|Teresa Summerlee Isanheart said:|
I didn't claim that pregnancy never causes harm. I claimed that a zygote is an organism, while a cancer cell is not an organism and a toe is not an organism. The only other claim I made was that a zygote that was fertilized in a human woman is a member of the species homo sapiens, rather than a frog or any other critter to which it may bear a superficial resemblance.
As if pregnancy never causes harm?
I've said several times that I understand there are several arguments used by proponents of abortion rights, and I was simply refuting the most basic; a zygote, fetus, etc. is certainly not a piece of the mother's body, but is a separate, individual organism. I believe you must have gotten this point by now, yet you persist in putting additional arguments into my mouth or offering your own arguments against positions that I did not take.
Very well. Since you refuse to acknowledge the limits I placed on my own statements, I'll expand my end of the discussion to address a few of your positions.
Teresa Summerlee Isanheart said:
If you don't want a child, they most certainly do share the same status as a cancer cell or toenail. A fetus is not primary to a woman's life unless she (or a bunch of mystics) wishes to force that status upon her by equivocating it with a chubby, drooling, cooing 6 month old infant. Am I primary to your life? Do you want me? Since we've never met, I'm assuming that the answer to both questions will be an emphatic "no." I hope you don't need "a bunch of mystics" to tell you that you shouldn't kill me. I hope you don't need me to take an intelligence and independence test to determine whether it's ok for you to kill me. I hope that if I encountered a medical condition where I was rendered completely helpless and unconscious you wouldn't find that you have the right to kill me.
Of course, you also are under no obligation to support me or tolerate me drawing upon your resources against your will to sustain myself. That is, you are under no such obligation unless you have, through intention or negligence, caused me to be in a position of helplessness. I know, I know. I've read your past posts, and I understand that you don't equivocate sex with consent to get pregnant. We can happily agree on that much at least since I don't see sex as consent to pregnancy either. I do, however, feel responsible for all of my own actions and accept responsibility for their consequences. If I fire my rifle without an appropriate backstop, then I am responsible for any damage that rifle's bullet may cause downrange, even if I never intended or "consented" to cause that damage. The fact that in a one in a million chance my bullet hits a man I couldn't even see a mile away is not my punishment for experiencing the pleasure of firing a rifle. It is simply a result that I knew, or should have known, was possible when I fired the rifle without a foolproof backstop. If my action of firing my rifle puts the man in a position where he can no longer support himself, then I am responsible for supporting him. That isn't a punishment either. It is simply just compensation. As a being with free will I could refuse to support him, but ethically I should support him since his condition is a result of my actions. If I refuse to support him, it would be a proper function of government to compel me to do so through civil courts. He is of no value to me, and the fact that he will have a claim on my productiveness even makes him a liability to me. I still shouldn't just kill him. His claim on me is a result of my actions, not his own. I didn't invite him to get in front of my bullet, but neither did he invite me to fire my rifle in his direction. The balance of responsibility clearly points to me. He hasn't violated my rights in any way. I have no justification to kill him. If I did kill him, my plea that his financial claim on me justified a self-defense killing would (I hope) carry no weight in a criminal court. I could even claim that, to me, he is the equivalent of a cancer cell which I do not value, but that argument would sound ridiculous.
Of course, the analogy (the use of the word equivocation would be inappropriate here) follows that a couple engaged in sex knows, or should know, that unless they have a foolproof method of birth control, a pregnancy may occur. If that pregnancy does occur, it isn't a "punishment" for the pleasure of sex any more than gravity is a punishment for being near a massive solar body. It's just part of the nature of reality. The pregnancy is simply a possible result of sex, whether we want it to be or not. We can wish that it weren't so, but as Objectivists we should understand the dangers of pretending reality doesn't exist. If two people engage in sex they must either accept the reality that it may result in a pregnancy, or they must ignore reality and attempt to live a fantasy.
If two people engage in sex and a pregnancy does occur, then they are faced with the reality of an organism of the species homo sapiens living in the woman's body and sapping her resources. That organism is, as you say, completely helpless, dependant, unintelligent, and unconscious. At this stage in its development, it lacks even the faculty of consciousness. It is, however, alive according to Ayn Rand's definition of life, a definition which I have adopted as my own.
We have a living instance of the species homo sapiens living inside a woman. We are left with two broad categories of ethical arguments concerning abortion:
#1: Is an initiation of force against any organism of the species homo sapiens improper, or are other requirements necessary to be considered "fully human" in the philosophical sense?
This question does not address the will or interests of the woman. It is only concerned with the definition of the point when a member of our species takes on the philosophical title of "human being" and has a right to live assuming that it hasn't violated any other person's rights. Ayn Rand has clearly stated her position that human rights are not achieved until birth. While I agree with nearly everything else I know of Ayn Rand's thoughts and opinions, I disagree with this conclusion. The conclusion seems to be based on the premise that an organism which is biologically a member of our species is not fully "human" in the philosophical sense until it achieves a particular level of self-consciousness and independence of action. I believe this argument to be flawed, and my reasoning is nothing you haven't heard before:
Some members of our species never achieve independence and a faculty for reason even after they are born. There are "born" members of our species who lack the ability to breath air, who lack the ability to move, who lack the ability to perceive anything outside of whatever confinement they are in, and who lack the ability to even think or reason. There are various reasons for these limitations, ranging from birth defects, to injuries to illness. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe it is the Objectivist position that no person has the right to arbitrarily kill these people. The man with spinal cord damage after a car crash lying in a hospital in a coma can not think, perceive or move. He is not independent. In fact, he is totally dependent on other people. I understand that no person is automatically required to continue his support, but that is not the question at this moment. The question is whether we can justly plunge a knife into his heart and kill him like we would kill any non-human animal. I say that we should not, and that any such action would be murder. What of a one-day-old infant who is unable to breath naturally or move and is so brain damaged that consciousness will never occur? It is very likely to die of natural causes within the week anyway. May I plunge a knife into that organism without cause, or does it possess the right to live? I say that it has a right to live, and if I'm not mistaken this is also the traditional position held by Objectivists.
The only claim to humanity possessed by that defective one-day-old or that man from the car crash possess is the fact that they are a member of our species. They are of no "value" as human beings. The description I gave of the man leaves open the possibility of recovery, but that is only a potential, not an actual value. The injured man is not the same as the defective infant, and neither is the same as a zygote, but all three share the common trait of only being "human" insomuch as they are individual members of the species homo sapiens.
I seem to recall a passage from Ayn Rand where she specifies that a man in a vegetative state has a right to live because even though he can't exercise it currently, it is still his nature to live as a rational being. I intended to offer that passage in support of my ideas, but I could not find it. The same argument would apply to a zygote: Although it is not yet capable of living as an independent, rational being, as a member of our species its nature is to do so.
#2: Even if a fetus were an individual member of our species, and even if it did qualify for a right to live, the mother is justified in killing it because it is residing in her body and living by consuming her resources.
None of us has an obligation to support a helpless, totally dependent human being. Neither do we have the right to intentionally kill a human being. In effect, what we have the right to do is ignore the person, abandon him, and let him die. Our hypothetical mom can't do that though, can she? I'm not sentencing her to anything. I'm not using my will to prevent her from abandoning the little zygote. The fundamental nature of reality is that she simply can't ignore the zygote and let it die of natural causes. If the fetus is viable and the pregnancy is "successful," then mom's body will feed and protect the fetus automatically. If her partner were incapacitated, she could walk away from him. If he were uninvited and incapacitated in her house, she could move him to the sidewalk to die, but she wouldn't be justified in plunging a knife into his heart. The nature of reality dictates that she simply does not have the choice of "walking away" from the fetus. Reality limits her to two choices: kill the fetus intentionally or allow it to keep consuming her resources.
This leads us to the final defense of abortion, the "self defense" killing of the fetus. Mom must kill the little zygote to keep it from stealing her energy and resources, giving her stretch marks, and ruining her reputation among her prudish neighbors. This ignores the fact that Mom and Dad put the fetus in that position to start with. No, they may not have intended to do so. Mom may not have consented to get pregnant, but Mom and Dad undeniably engaged in an action which they knew could result in a helpless human coming to life inside of Mom's womb. If I accidentally shoot a man, making him helpless and dependent, then I am responsible for supporting him. If my wife and I create a situation where a human being is helpless and totally dependent, then we are responsible for supporting it. In effect, the fetus does have a valid claim on the parents who caused it to be in a helpless situation. I should support the human that I placed in a helpless and dependent situation, but I do have the ability to walk away. My wife on the other hand, lacks even that ability. I could abandon my wife and little zygote, but my wife's only options are to kill the zygote or allow her body to support it for a few months. Once it is born she will have some new options, but reality doesn't give her any others until then. Since she and I are both wholly responsible (not half each) for putting the zygote there, neither of us has any right to kill it simply for being where we caused it to be.
William Dwyer said:
For example, suppose that as you are driving, a child suddenly darts out into the path of your car and gets hit by you and killed. Did you choose to kill the child, because you chose to drive your car? You could have avoided hitting her, if you had abstained from driving entirely, but that doesn't mean that by choosing to drive, you are morally responsible for the child's death.Clearly the person driving a car in a normal, responsible manner will not cause an accident. If a child runs in front of a responsibly driven car and gets hit, then the child caused the accident. To be even more precise, let's assume that the person who ran into the road was a perfectly functioning adult not under any form of duress. When the adult ran into the road, he didn't consent to getting hit by a car, but he did voluntarily engage in an action which he knew or should have known may result in such an outcome. He is not victimized by the car that hits him nor by the driver of that car. In fact, he is responsible for any damage he causes to the car that hit him. The couple who engages in sex without foolproof birth control are in the position of the man running into the road - both are responsible for results they caused but did not intend or "consent" to.
In conclusion I would like to point out that I did not point to any kind of religious justification for any part of these arguments. I would also like to point out that I have no overpowering desire to exert my will over the rest of humanity. I consider myself an Objectivist. I agree with the fundamentals of Objectivist ethics - especially the principle that the only thing a man must never do is initiate force against another. I think it is safe for me to assume that any reader of this post who considers himself an Objectivist would be of the opinion that the murder of an adult should rightfully be punished under an objective set of laws. I think it is also safe to assume that such an Objectivist would not base his opinion on religious proscriptions against murder, nor would it be based on his desire to rule over other mens' wills. I can assure you that my objections to abortion come from the same motive as your objections to the murder of an adult.