidate itself. Humans are conceived, gestate and born in a particular process, one they share with other mammals. The fact that a fetus requires its mother's body to develop whereas a newborn could be given up for adoption and thus raised by others doesn't, of itself determine whether or not it should be considered a human being. Neither does the mother's desire not to be pregnant. The mother's wishes, no matter how strong, do not determine whether the fetus is a human life.

My argument is that rights arise from the requirements of human life at a particular stage in our development, with parents responsible for their children because they created them. Thus, the requirments of a fetus, newborn, infant et al impose an obligation on its parents. No one other than the parents is responsible for the consequences of the parents' actions - the parents being adults - and thus no one else is obliged to provide them with anything. The fact that medical care might be required, like food or shelter, doesn't change this. The parents, as adults, are obliged to produce these things to support themselves and their children and can't force someone else to do so. Hence, a doctor is not obliged to give care just because he may be the only one who can. A mother and father are, however, responsible for the life that they create. If they're unable to do this, they can ask someone for help, give up children for adoption, placement in foster homes etc., but they can't kill them.

And here we come to the dark underside of the whole argument: How in the world is abortion in the case of rape but not in case of voluntary sexual activity a form of self-defense? The only criminal in rape is the rapist, and the right to self-defense then applies against the rapist during the act of rape, not the fetus conceived and either carried to term or aborted some time after the crime has ended; the fetus is not guilty of rape, and being innocent therefore has just as much right to exist as any other fetus. Why does the crime of the father condemn his progeny to death? How does one human being's crime rightfully condemn another to death? How does the conception of the fetus through an act carried out against the woman's will make any difference in the rights possessed by the new human being created thereby? Why does the very existence you insist on protecting of a fetus become a violation of the mother's rights only in the case of rape, and only then does abortion--the killing of an innocent human being--become an act of self-defense? Why does a woman pregnant by voluntary sex not have such a right of self-defense, self-determination, power over her own body and person--a right not to have her body the involuntary host for another human being?

In my opinion, the difference here is that in a rape the child is imposed on the woman wholly against her will. It's presence reflects its father. She is, in effect, rewarding someone who brutalized her with a value, so that even if he is punished, he still gets something from his crime and thus profits by it. Moreover, she is compelled to re-live and remember the crime throughout the pregnancy. This does not seem like justice because there is still an imbalance remaining even after the rapist is punished. So, it is still killing a person, but within a different context and that context matters. That said, there are those who would argue that because the fetus is innnocent and a person, it would be wrong to kill it.

The only difference between the two cases is the possibility that the woman who was not raped might have enjoyed herself in the act--conception is then an unintended consequence of a voluntary act, not an involuntary one. However, if the conception of a fetus is an unintended consequence, then forcing her to carry it to term is itself an act of forcing her to do something against her will, and again--how does a fetus have such a right, one that a dependent adult does not? If I remember correctly, you have argued in the past that she should be "responsible" for her actions--but that is an arbitrarily asserted responsibility that begs the question. If a fetus has the right not to be aborted, then and only then does it follow that the mother has a responsibility to carry it to term (since such a responsibility is a consequence of its right to life), but if the fetus has no more right than any other human being to be supported by force against another's will, then the mother's only responsibility is to herself, and she should get an abortion if she does not want to carry it to term. Saying that a woman's taking responsibility for the consequences of her actions means she must therefore carry a fetus to term against her will is simply to re-assert the conclusion you claim to prove.

What I hold is that a fetus is a human life at that stage in its development. Like a newborn, it is unable to sustain itself except through its mother. Since it was created partly through her actions, she has a responsibility for its (and so does its father) survival until such time as it can support itself. If she can't fully exercise that responsibility, she isn't obliged to keep it but she can't kill it. Carrying the fetus will not, ordinarily, place her actual life at risk. The fetus has no more right to life than anyone else, but the requirements of its life are, like those of a newborn or child or even an adolescent, different from those of a fully conscious, rational adult.

More generally, the situation with respect to voluntary sex is different because of the adjective. Whatever else sex is or means in a particular context, it is also our method of reproduction. All actions have potential consequences. If someone did something criminal while drunk, they would not necessarily be excused of their crime just because they didn't want to do it or mean to do it. The fact that a drink can serve purposes other than slaking thirst and can be enjoyed doesn't change that fact. A woman has control over her body in her decision when, where and with whom to have sex. She can use birth control to avoid conception. But, her desire not to be pregnant doesn't change the metaphysical status of the fetus.

Or put another way, if conception is an unwanted consequence of an act undertaken voluntarily for whatever reason, however trivial in your view, then saying the mother should take responsibility for her actions means only that just as with any other activity, she should pay reparations to anyone whose rights were violated as an unintended consequence of her actions--but the consequence, what responsibilities if any are owed to the fetus, depends precisely on the prior question of what rights if any a fetus has. Moreover, conception resulting from rape is just as unintended a consequence as conception from voluntary sex, and therefore a woman should take responsibility for her actions in both cases--how does the fact that rape is involuntary free her from the responsibility to carry the fetus to term? A fetus is a fetus regardless and has exactly the same rights in either case. The very fact that you introduce rape as an exception to prohibitions on abortions shows that it's not just the supposed rights of the fetus that you're concerned with.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I see the "rape exception" as a matter of justice. In that context, compelling the woman to carry the baby inflicts an on-going or continuing injury to her for actions that she in no way consented to or had any control over. It also rewards her rapist with a child to whom he will have some connection and thus confers a value on him. That is unjust. Since the woman who is raped has taken no actions from which her condition results, whether the outcome is unintended or not is irrelevant: she has no responsibilities towards the child and thus she can kill it even though it is a human life. That's why I call it a case of self-defense. Just as she has the right to defend herself against the rapist, but also against an agent, if you will, of the rapist that continues to injure her. To me, this is a fundamentally different situation than that of pregnancy resulting from voluntary sex, in which a human life results as a consequence of her own volition. In both cases, the fetus is a human life, but in one case you can kill it as a matter of justice and in the other, you can't. So yes, I am concerned with the rights of both the woman and the fetus, and the context within which they exist.

Please note that I'm not suggesting people should be "punished" for having sex. I think that sex, like all other activities, has potential consequences and that people whose relationship has reached the point where they're sexually active need to consciously consider all of them. Since sex has the potential to create a human life, it should not be engaged in irresponsibly. Since accidents happen, there should be no moral stigma to an unwanted pregnancy and the person could still give the child up for adoption. However, none of that is actually relevant to the metaphysical status of the fetus i.e. whether it is, objectively, a human life or not. Its moral and legal status follows from that.

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A child or newborn is entitled to support from those who created it. A fetus is automatically supported if its mother simply cares for herself properly during pregnancy: a positive action is required to end the pregnancy.

A positive action of self-defense, in which case the consequent death of the fetus is justified.

What someone wants or wishes is not the determining characteristic in this or many other contexts.

What you are saying then is that unlike every other sphere of social life, a pregnant woman does not have the fundamental right to deal with others or not as she wishes. Why? Precisely because in this case the fetus cannot support itself. You are saying that it is precisely because a fetus is not rational, not independent, not able to live on its own--and that its needs somehow give it rights that no other human being has.

In both instances, though, this is different from actively interfering with an otherwise healthy, living organism.

But again, if the fetus does not have the right to live at its mother's expense, then it doesn't matter how healthy it may be, it can be aborted--killed as an act of self-defense.

My argument is that rights arise from the requirements of human life at a particular stage in our development, with parents responsible for their children because they created them.

Rather, parents are responsible for their children because they consented to support them by not giving them up for adoption--or if they are adoptive parents, by the fact that they adopted them. In this respect it doesn't matter whether they created them or not.

What I hold is that a fetus is a human life at that stage in its development. Like a newborn, it is unable to sustain itself except through its mother. Since it was created partly through her actions, she has a responsibility for its (and so does its father) survival until such time as it can support itself.

An arbitrarily asserted responsibility, yet again, begging the question. Any sufficiently crippled human being at any age cannot support himself--and by your own argument, he still possesses a right to existence just as a fetus does (the fetus's right to existence, you say, is what remains when you pare away all the other rights recognized for different stages in life, therefore their right to existence is the same). But he does not have the right to be supported at another's expense against that person's consent. The fetus has that same right of existence--therefore by your own admission it has no more right to support than a crippled genius does. Saying that the cases are different because of the mother's responsibility to her fetus for her actions smuggles in the conclusion you claim to prove: She only has such a responsibility to it if it has a right to such support, and the only basis you have for claiming it has such a right is this arbitrarily asserted "responsibility" a mother has to her fetus, based unlike any other human rights on that fetus's needs.

Carrying the fetus will not, ordinarily, place her actual life at risk. The fetus has no more right to life than anyone else, but the requirements of its life are, like those of a newborn or child or even an adolescent, different from those of a fully conscious, rational adult.

"Requirements." In other words, its need. Need gives no one a right to anything. The need for a fetus to be carried to term in order eventually to grow into a fully rational human being does not give it the right to the support necessary for it to do so--this right can be assumed legally if consent to support the child has been given, first by giving birth, second by keeping the child or adopting it as the case may be. (This is why birth is the most convenient dividing line for when an immature human being is given legal protection.) But the very fact that a woman aborts a fetus shows that she does not consent to giving it birth.

A woman has control over her body in her decision when, where and with whom to have sex. She can use birth control to avoid conception. But, her desire not to be pregnant doesn't change the metaphysical status of the fetus.

"Metaphysical status"? At best a fetus is a human being like any other, and as such has no more right to support because of its needs than any other human being does, and if a woman does not consent to support it, it's self-defense to remove it from her support, even though it must kill the fetus to do so. In fact, as far as "metaphysical status" goes, you've erected the fetus into a super-human entity whose simple fact of existence gives it a right to support that no other human beings possess, by the simple fact of its needs, precisely because it is not rational or independent (and, I might add, a right that it loses at birth).

To me, this is a fundamentally different situation than that of pregnancy resulting from voluntary sex, in which a human life results as a consequence of her own volition.

Consenting to sex does not imply consent to any of its unintended consequences. Yes, you are responsible within certain standards of reasonable expectations for the unintended consequences of your actions, but that responsibility is to other persons who have legal standing--the fact that a fetus results unintentionally from a consensual act does not by that fact make it into a person with legal standing to whom one owes responsibility.

In both cases, the fetus is a human life, but in one case you can kill it as a matter of justice and in the other, you can't. So yes, I am concerned with the rights of both the woman and the fetus, and the context within which they exist.

No, you're concerned with the needs of fetuses (which you have insinuated through their "context"), which you see as negating the rights of women.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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@ AMirvish,

If fetuses don't have rights, "accepting the consequences of your actions" in regards to pregnancy includes recognizing the possibility that an abortion is appropriate. So, obviously we disagree.

Your posts take a lot of time explaining what would be the correct legal protection of a fetus if it did have rights. I think you need to focus elsewhere, for now. What is in dispute is whether or not they have rights [edit- and by extension, whether they are fully human], so focus on this. Once you've done that, then you can explain why this doesn't involve a conflict of rights, or why accepting a theory of rights that includes conflicts of rights is proper.

Edited by FeatherFall
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What I hold is that a fetus is a human life at that stage in its development.

An acorn is an oak tree "at that stage in its development". However, an acorn is not an oak tree.

You are conflating the potential and the actual.

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