The day after Donald Trump took his oath of office, millions of people took to the streets in protest under the moniker “Women’s March on Washington” . Although I think there were many reasons why these protests occurred, my attention was captured by the cry for abortion rights.
I’ve already written once about what you actually have a right to, but a quick recap is that you have a right to live, a right to liberty, and a right to own property. The question of whether the baby in the womb is a person with rights is the only question that matters; from here on, the personhood of the child.
I know you want to talk about the consequences of making abortion illegal, but how we deal with those is completely dependent on whether or not the baby is a person. If she isn’t a person, then the consequences of making abortion illegal very much weigh in, and frankly as a Libertarian, I would be compelled to be pro-choice (as I am in nearly every other matter). If, on the other hand, the baby in the womb has a right to live, then we MUST protect that life and deal with the consequences in a different manner.
I think there are two areas where everyone can agree:
- Before conception there is no life, a sperm by itself or an unfertilized egg do not make a human
- Once the baby is born, it is a person and has a right to live
Personhood begins somewhere in-between #1 and #2.
How do we draw the line?
This is effectively how the Supreme Court addressed the personhood question in Roe. The problem with using fetal viability as a benchmark for the beginning of rights is that viability is wholly dependent on external factors. Say for instance, a child in New York City may be viable at 22 weeks whereas one in Nairobi would need to be at 34 weeks or more because of the technology available. Are we to argue that personhood begins at a different time for a child in the United States than it does for one in rural China? Of course not.
Your rights are a matter of your nature, they are independent of external forces. So whether or not technology exits to incubate a child outside of her mother is irrelevant to the question of whether that child is a person.
My Body My Choice
I agree. I’m a Libertarian. I belive you own your body, what you put into it, who you share it with, and how you use it to earn money is ALL your business and as long as you don’t hurt someone else, you should be free to do it. The problem with this argument is that the baby is not your body.
The baby is in your body, and that is a very important difference. That child has her own DNA, her own fingerprints, lungs, blood type, heart, limbs, etc. No human being has two sets of DNA. The child may be dependent on your body (see above) for a while, but dependency does not signify ownership and relinquishment of rights. The day she is born, she is wholly dependent on your body still, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to kill her.
Assigning a Date to Personhood
The problem with attempting to bestow personhood at any point other than conception is that you cannot objectively define the difference between one moment in gestation and the preceding moment. Say you attempt to define personhood as beginning in the 13th week. Is it at the end of the week? If so, what about the 12th week and 6 days and 23 hours? What about an hour before? What about a day before?
There is a distinct, measurable, objective difference between an unfertilized egg, and the moment of conception…which starts with a flash of light by the way. Instead of a big bang, a small bang if you will.
Whether or not the consequences of making abortion illegal are extremely detrimental to our society are secondary arguments that can only be considered after defining personhood. I do not believe one can make the case logically or scientifically that personhood begins at any point other than conception which frames the discussion about abortion completely differently. You are now talking about capital punishment, not an outpatient procedure, and we take the former very seriously (for the record I also oppose the death penalty).