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semm
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If I have to accept that life begins at birth to be an Objectivist, then I am not an Objectivist.

Life began billions of years ago, if not earlier. Most Objectivists with a basic knowledge of biology, and anyone smart enough to accept the truth of science, can agree on that. We were not created in a vacuum. Even if we were created in a laboratory, because matter can be neither created nor destroyed, we all have ancestors.

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(2) whether a sperm-egg combo has the requisite "separate being" property.

At some point of development the sperm-egg combo becomes fully functional separate being. It will do just fine if cut off. Once the line between potential vs. actual being is clearly defined there won't be problems with slippery slope arguments.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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There's your "line" then; once it's cut off. By definition, it's not a fully functional separate being until the cord is cut.

It is fully functional and more independent than a person dependent on articifial live-sustaining device, such person can not be cut off and live. If separate was THE distinquishing characteristic - conjoined twins would not be considered living beings.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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There's an important separation here that must be made between the two characterisitics of being "viable," i.e. able to survive unnatached to a placenta, and being "separate," i.e. being unattached to a placenta.

Nobody has a right to be attached to a placenta, not even a fully functioning rational as hell 18 year old. At anytime during a pregnancy a mother has the absolute right to detach the fetus growing inside her from her placenta and remove it from her uterus. She has the right to do this if it means the fetuses death because it is not viable, she has the right to do this if it means birthing the child prematurely, she has this right if it means collapsing the otherwise viable fetus's head in order to get it out of her uterus, if that is the best and safest means of extracting it; the fetus does not have the right to a c-section.

The distinction between being separate and being viable is important because it means that a woman DOES NOT have the right to completely birth a fetus and then kill it once its completely outside of her uterus just because it's still attached via umbilical cord. The only action she has a right to is the removal of the fetus from her uterus and the removal of attachment of the umbilical cord because once that is done, her body is no longer being leeched off of by the baby; she has a right to HER body, not a righ to kill anything attached to it.

Edited by IAmMetaphysical
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It is fully functional and more independent than a person dependent on articifial live-sustaining device, such person can not be cut off and live.

Not hardly, but I'm willing to entertain how you came to this conclusion.

Given that the Objectivis ethics describe that rights refer to a "right to act" (as opposed to rights to things), exactly what rights would you afford a "fully functional and independent" organism still attached to it's mother? Which of these rights would superscede the rights of the mother?

I think Meta's response is sufficiently similar to my thoughts at this juncture.

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The distinction between being separate and being viable is important...
I agree. It is impossible to argue the philosophical case based on the concept of "viability", because even a kid is not "viable". What viability really means in these arguments is that the fetus has reached a stage where current technology can assist it in living and growing into a child. Practically, a philosophical case for viability will -- say a century from now -- end up giving rights to zygotes, and perhaps even to any living human cell.
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At anytime during a pregnancy a mother has the absolute right to detach the fetus growing inside her from her placenta and remove it from her uterus.

I would agree with you if it weren't for the fact that the mother is responsible for the fetus being there in the first place (again, excluding rape). As I see it, this argument is invalid if two things are true. One, that the fetus has a rational capability akin to that of an infant, and two, if the pregancy was nor forced upon the mother. If one of them is not true, then by all means, abort away, but if they are...freedoom over one's body is not an absolute. If I push someone over a cliff without provocation, catching them before they fall to the bottom, my freedom of action doesn't extend to opening my hand and letting them fall. I am responsible for putting them in this dangerous situation, and I am therefore obligated to get them out of it, even if it requires effort on my part. Again, this obligation requires both my responsibility for the danger and that a rational being it involved, but that is not an impossibility with a fetus, and so to simply say that a mother can do whatever she wants with her own body is not quite correct, any more than it is to say that I'm free to move my arm in any way I please, even if it causes someone to get punched in the face.

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Given that the Objectivis ethics describe that rights refer to a "right to act" (as opposed to rights to things), exactly what rights would you afford a "fully functional and independent" organism still attached to it's mother? Which of these rights would superscede the rights of the mother?

This goes back to something I discussed with Jennifer- I don't think it should be legally permissible to have a child, and then let it die of starvation. The fact that an infant cannot survive on its own, and that the parents knowingly put it in that situation, gives them an obligation to provide certain things (similar to what I just posted to Meta). This obligation exists despite the fact that the infant is fully functional and independent. The same could apply to a developed fetus, and in neither case are the mother's rights being "supersceded".

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Given that the Objectivis ethics describe that rights refer to a "right to act" (as opposed to rights to things), exactly what rights would you afford a "fully functional and independent" organism still attached to it's mother? Which of these rights would superscede the rights of the mother?

I would suggest that a "fully functional and independent" organism still attached to it's mother deserves the same rights that a "fully functional and independent" organism just recently detatched from it's mother deserves. If a mother takes a newborn home from the hospital , throws it in a crib and forgets about it, the infant will die. The mother will rightfully be charged in the infants death. Why? Because she is morally and legally responsible for the childs care. The mothers' 'right to act' does not include neglect. The disagreement here, it seems to me, is whether the mothers 'right to act' includes aborting a fully functional and independent human organism. To me, there is no moral difference between killing a baby 5 minutes after giving birth and performing an abortion 6 minutes earlier. Both accomplish the same thing--the destruction of human life.

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This goes back to something I discussed with Jennifer- I don't think it should be legally permissible to have a child, and then let it die of starvation. The fact that an infant cannot survive on its own, and that the parents knowingly put it in that situation, gives them an obligation to provide certain things (similar to what I just posted to Meta). This obligation exists despite the fact that the infant is fully functional and independent. The same could apply to a developed fetus, and in neither case are the mother's rights being "supersceded".

This is exactly why I think the two issues are related and why whenever I get into arguments about the paren'ts responsibility after birth I always try to link it to the abortion issue, which the other side usually misses since they defend abortion on the wrong principle thinking that being inside a uterus makes the entire difference. If a mother has the obligation to care for a child if she chooses to carry it to term because she made it the way it is, i.e. fully dependant on someone else, then the same logic applies to a fetus, on that issue we are in total agreement. That's where the "if" comes into play. The issue here is that NO person has the right to have its life provided for it by another person, simply by virtue of existing. Giving birth to a helpless being is not the same as crippling an already existing human being. Lack of self-sustainability is a metaphysically given fact about the nature of infants, just as it is the metaphysically given nature of a fetus. Being responsible for the damages incurred to others presupposes a "normal" state to which you are trying to restore them. In the case of a fetus or an infant, the "normal" state would be non-existence, as that is the state from which you brought them in the current condition as no other condition was possible. For an infant, there are two options in regards to the nature of their existence: as a being incapable of surviving on its own, and stillborn. The parent's are no more responsible for the first as they would be for the second(even less so as some parental action can cause a baby to be stillborn, while no parental action can affect the nature of human biology.) In the same respect, there are two options for the nature of the existence of a fetus: as a parasite, and as a miscarriage(here the parent's are absolutely not responsible for either.) You can not hold a person morally or legally responsible for something which is not in their control, you can not hold a person responsible for the metaphysically given, only the man-made. Yes, people are responsible for the existence of a fetus as it is usually the result of a choice to have sex, but they ARE NOT responsible for the circumstances the fetus finds itself in, nor are they to become slaves to it, simply because it can not survive without a uterus. Even if a fetus were a fully functioning fully rational and aware human being but could not survive without the nourishment of a placenta, it would still not have a right to that placenta as the placenta is the mother's body and no one owns another's body, even their mother's. The same applies to an infant.

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I would agree with you if it weren't for the fact that the mother is responsible for the fetus being there in the first place

This is akin to the christian argument and is a slippery slope. The mother is responsible for it being there when the egg and sperm merge therefore she's stuck with it and must carry it to term. The mother may be responsible for herself getting cancer, but that doesn't mean she's strapped with it for life and can't take whatever steps are necessary to have the cancer removed or treated.

The responsibility a woman has is to her life and if she realizes after getting pregnant that raising a child will ruin her life then she has a right to have it removed from her body. I think you guys keep equating "removing the organism from her body" with necessarily "killing the organism". As Meta explained, and I agree, that is not necessarily the case. The only time he mentions something that would "kill the organism" is if the safest removal method for the mother's health involves necessarily having to damage the organism. If you guys will get it out of your head that "remove the thing" and "doctor kill that thing now" are two different things, perhaps progress can be made.

I have maintained, in a different thread, that the mother's responsibility to ensure that SOMEONE cares for the chiild begins when she CHOOSES to give birth to the child and then does so.

If I push someone over a cliff without provocation,

Non-sequitur and not analogous. You never had a right to push the person off a cliff to begin with. A woman does have a right to act to get pregnant even if she later decides to have an abortion.

and so to simply say that a mother can do whatever she wants with her own body is not quite correct, any more than it is to say that I'm free to move my arm in any way I please, even if it causes someone to get punched in the face.

Again, non-sequitur and not analogous.

I don't think it should be legally permissible to have a child, and then let it die of starvation.

I agree, but this isn't under discussion.

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I would suggest that a "fully functional and independent" organism still attached to it's mother deserves the same rights that a "fully functional and independent" organism just recently detatched from it's mother deserves.

If you are going to try to answer my question posed to a different member, then please answer the question. What rights are those?

To me, there is no moral difference between killing a baby 5 minutes after giving birth and performing an abortion 6 minutes earlier. Both accomplish the same thing--the destruction of human life.

First, and I know this may seem sarcastic, but do you know how long labor takes (generally speaking)? More than a minute. Your 5 minute / 6 minute example really doesn't stand up to the facts of reality. So yea, if the woman has decided to give birth child and then just prior to the foot emerging from her vagina (your proverbial 6th minute) says, "kill that thing", I would agree with you. However, what is being said is in that 6th minute the woman can say "remove that thing", to which the doctor would likely say... "uh, yea, we're working on that."

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"5 minutes" is a distraction, because one would have to face that question regardless of how far back one reaches. The zygote is growing into a child and regardless of where one draws a line, one would have to concede that there is not much difference in the organs, brain, and other such biology of the fetus itself in the 5 minutes this side of any line and 5 minutes the other side.

Prior to birth, one would be hard-pressed to find a line that is as objective as the cutting of the cord, or the first breath being taken. However, that -- in itself -- does not make it the right point at which to draw such a line.

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So yea, if the woman has decided to give birth child and then just prior to the foot emerging from her vagina (your proverbial 6th minute) says, "kill that thing", I would agree with you. However, what is being said is in that 6th minute the woman can say "remove that thing", to which the doctor would likely say... "uh, yea, we're working on that."

Hehe, nicely said.

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The distinction between being separate and being viable is important because it means that a woman DOES NOT have the right to completely birth a fetus and then kill it once its completely outside of her uterus just because it's still attached via umbilical cord. The only action she has a right to is the removal of the fetus from her uterus and the removal of attachment of the umbilical cord because once that is done, her body is no longer being leeched off of by the baby; she has a right to HER body, not a righ to kill anything attached to it.

I can agree with your argument with one exception. Considering the fact that a woman by that time would have had over 6 months to remove the unwanted pregnancy - the fact that she allowed it to develop into a viable, fully functional being (I am assuming health on both sides: healthy fetus, healthy mother - risk to the mother or unhealthy fetus is outside of this discussion as nobody would dispute here women's right to abort in those situations at any stage of pregnancy) has its consequences (as any action does). (There is not such a thing as no consequences of 6 month long evasion). Such consequences to me is that eventhough she still has a right to remove it, to cut it off - I don't think she has a right to kill it in the process - not at a point when the fetus has, for example, 98%+ chances of survival on its own (at this point it is even without the aid of incubators). Same way she does not have a right to kill it once born but still attached. No right to kill it does not come from the fact that it is inside or outside but comes from its metaphysical identity. It has a right to keep its life (right to continue the physiological action of maintaining its life) because it is a man (at some point). Let's not forget that the fetus, like a child, did not ask to exist. It did not impose this burden on the mother, it exists due to the mother's actions.

I do believe that rational, scientifically based line between potential vs.actual being is possible here (knowledge is possible and objective decisions are possible for a man - the establishment of such line is currently being fought by those who do not wish for it to exist). The line of cutting off the placenta is arbitrary as can be seen when thinking of a newborn still attached because such action in itself does not make "something" into a "man". I agree that the criteria of viability used alone is a slippery slope leading to banning abortions at any stage. For this reason, it can not be the only criteria used.

(When it comes to the statement " there are no conflicts of interest between rational men" - it still holds. There are however conflicts of interest created by the irrational. No rational woman (again assuming health) would have gotten herself into such situation of being 9 months pregnant and just realizing that she does not want the fetus inside her. I have no sympathy for the irrational. There is no protection from the consequences of irrationality.)

Edited by ~Sophia~
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If you are going to try to answer my question posed to a different member, then please answer the question. What rights are those?

If Objectivist ethics refer to rights as a "right to act" then the answer would be none. But how is that different from the 'rights' of a newborn? Outside of throwing up all over themselves, I dont dont see what actions a newborn could take that would be all that different from a human embryo still in the womb.

First, and I know this may seem sarcastic, but do you know how long labor takes (generally speaking)? More than a minute. Your 5 minute / 6 minute example really doesn't stand up to the facts of reality.

Thank you, Doctor, but it does. My wife was in labor for 20 hours with our first, 3 hours with our second. My second child was literally in there one minute, out the next. The elapsed time between first sighting of his bald head to him being all the way out could not have been 30 seconds. My point is, to say that human life begins when the cord is cut is to pretend that thing in there is neither human nor alive. The truth is, it is both.

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Such consequences to me is that eventhough she still has a right to remove it, to cut it off - I don't think she has a right to kill it in the process - not at a point when the fetus has, for example, 98%+ chances of survival on its own (at this point it is even without the aid of incubators). Same way she does not have a right to kill it once born but still attached.

We're in agreement here. Notice how I qualified partial birth abortions as being okay if they are necesitated by the health of the mother. I think that once you get to be about 8 months pregnant, if you want to get rid of the baby, you should do so once you've given birth to it, or have your doctor induce labor.

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In the same respect, there are two options for the nature of the existence of a fetus: as a parasite, and as a miscarriage

In other words, the first nature of existence for man is that of a parasite. Maybe that explains why so many are willing to live their whole lives that way.

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If you equate fetuses with men.

Note: Just read the other thread and learned a little bit more about "partial-birth abortions" and that they are performed usually before the fetus is viable so I would like to ammend my above statement to Sophia to read: "Notice how I qualified very very very late term abortions of viable fetuses as being okay if they are necesitated by the health of the mother.

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...I qualified partial birth abortions as being okay if they are necessitated by the health of the mother. I think that once you get to be about 8 months pregnant, ...
Meta, "partial birth abortions" are mostly done before the 7th month.

Edit: No sooner did I post, than I noticed that Meta had posted a clarification. This "partial birth abortion" thing has been spun so well that one will hardly find anyone who thinks it isn't the same as "late term abortion". I remember being quite surprised when I found out that virtually no third-trimester abortions take place in the US, except for an under 0.1% of cases where there are significant health issues.

Further, I doubt the law has much to do with this break-dow. Except for the freak case, women know they're pregant and have no reason to put off an abortion. It at all they delay, I would not be surprized if the factors could be traced back to religious attitudes and government restrictions.

If one says that third-term abortions should be disallowed except for really serious health risks to the mother, a fetus that is judged be non-viable anyway (missing major organ), or a fetus that is severely deformed in some way that makes it vegetative, then the whole argument is really theoretical. Even though I think the philosophical line exists for rights at birth, I would happily support a constitutional amendment that states the above.

Edited by softwareNerd
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But how is that different from the 'rights' of a newborn? Outside of throwing up all over themselves,

I, and others I believe, have already made that distinction. Once the mother has CHOOSEN to give birth to the child, she has assumed the responsibility of either taking care of it herself, or finding someone who will. This means being the "guardian" of the rights of the child.

Thank you, Doctor, but it does. My wife was in labor for 20 hours with our first, 3 hours with our second. My second child was literally in there one minute, out the next.
- (my bold emphasis)

First, I'm not a doctor but I appreciate your recognition of my vast medical knowledge. I know it can seem like it some times. :)

Second, I take it that you don't consider the first 19 hours and 59 minutes of your wife's child bearing process to be part of the process of giving birth. I think this is somewhat of a departure from many definitions of "birth", perhaps even your wife's though I certainly don't presume to speak for her. Giving birth is not the last single second that the last part exits the vagina, it's the whole labor process as the baby is being pushed out. Again, nothing you said here changes what I said in my previous response to you.

My point is, to say that human life begins when the cord is cut is to pretend that thing in there is neither human nor alive. The truth is, it is both.

Well, it would help if you were responding to the criteria (Sophia's) that I was responding to which was "a fully functional and separate being". I'm not pretending anything here. However, when you switch out the phrase I was responding to and use the term "human life", you are again opening up the slippery slope that goes all the way back to the fetus. That is a "human life" in it's early stages. It certainly won't come out as a dog or a cat if left to gestate.

I'm not sure where you still disagree with me unless you disagree with the distinction I made here between "removing the organism" and "killing the organism".

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