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.