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semm
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Nah, just a quick tally in a few threads.

Do you mean to say you disagree?

Yes. I'm unaware of any Objectivist who holds that view.

Me too.

Replacing words to win an argument is the most illogical thing in the world.

I see absolutely no reason the cut-off point should be "birth".

Since you disagree, you must have a logical reason that it should.

It's explained in detail in the thread, but the main reason why birth is the starting point of a man's life is because a man is an individual, who exists separately from other individuals. If we ignore that fact, none of the principles of Objectivist Ethics would apply, anyway.

In self-defense a man has any right.

Not what I meant. I have the right to kill in many other contexts. The only thing I don't have the right to do is violate the rights of other men.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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So the only thing you can do to help someone understand your premise is to state it and then state it again? No explanation is necessary? You are going to have a hard time here. Be that as it may ... let us examine your premise.

Do I need to explain it further?

I believe that persons have rights, as you do I'm sure.

I'd like to specify when exactly collection of cells turns into a person, and I'm not convinced that birth is that point.

OK, so as long as there is no brain, presumably, you would allow abortion, correct?

Correct.

Also, since we don't know which level of mental development is required for personhood, it is possible that a child of 2 years old is not a person and therefore you would allow the murder of that child, correct?

It seems to me that a two year old is certainly person.

I suppose if I was convinced otherwise, sure.

So your position is somewhere in between allowing abortion and murder.

My position is that we should define the difference between the two.

We haven't even considered the rights of the woman yet and you are allowing for murder.

Because I believe the baby's rights take precedence, since it's her responsibility to care for it's well-being.

Do you not believe a parent is responsible for the well-being of their child?

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Replacing words to win an argument is the most illogical thing in the world.

I replaced the words to illustrate a point.

There's no difference between forcing a parent to care for their child after birth than forcing a parent to care for it before birth.

It's explained in detail in the thread, but the main reason why birth is the starting point of a man's life is because a man is an individual, who exists separately from other individuals.

What's meant by "seperately" here?

Again, in the case of conjoined twins would it be morally acceptable for one to kill another?

Not what I meant. I have the right to kill in many other contexts. The only thing I don't have the right to do is violate the rights of other men.

Including the right to live.

Edited by Minarchist
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I replaced the words to illustrate a point.

There's no difference between forcing a parent to care for their child after birth than forcing a parent to care for it before birth.

Yes, that's what I meant. That's not a logical argument.

What's meant by "seperately" here?

Again, in the case of conjoined twins would it be morally acceptable for one to kill another?

Depends on the situation. Either way, drawing any conclusions about abortion from what's moral for conjoined twins is not logical.

Including the right to live.

I'm talking about the rights of men, as defined by Rand. If you want to change the concepts Rand applied her principles to, you have to also come up with, and prove, your own principles. Taking her principles, but applying them in a different context than what they were formulated and proven in, is not logical.

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  • 1 month later...

what do you make of comments such as this (came across it on diana's blog):

there is no later point, in the development of the human embryo, that "human-being-ness" is endowed. This would require an intermediate non-being (and non-human non-being) exist for this interim, which is scientifically absurd. The human embryo is human, and it is a being. Thus it has the inalienable right to life -- the founders did not base the endowment of those rights on location (inside the womb vs. outside), but on being human.

our Declaration of Independence posits certain rights as "inalienable", and the right to life is one of them. A fetus is a human being -- this is simply science. It is not, as you claim, "potential life" --that is a rather ridiculous assertion, since abortion kills the fetus: you can't kill something that isn't alive to begin with, but merely potential life.

The problem with abortion, though, is that a human life is killed because of this childish desire to escape the perfectly predictable consequences of our actions. With rights come responsibilities, though it's not fashionable to say so. I for one am protective of human life, as we have a long and blody history to show us what happens when certain classes of people are determined to be "non-human".

My references are the founding documents of this county, the Declaration and the Constitution. Nothing in those documents lead me to think that the human embroyo does not qualify for the right to life. Nor do I, as an atheist, support how science has been distorted for personal and sometimes political reasond.

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there is no later point, in the development of the human embryo, that "human-being-ness" is endowed. This would require an intermediate non-being (and non-human non-being) exist for this interim, which is scientifically absurd. The human embryo is human, and it is a being.
When you conjoin a false proposition with a true proposition, you have abandoned the use of logic. Thus we know that they've gone totally off the rails when they claim that an embryo is a being.
Thus it has the inalienable right to life -- the founders did not base the endowment of those rights on location (inside the womb vs. outside), but on being human.
This is a example of the Founders Fallacy, a popular conservative error: the idea that man's rights are a function of what The Founders said or did not say.
our Declaration of Independence posits certain rights as "inalienable", and the right to life is one of them. A fetus is a human being -- this is simply science.
This is simply balderdash. It isn't even science: a fetus is obviously not a person.
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last part of the comments

It's really very simple: if you don't want to have children, and wish to be in complete control of your reproduction, then don't engage in the sole activity that produces children until you are ready to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. In a way, it's like a person whining that they have the right to eat as much as they want, and then whining that they are getting fat. The problem with abortion, though, is that a human life is killed because of this childish desire to escape the perfectly predictable consequences of our actions. With rights come responsibilities, though it's not fashionable to say so. I for one am protective of human life, as we have a long and blody history to show us what happens when certain classes of people are determined to be "non-human".

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It's really very simple: if you don't want to have children, and wish to be in complete control of your reproduction, then don't engage in the sole activity that produces children until you are ready to assume the responsibilities of parenthood.
I agree that abortion is a lousy method of birth control. But he's wrong in his logic: it simply is not the case that the only way to avoid childbirth is to abstain from sex. Abortion also solves the problem. The crucial point is that the proper role of government is not to force people to lead more responsible lives. You'd expect such social-engineering sentiments from a socialist; and seeing them from a conservative underscores how similar conservatives and socialists are.
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last part of the comments

It's really very simple: if you don't want to have children, and wish to be in complete control of your reproduction, then don't engage in the sole activity that produces children until you are ready to assume the responsibilities of parenthood. In a way, it's like a person whining that they have the right to eat as much as they want, and then whining that they are getting fat. The problem with abortion, though, is that a human life is killed because of this childish desire to escape the perfectly predictable consequences of our actions. With rights come responsibilities, though it's not fashionable to say so. I for one am protective of human life, as we have a long and blody history to show us what happens when certain classes of people are determined to be "non-human".

This ignores birth control failure, rape & incest.

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This ignores birth control failure, rape & incest.

Forgive me for not trying to find the answer in the last 58 pages, however this has always been one of the things that has stumped me when someone makes the remark while I am present, and I often cannot think fast enough to give a proper response.

When people make the claim that they have forfeited their right to such under the reasonable expectation of 'chance' when engaging in the action of sex (usually under that kind of claim posted above, that one should not have sex until they are ready to face all consequences of such action) how does one respond? It is easy to respond if they neglect the areas of birth control failure, rape, and incest as QuoVadis points out, but what if the person that states this is fine with abortion under those "emergency circumstances"?

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When people make the claim that they have forfeited their right to such under the reasonable expectation of 'chance' when engaging in the action of sex (usually under that kind of claim posted above, that one should not have sex until they are ready to face all consequences of such action) how does one respond?
I don't know how one would respond, but the question contains an assumption that someone who has made a mistake ought not to correct it.
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The people who make this kind of argument are effectively saying that a fetus is an unborn human with an inalienable right to life if the mother had voluntary sex, but that the fetus' alleged right to life does not apply or disappears if she was raped.

Given how transparently inconsistent this "logic" is, it's obvious that the underlying intention is to "punish" women with pregnancy and child-rearing for the audacity to have sex for fun, while making exceptions for women who didn't have fun.

I've never heard a "pro-lifer" make an exception for users of birth control, though. Probably because it's way too easy to just say the condom failed a few weeks later, when the stick turns blue.

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It is easy to respond if they neglect the areas of birth control failure, rape, and incest as QuoVadis points out, but what if the person that states this is fine with abortion under those "emergency circumstances"?
It is extremely hard to respond under such circumstances. In fact, I don't think it is possible to respond intellectually, unless you can actually develop a philosophical argument. (That is, there is no 140 character sound bite response that puts these people in their place).

The fundamental question is whether one should act on principle; if so (and, uh, the answer is 'yes'), what principle(s) and how absolute are principles? It is very popular across the political spectrum to invoke the exception of emergencies. The Objectivist position is clear: see "The Objectivist Ethics" p. 24

Ethics is not a mystic fantasy—nor a social convention—nor a dispensable, subjective luxury, to be switched or discarded in any emergency.

I think the most important battle to wage is getting people to accept the fact that one should act on principle. If you don't even accept that, then I just don't see how any amount of logical argumentation can be effective.

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That is the point of my mentioning incest, rape and the like.

"Pro-lifers" get very hypocritical on this point.

If they stand on principle (their own, not mine)they will lose a great deal of support, it being perceived by most as cruel & heartless to force a 12 year old to bear her father's child or the victim of a violent rape to suffer through the resulting pregnancy.

However, by their own beliefs, making an exception for these cases would be like knowingly putting an innocent person to death for another person's crimes.

These contradictions cannot be reconciled.

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  • 2 weeks later...

now he's comparing abortion to slavery

If, like me, you believe it is wrong because abortion kills an innocent human being, then it is ludicrous to then go on to say that "it is the woman's choice". It is as ludicrous as saying that you believe slavery is wrong, but that people should still have the choice whether they buy a slave or not.

Edited by Mikee
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Many anti-abortionists make that comparison, Mikee; they draw parallels all over the place between the abolitionists and the anti-abortionists. His first sentence, however, makes a great deal of sense--IF you believe A (abortion kills an innocent human being), then B (it is the woman's choice) is indeed ludicrous. This is why we must fight against society accepting the assumption in A.

Most pro-choicers sweep the issue of whether A is true under the rug and that is a gigantic tactical mistake.

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First a confession: I read the first three pages and the posts made in 2010 on this thread, but not the whole thing.

I have a few comments to offer. One is that before birth, the baby is not an individual. This is true in the most basic and physical sense. The implanted, fertilized egg is tissue in its mother's uterus. It is a growth of her egg, that growth made possible by fertilization and implantation in the womb. Just as her eggs are her own cells, and not a crowd of little people-to-be, the embryo is her tissue until it has matured to the point of being able to be separated from her--until birth, in the normal course of things.

It is wrong, I think, to conceive of pregnancy as a kind of going back on your promise--you had sex, so now you are responsible for a child. Accidental pregnancy is a medical problem for the woman, not a moral one.

The comparisons with infanticide are rather alarming. Birth physically separates the infant--occurring at the point that the infant is ready to live in the world--and makes it into an individual. Parents have a moral responsibility to arrange for care for their child. That doesn't mean they have to keep it, though it does mean they have to hand it off to willing others. Choosing to kill one's new-born rather than handing it off in this way is a crime.

I think we all recognize the value of the potential of an embryo, but the value of a potential cannot trump the value of an actual being. Even if the embryo can be called a being, its status as being human is only potential. And the being it has, actually, is not even that of an individual. Think of an embryo as the mother's egg, fixed within her other tissues. It isn't someone else, inside her, it is her own cells entirely. (Just to avoid an objection--the DNA contributed by fertilization is a molecular salt, not a cell.)

Abortion is the solution to a problem, the problem of an unwanted pregnancy. That means the woman wishes to excise some of her own cells. When we develop technology to remove an embryo and sustain it outside the mother's body, the morality of a mother's choices may be changed. Since abortion itself is the removal of tissue, the morality of refusing to allow the embryo one is discarding to be fostered by another seems at first blush to be questionable, a view in line with the original questioner here.

The anchoring context of discussions of abortion should be the fact that it is the woman's egg, her tissues, that make up the embryo. Also, that pregnancy involves illness and disability, and childbirth endangers the woman's own life. The obligation to raise the child is "icing" on the cake.

This doesn't add up to an argument, so take it as comments. If there is any doubt: I am for abortion.

-Mindy

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heh the guy doesn't know when to stop

the human embryo is not a "potential" life, it is alive and human. Since abortion kills the developing child, the act of abortion itself illustrates the scientific absurdity of the embryo being a "potential" life -- you can't kill what isn't alive to begin with.

Because I am pro-life, I am quite familiar with the arguments and attitudes of various groups that share my opposition to abortion. Some are religious, some are not. I have friends who have had abortions, and know first-hand how injurious it was to them. One of my friends has had two abortions -- she now works against abortion, speaking around the country, becsuse of the destructive psychological effects.

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I got into an argument with a friend on the interwebs, and I admit I wasn't very prepared for this one.

I argued that a child has rights once it is no longer dependent

He asked me: "Well, what if you cut off a baby's head when it's attached to the umbilical chord"

I argued that it depends on what point the baby is no longer dependent on the umbilical chord

He asked me: So a baby can have rights when it's still attached to the mother.

I argued yes.

I'm really not sure how to go about this.

Could I argue that, once the umbilical chord becomes useless, it's not longer a real attachment anymore than, say, being stuck to someone's hair?

Edited by Black Wolf
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I didn't feel like reading all 59 pages of this thread, so forgive me if I've missed anything or if anyone has already said this.

It doesn't matter how conscious or how human the fetus is. It could have the intelligence of Einstein and be capable of tapping Morse Code through the mother's stomach. Before the fetus is born, it is a parasite that can't survive without living off of the mother's body. Before it is capable of sustaining itself, she has the right to end this dependency whenever she wants.

Even if it were possible to transplant an embryo into some sort of test tube and grow it outside the mother's body, who is going to pay for this procedure? Even if this technology existed, the mother would still have a right to an abortion. Growing an unwanted embryo in a tube would be fine if someone voluntarily agreed to pay for the procedure and if the mother voluntarily agreed to have the extraction performed on her. But those conditions must be met.

As for children who are already born, there's a big distinction between a fetus and a birthed infant. One is a parasite on the mother's body that she can end at any time, due to her right to life. The other is capable of sustaining its life outside of hers, and its right to life is now secure due to this. Once the infant has been born, if nobody has volunteered to take care of it for them, the parents are now obligated to raise the child. The reason they have to raise it now is because they created an individual and put that individual into a situation where it depends on them to live. Not taking care of an individual who you placed in a dependent position would be an initiation of force.

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But at what point does it become an individual? When the umbilical cord is cut?

I undertake to respond here with trepidation. My tactless impulse is to say, "Get real!" You seem to think something happens to the baby when the umbilical is cut, some new quality imbues it with personhood or something.

We're talking about being contained in someone else's body versus being spatially separated from it. The cutting of the umbilical cord is a matter of convenience, anyway. It separates with the afterbirth, and eventually dries up and falls off the child. You can cut off the baby's head as long as the umbilical cord is still pulsing? (Someone else's post) How can that be anything but an absurdum?

-- Mindy

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I would personally say it becomes an individual as soon as it's outside of the mother's body and capable of sustaining its own life separate from hers. I think this solves the question of when it becomes an individual. Because even if it is capable of surviving outside the mother's body before it's born, if it's still inside of her, its life still depends on what she wants to do with her body. For example, if the unborn baby is capable of surviving, but it hasn't been born yet, it could be removed via a c-section. However, the infant is still counting on the mother to allow her stomach to be cut open, so I don't think it gets to be an individual yet. However, once the infant has either been birthed or removed via some surgical means, it becomes an individual.

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  • 5 months later...

Hello. I am new to objectivism. I can’t call myself an expert in any aspect of Oism, but I do have a good “newby” understanding of the underlying principles. I find myself able to easily internalize and understand nearly everything I’ve read from Miss Rand. That said, I am confused by her position on abortion.

From my reading of Rand, and the couple of hours I have spent reading this thread, I can see that the main arguments in support of abortion rights are the following:

#1 A fetus has no rights. (If this is true, then #2 is not necessary)

#2 Even if a fetus has a right to life, it has no claim on the rights of its mother since it is in her body against her will.

Since #2 doesn’t even need to be discussed if #1 is true, I’m just going to ask about #1 for now. Please don’t hammer me for disregarding the mother’s rights. I’m well aware of that argument, but as I said, it doesn’t even need to come into play if #1 is true. Oh, and just for clarification, I’m going to use the word fetus for the unborn, even though it is not technically correct at all stages of development. Feel free to insert zygote, mass of cells, embryo, or protoplasmic goo at any point if you so desire.

First, I have to flatly dispute the argument that a fetus is merely a part of a woman’s body and that saying it has rights is akin to saying her liver has rights.

This simply isn’t accurate. You can say that an unfertilized egg is a part of a woman’s body, but after it is fertilized, it becomes something different than just an egg. It becomes an organism. Its cells begin to divide, and it begins to grow. It is still inside the mother. It is attached to the mother. It gains energy and nutrients from the mother, but it is a separate organism. Consider a tapeworm. It lives in a person, is attached to a person, and gains sustenance from a person, but it is not part of the person. It is a separate organism within the person. A liver or a skin cell is not an organism. A tapeworm and a fetus, despite their reliance on a host, are organisms. Of course, a tapeworm has no rights, and I haven’t suggested that a fetus has any. I’m simply establishing that a fetus is not a part of its mother.

“Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.” (Ayn Rand Lexicon)

“When applied to physical phenomena, such as the automatic functions of an organism, the term “goal-directed” is not to be taken to mean “purposive” (a concept applicable only to the actions of a consciousness) and is not to imply the existence of any teleological principle operating in insentient nature. I use the term “goal-directed,” in this context, to designate the fact that the automatic functions of living organisms are actions whose nature is such that they result in the preservation of an organism’s life”(Ayn Rand Lexicon)

A fetus at any stage after fertilization meets Miss Rand’s definition of a living entity. What’s more, it is without a doubt a human living entity (a homo sapiens living entity). I’ve read the arguments about seeds and chicken eggs. The comparison to the chicken egg is actually somewhat accurate if you consider the living chicken embryo and not the visible shell of the egg itself. The chicken embryo is a living entity. The plant seed is not an appropriate comparison. A fertilized plant seed is dormant and not alive. This is true according to both science and Miss Rand’s definition above. A plant seed is a potential plant, and only realizes that potential upon germination.

Ok. I believe I have established that a fetus, at any point after fertilization, is a living entity of the homo sapiens variety. Unless I am mistaken, the only other requirement for a right to not be killed is that it possess a faculty for reason.

It is at this point that I become confused. I am not attempting to prove that abortion should be illegal. I’m attempting to understand the conclusion, according to Objectivism, that it shouldn’t be illegal. At this point, I am unable to do that for the following reasons:

After several hours of reading this forum, I have found a lot of information stating that, contrary to popular leftist belief, Ayn Rand and Objectivists in general are in fact, human. I have found multiple posts on this site, made by folks who seem to be fairly senior members and respected Oists, which state that even if a newborn baby does not possess a faculty for reason yet (and I believe it does not), it is still a human being and its nature is to live by reason, so it has a right to not be killed. This is apparently accepted, despite the fact that it appears to be equivocating a potentiality with a reality (to me). I have also read that an adult human being who has lost or never possessed a faculty for reason by means of accident or defect has a right to not be killed as a benefit of his membership in the homo sapiens club. Now, obviously a fetus that was just fertilized a few days ago can’t possess any rational faculty, but it seems to meet the same criteria as a damaged adult with no faculty for reason. I just need an answer to the question: Why does a living human entity which lacks an active faculty for reason outside the womb have a right to not be killed when a living human entity with the same lack of faculty inside the womb has no such right?

Oh, and please remember, I’m not looking for arguments about the mother’s rights at this point (though I am well aware they exist). I fully understand that the right to not be killed does not imply the right to be kept alive. Right now I am only asking about the right to not be killed.

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