THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 168, April 8, 2002
Freedom to Abort: Yes! (Rebuttal)
by William Westmiller
Exclusive to TLE
Proponents of womb slavery are in a quandary. Among themselves, they disagree on where to draw lines. Any line is fine, if it supports their pre-disposition to control the bodies of others. Some adopt the historic line at "quickening", a subjective point at best. More modern advocates pick the differentiation of the opposable thumb as uniquely human; or the state of nerve development that suggests the capacity to feel pain; or they join the medical consensus adopted by the Supreme Court at the point of viability. As Mr. Antle observes, these are all unsatisfactory guideposts in a continuous process from conception to birth.
There are three minor problems with Mr. Antle's preference for conception.
First, the "objective biological fact" is that the combination of a sperm and egg is not necessary to produce a human being. It may be the simplest, most pleasurable and even the best method of reproduction, but it isn't required and therefore fails as a distinct test for drawing lines. Every human cell has all the DNA required to produce another human being. It's simply a matter of environment. Whether Mr. Antle likes it or not, that dandruff flake he washed down the shower drain this morning is every bit as human as a fertilized ovum. In the proper environmental conditions, that single cell will begin to divide and could become his cloned son! By his own criteria, Mr. Antle is a mass murderer of his own "potential children" on a very grand scale.
Second, resting on purely biological grounds -- however faulty -- ignores the essential mental processes that distinguish humans from every other mammal. Science hasn't identified the peculiar features of mind that make humans sentient and other animals not. Without the capacity for reason, we're all monkeys. I've already made the case for birth as the critical event that brings the potential for abstract reasoning to reality.
Third, drawing the line at conception invites a host of horrific consequences. The cause of a woman's pregnancy is irrelevant if every fertilized egg is a person. The issues of rape, incest or genetic defect are of no relevance to the fact that the "unborn person", according to Mr. Antle, is still a person. Yet, he urges us to ignore these "fetal rights" when the conception is repugnant or the consequence malicious. You can't have it both ways, Jim.
Very few people realize that most birth control pills and IUDs are abortifacients. The don't prevent the fertilization of eggs, only the implantation of the "pre-born baby" into the lining of the uterus. Therefore, consistency would oblige Mr. Antle to favor a ban on most birth control methods, not just abortion.
Further, if zygotes are legitimate persons with full rights, who will defend those rights? The fetus can't speak for itself, so someone must assume guardianship of the fetus' claims against a negligent or abusive "potential mother". If the mother smokes, drinks, exercises strenuously or tries to govern the state of Massachusetts, who will defend the fetus against the possible "initiation of force"? Federal Fetal Police?
Common law consistently recommends capital punishment for the premeditated murder of another innocent person. If every fertilized egg is a person, how can the proponents refrain from executing a woman who gets an abortion, or causes the certain death of a fertilized egg by birth control? The ultimate incongruity of the "pro-life" position is that it must urge the death penalty for the woman who willingly commits the "murder" of any fertile cell.
The freedom to abort is the only alternative to womb slavery for every real female person.
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