The Pro-Fetal Ownership Argument
On occasion, I re-post articles which I previously have published. I call these “My Case Against God classics.” The following is just such a piece. This essay, titled “The Pro-Fetal Ownership Argument,” originally ran when this blog just was taking off. Its provocative nature attracted droves of new readers. I hope my current readership enjoys revisiting it. Some minor edits have been made.
Lately, there has been much talk in the blogosphere regarding abortion. Specifically, people have been explicating their reasons for being pro-abortion or anti-abortion. I happen to be Pro-Fetal Ownership. That is, I believe the female owns the fetus, until the precise moment of live birth. Believing such, I oppose any and all abortion restrictions: “term” limits, parental consent, parental notification, mandatory counseling, age limits, etc. In my view, abortion restrictions infringe on an individual’s bodily sovereignty, and thus are entirely unacceptable. With this post, I briefly will explore my reasoning, and break down my argument, in order to show its soundness.
Here is my argument, briefly stated:
Premise One: Autonomous individuals own their bodies, and everything that is growing within their bodies.
Premise Two: Fetuses grow within the bodies of autonomous females.
Conclusion One: Autonomous females own their fetuses.
Premise Three: Autonomous individuals may destroy that which they own.
Premise Four: Autonomous females own their fetuses.
Conclusion Two: Autonomous females may destroy their fetuses.
As far as I can tell, the only part of that argument that possibly could be contested would be the first premise. However, I am certain of its correctness. Clearly, individuals own their hearts, lungs and kidneys, as well as any tumors growing within their bodies. Indeed, I cannot think of a single thing that would be growing within an individual’s body that said individual would not own. Before moving on, I want to gut a Red Herring that is easy to anticipate. People do not own that which is in their bodies, only that which is growing in their bodies. So, no, one does not own a dentist’s fingers while he is performing his work.
Going back to tumors, I think they represent the perfect analogy to fetuses. First, both tumors and fetuses are living, growing masses of cells. A little human will grow up to be a big human; a little tumor will grow up to be a big tumor. Second, many tumors can exist without posing real harm to the individual; tumors can be either benign or malignant. Therefore, one may not say tumors and fetuses are different because tumors will kill you but fetuses will not. That is just misrepresenting reality, in a transparent and blatant way [Not to mention the fact that many females still die in childbirth, particularly outside the Western world.]
The main objection voiced to my tumor/fetus analogy is that fetuses are human, while tumors are not. While I understand this objection, I cannot take it seriously. Evolution teaches us that there is a singular Tree of Life. Every living thing is on that Tree, representing a branch or a branch from a branch [from a branch]. Given the fact that all living things are on the same Tree of Life, I find it impossible to say that one living thing has more intrinsic value than another living thing. Sure, subjectively, humans have more value than frogs to me because I happen to be human. But that is a subjective, rather than objective, judgment, based upon my inherent speciocentricity. I do not argue that all species of life are equal—that would be antithetical to Natural Selection itself. I argue only that no species of life is more intrinsically valuable than any other. Such would be impossible, since we are all on the same Tree. So, rather than building my argument upon subjective speciocentricity, I choose to build my argument upon the objective equality (of intrinsic value) of all species of life. And so, my fetus/tumor analogy is appropriate.
If one owns one’s hypothetical tumor, one also owns one’s hypothetical fetus.
Now, I will anticipate a few counterarguments and concisely respond.
Some will ask, “Why does the female’s ownership of the fetus end upon live birth? Why doesn’t it continue?” Perhaps the ownership continues and perhaps it does not. In my view, the ownership ends upon live birth. However, I suppose, an argument could be formulated in which the female continues to own her baby. But, that is irrelevant to my argument. My argument deals only with the nine months in which the fetus is growing within the female’s body. Indeed, the second premise specifically references the fetus growing within the female. Therefore, if the fetus is no longer in the female, then my argument is inapplicable. Notice, I never argued that individuals own that which ever has grown within their bodies, only that which currently is growing.
A similar Red Herring is that this argument endorses slavery, as it endorses ownership of humans. Look at my argument—an argument dealing specifically with an entity growing within the body of an individual—and try to find its application to slavery. The quick answer: There is no such application.
Some also will object to the premise that individuals may destroy that which they own. Often, anti-abortion folks deliberately will misinterpret that statement, alleging I said individuals may do anything they want with that which they own. For example, using that twisted logic, one would be allowed to kill a neighbor with one’s hammer, by virtue of the fact that the individual owns the hammer. However, that clearly is not what I said. I asserted that individuals may destroy their property, not do whatever they want with it. Thus, rather than killing a neighbor with one’s hammer, I am granting permission for the individual to kill the hammer itself.
I see this as the strongest, yet the simplest, defense of the pro-abortion view. All the things that blur the issue—humanity, personhood, etc.—are rendered irrelevant. This is purely a property-rights argument, which does not attempt to flail about in the morality morass.