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Notes on the Abortion Debate

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Space Patroller
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First. "Pro-Choice" as it is presented today is incompatible with Objectivism. Bear in mind Rand's quote "A man with principles, even the wrong ones, is better than a man with none". Now c1990 Avi Nelson was subbing for Gene Byrnes on the WRKO AM 680 midday show and had as a guest either Kate Michaelman or the spokesperson for Mass-Choice. He asked the $64,000 question "Do you think the fetus is alive?" the anser that came back was "We don't want to get involved in philosopy". If you are an Objectivist, need I say more? What makes this significant is that this person was acting as a spokesperson for the Pro-Choice movement.

On another front. a leading figure associated with the Right, Bill O'Reilly said, toward the end of his radio career that "You can't say that the embryo is alive because it isn't. But it is a potential life. That's how you fight the abortion crowd". Set the Wayback Machine to 1977, The place: Ford Hall Forum. Ayn Rand said "The embryo is a potential life, not and actual one. The actual takes precedence over the potential..." This is sound Aristotelian philosophy not restricted to Objectivism. Since an actual is real and a potential is not real and since the real takes absolute and total precedence over the non-real, the actual takes absolute and total precedence over the potential. For one thing, as one ptentiality actualized it eliminates the others that compete with it. O'Reilly greaduated from Harvard. This is a remarkable change in positon and he also impaled himself upon Rand's sword at full speed and doesn't seem to have realized it (must not have a nerve in his body; that's GOTTA hurt) or else he's being disingenuous

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I've been saying for quite some time that the pro-choice movement will lose unless it is willing to confront head on the premise that the fetus is a "human being" or has a "right to life." Thus far the non-Objectivist pro-choicers simply prate on about "choice" to which the simple answer is "it is not a choice it is a child." Without challenging the "pro life" premise, who is going to win the argument? Both sides apparently agree it's a human being with rights, so the pro-choice side looks like they are willing to commit infanticide just because it is convenient. The wages of refusing to be philosophical is an argument lost because you ceded the high ground before you even opened your mouth.

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What pro-choicers are you 2 watching? I have never heard a pro-choicer admit that a fetus is a human being, in the sense that you and I are human beings.

Here's the thorough, and necessarily long, story.

By saying "We don't what to get involved in Philosophy" the Pro-Choicers are saying we don't want to get involved with facts; any and all facts, We don't want to get involved with princiaples at all. This lets the claim of the pro-lifers stand as true by default.

The embryo or fetus is something; i.e. has an identity. This identity may or may not be a human being. If it is then it is entitled to the protections thereof. If it is not a human being then it is not so entitled. ONe of those protections is against murder. and if it is a human being than abortion, under normal circumstances, is murder. If it is not a human being then it is nto entitled to any rights.

The pro-lifers claim that it is a human being, with all that proceeds from the above. In Roe v Wade. they were required to prove their case to biological standards. They failed to do so. Hence the decision. The scientific argument was made by proponents of legalizing abourtion with an appeal to biological principle

So you had a clash of principles and one side had the better and won.

With the aboandonment of philosophy, the Pro-choice movement abandoned principle so we have the equivalent of one side saying that the embryo is a human being and the other saying it's a nice day in Perth or worse Add to that, they can't even make an appeal to "liberty" or any idea that is derived from or implies the use of philospphy without being hypocrites trying to "cherry pick" what is and is not valid to suit their whims.

a properly running consciousness runs on the Law of Identity and seeks to organize the material of the sensed in a systematic whole. As such, it gravitates, however incompletely, to principle. Now since the pro-life adheres to principles. albeit the wrong one, it implicitly supports factuality as the basis for decisions. the Pro-Choice having abandoned principle "...not get[ing] involved in philosophy" remains silent on the matter at hand. This concedes the realm of facts to the pro-life side by default. and therefore forfeit the battle. Net result, the pro-lifers win. It's what's called "a deafenining silence [cue up "crickets.mp3"]"

Rand's statement about a man with principles, even the wrong ones, is better than a man with none is not primarily about morality, it's about not being a billion stars short of a galaxy: Alfred the Great vs Aflred E. Neuman.

And before you con yourself into saying "Aw they don't really mean it": What did Rand say about doing just that?

And here's the kicker. Just as the pro-choicers pull a Den Bien Phu from the French side. Bill O'Reilly comes riding in to the pro-lifers' rescue with a tactic that Rand obliterated a generation and a half ago. For those familiar with Fleetwood Mac, it's called the Rhiannon Principle and asks the question "will you ever win?"

Edited by Space Patroller
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What pro-choicers are you 2 watching? I have never heard a pro-choicer admit that a fetus is a human being, in the sense that you and I are human beings.

Strange. I haven't met a single non-Objectivist who has believed that the fetus is not a life. In fact, I've heard far more people say the fetus is life, but that the precedent of owning your body is more important.

While I believe that you do own your own body, I think this is a weak argument when "pro-lifers" make the claim that the "life" of the fetus supersedes one's claim to their possessions. Showing that the fetus is merely a potential life completely debases the "pro-life" argument.

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I've been saying for quite some time that the pro-choice movement will lose unless it is willing to confront head on the premise that the fetus is a "human being" or has a "right to life." Thus far the non-Objectivist pro-choicers simply prate on about "choice" to which the simple answer is "it is not a choice it is a child." Without challenging the "pro life" premise, who is going to win the argument? Both sides apparently agree it's a human being with rights, so the pro-choice side looks like they are willing to commit infanticide just because it is convenient. The wages of refusing to be philosophical is an argument lost because you ceded the high ground before you even opened your mouth.

You couldn't be more right. I've been saying this for a while now. Nearly all the mainstream pro-choice arguments are utilitarian in character and I was never satisfied with this long before I ever heard of Objectivism. To my recollection I have always been pro-choice since I was old enough to understand what it meant.

I don't think anyone is going to argue that the fetus is ALIVE. Of course it is ALIVE, but that is not the point. A cow is alive too but no one except the most strident eco-goofs will argue that consuming beef is immoral on those grounds alone. But the problem with most pro-choicers is that if they even accept rights at all (which many don't, especially utilitarians), they believe rights conflict and it's a matter of whose rights "win". That's the wrong way to look at it too. It's not that the mother's rights trump the fetus's rights, it's that the mother has rights and the fetus doesn't, plain and simple. The key argument here is explaining why a fetus is not the sort of entity that has rights but a baby is. That's what it comes down to.

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What pro-choicers are you 2 watching? I have never heard a pro-choicer admit that a fetus is a human being, in the sense that you and I are human beings.

Most pro-choice activists are pragmatists: they are in favor of allowing abortion because it prevents unwanted children from coming into the World. But I never heard anyone say that a fetus has no rights, and can be treated just as an unneeded appendix. The general consensus is that abortion is not to be taken lightly, for moral reasons: if the fetus is not a human, what possible moral reasons are there? At best, the reason is moral ambiguity or uncertainty.

Also, the pro choice movement has its origins in the feminist movement, so the whole approach is to claim equal reproductive rights, whatever that means:

Yet, as we mark the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the connection between reproductive rights and gender equality is lost in the political wrangling over abortion. It is time to step back and reexamine the role access to birth control and abortion plays not only in opening up the classrooms, boardrooms, and legislatures to women, but to ensuring women’s equality more broadly. It is time to refocus the conversation on fairness and opportunity so that we all can make meaningful decisions about whether and when to bear children. The political, economic, and social life of our democracy depends on it. -- Louise Melling -- Director, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

Even those who do take a principled approach, saying that government has no business legislating morality, and therefor they should stay out of regulating abortion completely, still consider abortion moral only in extreme cases, and look down upon women who resort to the procedure. Again, if a fetus is not a human, what's the big deal?

But, if you can point me to a moral defense of abortion outside Objectivism, that isn't exclusively about the unfortunate consequences of unplanned parenthood, please do. All I can find are endless statistics, descriptions of the history of the Feminist movement, and even detours into antropology. The whole thing, in liberal circles, is being referred to as reproductive rights, and they go on and on about equal access to health care rather than actual rights.

Here's some snippets from the big debate over abortion in Colorado, from a pro choice perspective:

Abortion-rights activists weren't overly concerned Monday about the new campaign.

"It gives us another opportunity to explain how personhood amendments threaten all pregnant women, including those going to term," said Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women in New York.

Jacy Montoya, head of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and

Reproductive Rights in Denver [Note: Laughable. That's who's leading the fight in Colorado?], said that, as the 2008 vote showed, Coloradans are "uncomfortable with the government and strangers making personal decisions for families." (source)

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You couldn't be more right. I've been saying this for a while now. Nearly all the mainstream pro-choice arguments are utilitarian in character and I was never satisfied with this long before I ever heard of Objectivism. To my recollection I have always been pro-choice since I was old enough to understand what it meant.

I don't think anyone is going to argue that the fetus is ALIVE. Of course it is ALIVE, but that is not the point. A cow is alive too but no one except the most strident eco-goofs will argue that consuming beef is immoral on those grounds alone. But the problem with most pro-choicers is that if they even accept rights at all (which many don't, especially utilitarians), they believe rights conflict and it's a matter of whose rights "win". That's the wrong way to look at it too. It's not that the mother's rights trump the fetus's rights, it's that the mother has rights and the fetus doesn't, plain and simple. The key argument here is explaining why a fetus is not the sort of entity that has rights but a baby is. That's what it comes down to.

Roe V Wade held that the fetus was not alive based on the parameter of extrauteran viability up to about 6 months. Now if you cancded that the fetus is a life, then since it is a human fetus, then it is a human life unless you believe that man begets dog, cat, moose or squirrel. If it is a human life then it is entitled to the same protections as a child and must, barring meidical matters, be aloowed to come to term which would make abortion murder.

Using what you have said as a given:

A fetus is alive

It is a human fetus

therefore it is a human life

Human life it properly protected by law

(from above) A human fetus is a human life

Therefore the human fetus is properly protected by law

The willful knowing taking of a human life is murder

Abortion is the willfull. knowing taking of a human life

Therefore abortion is murder.

The arugument that the pregnant women owns her own body, while true, loses meainign if the fetus is a human life. For one thing, the act which brought about that life was voluntary (at least in 90% of cases). One takes the consequences of volutary actions if those consequences are a foreseeably probable result of that action. In this case, riding the bronco bareback was an open inviation to a new living person.

Also by the time that the fetus could be considered a living thing, One would have had more than enought time to decide to seek and then procure the abortion. Beyond that, I gaban this thread with the discussion being about the embryo. Even RAnd did not want to discuss the "8 months old fetus".

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A fetus is alive

It is a human fetus

therefore it is a human life

My pinky is alive

It is a human pinky

therefor it is a human life

I saw a quarter fall

Fall is in three months

therefor I'm in the future

The reason why those three attempts at logic are wrong is because we're playing wordgames, instead of understanding the concepts you're using. The word "human" means two different things: it is an adjective, meaning in some way related to related to homo sapiens, the species (maybe a human footprint, or a human toe-nail), and a noun, meaning "a human being, an instance of the concept "homo sapiens" (or man in English). You are using it as an adjective in the second row, and as a noun with a different meaning in the third row.

Or, you're using the word "human" as an adjective both times, and "alive" and "life" interchangeably, even though they are also quite different (one's an adverb "meaning "part of a living organism", the other an instance of the concept "living organism").

It's a bit hard to say, but on second thought I guess it's more likely the second version that's true. Either way, something that's alive doesn't necessarily constitute "a life", that much is very obvious.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Even RAnd did not want to discuss the "8 months old fetus".

In two (at least) of Dr. Peikoff's podcasts he addresses the question of potential versus actual as relates to the fetus and abortion, as well as the impact that medical technology has on the issue of abortion and rights.

Episode 33 -- October 20, 2008 Go to about: 04:10 (the time)

Episode 44 -- January 12, 2009 (A group discussion; the sound quality of this recording is not the best.) Go to about 2:20

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Also relevant and perhaps of interest is what Dr. Peikoff has to say in his podcast, Episode 14 -- May 05, 2008, (about: 10:18), in response to the questions:

1. What is the basis for the rights of children, and how do these rights follow from an ethics of egoism?

2. Is initiating physical force against a child immoral?

Edited by Trebor
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Wrong, the law protects human individuals.

More precisely, the law protects individual rights.

Were the law obligated to protect human individuals, it would be in the position of having to protect a murderer from any harm resulting from his violation of rights.

Edited by Trebor
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This is beginning to look like a lawyers' conference. In my frist incarnation as a Providence College student in 1963 at age 18, I, innocently, pulled a similar stunt in Fr. Hennessey's Logic class and got a response that embarrassed me silly (calling my masculinity into question). What it revolved around was "torturing the data [in this case, language]".

There is a term "medical minimum". When a pinky meets those conditions then it is alive. For those of you still using teething rings, it means being able to sustain the reactions that make it a living thing after being detached from the parent body, meaning at least having a compliment of functioning organs for that purpose (sometimes my middle finger seems to have a mind of its own and has the urge to stand up and salute). It was the basis for the decision of Roe v Wade thirty-six years ago. would a pinky meet that standard? If so then those horror tales about chopped-off hands avenging their original owners' maltreatment would be true.

The question of "human life" as I meant it is well-understood by grownups. which means there are certain things taken as part of the context. I hope we know enough abourt the world to know what that context is and why the Pro-Lifers stress that the fetus is an "innocent living being"

I am not in need of Peikoff's lecture on potential life, but I think I'll take it in. It will probably reinforce what I heard Rand say in '77-8 which was sufficient for me. Besides which if we still need that kind of thing being discussed thirty years later, it's time for us to go. Any Objectivist worthy of the name know that in his sleep.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Government has no right to regulate a woman's body.

Everyone agrees on that in the abortion context. This issue that the pro-lifers, mistakenly or wrongly, raise is that their is another person's body and life being destroyed.

The pro-choice movement ought to focus on that main principle and build any other argument around it.

Pro-Choice? Principles? Wlhat did I write earlier: and support with evidence? Principled pro choiceer is oxymoronic

Now the real danger here is with the pro-lifers making a claim of fact and the pro choice being speicifically and pointedly anti-philosophy. In the minds of decent persons, who wins? If you're a decent person with a brain, which side would you support? When you are opposed to philosophy, principles, rights even facts are all floating abstaractions.

Don't forget, Rand said "If I had to chose between capitalism not supported by reason or not at all, then 'not at al'".

The same must apply to abortion or any issue.

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Beyond that, I *gaban* this thread with the discussion being about the embryo. Even RAnd did not want to discuss the "8 months old fetus".

Now that is the mother of all typo's: Two letters transposed two positions, not one as in "teh" or "ot" but TWO, and the substition of the e by an a. It's :began".

That's why I hate these4 compact keyboards

Edited by Space Patroller
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Now the real danger here is with the pro-lifers making a claim of fact and the pro choice being speicifically and pointedly anti-philosophy. In the minds of decent persons, who wins? If you're a decent person with a brain, which side would you support?
Well, if I were decent and had a brain, I'd obviously be pro-choice. Thank God I am! Edited by softwareNerd
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Well, if I were decent and had a brain, I'd obviously be pro-choice. Thank God I am!

Then you would be anti philosophy I'm an atheist, thank God. The spokesperson said "We don't want to get involved with philosophy". Why would I want to roll with that posse unless I said to myself "Aw, they don't mean it"?

Edited by Space Patroller
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Why would I want to roll with that posse ...
"Roll with them"? What are you talking about? I would not "roll with" the fascists on the God-squad or the FOX-squad. However, on some specific aspects of some specific issues, I would be on the same side of the vote as them, as I would be on the pro-choice side of the vote on any abortion-related topic.
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"Roll with them"? What are you talking about?

Your statement that if you had a brain and were decent you would be pro-choice; unless you did not get the context in which I was speaking. i.e. the group that is called "Pro-Choice".

I would not "roll with" the fascists on the God-squad or the FOX-squad. However, on some specific aspects of some specific issues, I would be on the same side of the vote as them, as I would be on the pro-choice side of the vote on any abortion-related topic.

As far as the vote goes, true but we could not ever be "pro-choice". That particular form of dementia crept up int the late 1980's. If it came to the choice of the "God squad" or this bunch of Nihilists. well Ayn Rand said "When an animal is attacked from beyond it's range of awareness it dies" Nihilists are all about shrinking the range of human awareness. In throwing philosophy under the bus they throw away The Primacy of Existence, Reason, Egoism and Individual Rights and you know what they think of capitalism. If you think they are preferable to the "God squad" think Community Reinvestmant Act, Obamacare, the whole Political Correctness thing and Barney Frank et al. As fascists, they make the "God squad" look like Objectivists. Of them, David Brudnoy said in c2002, with the issue of late-term abortions "All they care about is getting their fourth trimester abortion..."

This is in no way, shape or form the folks who won Roe v Wade: But they may be the ones to lose it. For me, the issue of abortion is far less important than will we be able to afford the damn thing; or even a loaf of bread, if the economy goes belly up. Look at history over the last 45 years. which side has, in fact, violated individual rights to a greater degree, the "God squald" or the left, of which this group is an integral part?

To show the effect they've had. Support for keeping abortion legal used to be from 60% to 2 to 1. Over the last dacade and a half it has become almost a dead heat.

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Your statement that if you had a brain and were decent you would be pro-choice; unless you did not get the context in which I was speaking. i.e. the group that is called "Pro-Choice".

The group that is called pro-choice are not a gang or a club. It is a collection of over half of Americans who are against restricting the right of women to have abortions. I'm one of them too.

But there is no group of people who got together and named themselves The Pro-Choicers. If we're to clasify people into groups based on political ideology, the group of people you are probably referring to, who happen to also be pro-choice, are liberals, because that's what defines them, not the fact that they happen to be pro-choice. And guess what: they do define themselves as liberals, you're the only one calling them "pro-choicers".

Or, if you want to classify people based on their opinion on abortion: both liberals and Objectivists, as well as millions of others, belong in that group. Either way, creating a group called "Pro-Choice" the Nerd doesn't belong to is a silly way to name your groups, since he's in favor of choice in this matter.

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Look at history over the last 45 years. which side has, in fact, violated individual rights to a greater degree, the "God squald" or the left, of which this group is an integral part?
For that, one would need to compare GOP and democrats, because they tend to bunch up that way. The GOP gave us just as much violation of rights, arguably even more, than the Democrats.

To show the effect they've had. Support for keeping abortion legal used to be from 60% to 2 to 1. Over the last dacade and a half it has become almost a dead heat.
This is the effect of the God Squad. The pro-choice people have not been able to conjure up a good argument. However, they would not need to if the damn God-squad was not intent on seizing our rights.

If you make the argument that the intellecually bankrupt are responsible, then the so-called right-wing are intellectually responsible for taking this country toward socialized health care, because they cannot conjure up the right resistance. It is an argument that makes no sense, but it follow from the methodology you use against pro-choicers, just because they are on the correct side of that issue without knowing how to defend it.

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For that, one would need to compare GOP and democrats, because they tend to bunch up that way. The GOP gave us just as much violation of rights, arguably even more, than the Democrats.

YOU'RE RIGHT! It was a Republican Congress that voted to legislate what kind of light bulbs we can have in our homes in 2008...er...right? Um sorry about that. and wait until you see wht Cap and Trade will do for you and I don't see the Right giving us the bum's rush to pass CommieCare. It seems that they're putting up a squawk, Where are the "pro-choice"er's on CommieCare?

This is the effect of the God Squad. The pro-choice people have not been able to conjure up a good argument. However, they would not need to if the damn God-squad was not intent on seizing our rights.

No, since the late 1980's the pro-choice movement has tried to expand abortion to late-term, available to minors without parental consent and government-financed (which at the time of Roe v Wade was conceded to be a violation of separation of church and state since it would use tax money to support an activity that violated the moral precepts of a major sector of the population); all of which violate either the terms or spirit of Roe v Wade of which I was in '73 and am now, an absolute supporter on principle, just so you know where I stand.

If you make the argument that the intellecually bankrupt are responsible, then the so-called right-wing are intellectually responsible for taking this country toward socialized health care, because they cannot conjure up the right resistance. It is an argument that makes no sense, but it follow from the methodology you use against pro-choicers, just because they are on the correct side of that issue without knowing how to defend it.

The "methodology" I use on the pro-choicers is to quote their spokesperson and see how that squares with Objectivism ("a man with principles, even the wrong ones, is better than a man with none"). Nobody put a gun to their head and made them say that. Well du-uh! It's not that they don't know how to make their case, it's that they don't WANT to. For the third time "We don't want to get involved in philosophy" At that point it's over. Any attempt by Objectivists to defend, mitigate or ameliorate that is just self-embarrasing. Just say "Aw, they don't mean it" and take your medicine as the wall falls on you. When they speak for themselves it doesn't matter two turds in a teacup what the God squad is or does, it's about them and only them. Moral relativism is not an option. Did not Ayn Rand say "Take them at their word"? Well, I always do. How can anyone be on "the correct side of the issue" , of any issue, when you assiduously strive to evade "Exixtence exists" i.e. the whole damn universe? They're clueless on Klendathu; and as buggy. We are on the correct side of the issue. To be there one must first embrace two things: Existence and Reason which are elements of philosophy

It's not like the "God squad" is the only God squad. either, Ever hear of the "Green church"? And do you have to geuss where the "pro-choice" folks are with respect to that? and go to the next abortion "rights" meeting and announce that you support capitalism. I see no logic to feeding the mouth that will bite you right off the bat.

Hell, Rush Limbaugh is starting to question the value of sacrifice. Do you hear the left, of which the pro-choice movement is part. doing that?

Regarding the "God squad" and the left (Existentialsm/Nihilism generated) there is a quote by Rand on another thread: "Kierkegaard is superior to Existentialism because he was religiou [philosophically oriented?]". I can say no more. I've said all I can say

Edited by Space Patroller
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