Schieder v. Stolyarov: An Abortion Debate
MR. MANFRED F. SCHIEDER:
Vienna, August 9, 2004
Dear Mr. Stolyarov:
I hate having to take up a discussion with another Objectivist, but your article “An Objectivist Condemnation of Abortion” obliges me to do so as it contains a series of contradictions (with the main premises of Objectivism) and maintains a total silence on special cases which even involve a moral obligation for abortion.
Let’s first get rid of the obvious detail that, when we speak about the right to abortion or even a standpoint against abortion, we must only take into consideration those places and societies where free decisions are taken within the area of the individual. This includes also those societies where such free decisions are strictly related to a few issues (I am sure that you will agree that the American type of society or, in general, those of the so-called Western type are places where personal liberties constitute their main characteristic. Austria, in spite of being heavily socialized, is still and also such a place).
China, however, is a dictatorship and cannot, thus, be taken as a point of reference since all and everything there is mandatory and no personal liberty exists (not even the economic side of life since what happens there now is nothing else but using the productive power of the West for China’s future territorial expansion… of which Taiwan is a case in point with others to follow). But let’s not involve this matter with the point under discussion here. In one sentence: Individuals have NO right for ANY personal decision in China and, hence, abortion or non-abortion cannot be taken as any “argument” in this case.
Significantly, your article does not mention anywhere the obvious cases of women expecting dysfunctional babies such as Mongoloids, morons, venereal diseased, Siamese twins and even those who, due to a chemical blood incompatibility between mother and child, must be aborted to avoid the risk of the childbearing mother’s death. Your article does not even consider that a mother has a right to abortion in these unfortunate cases.
Though in the last paragraph I have included a very specific case justifying abortion, I am also missing in your article any reference to women who have been pressed into childbearing by having been raped. Following the “reasons” given in your article, such women must accept a child whose father is a criminal!
Where does individual decision taking come up in any of the cases mentioned? Isn’t personal liberty a main rule in the Objectivist philosophy? Doesn’t a prohibition to abort go directly against the Objectivist social axiom that “nobody has a right to initiate an act of violence against another person or persons”? Hasn’t such an act been committed against the woman raped? Further on, should the woman die due to the attack suffered I would directly apply my own subsequent rule for the Objectivist axiom, i.e. that “the death penalty for willful murder is the time delayed execution of the self defense by the representatives of the victim (or victims) who, due to the circumstances existing at the time of the act of violence, were unable to defend themselves personally from the murderous assault.”
Your article lists the premises of the Objectivist philosophy: reality, reason, rights and the type of society where such rights can be carried out.
How are these principles involved with abortion… or anti-abortion for that matter? Here reality and rationality relate pinpointedly with rights.
Rights exist only within the context of a society based on individual liberty. This is also and very precisely the reason why the Chinese example you presented is totally out of place. Rights do not exist under any type of dictatorship. In such a society human beings cannot even be considered as such since they are held at the level of irrational living things (like apples or cows, for example).
Rights are only part of a society where freedom of action can be exercised, As Ayn Rand stated: “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context.” Now, a man’s freedom of action involves his rationality (thinking) as applied to taking an action. Is there no limit to this action taking? Of course there is, as mentioned a few paragraphs earlier (i. e. Nobody has a right to…, etc.)
And to what pertains any such action? Decisively to a rational existence. Anything that lacks the capacity to think (such as inanimate matter and rationality lacking living things and beings such as apples, cows and everything unborn – Observe that Objectivism does not equalize consciousness with rationality… which makes the difference between higher organisms and man) also lacks a “right to rights”. Where does this leave human beings living under a dictatorship? Here we apply a particular instance of man’s kindness towards another human being born but whose rational faculty is either blocked (due to any kind of dysfunction such as a genetic defect, etc.) or politically impeded (as happens to human beings living under a dictatorship).
In the first case dysfunctional beings are subject to our feelings of pity and kindness and their parents will to support them (even against all rational considerations, such as the problem produced by their survival after their parents death). In the second case we know that prisoners of dictatorships are slaves. They possess the faculty of rationality but lack either or both the will and the means to liberate themselves. A free country can come to their rescue but that depends on what the self-interest of their inhabitants determines. This part has been considered at length by Ayn Rand in her essay “Collectivized ‘Rights’“. And it is precisely this same self-interest that is involved with the “right to abortion”.
Man’s self-interests can be served only by a non-sacrificial relationship with others, pointed out Ayn Rand (“The Objectivist Ethics”*). So the relationship with others (and the fetus is an unborn other) must be non-sacrificial. Both the term “sacrifice” and its meaning takes up a very large part in Rand’s line of thinking. As a matter of fact, it is one of the main targets of Objectivism as well as one of reasons why Objectivism is always subject to such vicious attacks. Sacrifice has always been considered as a positive goal and deed of both religious and political “morals”. It was Ayn Rand who pointed out that it involves a loss instead of a gain for the human being. It is also one of the points that turn Objectivism into the extraordinary set of ideas that conform the Objectivist philosophy into a massive totality with no strings left hanging loose or unanswered as it happens with every other philosophy which, precisely due to this, do not deserve to be called such. Even an enemy of Objectivism (Robbins) considered that there is no need to speak of an Objectivist philosophy since only this one deserves the right to be named thus as it is completely and consistently based on reason. In consequence, “Philosophy” suffices, since “Objectivist” philosophy involves a redundancy.
But back to the main theme. Concern for the welfare of those one loves is a rational part of one’s selfish interests (“The Ethics of Emergencies”) and “sacrifice is the surrender of a value” (John Galt). To give birth to a being which would only mean anguish for the mother, due to poverty, for example, is truly a sacrifice and no benefit at all. I was born in Latin America and can, thus, tell you that childbearing is a major disaster for those living as paupers – paupers who are even denied, for religious reasons, the right to learn the anti-conceptive methods!). Here we must particularly take into consideration that an unborn has no rights. Only a living, rational being has rights (the conditions for it were named earlier).
Rights pertain only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it has been born and becomes a rational being (Rand “On living death”). Until then it is dependent of its parents who, as Nathaniel Branden very aptly determined in his article “What are the respective obligations of parents to children, and children to parents?” (The Objectivist Newsletter, December 1962). The living take precedence over the not-yet living (or the unborn). Abortion is a moral right – which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved (Ayn Rand).
The reason why abortions are NOT to be performed after the first five months of pregnancy involve the right of the mother to her life and not any “right” whatsoever of the child (Abortion after that period involves a life-taking peril for the mother to be, but abortion must even in this case be taken into consideration should a chemical incompatibility become involved, as mentioned earlier).
If a woman decides to bear the unwanted child it is to be on her own responsibility. In a rational society she will be clearly informed and taught what responsibilities she will have to take up and what she must do from there on to honor them. If she doesn’t want to abort it will be her own rational decision and nobody has a right to stop her from proceeding. Should the conception in its course result in a dysfunctional living being she must be warned about this possibility. Here in Austria the pregnant has a full right to decide.
What I have said above also clears the position of abortionists and anti-abortionists. Anti-abortionists may use whatever arguments they consider suitable to convince pregnant women to carry on their conception, even financially supporting the childbirth, but must be persecuted as criminals whenever they attack abortion clinics (as happens in the United States, where the juridical system must act against such criminals… though they often do not). Abortionists must follow the same rule: they can supply their arguments and apply and even financially support abortion (for example, through laws allowing abortion) but must be refrained from obligatory abortion, as this would immediately turn the country itself into a slave-pen such as China is.
I am sorry to say that I consider your position against abortion to not be related with the rational line of thinking of Objectivism.
I would welcome your reply.
In the meantime I remain, with best regards,
Manfred F. Schieder (Manfred.Schieder@gmx.at)
* Just as a by-note: I translated the book “The Virtue of Selfishness” (which contains "The Objectivist Ethics") into Spanish in 1985 while still living in Argentina and published it, with the assistance of my own and several Objectivist friends’ financial support, thus turning this translation into the first foreign language edition of one of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction writings. In the meantime the Objectivist movement has become a very strong group of intellectuals in Argentina where a foundation (Fundación Atlas www.atlas.org.ar) promotes Ayn Rand ideas – which I introduced in Argentina in 1981 – and a publishing house produced a de luxe edition of the Spanish version of “Atlas Shrugged” (20,000 copies sold during the first month after publication) in addition to a notebook celebrating 2005 as “The Ayn Rand Year” (www.gritosagrado.com).
MR. G. STOLYAROV II:
Chicago, August 10, 2004
Dear Mr. Schieder:
Thank you for your response. I can see that you are an articulate, productive, and sincere Objectivist, and I will endeavor to respond to your letter in a detailed and civil fashion.
On the rape issue: One of the fundamental tenets of Objectivism in regard to initiation of retaliatory force is that it is to be initiated only against those directly responsible for it. The guilty party here is the rapist, not the fetus, and the law might legitimately grant its consent to terminate the rapist (as rape is a most abominable crime), yet not an innocent child, even if the latter's dependence on the mother were a direct outcome of the rape.
Let me present a parallel. Pretend that two mutually unfriendly people are neighbors living in the same apartment building in Britain during Hitler's bombing raids in 1940. A bomb explodes upon the building so as to cause all possible exits to cave in while destroying the wall that separates the neighbors. They are, in effect, forced to share the same living space and work alongside each other in an attempt to tunnel themselves out despite (in this scenario) a mutual dislike. Does this, then, justify one of the killing the other because of the inconvenience thereby caused, despite the fact that neither one of them had caused it, or would it not instead be justice to demand, upon reaching freedom, that the Nazi air marshal who had commanded the raid to occur be tried as a war criminal? (I know this is an immensely unlikely scenario, but so is rape, and both are possible. And the circumstances here are comparable to those of a pregnancy by rape.)
On the life endangerment issue: No individual is obliged to sacrifice his/her life to save the life of another. Thus, when it can be medically proved that the life of the mother is in fact substantially endangered by a pregnancy (what constitutes “substantial endangerment” is a matter for medical science to define via conclusions drawn from empirical observation), then an abortion can be undertaken as a last resort. Please note that this is the only situation in which I would advocate legal abortion, and it is not a typical situation. Rather, it is an emergency, occurrences of which sort are addressed by Ayn Rand in the essay, “The Ethics of Emergencies,” in The Virtue of Selfishness. Rand writes that emergencies are exceptions to the rule, and are not the normal state of human existence, or of ethical human relations. To say that some extreme action may be permissible in an emergency is not to extend that permissibility to the realm of normal human existence as addressed by the fundamentals of ethics. So, simply because an abortion might be justified as a last resort in some very unusual circumstances, this does not at all justify the general legalization of abortion, especially given the fact that the majority of abortions occur simply because a woman had undertaken indiscriminate sexual relations (themselves morally condemnable) and does not wish to incur the objective consequences of such acts.
On the issue of deformed children: You wrote: “Significantly, your article does not mention anywhere the obvious cases of women expecting dysfunctional babies such as Mongoloids, morons, venereal diseased, Siamese twins…”
There is nothing that justifies the deprivation of life from paralyzed, disabled, or abnormal children, or even futuristically certain children. No matter how fysically deficient a human being is (yes, the spelling is deliberate; if, as a tangent, you are interested in the reasoning behind it, please see An Objective Filosofy of Linguistics), that individual’s humanity, i.e. rational capacity, can never be can never be considered forfeit. Even the most severely mentally handicapped individual is still capable of purposeful communication in accordance with his individual reasoning. No matter how unfortunately deprived of normal human fysical and mental resources, the fact of his mind possessing the capacity to reason and the capacity to choose is undeniable. Rights derive from these fundamental human capacities, and are independent of the particular intellectual prowess of a given individual, as this varies greatly even among “healthy” individuals; rather, rights are based on the fact that some intellectual prowess exists in any and all human beings, which is lacked by all non-human entities. Thus, in the realm of rights, whatever reasoning applies to the unborn healthy fetuses must equally apply to the unborn deformed ones.
As for your “rights pertain only to an actual being” argument, it is the same argument that my article refutes. This argument, as initially stated by Rand, and repeated many times over by other Objectivist thinkers, rests on the faulty premise that “actual” and “potential” states are the only ones that an entity can have. My article suggests that a third state, “futuristic certainty,” exists, which is fundamentally far more akin to actuality than potentiality. According to my argument futuristically certain fetuses, by the mere fact that they cannot presently use their reason, cannot be deprived of life, just as a sleeping man cannot be deprived of life, simply because he cannot presently use his reason. One of the mistakes many Objectivists tend to make is to fix their evaluation of an entity’s nature on solely the present state of that entity, and thus ignore the inexorable dynamic that affects certain entities and must certainly figure into our analyses of such entities. I address this subject further in The Fundamentals of Stolyarovian Continuum Theory: the pro-abortion Objectivist implies that fetuses and children exist on a static continuum, while they in fact exist on a dynamic futuristic certainty continuum.
Even if one were to embrace the potential-actual dichotomy, drawing the line between beings “eligible for abortion” and beings not so “eligible” at birth is quite arbitrary. Fetuses display immense fysical activity in the womb in the immediate months prior to birth, and there is no reason to assume that they do not already have the rudiments of a rational capacity and volitional consciousness. It is, rather, far more absurd to assume that a fetus emerges from the womb and then—Abracadabra!—he is able to choose and think. Rather, the acquisition of the capacity for choice and thought is a gradual process, and it is impossible to draw the line anywhere except where such a process has its first beginnings, i.e., at conception, provided that the fetus is sustained in an environment conducive to its further development, as the womb naturally is.
On the other hand, the acknowledgment of futuristic certainty offers no such problems; an individual’s unique genetic code is formed at conception. This genetic code guarantees that this individual will be a being of volitional consciousness absent accidents of nature (which are irrelevant to metafysical or filosofical considerations in general) or human intervention. As I state in my article on Continuum Theory, the underlying humanity of such a being is already present, even though the particulars of this humanity will change. Please keep in mind, however, that it is based on underlying characteristics (presence on a futuristic certainty continuum) that rights are afforded, independent of particular characteristics (position on a futuristic certainty continuum).
Filosofy must evolve to accommodate corrections to logical errors and deficiencies, which are possible even in the thinking of the greatest of individuals (and no doubt Ayn Rand could be classified as such). Mainstream Objectivist advocacy for abortion is caused by a far more fundamental error, or rather, omission, in the realm of metafysics. Objectivism prior to my writings had not explored the properties of continua or debunked the potential-actual dichotomy, but, hopefully, with new metafysical discoveries in this area, new ethical implications shall be recognized as well.
G. Stolyarov II
MR. MANFRED F. SCHIEDER:
Vienna, August 12, 2004
Dear Mr. Stolyarov:
Thank you very much for your fast reply to my e-mail of August 10. In the meantime I have read a series of your articles in your extraordinarily well realized webpage that contains a wealth of most important and fundamental treatments of the themes there presented, though inevitably I have to disagree with some. But this is not part of the present message and I will come back to it later...
I have also read your “Stolyarovian Continuum Theory”, “Obstruction by Periferals” as well as Dr. Parker’s comments and other pages available on the subject. However, here I will refer basically to your reply, above mentioned articles and what Ayn Rand wrote about the right to abortion.
1) I consider Ms. Kanabe and Dr. Parker's standing totally rational, correct and completely in accordance with Rand’s rational deductions on the matter. Should you have a possibility to send them my congratulations please do so… in spite of you and I standing on opposite sides.
2) In relation with your standpoint of considering that the abortion issue is “immensely” periferal in Rand’s thoughts I must correct you. The fact is that Ayn Rand wrote at length about abortion and made it very clear that it is a main component of the application of the filosofy of Objectivism. She did not only consider the matter in “Censorship: Local and Express”. Allow me to list the many writings by Ayn Rand which specifically refer to pro-abortion in relation with the fundamentals of Objectivism:
1) “On living death” (July 29, 1968) – Here she deals in depth with the issue.
2) “A Suggestion” (The Objectivist, February 1969) on how to proceed in favor of an abortion law.
3) “A last Survey – Part 1” (The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. IV No. 2 – November-December 1975). I quote: “Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a "right to life." A piece of protoplasm has no rights—and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable.”
4) Letter to John E. Marshall rejecting an invitation to a TV-series dealing with “Cultural Conservatism” (October 18, 1980). She states there: “Their (the Conservatives') anti-abortion stand is outrageous - and so is their mixture of politics with religion.”
5) “The Age of Mediocrity” (The Objectivist Forum, Vo. 2 No. 3, June 1981)
6) “The Sanction of the Victim” (The Voice of Reason, November 21, 1981)
I think that the above suffices to prove the importance that the issue has within the context of Objectivism and why Ayn Rand dedicated so much time and not just “a single paragraf” to the subject.
3) Your “Continuum Theory” must be considered totally out of context and truly un-Objectivistic because it proposes to equalize actual with potential, a position totally opposed by Ayn Rand as you can see from above quotation.
By the way, you mention a rational human being as a potential inherent in an embryo: Why stop there? Why not proceed directly to the point when, after having lived its lifespan the human being dies and turns into inert matter? The potential future of the sun is a Red Giant which will engulf and destroy our planetary system. Should we not start to worry about such a future instead of enjoying the warm caress of the sun while lying on a beach?
4) From your reply:
a) On the rape issue: Here you have made a little mix-up. While your parallel is correct when stating that it is the war criminal who must be eliminated (in the last analysis Hitler himself) the emergency resulting from the bombing does not involve enmity of the bombed out family against the neighbors but a situation involving both who have now to face the same consequences of getting out alive. The “embryo” of the emergency is, in this case, the bomb but this one destroyed itself. Since a human embryo cannot destroy itself the decision must be left to the mother.
Let me change your example a little bit and make it a more likely scenario and see who has to take the decision then: a bomb (the embryo) has been planted by a terrorist into a building. Being a “slow-goer” it will explode sometime during the coming 9 months but cannot be touched any more after the 5th month (due to corrosion of the fuse) without much damage to the building and its inhabitants. So the dwellers will immediately go to the “bomb-squad” (doctor) who will render the bomb harmless (abort it) and, thus, save the residents from unwanted damages.
Here’s another case in point: a virus, shrouded in its protein carcass, comes along and bores itself into a cell to, again, cause havoc. The patient (a lady) goes to the doctor and receives a treatment which helps her immune system to fight the virus. This system, of course, specifically does not destroy the (sperm)carrier (the protein carcass) but saves the lady from many later (potential) problems.
b) On all further issues: Abortion is always an emergency matter and must, thus, be treated as such. Were it not; were it, instead, a wished conception, it would belong to the normal conditions of life. Ayn Rand made it very clear when an emergency is at hand.
Unwanted children are never welcome, precisely because they are unwanted and, thus, are generally subject to much mistreatment which later on, during their life, also includes the fact that the forces of justice must come to deal with them and the parents at the expense of the rest of the population? Here we are now involved very deeply with the propriety rights of others!
Further on: the right to abortion is directly related with the propriety rights of the woman involved. To prohibit it entails a direct opposition to these rights. To forbid a woman to proceed with abortion involves the initiation of an act of force by authorities specifically constituted to enforce the prohibition. But we know already the standpoint of Objectivism in relation with acts of violence and this, in itself, constitutes another argument against a stand of anti-abortion and a clear indication, I am very sorry to say, of a deviation from the very basics of Objectivism. Anti-abortion is a dictatorial standpoint.
Since altruism is the obligation to live for somebody else and not for oneself, the anti-abortionists side with the altruists to impose their purposes by force (for there exists no other way to deter a woman from her intention to abort). On the contrary, abortionists side with the defenders of personal freedom as they merely make the means of abortion available for the mother-to-be with no obligation whatsoever to use them. Thus, it is fundamentally an Objectivist standpoint.
I understand that this makes mine as well as the Objectivists position clear and complete. Believe me; neither I nor Objectivists in general are against life. Quite the contrary. However, we are definitively NOT in favor of the life of cave dwellers. Their time has fortunately gone by a long time ago and so it should remain, in spite of “Greenies”, and “Fundamentalists” of all kind (Fundamentalists of what? Of ignorance and poverty?). We are fully against a way of life NOT proper to a rational human being.
I will, of course, continue to welcome your messages (even if we do not agree) and take the opportunity of this chance to enclose my rather long writing "Ayn Rand, I and the Universe" which, depending on your decision, you may (or may not) present to the readers of your Webpage. I have also translated this article into German and Spanish. Should any of your readers want it I can send it through your address since I haven't had yet the time to prepare my own Webpage. Still, any copyright rights remain in my possession. I hope you enjoy it!
With best regards, I remain,
Manfred F. Schieder (Manfred.Schieder@gmx.at)
P.S.: I think that it would be convenient to make this exchange of messages available in your Webpage for the benefit of your readers to participate in the debate.
MR. G. STOLYAROV II:
Chicago, August 13, 2004
Dear Mr. Schieder:
I have begun to read your commentary, “Ayn Rand, I, and the Universe,” and find it quite engaging thus far. Thank you for attaching it. I shall give you a more detailed response once I have read it in entirety. Our exchange, along with this, my most recent, response, has been posted on The Rational Argumentator at http://rationalargumentator.com/issue25/schieder_stolyarov1.html
On Ayn Rand’s writings: You have indeed demonstrated that there are more published works by Rand that refer to the abortion issue besides “Censorship: Local and Express.” Let us, however, make the approximate presumption that the sum of Rand’s published statements on abortion totals to about five pages of the Objectivist corpus. If the entirety of Ayn Rand’s published works amounts to 3500 pages (a reasonable estimate), then my disagreement with her stance on abortion would still not preclude my concurrence with 3495/3500 or about 99.86% of her writings. I do not disagree with Rand’s fundamental statements on metafysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics, to which she had devoted the majority of her writings. Any academic, scientific, or business institution would consider a 99.86% correspondence to anything to be a sufficient correspondence. Moreover, it must be recognized that, in a filosofy, some insights carry more weight than others, and the proximity of a given insight to the fundamentals correlates with its adherence being a defining trait of an advocate of that filosofy. As David Kelley wrote in Truth and Toleration, “Suppose an Objectivist philosopher disagrees with Ayn Rand on some particular point. This does not necessarily mean that he rejects her view on all the other principles to which the point in question is logically related. It may well be that he takes the position he does because he regards it as the true implication of those principles.”
That said, the difference between pro- and anti-abortionist Objectivists is infinitesimal and depends not on the most fundamental principles, but the evaluation of a single type of concrete entity: the fetus. The essential question to be asked in the abortion debate is, “Is the fetus a human being?” If it is, then it is deserving of the entirety of the rights afforded to human beings, thus rendering abortion illegitimate. If it is not, however, then abortion can be justified. Individuals can hold the same premises concerning the nature of rights, and come to different conclusions about this particular subject matter. On the other hand, persons such as Ms. Kanabe do not recognize the smallness of the abortion debate in the context of the entire Objectivist filosofy, and are willing to abandon even the crucial tenets of selfishness in order to consistently defend Rand’s professed standpoint on abortion.
In order to progress filosofically, we must recognize that Rand was neither omniscient nor infallible, and could have made omissions, mistakes, false generalizations, or misclassifications, and likewise could not have explored the entirety of the questions open to filosofy.
We now proceed to further arguments of yours:
You wrote: “Your “Continuum Theory” must be considered totally out of context and truly un-Objectivistic because it proposes to equalize actual with potential.“
I respond: My entire argument is that there exist other states that an entity can assume that are neither actual nor potential, but belong to another class of states. You have neither addressed nor refuted this argument. Please understand that I do not consider a mere statement to the contrary or appeal to Rand’s authority to be sufficient argument.
The actual/potential dichotomy is not integral to Objectivism, and I have not witnessed Rand employing it outside the context of the abortion issue. I also have not seen in Rand’s writings any attempted tie between the actual/potential dichotomy and any of Rand’s insights in metafysics. It seems that this (false) dichotomy has been pulled out of intellectual limbo and applied to justify Rand’s stance on abortion in what I consider an out-of-context and empirically disproved manner.
You wrote: By the way, you mention a rational human being as a potential inherent in an embryo: Why stop there? Why not proceed directly to the point when, after having lived its lifespan the human being dies and turns into inert matter?
I respond: I have already addressed this claim in the original article, when responding to a similar argument presented by a Mr. Don Watkins III. Here is what I wrote:
”But even with the distinction made between potential and futuristic certainty, there remain abortionist arguments which must be addressed from an Objectivist perspective. Watkins writes, “Man is nothing more than an undead corpse. There is no ignoring it - each one of you is going to die. Thus, I believe that I have the right to treat you as if you were dead. I believe I have the right to bury you now, or use your body for medical experiments, or - if I'm hungry - to eat you. This is absurd, you say? Just because you will be dead doesn't mean you're dead now? That there's an essential difference between a potentially dead human being and one who is actually dead? That one has rights and one does not? Well, the argument I gave you for treating living individuals as ‘undead corpses’ is the same argument anti-abortionists give for treating the unborn the same as the born. Their argument is just as absurd and the consequences just as horrifying.” While the condition of futuristic certainty does indeed apply here, and the argument may seem intimidating at first, it helps to pinpoint another Objectivist truth. Man’s life is the standard of value, and it is improper to deprive any entity of life or to artificially hasten his demise. While we have not yet reached immortality, people continue to live for a certain period of time, and the only context in which morality can be used by an individual is within that span. To shorten that span is to curtail the influence of morality and henceforth is a nihilistic and evil act. Also, just because futuristic certainty exists does not imply that it is desirable, and as death is the diametrical antithesis of life, its infliction is improper. The anti-abortionist, however, defends the fetus on the grounds of futuristic certainty of its life, of its existence as a rights-bearing entity and a being of volitional consciousness. While Mr. Watkins is a profound and eloquent thinker, he has in this case committed a grossly inapplicable moral equivocation as well as the logical fallacy of false analogy.”
You wrote: The emergency resulting from the bombing does not involve enmity of the bombed out family against the neighbors but a situation involving both who have now to face the same consequences of getting out alive.
I respond: In this particular scenario, the neighbors loathe each other, just as a woman considering an abortion might loathe the prospect of an “unwanted” child. Let us further presume that one of the neighbors’ apartments is entirely buried beneath the rubble, and he is forced to take refuge in the living space owned by the other neighbor. Does the latter have the right to kill the unwilling “intruder”?
Moreover, do both the mother and fetus, too, not face the same consequences of getting out of the pregnancy alive, if efforts are taken to ensure that the pregnancy takes its natural course?
You wrote: … a bomb (the embryo) has been planted by a terrorist into a building. Being a “slow-goer” it will explode sometime during the coming 9 months but cannot be touched any more after the 5th month (due to corrosion of the fuse) without much damage to the building and its inhabitants.
I respond: This is a false comparison because a pregnancy which follows its normal biological progression does not fysically harm the mother’s body. Whatever other “psychological” harms the mother might claim are purely subjective and not necessarily in accord with the facts of external reality; they do not justify the termination of a pregnancy any more than one man’s claim that another man’s manner of speech or type of clothing “psychologically damage” observers justify the coercive ban of such types of speech or clothing, or the termination of the man exhibiting them.
Moreover, your virus analogy is similarly inapplicable because a fetus is not an invading organism that violates the structural and functional integrity of the woman’s body. Rather, the woman’s body has built-in functions that facilitate and encourage the development of the fetus at the benefit of both parties and the detriment of none. The woman’s body possesses gametic cells without which the fetus could not have formed in the first place (thus any comparison to an invasion from without is ruled out), and a pregnancy that does not exhibit extraordinary circumstances cannot damage the woman’s health in any way.
You wrote: Unwanted children are never welcome, precisely because they are unwanted and, thus, are generally subject to much mistreatment which later on…
I respond: First of all, I must point out that “Unwanted children are never welcome, precisely because they are unwanted…” is a tautology that does not give any insight as to the facts of reality regarding the issue. (It only says that a hypothetical subjective aversion of parents toward children could exist; it includes no moral imperative within it.) Having reckless intercourse (unprotected, unmarried, or otherwise lacking foresight concerning the possible consequences) and wishing to neutralize the natural results of such actions is a blanket evasion of the facts of reality, including the fact that individuals who have intercourse in such a manner are likely to become pregnant. Outside of rape (where the rapist is the guilty party), the blame for unwanted pregnancy can be attributed solely to those who had engaged in the acts leading up to it. Whatever negative consequences (material or emotional) they suffer as a result of this act are mere demonstrations that causation exists and follows particular rules, and are quite justifiable. What is not justifiable is to attempt to remedy the situation by harming a third party, such as the fetus.
Moreover, it is not the province of anyone but the individual who lives to decide that one’s life is not “worth living.” The child, if he is born, might come to think that the suffering, mistreatment, and abuse will have been worth it if, once he had grown up and been allowed to lead an autonomous existence, he is allowed to make up for it by his own productive actions. To deny an individual the capacity to make such a choice is indeed presumption and, I dare say, coercive presumption.
As I have also mentioned in my article, there is no obligation for parents who do not wish to raise the children they conceived to keep them, provided that the children are adopted out to willing caretakers. There are numerous families that would welcome foster children for various reasons, and merely being born an unwanted child is no guarantee that one will be mistreated.
You wrote: …the forces of justice must come to deal with them and the parents at the expense of the rest of the population? Here we are now involved very deeply with the propriety rights of others!
I respond: The solution to this crisis is simple: abolish taxation and render the government fundable by voluntary contributions. Then, all actions of government with regard to this issue will be explicitly supported by willing donors (who would not have contributed to the government had they not supported its course of action) and thus involve no one’s coercive expropriation.
This is an issue that can be addressed in a manner absolutely independent of the outcome of this debate. The fact is: it is possible to enforce anti-abortion laws in a manner that concerns only the enforcer and the pertinent parties. Whether or not this can be done by the government of the status quo does not alter this possibility, and has absolutely no bearing on the issue of whether or not abortion is immoral.
You wrote: Since altruism is the obligation to live for somebody else and not for oneself, the anti-abortionists side with the altruists to impose their purposes by force (for there exists no other way to deter a woman from her intention to abort).
I respond: There is also no other way except force to prevent a criminal from killing a man whom he has labeled as his victim. Retaliatory force is justified in any context against those who initiate force, and, if the fetus is indeed a human being, the government’s force against the woman who intends to abort is retaliatory. Thus, there is nothing dictatorial or contrary to Objectivism in its use.
I would also encourage you to address my statements regarding futuristic certainty and why you think them to be flawed, as well as the passage in my original article regarding children and contractual relationships, and how abortion can be viewed a unilateral violation of a de facto implicit contract. Best wishes on your further thinking, writing, and activism; I eagerly look forward to reading more of your treatise.
G. Stolyarov II is an actuary, science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, former weekly columnist for GrasstopsUSA.com, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov’s blog, The Progress of Liberty, offers a combination of commentary, multimedia presentations, educational materials, and suggestions for effective activism in favor of individual freedom. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. He holds the highest Clout Level (10) possible on Associated Content. Mr. Stolyarov has also written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a non-fiction treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and a play, Implied Consent. You can watch his YouTube Videos. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at email@example.com.
Statement of Policy.
Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.