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“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Morality Of Abortions

In the 2010 state ballot in Colorado, the 62nd amendment will appear which states that the term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being”. It would mean the “sanction” of full legal rights to embryos. It wishes to eliminate abortion and all sorts of contraceptives.

Abortions, it is often argued, would break up the natural order and balance in the ‘society’. No one cares to ask the question- ‘Natural order’ and ‘balance’-For whom? The inanimate matter doesn’t have any rights; nor does a ‘fictitious body. What would it mean to state that it is not the individuals as such that matter, but it is the interacting individuals -‘Society’-that matter? If the individuals doesn’t matter one way or another, & the interacting individuals do matter, it can only imply that it is the interactions that matter. Or else, it could mean that the benefit derived by some of the interacting individuals takes precedence over the rights of others.

Let’s have a look at the implication of those arguments from morality. Let things be as it is. Let the parents suffer. Let the child suffer all her life. Let the ‘society’ suffer as a result.-And let the interactions be preserved-Based on a false theory, a contradiction which has no justification whatsoever. As Ayn Rand observed: “The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.”

Morality is not a spoon that hangs on your roof. It’s a set of rules to live consciously and self-responsibly. We shouldn’t forget that the legalization of abortion in the many parts of the United States brought down crimes unbelievably. Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner informs us: “What else might we look for in the data to establish an abortion-crime link? One factor to look for would be a correlation between each state’s abortion rate and its crime rate. Sure enough, the states with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s experienced the greatest crime drops in the 1990s, while states with low abortion rates experienced smaller crime drops. Since 1985, states with high abortion rates have experienced a roughly 30 percent drop in crime relative to low-abortion states.” Even if common good is the standard of morality, the arguments in support of abortion still hold.


  1. I discussed this issue on another person’s blog, and the comment I made there is relevant here as well. It’s a long comment, so hope you’ll bear with it and seek to understand it.

    1) To say that an entity has no rights is not to say that the entity should be slaughtered, killed, or disposed off recklessly or wantonly.

    2) Rights are moral principles that pertain *only* to action–specifically, to freedom of action. Life is a process of self-generated action; thus, right to life is the right to *act* towards self-preservation and self-sustenance.

    3) Rights are moral principles that are applicable to only human beings since only humans are moral beings; further, “individual right” is a redundancy (albeit a necessary redundancy) because only individuals can have rights; half-an-individual, parts of individuals, or groups of individuals can have no rights.

    3) One man’s rights imposes only a negative obligation on others to not violate his rights. No one’s rights can ever conflict with each other. Thus, one entity’s right to life cannot conflict with another entity’s right to life.

    4) Rights cannot exist where force exists. Thus, criminals have limited to no rights; for example, I can kill a criminal in self-defense if he threatens my life.

    5) Since rights pertain to actions, and some actions are beyond the abilities of young infants and children, the voluntary parent (who chose to have children) or voluntary legal guardians are entrusted with the responsibility of administering the rightful actions of their children.

    Given all of the above, a fetus has no rights because it is not an individual but a part of its host; it lives not as an individual entity but as a part of an entity; parts of entities have no rights (e.g., hands, livers, kidneys, etc.)

    If a fetus were granted the right to life, it would conflict with the existing and actual rights of an actual, individual, independent, moral, entity, i.e., mother. Remember that Rights among individuals do not conflict. In the face of a contradiction, one of the premises is wrong. Since it is false to deny that the mother has the right to life, the premise that the fetus has a right to life must be false.

    If a fetus had the right to life, then it would create an *active* obligation on the mother to sustain the life of the fetus inside her and administer legal obligations on behalf of the fetus *against* her own wishes, i.e., by force and not voluntarily. Rights cannot exist under force and do not create *active* or positive obligations or duties on people. This is another conflict arising due to faulty premises.

    Finally, to say that a fetus has no rights is not to permit wanton and reckless slaughter of fetuses–that would be immoral albeit not illegal. It should not be illegal to kill and eat animals or conduct animal fights as a sport, although it is immoral and pathologically depraved to find pleasure in wanton killing of animals or enjoying the bloody sport. All criminal acts must be legally punished; all immoral acts must be vociferously condemned and not tolerated. Aborting a fetus is not a criminal act (although, if done wantonly, recklessly, and repeatedly, it becomes grounds for moral condemnation).

  2. Wonderful reply, Jerry! Congratulations!! ... Many leading Objectivists, including Dr. Peikoff, have time and again written on this subject, of course, but still, it was really wonderful to see it all being brought together so well...

    About Shanu's post. I think he touched upon a really fine point of metaphysics when he said

    "If the individuals doesn’t matter one way or another, & the interacting individuals do matter, it can only imply that it is the interactions that matter."

    I am unable to name the (evil) philosopher with who this trend began. For instance, in physics, there is that Machian view, and even worse views to the effect that motions exist but objects don't!

    It's not that my memory fails me here; the fact is, I simply never have learnt enough history of philosophy to be able to name the source of that evil metaphysics.

    Yet, when you know that an abstract point is being well-isolated when you see one.

    One final point. I have often wondered if Peikoff's History of Philosophy lectures could be made available at least in the form of notes (by ARI's academic center) if not as a properly published book. It *will* be a great help to a lot of lay readers and students of philosophy.