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Abortion isn't simply killing a fetus though, it's ending a pregnancy. Early term abortions are done by simply making the uterus inhospitable to the fetus, not by directly killing it (late term abortions are another story but like I said before, there's no reason why these are even still an issue).
That's true of medical abortions, but not AFAIK of surgical ones. Either way, it would not matter whether the higher purpose were to end a pregnancy versus kill a fetus. Your purpose in killing something does not affect whether you may properly violate the rights of another being -- you simply may not ever violate the rights of another being. If it has rights.
Legally the only alternative is to force the woman to sacrifice for another being, which is always a violation of her rights. The mother isn't violating the baby's rights by refusing to provide for it (although after birth, she would be violating its rights if she killed it because she has initiated a contract).
Wait, so now your position is that a fetus has rights but for some reason a mother's rights are superior to those of the fetus?! How do you justify the superiority of one person's rights over those of another? Think that one through carefully. A person's goals do not justify their violating the rights of another person. For example, a mother may not rightfully murder an infant if the goal is to shut the little screaming darling up.

There is no "contract" involved at birth. Not even a little. An infant cannot be a party to a contract; a contract must be voluntary; a contract has specific terms. The reason why a mother cannot murder an infant is the same reason why I can't murder my neighbor: my neighbor has rights, killing him would violate his rights, and the law specifically prohibits that violation of rights. I have no contract at all with my neighbor.

If you could remove a 12-week fetus from a womb without killing it, then you would have an issue. Namely, does the fetus now have a right to be taken care of and if so, who's going to do it?
There is no issue, since a fetus does not have rights, because only a person has rights, and something that is a part of another person is not itself a person.
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There is no issue, since a fetus does not have rights, because only a person has rights, and something that is a part of another person is not itself a person.

But when does a fetus stop being part of the mother? After the umbilical cord is cut? In that case, could not one morally kill the infant after it's birth, but before the cord is cut?

Also, what about when the fetus is viable within the mother's womb? If it no longer needs the mother for it's survival, but is still connected to the mother, could one still morally end its life?

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But when does a fetus stop being part of the mother?
When it is outside of the body (that's more or less what "apart" means).
If it no longer needs the mother for it's survival, but is still connected to the mother, could one still morally end its life?
You have to determine if the thing has rights: is it a person? One obvious characteristic of a person is that it is an autonomous being -- unlike the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which always lives within another organism.
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But when does a fetus stop being part of the mother? After the umbilical cord is cut? In that case, could not one morally kill the infant after it's birth, but before the cord is cut?

Also, what about when the fetus is viable within the mother's womb? If it no longer needs the mother for it's survival, but is still connected to the mother, could one still morally end its life?

As far as equating respecting individual rights with acting morally, you are wrong to do that.

While it is true that it is always immoral to violate a person's rights, it is not true that the only way to be immoral is to violate someone's rights. You can be immoral all by yourself, on a desert island, you can be immoral by needlessly torturing an animal, etc. etc.

In fact any act that is irrational is immoral: Can you think of any reasons why killing a baby instead of cutting the umbilical cord (and then giving the baby up for adoption) would be a rational choice?

If you have such a rational reason, then I guess it would be moral to do it: but I maintain that there is no such reason, so it is always immoral.

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Your purpose in killing something does not affect whether you may properly violate the rights of another being -- you simply may not ever violate the rights of another being. If it has rights.

No being has a "right" to siphon the resources of another being against its will. An embryo can't pursue life and obviously can't have a right to do something that it can't do, so what right of the embryo would you be violating, if it had rights? I don't have a right to kill my neighbour but I do have a right to decide for myself what my property will be used for (including my body) and if refusing to use my body to keep my neighbour alive results in his death, it's not a violation of his rights. It's the same thing for an embryo since removing it from the womb necessarily entails its death, but that removal wouldn't comprise any violation of its rights even if it did have rights.

I do agree that an embryo doesn't have rights. I'm just saying that it's irrelevant to try to pin down the second when it's "human" vs "part of the mother's body" because even if, hypothetically, an embryo did have a right not to be killed, it doesn't follow that the mother can be forced to let it remain in her body. The difference with the screaming infant is that the mother doesn't have a right not to be bothered. She does have a right to decide not to let anyone live in her uterus.

The case isn't the embryo's right to live vs. the mother's right to do what she wants with her body, where one right could be "superior" to the other. What the pro-lifers are arguing for is that the embryo has a right to be kept alive through the sacrifice of the mother's resources - which right doesn't exist, even if the embryo were human with other human rights. That's the misconception that has to be corrected.

The reason why a mother cannot murder an infant is the same reason why I can't murder my neighbor: my neighbor has rights, killing him would violate his rights, and the law specifically prohibits that violation of rights. I have no contract at all with my neighbor.

Caring for your child is a lot different from just not killing them, and yes, the reason you can't kill them is because they have rights. But you can refuse to feed your neighbour and you won't be responsible if he dies of hunger. You can't do the same with your own child. They're two separate matters that go beyond the child's rights as an individual and extend to your obligations as a parent.

I don't see how it isn't a contract; it's an obligation that the parents voluntarily enter into. Parents enter into lots of contracts on behalf of their children and obviously it's not possible to "voluntarily" be born. Nothing is expected of the child except to exist, but a lot more is expected of the parent because they voluntarily brought about the situation. If, of course, it is voluntary.

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No being has a "right" to siphon the resources of another being against its will.
This is more or less what the claim "man's rights don't conflict" entails. But you seem to be claiming that rights can conflict; are you then proposing that the above is the principle which decides that the mother's rights are superior to those of the fetus? (I.e. even though both the mother and the fetus have conflicting rights, those of the mother must trump those of the fetus since the fetus must exist as a parasite within the mother).
An embryo can't pursue life and obviously can't have a right to do something that it can't do, so what right of the embryo would you be violating, if it had rights?
An embryo "can't pursue life" in the same way that an infant "can't pursue life". Yet we know that an infant does have rights, it does have the right to exist. If a fetus is a right-having being, then the most fundamental right is "to exist" (which of course does not mean being provided with a means of existing).
I don't have a right to kill my neighbour but I do have a right to decide for myself what my property will be used for (including my body) and if refusing to use my body to keep my neighbour alive results in his death, it's not a violation of his rights.
However, you are not allowed to kill your neighbor in the course of ejecting him from your property. That is because he has a right to exist, which cannot be trumped by your property right.
It's the same thing for an embryo since removing it from the womb necessarily entails its death, but that removal wouldn't comprise any violation of its rights even if it did have rights.
Most certainly it would -- its right to exist! At this point you may want to distinguish a real scenario from a science fiction scenario. In a real abortion, you kill the blob in the course of removing the tissue. If the blob has rights, that is a clear violation of its most fundamental right. In a science fiction scenario, the blob could also be transported intact from the womb, then whether or not the blob dies depends on whether you hook the thing up to a life support apparatus. At the very least, you could rightfully transport the blob out and if it happens to die, them's the breaks. But that would not be "removal entails death".
I do agree that an embryo doesn't have rights.
Okay, but why not? What exactly is the moral concept that tells one what things have rights and what things don't? That's the $64,000 question.
I'm just saying that it's irrelevant to try to pin down the second when it's "human" vs "part of the mother's body" because even if, hypothetically, an embryo did have a right not to be killed, it doesn't follow that the mother can be forced to let it remain in her body.
As you have proposed above, you could have a moral theory where rights can conflict, even though Objectivism holds that rights do not conflict, and you can resolve the conflict by a secondary principle. You will have to develop that secondary principle, so that it doesn't provide an escape clause nullifying all obligations arising from agreement. I have a counter-principle in mind where the woman's exercise of free will in getting pregnant means that she has willingly subjugated her rights to her body to the fetal right of existence. Of course, that argument holds no sway for me personally, because a fetus does not have rights, since it is not in fact a person, and only a person has rights.
That's the misconception that has to be corrected.
Yeah, but we're better than that. We know the right to lifers are full of bean gas and that they have polluted moral reasoning. I'm saying that it really is important to have the correct philosophical basis for your morality and thus your law, so it really matters a lot if you say that rights "emerge" on an individual basis from the proven ability to reason.
I don't see how it isn't a contract; it's an obligation that the parents voluntarily enter into.
A contract is something very specific. A not-bad starter is the Wiki entry. For a mother to have a contractual obligation, it has to be with the infant (a surrogate mother could have a contractual obligation to surrender the infant to another person, but that's not what we're talking about). Both prior to birth and right after birth, the fetus / infant is incapable of freely consenting and understanding the contract; there is no offer or acceptance; there is also no identifiable new obligation (any obligation that exists exists as a fact of law, namely the non-contractual obligation to take care of the infant until the obligation is legally extinguished by a legal process.

A contract has to create a new obligation: you can't have a contract where one person promises to not kill the other, in exchange for $100,000, since the first person already has the obligation to not kill the other. A mother kiling an infant is injoined from doing so not because there is a contract, but because no matter what, the infant has rights and the mother cannot violate those rights.

Parents enter into lots of contracts on behalf of their children and obviously it's not possible to "voluntarily" be born.
The former point is true but irrelevant, since those are contracts between the parent and some other adult, not the parent and the infant. The latter reinforces the point that birth results in no contract, since the infant does not voluntary enter into the agreement.

The problem you're having here is that you're trying to reduce obligations to contracts, but that's not gonna work. You have an obligation to not kill or steal which has nothing to do with a contract. WRT infants, you have a statutorily stated responsibility to care for your children, until you have legally extinguished that obligation. That obligation doesn't come from a contract.

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The problem you're having here is that you're trying to reduce obligations to contracts, but that's not gonna work. You have an obligation to not kill or steal which has nothing to do with a contract. WRT infants, you have a statutorily stated responsibility to care for your children, until you have legally extinguished that obligation. That obligation doesn't come from a contract.

So on a desert island you could morally kill your child, since it wouldn't be illegal? Lame. The obligation doesn't come from the law either; it comes from willingly accepting an obligation and voluntarily bringing a child into the world. Maybe it isn't a contract; it's still a moral obligation on the parent that stems from the parent's voluntary creation of that obligation.

Both prior to birth and right after birth, the fetus / infant is incapable of freely consenting and understanding the contract; there is no offer or acceptance; there is also no identifiable new obligation

If it's not a contract because the infant can't consent to it, then is it an act of force on the child by the parent? After all the parent is forcing the child to do something (exist) without the child's understanding or consent (and in many cases, especially those involving a question of abortion, against what would be the child's rational self-interest). The "identifiable new obligation" is that a person exists now who can't take care of itself, and there wouldn't be a problem if you didn't decide to bring it into existence. Basically you're deciding that a human being (whose means of survival is reason) should exist without recourse to its only means of survival. You therefore have an obligation to use your own reason for its benefit until it is capable of doing so itself.

I'm saying that it really is important to have the correct philosophical basis for your morality and thus your law, so it really matters a lot if you say that rights "emerge" on an individual basis from the proven ability to reason.

That's my point exactly. That's why a mother has a right to conserve her resources rather than sacrifice them for another person, even if it's a rational human being with rights.

Most certainly it would -- its right to exist! At this point you may want to distinguish a real scenario from a science fiction scenario. In a real abortion, you kill the blob in the course of removing the tissue. If the blob has rights, that is a clear violation of its most fundamental right. In a science fiction scenario, the blob could also be transported intact from the womb, then whether or not the blob dies depends on whether you hook the thing up to a life support apparatus. At the very least, you could rightfully transport the blob out and if it happens to die, them's the breaks. But that would not be "removal entails death".

Right to exist?? What right to exist? Individuals have a right to life, not a blanket guarantee on existence. From the Ayn Rand Lexicon under "Right to Life":

The right to life means that a man has the right to support his life by his own work (on any economic level, as high as his ability will carry him); it does not mean that others must provide him with the necessities of life.

So if a woman is pregnant and wishes to terminate the pregnancy rather than accept the obligation for carrying the embryo to term or caring for the child thereafter, and you wish to protect the embryo's right to support its own life (or, absurdly, if the embryo wishes to exercise its right to support its own life), then it's your (or the government's, or the embryo's, I guess) obligation to find a way to make that happen without forcing the mother to sacrifice in order to provide the other individual (the embryo) with the necessities of life. Who's going to take care of it?

Of course no one needs to do anything because it doesn't have any rights. But my point is that even if it did, that doesn't force any obligation on the mother. If the government decides that an embryo is human and shouldn't be killed, then it would have to find a way to get it out of there without killing it. It's not the mother's problem at that point.

However, you are not allowed to kill your neighbor in the course of ejecting him from your property. That is because he has a right to exist, which cannot be trumped by your property right.

What if your neighbour forces you to stay in bed for weeks, wreaks havoc on your body, demands a constant sacrifice of your finances and time for more than a decade, and forces you to stay off of work for months (perhaps permanently impairing your own ability to support your own life)? Possibly even puts you in danger of losing your own life or quality of life to the various (unchosen!) risks of pregnancy and childbirth? Seriously. We're not just talking about trespassing here and it's not comparable to the requirements of a newborn, infant or child. If a fetus were an individual with rights then it would be more comparable to self-defense.

An embryo "can't pursue life" in the same way that an infant "can't pursue life". Yet we know that an infant does have rights, it does have the right to exist. If a fetus is a right-having being, then the most fundamental right is "to exist" (which of course does not mean being provided with a means of existing).

An infant very quickly begins to learn to pursue life in the limited ways that it is able to do so. Its senses function and it begins to develop them and learn from them almost immediately after birth. It takes tiny but positive actions like suckling and even breathing (it has to keep its face turned to the air rather than pressed into a crib mattress, for example) in pursuit of life rather than indifference towards it. An embryo can't pursue life because it doesn't do anything. It doesn't take any action to breathe or eat or to continue breathing or eating, not even as small as the actions a newborn takes. It develops passively until it is born, after which it is immediately in danger of dying if it remains passive.

The most fundamental right isn't to exist, it's to live, which entails action.

But you seem to be claiming that rights can conflict; are you then proposing that the above is the principle which decides that the mother's rights are superior to those of the fetus? (I.e. even though both the mother and the fetus have conflicting rights, those of the mother must trump those of the fetus since the fetus must exist as a parasite within the mother).

A mother's right to her body doesn't conflict with her fetus' right to her body. The fetus doesn't have a right to her body. If it had any means of living it would have a right to live, but that still wouldn't be a conflict of rights any more than my right not to feed you conflicts with your right to eat.

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The obligation doesn't come from the law either; it comes from willingly accepting an obligation and voluntarily bringing a child into the world.
The moral obligation, certainly; the enforceable obligation does. The moral obligation is also assignable. Anyhow, you claimed that the only reason that a parent can kill their child is because of some nonexistent contract, and that's just false, so let's move on.
That's my point exactly. That's why a mother has a right to conserve her resources rather than sacrifice them for another person, even if it's a rational human being with rights.
That's because in all real cases, your "conservation of your resources" does not result in a violation of another person's rights. You introduce this new moral conundrum that man's rights can conflict and therefore the pursuit of value by one person can require the destruction and total abrogation of the rights of another.
Individuals have a right to life, not a blanket guarantee on existence.
I think you should read what I actually said closer. To exist is to live.
So if a woman is pregnant and wishes to terminate the pregnancy rather than accept the obligation for carrying the embryo to term or caring for the child thereafter, and you wish to protect the embryo's right to support its own life (or, absurdly, if the embryo wishes to exercise its right to support its own life), then it's your (or the government's, or the embryo's, I guess) obligation to find a way to make that happen without forcing the mother to sacrifice in order to provide the other individual (the embryo) with the necessities of life. Who's going to take care of it?
Why is it my obligation to find a way to resolve your contradiction? It's your obligation (or the wonan's, or the government's) to find a way for the woman to conserve her resources without violating the "rights" of the fetus.
Of course no one needs to do anything because it doesn't have any rights.
While we agree on that point, I'm pretty sure you cannot defend the claim that a fetus has no rights.
But my point is that even if it did, that doesn't force any obligation on the mother. If the government decides that an embryo is human and shouldn't be killed, then it would have to find a way to get it out of there without killing it. It's not the mother's problem at that point.
And yet, you're ignoring the fact that the function of government is to protect individual rights against the initiation of force. Protection of rights is not optional. An abortion qualifies is an initiation of force, thus is a fetus has rights, as you just allowed, the government must prevent the mother from violating those rights.
What if your neighbour forces you to stay in bed for weeks, wreaks havoc on your body, demands a constant sacrifice of your finances and time for more than a decade, and forces you to stay off of work for months (perhaps permanently impairing your own ability to support your own life)?
That's a pretty lame analogy because a fetus does not initiate force against the mother by having been created by her. And I hate to tell you this, but even with an annoying neighbor, you are not permitted to kill them to remove them from your property.
A mother's right to her body doesn't conflict with her fetus' right to her body. The fetus doesn't have a right to her body.
Of course not. It has a right to its life, if it can sustain it. That is why a woman could not morally kill a fetus in order to remove it, if a fetus had rights.

If you claim that it possible that a fetus has rights (and at this point I'm not sure whether you have a fuly-formed position on that question), then it obviously follows that the fetus has the same right to life that all men have. Moral law requires that the government protect rights against the initiation of force, and no right can be more important than the right to actually live. At least with current technology, any abortion requires the killing of the fetus. For your position to be viable, you have to prove that there is some other right that is paramount, a higher right that trumps the right to life. You haven't exactly identified that right. Objectivism derives the "right to not be leeched off of" from the right to life; I don't know what justifies this highest right of yours (which I still don't understand).

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The moral obligation, certainly; the enforceable obligation does. The moral obligation is also assignable. Anyhow, you claimed that the only reason that a parent can kill their child is because of some nonexistent contract, and that's just false, so let's move on.

Huh? That doesn't even make sense and is not what I said. A parent can't kill their child. No one can kill anyone unless they're in danger of being killed themselves. Which happens to be the case with pregnancy.

That's because in all real cases, your "conservation of your resources" does not result in a violation of another person's rights. You introduce this new moral conundrum that man's rights can conflict

Rights can't conflict, I just said that. What rights are conflicting? Interests can conflict, you surely wouldn't argue against that?

... and therefore the pursuit of value by one person can require the destruction and total abrogation of the rights of another.

No, it can't. That's why a fetus doesn't have a right to exist regardless of the destruction and total abrogation of the rights of the mother.

I think you should read what I actually said closer. To exist is to live.

That's false.

Why is it my obligation to find a way to resolve your contradiction? It's your obligation (or the wonan's, or the government's) to find a way for the woman to conserve her resources without violating the "rights" of the fetus.

The fetus (even if it had rights) doesn't have a right to the resources of the mother. There's no contradiction. If someone wants to protect the fetus then it's up to them to come up with a way to do it.

While we agree on that point, I'm pretty sure you cannot defend the claim that a fetus has no rights.

My entire point is that it doesn't matter because abortion wouldn't be a violation of any rights anyway. But yes, I can defend the claim that a fetus has no rights on the basis that it's not an individual, it's part of the mother's body, it doesn't have any means of pursuing life and therefor no right have someone do so for it, etc.

And yet, you're ignoring the fact that the function of government is to protect individual rights against the initiation of force. Protection of rights is not optional. An abortion qualifies is an initiation of force, thus is a fetus has rights, as you just allowed, the government must prevent the mother from violating those rights.

Regardless of whether a fetus at the point of viability would hypothetically have rights, there is indisputably a time at the beginning of a pregnancy where it is a clump of cells and obviously isn't human any more than any other clump of cells in a body is human. How could an abortion qualify as a violation of rights at this point? The government has a responsibility to the woman to protect her from being forced into a non-voluntary obligation of sacrifice to another being. Which is what's happening when a woman is deprived of access to medical technology, just as it would be if she were prevented access to any other method of birth control.

That's a pretty lame analogy because a fetus does not initiate force against the mother by having been created by her. And I hate to tell you this, but even with an annoying neighbor, you are not permitted to kill them to remove them from your property.

A screaming toddler is analogous to an annoying neighbour. A fetus is analogous to a neighbour invading your body and forcing you to surrender yourself to his demands. Maybe you opened the front door, maybe your security system failed, maybe the neighbour can't be held responsible for his actions - but you are facing a real sacrifice and the only option is to neutralize the threat.

Of course not. It has a right to its life, if it can sustain it. That is why a woman could not morally kill a fetus in order to remove it, if a fetus had rights.

Regardless of whether a fetus had rights, a woman could not morally be forced into an obligation of sacrifice for it.

If you claim that it possible that a fetus has rights (and at this point I'm not sure whether you have a fuly-formed position on that question)

I don't claim that, and I do have a position on that question; however it's a secondary question that overshadows the real issue.

then it obviously follows that the fetus has the same right to life that all men have.

Clearly. Which wouldn't include the right to force another being to sacrifice in its favour, as men don't have that right.

For your position to be viable, you have to prove that there is some other right that is paramount, a higher right that trumps the right to life.

There is only the right to life, from which all other rights are derived. The right to life entails protection from imposed obligations to provide for anyone else's life.

Objectivism derives the "right to not be leeched off of" from the right to life; I don't know what justifies this highest right of yours (which I still don't understand).

What else do you need besides the right not to be leeched off of? The woman has a right not to be leeched off of. The only way for a government to "protect" a fetus' supposed rights would be to initiate force against the mother. I get that you think that's a minor thing compared to keeping another individual alive, and yes it's helpful that a fetus isn't an individual and doesn't have rights and therefor abortion is moral because a woman can't initiate force against her own body. Sure, that's good too. BUT the fact that the fetus is a rightless object so anyone can do anything they want to it is not the basis of a woman's right to have an abortion. The basis is that the right to life entails the idea that you can't have an involuntary obligation to sacrifice yourself for any reason. If you look at it from this perspective then the only aspect of abortion that should be an issue at all is abortion in the third trimester, when viability is a negotiable topic and the argument that the fetus has rights derived from its viability is arguable. Allowing that if a fetus had rights then the woman could be forced to sacrifice herself for it, which is what you are saying when you even consider at what point a clump of cells morphs into a human (and at some point it clearly does), gives the pro-life argument undue support and is also wrong. The right to life is not the same as the right to be kept alive at someone else's expense.

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bluey:

Sometimes these threads can become frustrating when it appears that someone doesn't understand what you said or is intentionally mischaracterizing your position or is arguing for argument's sake. I should think you would understand the incredulity expressed with your caviller attitude about rights like here:

Regardless of whether a fetus had rights, [...]

What this means is that if a fetus had rights, you would hold them in no regard. Is that really true? Regardless of whether a being has rights, you have the right to violate those rights? This just can't be true, it is self contradictory.

BUT the fact that the fetus is a rightless object so anyone can do anything they want to it is not the basis of a woman's right to have an abortion.

Do you really think that this is what David is saying? Do you think that he holds that anybody can do anything to a woman's body?

If you look at it from this perspective then the only aspect of abortion that should be an issue at all is abortion in the third trimester, when viability is a negotiable topic and the argument that the fetus has rights derived from its viability is arguable. Allowing that if a fetus had rights then the woman could be forced to sacrifice herself for it, which is what you are saying when you even consider at what point a clump of cells morphs into a human (and at some point it clearly does), gives the pro-life argument undue support and is also wrong.

A clump of cells doesn't "morph" into a human being. It turns into a human being by choice, the choice of the mother. At every turn the mother has a choice. First she chooses whether or not to have sex and whether or not to use contraception. Once pregnant she chooses whether or not to have an abortion whether in the first trimester or the second trimester. Even in the third trimester she has a choice. When she finally delivers the baby and cuts the cord, she has chosen and is choosing to create a human being.

If, in the third trimester, new considerations arise like: her husband dies, the fetus has Down's Syndrome, her health is in danger or if she changes her mind, she still retains control of her body. But it is not because she has the right to violate the rights of an entity that has rights. It is because that fetus doesn't have rights because it isn't a human being, since a being is an independent entity.

Look at what happens when one holds your position, you eventually end up completely nullifying a woman's rights. If we look at it from your "perspective", then there is an "issue" concerning "abortion in the third trimester", when the issue of "viability" leads to a conflict of rights between the mother and fetus. At which point the mothers rights become "negotiable", which really means non-existent. So it is your position which lends assistance to the anti-abortion crowd, which you obviously don't want to do.

This notion of viability is leaving your position open to a potential conflict of rights, something which you accept may be validly argued and which would eventually lead to the total overthrow of a woman's rights. Since we know that the rights of men do not conflict, you should try to resolve the issue so that this conflict does not arise and may not validly be argued. (To answer your other question: nor do the rational interests of men conflict.)

But yes, I can defend the claim that a fetus has no rights on the basis that it's not an individual, it's part of the mother's body, it doesn't have any means of pursuing life and therefor no right have someone do so for it, etc. [emphasis added]

I think you should simplify your criteria and drop the highlighted portion here because it is superfluous and can only lead to confusion. Your claim is true when we are talking about two functioning adults, but it becomes ambiguous when we start talking about voluntarily raising a child. Once you accept the responsibility of raising a child and protecting its rights, then you must provide for it. Since a child has no means of providing for itself and since it has rights and since you have promised to provide for it, you may not neglect your promise and violate the child's rights which you voluntarily promised to protect. If you do not wish to care for your infant any longer you may not leave it in the jungle and hope for the best, you must find someone who is willing to relieve you of the responsibilities you chose to accept.

The right to life is not the same as the right to be kept alive at someone else's expense.

Once you willing choose to exercise a child's rights for it, it does have that right.

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...yet I still do not understand the rationale behind Objectivists's support of abortion.

I have not read all 40-something pages of this thread and I'm at work, so I apologize if this is redundant, but perhaps this would help... http://www.seculargovernment.us/docs/a48.pdf

It was written specifically with regards to an awful proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution this past election (it failed, thankfully), but the points made in the paper really helped me understand the morality of abortion.

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bluey:

Sometimes these threads can become frustrating when it appears that someone doesn't understand what you said or is intentionally mischaracterizing your position or is arguing for argument's sake. I should think you would understand the incredulity expressed with your caviller attitude about rights like here:

What this means is that if a fetus had rights, you would hold them in no regard. Is that really true? Regardless of whether a being has rights, you have the right to violate those rights? This just can't be true, it is self contradictory.

It is frustrating, but I'm going to try to make my position understood here because that's a skill that I need to improve. What I'm saying here is that even if a fetus had the same right as everyone else, it still wouldn't have a right to real estate in the mother's uterus, because even if it had a right to continue living unimpeded it wouldn't have a right to be kept alive (for the same reasons that nobody else does). Therefore abortion would not be a violation of its rights for the same reason that my refusal to feed you isn't a violation of your rights.

David's argument against this appears to be that if the fetus had a right to remain alive then abortion would necessarily constitute an act of murder. I disagree. Perhaps, if a fetus had rights, then certain means of abortion would be murder (like partial birth abortions), but there would be no basis for a blanket ban on any method of terminating a pregnancy. Chemical abortions (like PlanB or RU-486) work by making the uterus inhospitable to the fetus. They don't take any action on the fetus itself and would not be murder, even if a fetus had the right not to be murdered.

It is important to recognize this distinction. Of course the fact is that a fetus isn't an independent being and doesn't have rights, and it follows from that that the mother can do whatever she wants to it, and so any form of abortion is legal. But without even knowing that you can go from "the right to life" to "the right to an abortion". It's important because it's not obvious why a fetus doesn't have rights at 38 weeks gestation, when it would survive on its own, but does have rights an hour after birth when it has the same level of need. I say it's not obvious; it's still true and I do understand why. However it is still possible to validly defend a mother's right to terminate a pregnancy (by some means at some point after conception) to someone who understands the proper basis for a right to life even if they don't understand the proper basis of how a fetus is different from a baby. If you don't think it's important to be able to do that then just be glad you'll never be a confused, pregnant 14-year-old girl.

A clump of cells doesn't "morph" into a human being. It turns into a human being by choice, the choice of the mother. At every turn the mother has a choice. First she chooses whether or not to have sex and whether or not to use contraception. Once pregnant she chooses whether or not to have an abortion whether in the first trimester or the second trimester. Even in the third trimester she has a choice. When she finally delivers the baby and cuts the cord, she has chosen and is choosing to create a human being.

Yes, I agree.

If, in the third trimester, new considerations arise like: her husband dies, the fetus has Down's Syndrome, her health is in danger or if she changes her mind, she still retains control of her body. But it is not because she has the right to violate the rights of an entity that has rights. It is because that fetus doesn't have rights because it isn't a human being, since a being is an independent entity.

Hopefully the above makes clear that "abortion", as a general category of action, wouldn't be a violation of any rights. Even if a fetus had the same rights as an infant, the woman would still "retain control of her body" and would have a right to an abortion on that basis.

If we look at it from your "perspective", then there is an "issue" concerning "abortion in the third trimester", when the issue of "viability" leads to a conflict of rights between the mother and fetus. At which point the mothers rights become "negotiable", which really means non-existent. So it is your position which lends assistance to the anti-abortion crowd, which you obviously don't want to do.

Yes, if a fetus had rights then there would be an issue in the later stages of a pregnancy, when it would be able to survive outside of the uterus. Since a fetus doesn't have rights there is no issue. If it did then the issue would be the fact that it could physically survive outside of the womb and possibly should be given a chance to do so rather than killed. Then perhaps a woman would be responsible for a the resulting baby since she let it go far enough to develop into an individual (which is NOT my argument; it just shows that the woman's right is sufficient to show that there is a right to abortion, if not a right to abortion by any means whatsoever.) Before this point there is no way for it to survive without leeching off the mother, which she has a right to refuse to let it do, so there is no conflict of rights.

This notion of viability is leaving your position open to a potential conflict of rights, something which you accept may be validly argued and which would eventually lead to the total overthrow of a woman's rights. Since we know that the rights of men do not conflict, you should try to resolve the issue so that this conflict does not arise and may not validly be argued. (To answer your other question: nor do the rational interests of men conflict.)

Look, there's no conflict of rights! Nobody has a right to force (or have the government force in their favour) someone else to sacrifice for them. The only right anyone has is to be left alone so long as they're not violating anyone else's right to the same thing. The mother wouldn't be violating the fetus' right to be left alone so long as it's not violating her rights, because if she's forced to use her body to develop an embryo into a baby then her rights are being violated, which the embryo wouldn't have a right to do even if it had a right to remain alive. That would be a contradiction.

Once you accept the responsibility of raising a child and protecting its rights, then you must provide for it. Since a child has no means of providing for itself and since it has rights and since you have promised to provide for it, you may not neglect your promise and violate the child's rights which you voluntarily promised to protect.

Once you willing choose to exercise a child's rights for it, it does have that right.

Yes, I agree completely and have said so several times in this thread. You can't accidentally have a baby; you can only have a baby either by choice or by force. Developing a fetus into a baby is a 9-month-long process of action and if you undertake that process then you are making a choice. It is, however, possible (though very unlikely if you're being conscientious in the first place) to get pregnant accidentally. You can't then be forced to go through all the actions of creating a child or, if you are, you haven't accepted responsibility for it.

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It's an entire impossibility that a fetus could ever have rights, though. As long as it remains sustained by the mother, it has no rights by definition.

Not exactly by definition. If it were possible for the fetus to survive without being sustained by the mother (which is the case in very late stages of pregnancy), then it's not impossible "by definition" that it could have rights simply because the mother continues to sustain it. However at this point before birth it still isn't an individual being since it's never existed as an individual; it hasn't come into existence as an individual yet. So it doesn't have rights, but not because it's impossible. That's why at birth it does have rights even though it couldn't actually live without being sustained by the mother (or someone).

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David's argument against this appears to be that if the fetus had a right to remain alive then abortion would necessarily constitute an act of murder.
No, I've been pretty clear that there is no right to be kept alive, as you are implying. There is simply a right to life, if you can sustain it. If a fetus were a person, it would have rights, and that means that killing it is murder.
Perhaps, if a fetus had rights, then certain means of abortion would be murder (like partial birth abortions), but there would be no basis for a blanket ban on any method of terminating a pregnancy. Chemical abortions (like PlanB or RU-486) work by making the uterus inhospitable to the fetus.
BTW "chemical abortion" is the terminology of the religious right: they are known as medical abortions. Note that you have substantially weakened the woman's right to an abortion with this argument. It is dependent on the ability to remove the fetus unharmed. So if a fetus had rights, then you could only rightfully have an abortion if the method removed the fetus alive. Thus all surgical techniques would be outlawed as murder, and abortion could be legal only in less than the first 2 months.

On top of that, you run into the "custodian of rights" problem after the fetus is expelled. When a woman gives birth, she (and possibly a spouse) becomes the custodian for the rights of the newborn -- remember that an actually born infant clearly has rights. The law holds it to be a criminal act to abandon an infant in the trash in the hopes that it will die and make your life simpler. In giving birth to a child, you take on the responsibility to protect the child the best that you can. Part of the cost of an abortion would therefore have to be futile efforts to take care of the fetus until it stops being alive.

It is frustrating, but I'm going to try to make my position understood here because that's a skill that I need to improve.
I don't think so. I think you need to improve your skills at abandoning bad theories. The theory that a fetus might have rights and that it might be a person is a bad theory, and the theory that there can be a conflict of rights is a bad theory. This particular highly-restricted access to abortion that hinges on there being no right to be kept alive is a major step backwards in terms of a woman's right to an abortion, and for what? Just so you can avoid making the stronger argument that a fetus is not a person??
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The theory that a fetus might have rights and that it might be a person is a bad theory, and the theory that there can be a conflict of rights is a bad theory.

None of those things have ever been part of my "theory".

I'm going to go learn the skill of keeping my mouth shut instead of getting caught up in discussions that have no relevance to me anyway.

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What you need to do is to stop saying "even if it had rights . . . but it doesn't, but even if it did . . ."

If the fetus had rights, then all of the problems that have been suggested WOULD come into play. If the fetus has rights then the situation IS different, and you need to recognize that. You can't keep saying "It's like this, but if it were this other way things would still be the same . . ." because they would NOT. So if you want to be clear, stop saying "even if the fetus had rights" or any version thereof and just give your *actual* position. Stop hedging. Everyone in the thread is responding purely to your hedging--which you persist in denying. Hence your frustration.

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I think the essential point here is that IF the fetus has rights, then abortion is ALWAYS wrong, because it is murder, and no "practical" or "utilitarian" justification can ever make abortion not murder. This is the argument I hear most often from otherwise sensible people who are strongly pro-life, that it's murder. If it is murder, than the mother's needs are irrelevant. What needs to be accounted for is why abortion is NOT murder. The reason that it is not is because a fetus is not a person and does not have rights. A mother is a person with rights. That's all there is to it. I know you think your argument strengthens the pro-choice position, but I have to agree with David that it actually weakens it, because if there was any question of a fetus having rights abortion instantly becomes murder.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Also, what about when the fetus is viable within the mother's womb? If it no longer needs the mother for it's survival, but is still connected to the mother, could one still morally end its life?

Assuming that there aren't any extenuating circumstances (where vaginal delivery or Caesarean section aren't possible), I say no. If the fetus is viable and exists as an autonomous unit that is currently existing inside the mother, then it is a person and has rights.

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Assuming that there aren't any extenuating circumstances (where vaginal delivery or Caesarean section aren't possible), I say no. If the fetus is viable and exists as an autonomous unit that is currently existing inside the mother, then it is a person and has rights.

Does a viable fetus have a right to be delivered through a more traumatic or expensive procedure against the mother's wishes? I have no clue whether a late-term abortion is cheaper or less surgically traumatic, just asking.

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Does a viable fetus have a right to be delivered through a more traumatic or expensive procedure against the mother's wishes? I have no clue whether a late-term abortion is cheaper or less surgically traumatic, just asking.

I don't know how the exact procedures work, so I couldn't tell you. Then again, assuming it is delivered, who will care for it?

I need to do some more thinking about this.

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  • 1 month later...
I place that at the point of viability, because at that point, the fetus can be delivered prematurely and survive on its own.

I was reading through the last few pages of this thread stumbled on this. This is a monstrosity of a topic so I can't check to see if this has already been discussed, but a procedure like this would put an obligation on the mother that hasn't been earned. The position is that a fetus inside of a woman, connected to her body, has no rights. Therefore it cannot somehow impose itself on the mother by demanding she have an expensive procedure done that could harm her AND the fetus. This is a pretty crazy position and I don't know why it gets so much credit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As human beings, we invest ourselves with "rights" based on our ability to reason. This is used by many to argue in favour of abortion, as a foetus clearly lacks that ability. However, infants and young children could be said to lack this facility - are we to sanction infanticide? There are times when, as adults, we are incapable of reason (during sleep, illness, intoxication, mental disability) are we then less human, not deserving of rights? Once fertilised, a zygote is human in the earliest stages of its development. A cell cut out of your arm is not "human" as it will never develop or grow into a human. The idea that you become "human" by virtue of exiting the birth canal seems rather arbitrary, you are no more conscious or able to reason as you take your first breath than you were a minute before, in utero. Also, the idea that the foetus/unborn human is a parasite as ignorant and ludicrous as it is disgusting. A parasite is, by definition, a foreign organism; the normal process of reproduction can not be defined as parasitic.

I agree with the Objectivist argument that no-one should force a woman to bear a child that she does not want, this is completely justified - surely no-one would dispute that? I would not force a woman to have a child she did not consent to having, that would be an abhorrent abuse of individual rights.

However, actions have consequences. It is quite simple, therefore, if you don't want children, don't have sex. Since pregnancy is a natural by-product of sexual intercourse, if a man and a woman choose to have sex, they are both accepting the risk of pregnancy (regardless of the precautions they take). This creates a contract between the parents and the foetus/potential/unborn human - obliging them to bear the child and support it until it is eighteen (or to arrange adoption, where someone else assumes that responsibility). This is not just a matter of condemning women, but men also. If men choose to have sex and a child is the result, they should be pursued to the fully extent of the law to ensure that they provide for that child. The man can not be allowed to abdicate his responsibilty for the child his volitional actions have created.

I am sure we all accept that I have the right to kill intruders on my property. However, if I invite you onto my property, I can not then claim you are an intruder, if I kill you, it is murder. A woman who has consented to sex, has in effect, invited that foetus/unborn human into her body.

Of course, there are emergency situations, where the morality of abortion does not apply and it is permissible. In the case of rape, as the woman was a unwilling participant there is no contractual right for the foetus/potential/unborn human. Therefore, abortion is fully permissible, it would be a choice of the woman and she could not be morally criticised whatever decision she made. Where the life of the mother is genuinely in danger, her right to life as an actual human being supercedes the right to life of the potential human being, making abortion permissible (and possibly morally mandatory). This is a case of cause A (the threat of death to the mother) mandating a response from B (the mother) to kill C (the foetus/potential/unborn human) in order to save her own life. Morality is not an issue, it is an emergency situation.

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