An Objective Case Against Abortion?
To the Editor:
The thing I most admire about Objectivism is its uncompromising affirmation of life. No other philosophy I have encountered consistently holds thriving human existence as its chief value. I was therefore disappointed to read Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong’s argument for an alleged right to terminate the life of the unborn (“The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties,” TOS, Winter 2011–2012).
In the interest of full disclosure, I confess that I am a Christian, and thus not an Objectivist. I nonetheless consider myself an advocate of Objectivism’s prescriptions for civil society, and I am cognizant of the necessity for objective rational argument in the craft of public policy.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of pro-life activism is motivated by religious dogma, there is an objective case against abortion. The crux of the issue is whether or not the unborn are human beings with an inherent right to life. If they are, then that right must not be infringed upon. Hsieh and Armstrong make the case that the unborn are not individuals and therefore not endowed with the rights of the born. Their case rests upon boilerplate abortionist arguments regarding dependence and development, which are arbitrary.
There is no event that distinguishes an individual human being’s existence from his nonexistence, aside from conception and death. Birth is a threshold of development, not of identity. The notion that a fetus is not an individual because it exists inside its mother and is sustained by her biology is wholly arbitrary. Surely, a mother is not one with her unborn child. They are distinct if physically connected organisms. Nor is a fetus some foreign parasite that has invaded the mother to cause harm. An unborn child is a healthy and predictable product of sexual behavior. A newborn is as dependent upon its mother as it was in the womb. Indeed, once born, children require more from their parents, effort above and beyond that required to sustain themselves. If it is rational to kill the unborn in light of the “burden” they present to their parents, it is also rational to kill a born child.
The responsibility to care for one’s offspring is not a sacrificial duty, but a rational obligation. Dependent children are not others to whom we owe nothing, like a neighbor. They do not come into our lives arbitrarily. Their conception is a direct consequence of our sexual behavior. The Objectivist emphasis on the importance of sex does not excuse blanking out the known biological consequence of sex. Although contraception is a right of the individual, upon conception, there exists another individual whose rights establish new boundaries. The role of parents in conceiving a child makes them responsible for their child’s well-being and guardian over their child’s rights. Just as government empowered to protect our rights may not rightfully violate them, parents empowered to protect their child may not rightfully deprive him of life. . . .