Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Friday, September 19, 2008

On Abortion

The fundamental fact relevant to the legality of abortion is that an embryo or fetus is a dependent part or outgrowth of a woman's body, and thus hers to keep or destroy. Since it is only potentially an independent individual, an embryo or fetus has no individual rights, including no legal claim upon the sustenance it needs from the mother's body. A baby obtains individual rights only upon individuation, i.e., when he or she is born.

Because an embryo or fetus is an extension of a woman's body, the decision to give birth or to abort is profoundly personal. The choice confronting a pregnant woman is between two intense and potentially dangerous medical events, as well as between two starkly different versions of the rest of her life, both emotionally and financially. For her, the stakes could not be higher.

In light of this, I disagree with the criticism that "abortion-rights advocates keep hiding behind the phrase 'a woman's right to choose.'" Rather, by focusing on the issues of personal choice and whose-body-is-it-anyway, abortion-rights advocates are identifying the central fact that a woman's body and life are indubitably her own to do with as she pleases. The advocates have, in effect, correctly based their position upon the fact that a pregnant woman's choice is metaphysically personal -- and as such there can be no legal basis to question it, least of all on behalf of the potential future person of the embryo or fetus.

For these same reasons, I am repulsed at the spectacle of Objectivists who think it is their place to publicly comment on the morality of a specific woman's choice to give birth or to have an abortion. It does not actually matter what statements a woman has made to the media, or whether or not her child is expected to have a health problem: outsiders are simply not privy to the personal values and private reasons by which she made her decision, and publicly speculating about them is irresponsible and rude.



  • At 3:14 PM , Blogger Santiago Chiva, Granada said...

    On the topic of abortion, even many people who defend the possibility of legal abortions, they say they are not pro-abortion, but they don’t want to punish women who are in this difficult situation. In Germany a curious thing has happened. Something that reflects that legal abortion affects adversely to the country. And also that the change is possible: you can promote a culture of life with the support of the citizens, when really there is a real wish of avoid abortions. Since the liberalization of abortion in this country, the number of abortions is officially four million. For that reason, among others, children are seen as an unintended effect of having sex. Many people thought it was necessary to promote greater social acceptance of children in an aging society. And civil society acted, without waiting for action by the State to promote births. They joined several media organizations in a campaign. Interestingly, after the campaign, the birth rate has risen in Germany. The video is exciting. Look here:
    Santiago Chiva (Granada, Spain)

  • At 12:46 PM , Blogger softwareNerd said...

    Palin's decision to go through with her pregnancy is very important to a certain segment of Christian voter, who hold it out to be -- not an optional choice that each individual must make -- but as a supremely moral choice. In that sense, it is political news -- unlike (say) the news that her daughter is pregnant.

    In light of that, don't you think it is fair to comment on Palin's decision, while still unseemly to comment on any other woman's similar choice?

  • At 2:07 PM , Blogger Brad Williams said...

    I think it's proper to comment on those flawed analyses (which is all that's necessary, if one's purpose is to argue the point), but not on someone's private life. I don't think that being a politician means that one's private life should be open to public discussion. There's no objective need for it.


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