POP culture

Premises Of Post-Objectivism


A response to Tibor Machan

Copyright Thomas Gramstad

Full Context Vol. 11, No. 7 (October 1999)

Tibor Machan in his Another Look at Abortion in Full Context Vol. 11, No. 6 (July/August 1999) writes that "The main issue involved in the abortion debate is the time at which a human being come into existence." Not so. The main issue is the sovereignty of self, the most intimate and fundamental of all individual rights: the right to control one's own body. Noone has the right to access, use or dispose one's body against one's will. Therefore it makes no difference what a fetus is - body part, potential human, individual person, god or goddess - none of these have any right to invade a human's body against its owner's will, because there is no such right. The nature of the fetus is irrelevant to the woman's right to abortion. She has the right to evict it at any time during pregnancy, for the same reason and in the same way that she has the right to end an intercourse at any point of its execution.

The morality of abortion may indeed be affected by conclusions about the nature and moral status of the fetus. But Machan was adressing the issue of abortion rights, not abortion morals.

Also, Machan refers repeatedly to the need for "a stable approach" in the face of "cultural diversity". But a stable approach in such cases is to allow the full range and bloom of individual choices - and not enforcing one group's views on everyone, as any legally enforced time limit on abortion does. Those who are against abortion should abstain from having any. They do not have the right to force other people to give birth. They do not even have the right to force anyone to hear their case, even that requires the recipient's consent.

A fetus becomes a human when it is born, when it becomes an individual. It would be meaningless and self-contradictory to talk about a human or a person who is not an individual. Some would say that a newborn is not a human because it lacks a conceptual consciousness and/or a self-concept. But these things develop gradually and there is no specific point in time where they suddenly appear and establish themselves. Therefore prudence requires that individual rights are acknowledged at the earliest point in time they could possibly be of relevance or come into being, which is at birth or very shortly thereafter. Since a fetus is not an individual it cannot and does not have individual rights.

If the fetus were an individual, it would, as I noted, still not have the right to exploit anyone's body against their will, because noone has such a right. An individual's right to her- or himself cannot be superseded or suspended by any other concern. Indeed, when a fetus is allowed to do this on the pretext that it is an individual, the fetus becomes the moral equivalent of a rapist, and those who allow the fetus to acquire this status are accomplices to rape - a long, continuous rape of nine months.

Since the fetus is a body part, and not an individual, and has no will (nor anything else) of its own, it can of course not really be a rapist. But this illustrates the absurd premises and logic of the socalled "pro-life" position.

I will close with a recommendation of the Rand-and-abortion mailing list, a forum for discussing ethical, social, political and other aspects of abortion, from a basis of Ayn Rand's philosophy. See http://www.egroups.com/subscribe/rand-and-abortion for further information.

See also:
A guide to individualist abortion resources


The address of this document:

Author's address:

Index to the Post-Objectivism web site: