The most critical part of my previous post on abortion fails to distinguish two terms: human and being. The result is a confused theory, a wrong theory, that I hereby reject. The confusing statements are these: “To be a live human being, one must be capable of be-ing, even if it requires assistance that pregnancy or medical substitutes provide after 24 weeks. Fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb are not yet human beings, according to this theory.” A fetus has being (life) even if it’s not capable of living outside the womb by present technology. That fact undermines my theory. A critique appears here.
In this blog, I assume that life (being) begins at conception, as soon as the sperm fertilizes the egg. I think everyone has to admit that fact. The major question is going to be whether that life is human or some other category. The revised and improved theory suggests a new category: nascent-human. This result is still going to give breathing room to both sides of the abortion question.
To analyze the question, libertarian terminology and thought allow for three different but equivalent ways to talk about abortion. We can speak in terms of ownership. The mother owns her womb; that is, it belongs to her. Does the life inside the womb own itself; does that life-form (fetus) belong to itself? A second way is to say that a mother has the right to her womb, it being her property. Does the life on her property have a right to live there until born? The third way is to use Non-Aggression Principle language. Is the fetus (or life-form) in the womb aggressing against the womb’s owner? Does the womb’s owner aggress against the fetus by expelling it by abortion?
Does the life inside the womb belong to itself or to the mother? Alternatively, we ask the same question in the other ways. Does the life inside the womb have a right to life? Is the life inside the womb non-invasive, that is, consistent with non-aggression?
Is the life (being) inside the womb human life (being)? To some it will seem obvious that it must be a human being. We may argue that it’s human because it can be nothing else. It’s not some other species. This is a strong argument.
However, we can define a category called nascent-human (embryonic human, budding human) as a being that will become 100% human (fully-developed) under a normal pregnancy but that currently lacks certain properties, such as brain activity (appears 6 weeks in utero) or a heartbeat (8 weeks in utero) or controlled movement (13-25 weeks) or hearing voices outside (16 weeks) or consciousness (20 weeks). Characteristics of the species take time to appear, and that passage of time enables the idea of a nascent-human. Certain properties of human beings are not mentioned here, such as race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, brain size, body size, and sex because none of these define our species or qualify our species as to stage of development and growth into a fully-formed baby. However, the nascent-human category opens the door to hard cases where babies would be deformed or otherwise severely abnormal and mothers want abortions.
Which shall it be? Is the being in the womb human or nascent-human? The answer to this question of human vs. nascent-human is the ownership question. It is the rights question. It is the NAP question. They are all equivalent. A response to one gives the response to the other formulations. So, which is it? Is the fetus human or nascent-human? Is nascent-human a meaningful category, or is it specious?
Libertarian theory has no generally-accepted answer.
If the fetus is human and not nascent-human, then its right to life is unimpaired by being in the womb. Under consensual methods of conception, the mother has no right to abort. Her ownership of her womb doesn’t give her a right to abort. The fetus is innocent. It is not a trespasser. Under non-consensual origins like rape, then the mother’s right to abort takes precedence.
Under the theory that the fetus is nascent-human, the fetus doesn’t have a right to life until some time passes that brings with it particular signs of development. People disagree on what these signs should be. Under this theory, an abortion is not murder.
Using libertarian principles, I know of no way to decide the rights-bearing status of a fetus as compared with the status of the woman bearing that fetus.
The demand for abortions is substantial now and it was substantial prior to Roe v. Wade. We cannot ignore this, and we can’t ignore that the women have reasons. The demand for abortion from women takes into account many factors not contemplated in an analysis of rights, as women pursue what’s best for them according to their own value-scales. We cannot ignore that they may be acting according to an implicit idea of the nascent-human not having full rights; and we have no way of proving that the alternative theory of full rights from conception is what holds. Government bans on abortion drive abortions underground and have a number of negative side effects. Think Prohibition and the War on Drugs. One e-mail in all seriousness suggested enforcing a ban on abortions by building hundreds of prisons for women. While that’s extreme, it shows what becomes possible if government battles a large demand for abortions with a blanket ban.3:25 pm on December 24, 2018 Email Michael S. Rozeff