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marotta
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Is pro-life consistent with Objectivism?  

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  1. 1. Is pro-life consistent with Objectivism?

    • No, Objectivism is inherantly pro-choice.
      111
    • Yes, the fetus is rational and has rights sometime before birth.
      6


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What rights are these, exactly? A definition would be helpful here. It's easy to define the rights of adults, and it's already been done by other people. What are these supposed rights of sub-adults or pre-humans? It's kind of difficult to discuss something that is assumed and not defined.

An infant has the right to life, correct? That at least I'm fairly sure squares with Objecitivist thought, and while I had understood that it also placed certain legal and moral obligations on parents for some period of time- such as, it should be illegal for a parent to not feed of clothe their one-year old- that may not be an actually established Objectiviist position, though it seems logical to me. However, they certainly have the right to life (which, as I understand, is not a right a thing, as you mentioned, but a right to action. Correct so far?) So, killing an infant woulf certainly be immoral and should certainly be illegal. I have no problem with a government holding a gun to her mother's head and telling her she can't kill her child. My question, which I asked you once before and I don't think you covered in your post, is what is that basis for that killing being illegal? I understand it to be the toddler's rational capability (and as David pointed out earlier, capability doesn't mean full function- toddlers are certainly not fully rational beings, but they have a rational cpaability). Now, the only reason why aborting a fetus would be morally and legally acceptable is if it didn't have that moral capability like an infant does. And, as you said, for much of the pregnancy it clearly doesn't (though I'd be curious to know where you got 5 1/2 months from. I've had a hard time finding much specific chronology for that sort of thing), but it doesn't seem reasonable at all to assume that the dividing line for rational capability is the actual physical birth. So, if the line can be drawn at some point before birth, then yes, I would say the government has the right to hold a gun to the mother's head and say "you cannot kill this baby". If that means expensive and painful medical operations, then too bad for the parents. They should have aborted earlier or decided to keep the baby to term. But the fact that it's expensive or difficult is irrelevant if in fact you're dealing with a rational being. And, again, it's true that few pregnant women seriously consider abortion past the time when rational development is likely to occur. Nevertheless, it has happened, and could happen. And even if it hadn't happened, it's still imporant to base your positions on solid principles. It's not a matter of a straw man- if an Objectivist claims that a fetus is not a person until it is physically separate from the mother, and I claim that that a fetus is a person once it achieves rational capability, regardless of its in-vetro state, our positions on a case to case basis would probably be pretty similar. But it doesn't change the fact that the former stance is illogically founded, and could lead to an improper practical choice. So, I think that there is value in establishing the essential points of the issue, even if the end result is not greatly changed.

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An infant has the right to life, correct?

Correct. That's helpful. Anything else?

That at least I'm fairly sure squares with Objecitivist thought, and while I had understood that it also placed certain legal and moral obligations on parents for some period of time- such as, it should be illegal for a parent to not feed of clothe their one-year old- that may not be an actually established Objectiviist position, though it seems logical to me.

This requires me to go out on a limb a bit here because (as far as I know) there is no official Objectivist position on whether it *should* be illegal for a parent to refuse to provide for a child. My thinking is this: the parents (or anyone else for that matter) are fully entitled to refuse to provide for a child, at which point the state is fully entitled to assume the aforementioned rights-by-proxy and take the child away from them--by force if necessary. I.e. you don't have to provide for the kid, but refusal to do so means it's not your kid any more whether you like it or not. You forfeit all rights of any kind in eternum.

This is my thinking, however, not, I repeat, any kind of official position. I think it makes the most sense because it protects the rights of the parents (to accept or refuse responsibility) and the rights of the child (to have its rights exercised on its behalf).

So, killing an infant would certainly be immoral and should certainly be illegal. I have no problem with a government holding a gun to her mother's head and telling her she can't kill her child. My question, which I asked you once before and I don't think you covered in your post, is what is that basis for that killing being illegal?

It is ultimately the same basis as for why it is illegal to kill an adult, which is not entirely dependent upon rational capability. If it were true that it is immoral to kill anyone that has a rational capability, it would not be acceptable to execute mass-murderers or go to war with violent aggressors--this view of rights would result in the most abject form of pacifism imaginable, and pacifism leads inexorably to the non-existance of rights. So rationality or its potential, while being a fundamental part of the definition of rights, is not the entire case all by itself.

Another major issue is that in order to have your rights respected you must also be able and willing to respect the rights of others. An infant, separate from the mother, is able to respect her rights if only by being carried off by another adult. This is not the case with a fetus, however: the fetus is inherently unable to respect the rights of the mother in any fashion whatsoever. It can't do anything. If you grant rights to anything that cannot in its turn respect rights, the entire edifice collapses.

Is there anything else that I have missed addressing properly?

P.S. 5 1/2 months = fast typing plus doing math poorly in head. 27 weeks = 6 months 3 weeks approximately. I said that the question of rational capability prior to that time was moot because the fetus is non-viable even with extreme medical measures, not that we can be certain that said fetus has no rational capability . . . you can't exercise rationality if you can't stay alive, so it really doesn't matter either way. If it's murder to abort a baby that early then it's (involuntary) manslaughter to have a miscarriage and that's just insane.

I shall change my pronouncement about third-trimester abortions to read: I have never heard of anyone aborting a healthy baby at that point of the pregnancy.

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It seems to me that the two predominant defenses of abortion rights (fetus isn't viable and fetus isn't rational) have some problems.

In the case of viability, the advance of medical technology will probably soon make even a fertilized egg viable. To say that we should shift our understanding of viability to those that can survive on their own without medical technology brings its own problems: this standard would justify killing many disabled people, as well as many babies that are born prematurely.

In the case of rationality, pro-life people seem to have won the argument that one is talking about "potential" rationality, since a new born baby is in no way rational. That then brings up the question of why fetuses aren't equally potentially rational? Why does birth give an entity a qualitative increase in either potential or actual rationality? I've never seen a good argument for this position.

I think the real argument for the pro-choice posiiton is that the fetus is part of the woman's body. One has the right to do whatever one wants to one's body, and that would include abortion. While I might at least empathize with the claim that is morally questionable to kill one's potentially rational/viable offspring, to say that a fetus has a right to life would imply an on-face contradiction in rights... that is in no way compatible with Objectivist philosophy.

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In the case of viability, the advance of medical technology will probably soon make even a fertilized egg viable. To say that we should shift our understanding of viability to those that can survive on their own without medical technology brings its own problems: this standard would justify killing many disabled people, as well as many babies that are born prematurely.

There's a difference between "killing" someone and "letting them die". Medical care ain't free, after all. Someone has to pay for it, and unless you're proposing to force someone to pay for it then viability is a (small) side-issue.

I think the real argument for the pro-choice posiiton is that the fetus is part of the woman's body. One has the right to do whatever one wants to one's body, and that would include abortion. While I might at least empathize with the claim that is morally questionable to kill one's potentially rational/viable offspring, to say that a fetus has a right to life would imply an on-face contradiction in rights... that is in no way compatible with Objectivist philosophy.

I just said that, albeit with much greater verbosity. Thank you.

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I shall change my pronouncement about third-trimester abortions to read: I have never heard of anyone aborting a healthy baby at that point of the pregnancy.

But am I wrong to assume that you support a womans 'right' to do so? Further, would it be morally right to abort a healthy, third-trimester baby that could survive on its own outside the womb? Further yet, would a woman who did choose a third trimester abortion be making a rational decision? If so, by what measure? A person does not wake up one morning and find herself 9 months pregnant. At every stage along the way up to that point, the woman has deemed the pregnancy acceptable. To say that once you reach a certain point--be it viability or some other objective measure--abortion is no longer an option does not strike me as overly burdensome. Expecting a woman to 'finish the job' so to speak, and put the child up for adoption seems a morally superior option for those who hold life in such high esteem.

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But am I wrong to assume that you support a womans 'right' to do so?

You would be wrong, because I don't make a point of having an opinion about things that either don't happen or are so rare that it's actually possible to handle them on a case-by-case basis. Exceptions don't make the rule.

Further, would it be morally right to abort a healthy, third-trimester baby that could survive on its own outside the womb? Further yet, would a woman who did choose a third trimester abortion be making a rational decision?

Depends on the circumstances. I can think of cases that would go either way, and since every single one of these cases is already a major exception, it's okay to evaluate them individually . . . it'd be like having an entire coda of principles to cover the times when you get shipwrecked on a desert island with three other people and there's only one coconut tree . . . how many times is that going to happen to you? Once? Maybe? You can figure it out when it happens.

If you need some sort of general plan, I'd say: leave it up to the doctor and the mother to decide. People can actually work out these types of weird situations on their own. If it should actually happen that a perfectly healthy mother with a perfectly healthy nine-month fetus decides she wants an "abortion", I personally would say that the best solution would be for the doctor to go ahead and sedate her and induce labor, then take the baby away anonymously. She got what she wanted (baby is no longer her problem), and there's no question of a violation of rights. What's she going to do, sue because the baby survived the procedure?

I'd say it's her right to ask for an abortion but not necessarily her right to receive one, heh.

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A person does not wake up one morning and find herself 9 months pregnant.

Usually true, but not always. I've heard of women who actually delivered babies before they realized they'd been pregnant. (Generally they were so morbidly obese that the extra weight and bulge of the pregnancy was a trifle by comparison. This begs the question of just who they found to get them pregnant in the first place. . . but I'm veering perilously close to a threadjack. :lol: ).

I shall change my pronouncement about third-trimester abortions to read: I have never heard of anyone aborting a healthy baby at that point of the pregnancy.

I haven't either, personally, but the rabid anti-abortionists claim it does happen, and I've never seen the rabid pro-choicers deny it. I'm inclined to believe that in a nation of 300 million people, anything that can be done, will be done at some point.

But this is a trivial side question. Those of us in this discussion who claim that a (healthy, non-dangerous) third-trimester fetus has the right not to be aborted aren't extending that to the first trimester, which is where nearly all the action is.

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Those of us in this discussion who claim that a (healthy, non-dangerous) third-trimester fetus has the right not to be aborted aren't extending that to the first trimester, which is where nearly all the action is.
Are you extending it to the second trimester though?
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Mod's note: I think having two virtually overlapping discussion in two abortion threads is becoming confusing. Could folks please continue the discussions in the omnibus Abortion thread.

(I'll close this thread for a while, to avoid confusion with the other one. At some point, I'll move some of the more recent posts from this thread to the other one [i'd combine them if not for the darn poll at the beginning of this one.] )

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