Fetuses Don’t Have Rights; Pregnant Women Do; This Distinction is Crucial

Various opponents of abortion like to pretend that, if a woman has a right to seek an abortion, the law can do nothing to protect a fetus that a woman wishes to carry to term. But that pretense is nonsense.

As Diana Hsieh and I have argued, an embryo or a fetus is not a person, and a woman has a right to seek an abortion. However, that does not mean a fetus has no value: A fetus is enormously valuable to the pregnant woman and the father who want to have a child. Just as a woman has a right to abort a fetus, so she has a right to carry it to term, unmolested by others. Although the fetus does not have rights of its own, the pregnant woman has rights; thus, the government properly protects her body, its contents, and her choice to bring the fetus to term.

With that context in mind, consider the legal chaos that arose in a lawsuit against the St. Thomas Moore Hospital in Colorado.

As the Denver Post reports, in 2006 Lori Stodghill, who was seven months pregnant with twins. She went to the hospital’s emergency room, where she “suffered a blocked artery in her lung . . . went into cardiac arrest” and died. Her twins died, too. “Doctors couldn’t save Lori and decided against a cesarian section to try to save the twins. [Lori’s husband Jeremy] Stodghill sued because he believes they should have performed the C-section,” the Post reports. Although Stodghill lost the case, his attorney has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.

The hospital’s lawyers argued that the judge “should dismiss wrongful-death claims with regard to the unborn twins because Colorado law does not define a fetus as a person,” the Post continues. Stodghill, on the other hand, contended the fetuses were “persons,” and, later, so did the hospital. A follow-up article from the Post reports that the hospital “acknowledged [on February 4] it was morally wrong for their attorneys to defend a medical malpractice case in the death of unborn twins by arguing Colorado law doesn’t consider fetuses to be persons.”

The entire legal case is utterly confused. Given that fetuses are not individuated persons with rights, Stodghill and his attorneys had no proper legal grounds to sue under the wrongful-death statute, which is specifically restricted to “the death of a person.”

That said, although a fetus is not a person, the negligent death of a fetus that its mother and father want to bring to birth constitutes a profound harm to the parents. (The question of the doctors’ alleged negligence is outside the scope of this post, as is the question of whether existing statutes adequately address the issues of negligence and criminal harm.)

Properly, the fact that a fetus is not a person is no barrier to holding accountable those who, through criminal assault or negligence, cause or contribute to the death of a fetus. The pregnant woman has a right to decide whether to seek an abortion or seek to carry her fetus to term—and the government’s proper responsibility in this context is to protect her right to choose.

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  • Anonymous

    I appreciate this article. We need to discuss these distinctions. To legally declare a fetus a person, leads to a schizoid existence for a woman. To treat a fetus as simply a mass of cells is to renounce the reality of human potential; it is destructive to society. Clearly this case was decided based on public relations, not legality. My concern is that we will pass laws based on public relations, not on reason.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciate this article. We need to discuss these distinctions. To legally declare a fetus a person, leads to a schizoid existence for a woman. To treat a fetus as simply a mass of cells is to renounce the reality of human potential; it is destructive to society. Clearly this case was decided based on public relations, not legality. My concern is that we will pass laws based on public relations, not on reason.

  • gmw0583

    I appreciate this article. We need to discuss these distinctions. To legally declare a fetus a person, leads to a schizoid existence for a woman. To treat a fetus as simply a mass of cells is to renounce the reality of human potential; it is destructive to society. Clearly this case was decided based on public relations, not legality. My concern is that we will pass laws based on public relations, not on reason.

  • Anonymous

    So, the case was dismissed without the malpractice issue even being considered? Is wrongful-death the only tool plaintiff’s lawyer had? I’m puzzled by the case, but agree with your view that the mother’s (or fathers’s in this case) rights should be the standard–always.

    BTW, an interesting exercise is to read the abortion article in the online Catholic encyclopedia.

  • Anonymous

    So, the case was dismissed without the malpractice issue even being considered? Is wrongful-death the only tool plaintiff’s lawyer had? I’m puzzled by the case, but agree with your view that the mother’s (or fathers’s in this case) rights should be the standard–always.

    BTW, an interesting exercise is to read the abortion article in the online Catholic encyclopedia.

  • Mel_M

    So, the case was dismissed without the malpractice issue even being considered? Is wrongful-death the only tool plaintiff’s lawyer had? I’m puzzled by the case, but agree with your view that the mother’s (or fathers’s in this case) rights should be the standard–always.

    BTW, an interesting exercise is to read the abortion article in the online Catholic encyclopedia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

    Hard lines should not be drawn in this debate. To take the authors assertion literally, a women should have the right to abort her “fetus” up to an including the day before birth. Most of us would have a hard time supporting such an extreme position. Indeed, the horror of extreme late term abortions is too difficult to imagine, at least for me and most thinking adults.

    At some point, the fetus is a baby with a right to life separate and distinct from its mother. That is the law in most states. Some argue that happens at conception, others at the moment of birth (as, apparently the authors do) and still others have argued that happens at one or two years of age (the fringe keeps getting extended).

    The point the authors are making are orthogonal to the point I make above, they are just trying to define a different kind of value, one accruing to the Mother or Father for any fetus regardless of age which I support. Nonetheless, I cannot let stand an argument that defines a 8.9 month term baby a fetus.

    • AllMenAreIslands

      Indeed there is a point at which a fetus has rights – the moment when it is born. Not before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

    Hard lines should not be drawn in this debate. To take the authors assertion literally, a women should have the right to abort her “fetus” up to an including the day before birth. Most of us would have a hard time supporting such an extreme position. Indeed, the horror of extreme late term abortions is too difficult to imagine, at least for me and most thinking adults.

    At some point, the fetus is a baby with a right to life separate and distinct from its mother. That is the law in most states. Some argue that happens at conception, others at the moment of birth (as, apparently the authors do) and still others have argued that happens at one or two years of age (the fringe keeps getting extended).

    The point the authors are making are orthogonal to the point I make above, they are just trying to define a different kind of value, one accruing to the Mother or Father for any fetus regardless of age which I support. Nonetheless, I cannot let stand an argument that defines a 8.9 month term baby a fetus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

    Hard lines should not be drawn in this debate. To take the authors assertion literally, a women should have the right to abort her “fetus” up to an including the day before birth. Most of us would have a hard time supporting such an extreme position. Indeed, the horror of extreme late term abortions is too difficult to imagine, at least for me and most thinking adults.

    At some point, the fetus is a baby with a right to life separate and distinct from its mother. That is the law in most states. Some argue that happens at conception, others at the moment of birth (as, apparently the authors do) and still others have argued that happens at one or two years of age (the fringe keeps getting extended).

    The point the authors are making are orthogonal to the point I make above, they are just trying to define a different kind of value, one accruing to the Mother or Father for any fetus regardless of age which I support. Nonetheless, I cannot let stand an argument that defines a 8.9 month term baby a fetus.

    • AllMenAreIslands

      Indeed there is a point at which a fetus has rights – the moment when it is born. Not before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dale.netherton Dale Netherton

    An unborn baby is a fetus and possess no independence until birth. It has no way to exercise any independence until it can actualize its senses through birth. Without the ability to be independent from the womb it cannot posses rights. Defining human life includes the ability to actualize one’s senses. “Life being a process of self generated and self sustaining action” excludes that which cannot act as a self. Those who are disabled and must be cared for have reached that level of awareness required .

    • http://www.facebook.com/Firebolt205 Bill Hunt

      A number of questionable premises here… 1) many of a fetus’ senses are well developed and “actualized” well before birth. They interact with their environment including the external environment. (Sounds, lights, etc.). 2) Based on what you wrote you imply if not outright state that a baby has no rights until it has reached the age to be self-aware. The brains ability to process information is not significantly different 2 days after birth than it was two days before birth, so at what point do rights accrue and who makes that decision for each individual? 3) most fetuses have the “ability” to exist outside the womb after about twenty weeks of pregnancy, but by the arguments laid out here a “premie” born at twenty-two weeks gestation is an individual with rights, but a healthy fetus at 32 weeks gestation but yet to be delivered does not?

      We know far more about fetal development than we did when Ayn Rand was alive. Our knowledge of reality has changed dramatically, we must check our premises. I for one believe that the premise that a fetus is not a person, regardless of term, is demonstrably not valid based on the information science has made available to us.

      • Anonymous

        Bill, the paper by Diana Hsieh and me, cited in the blog post, addresses all of the issues you bring up, and many more besides. Your comments do not respond to our arguments. Thanks, -Ari

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

          Read the paper Ari. You make a number of important points and I think most Americans support the right of termination in the cases cited where the life of the mother is at stake (physicians make life and death decisions every day, specially on the battlefield where triage saves lives at the expense of others). Also, when a fetus is not viable and there is nothing but suffering to be gained by continuing the pregnancy, then an equally compelling argument can be made for mercy.The law should accommodate this.

          At the end you move to a place I and the vast majority of Americans cannot follow. You argue that a women, having gone into labor (or just before) can decide to terminate her pregnancy for any reason. That is an abhorrent position. I can’t express my revulsion enough.

          Another point I’d like to make and this is orthogonal to the main subject. While I view myself as a libertarian leaning constitutionally conservative person which puts me reasonably close to the Rand sphere of political influence, I object to the vapid atheism of folks who claim the “objective reasoning” label. I’m not a man of faith myself but I respect those who are, including those in my family. (In truth, part of me envy’s them.) Rand’s philosophy and her adherents, because of this dogmatic predilection, alienates a large segment of the population and partially cripples the libertarian movement. There is room for respect and tolerance of religious persons—you’d rather form a majority with the socialists?

          • Anonymous

            Michael, You state that you are “revulsed,” but what you do not do is make any argument in favor of your position. If you proceed to attempt to do so, I suggest you keep several points of context in mind. First, the large majority of abortions take place in the first trimester. Second, I am not arguing that it is moral for a woman to wantonly put off having an abortion until late in the pregnancy; I am arguing it should be legal. Third, if you argue it should be illegal, then you must support police intervention and criminal penalties for abortion—and you are welcome to spell out what you think those should be. Fourth, nothing about a woman’s right to seek an abortion compels a doctor to provide one. And, fifth, legal restrictions on abortion mean that some bureaucrat, not the pregnant woman, must decide if her reason for getting an abortion is adequate, according to the standards of the bureaucracy. (Regarding your ad hominem attacks on atheists, I will ignore those.) Thanks, -Ari

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

            Ari,

            Fair enough. Clearly the state has an interest in protecting life. We outlaw murder of any “born” person. I will assume we do not disagree on that.

            Therefore, a line does have to be drawn where the interest of the state supersedes the interest of a Mother. You argue that is the moment a baby is separated from a Mother’s womb. I argue that happens on viability. Yes that is arbitrary at some level but so is your line. Your line is drawn at sever-ability, mine at survivability. Granted that is hard to define given the shifting sands of science but laws need objective rules. The supreme court drew those lines roughly at six months but left the states latitude in defining the exact boundary. Most people would be comfortable with that, few people with your line of demarcation. The penalty is murder and accessory to murder except as abortions are allowed by law given the exceptions we discussed earlier for maternal survivability and indefensible pain and suffering.

            The state has an interest, the question is only when it begins.

            ps. My commentary on Objectivist atheism was not meant as an ad hominem attack. It was a heartfelt statement that the pervasive atheism holds the movement back. It marginalizes the movement…

          • Anonymous

            I do appreciate your comments on this difficult topic. They key problem is that a fetus is in such a unique situation. However, I continue to uphold the standard of individual rights, not any “state interest” theory. Given the nature of the fetus (as contained inside the body of the woman), and given the nature of rights, a woman has rights, but the fetus does not. In addition to the relevant sections in the paper mentioned above, you might find Craig Biddle’s article, “Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights,” to shed more light on this position. Thanks, -Ari

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

            Ari,

            It is useful to probe the edges of this debate as we have done here because that is where the hardest decisions reside. If I understand you correctly—having stated you do not believe in the “theory” of a state interest to protect life against murderous intent—you believe that it is rather a violation of an individual’s right to life that has been violated, or something to that effect…

            If a person rights are impacted by murder, who determines guilt or innocence, compels testimony, seizes and protects evidence, hunts down, arrests, and incarcerates an accused killer etcetera ad nauseam? The murdered victims family who lost a valued member or the state?

            In a constitutional republic the rule of law establishes rules of behavior by grant of authority from the people whom the state serves. The constitution, at least in theory, constrains that law by its proscribed principals. That’s not a theory, that is a system, good or bad. When I say “state interest,” it is under that context, a constrained set of laws given breath by the consent of the governed…

            I used to think that, “Ayn Rand’ian Objectivists,” were useful allies but, perhaps, just a bit egg-headed and ungrounded in pragmatism. I find myself moving away from that position. I am now moving to the idea that the objectivist movement is dangerously naive and blindly doctrinal—kinda like the churches you seem to loathe. Certainly much to narrowly defined and poorly proselytized for real political impact. A pity…

          • Anonymous

            I don’t see any point to responding to your comments, as you are bizarrely attributing beliefs to me that I do not hold. To reject Ayn Rand’s ideas, you would have to first understand what they are, and I’m not persuaded that’s the case. Thanks, -Ari

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

            Ari,

            I agree, there probably is no point in further discussion although I would like to understand what you meant to say when you said [Quote: I continue to uphold the standard of individual rights, not any “state interest” theory ] If I misunderstood the intent of these words then elaborate as I did when I used the word “state”. (Admittedly a loaded word on an objectivist website.)

            Btw, it is true that I do not have an in-depth understanding of Ayn Rand’s ideas. While my interest has been piqued at times because I share some of her principals I am not motivated by what I have seen here in this debate and in other venues to probe deeper. I can glean what I need by interacting with her acolytes and probing the edges of their “reasoned opinions.” If I had liked what I saw, then, sure, I’d be all in. Unfortunately…

          • Anonymous

            If you wish to understand Rand’s ideas, then read Rand’s ideas. Don’t try to judge her philosophy as a whole by a highly specialized application of philosophy in a brief blog post and exchange. That’s just not a realistic expectation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

      Dale,

      That’s one opinion, nothing more. You state this as if fact; “Without the ability to be independent from the womb it cannot posses rights.” But this definition is only consistent within your defined rule set. Why is independence the sole criteria for legal personhood? Defined morally or legally, it is just one criteria of many you could define. A person who is confined by Lou Gehrig’s disease is as helpless as any baby, should we euthanize Stephan Hawking (motor neuron disease) because his illness demands constant care?

      Do you have the courage of your convictions. In your universe would allow a women to abort her baby when she goes into labor—ready to deliver?

  • Dale Netherton

    An unborn baby is a fetus and possess no independence until birth. It has no way to exercise any independence until it can actualize its senses through birth. Without the ability to be independent from the womb it cannot posses rights. Defining human life includes the ability to actualize one’s senses. “Life being a process of self generated and self sustaining action” excludes that which cannot act as a self. Those who are disabled and must be cared for have reached that level of awareness required .

    • Bill Hunt

      A number of questionable premises here… 1) many of a fetus’ senses are well developed and “actualized” well before birth. They interact with their environment including the external environment. (Sounds, lights, etc.). 2) Based on what you wrote you imply if not outright state that a baby has no rights until it has reached the age to be self-aware. The brains ability to process information is not significantly different 2 days after birth than it was two days before birth, so at what point do rights accrue and who makes that decision for each individual? 3) most fetuses have the “ability” to exist outside the womb after about twenty weeks of pregnancy, but by the arguments laid out here a “premie” born at twenty-two weeks gestation is an individual with rights, but a healthy fetus at 32 weeks gestation but yet to be delivered does not?

      We know far more about fetal development than we did when Ayn Rand was alive. Our knowledge of reality has changed dramatically, we must check our premises. I for one believe that the premise that a fetus is not a person, regardless of term, is demonstrably not valid based on the information science has made available to us.

      • ariarmstrong

        Bill, the paper by Diana Hsieh and me, cited in the blog post, addresses all of the issues you bring up, and many more besides. Your comments do not respond to our arguments. Thanks, -Ari

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

          Read the paper Ari. You make a number of important points and I think most Americans support the right of termination in the cases cited where the life of the mother is at stake (physicians make life and death decisions every day, specially on the battlefield where triage saves lives at the expense of others). Also, when a fetus is not viable and there is nothing but suffering to be gained by continuing the pregnancy, then an equally compelling argument can be made for mercy.The law should accommodate this.

          At the end you move to a place I and the vast majority of Americans cannot follow. You argue that a women, having gone into labor (or just before) can decide to terminate her pregnancy for any reason. That is an abhorrent position. I can’t express my revulsion enough.

          Another point I’d like to make and this is orthogonal to the main subject. While I view myself as a libertarian leaning constitutionally conservative person which puts me reasonably close to the Rand sphere of political influence, I object to the vapid atheism of folks who claim the “objective reasoning” label. I’m not a man of faith myself but I respect those who are, including those in my family. (In truth, part of me envy’s them.) Rand’s philosophy and her adherents, because of this dogmatic predilection, alienates a large segment of the population and partially cripples the libertarian movement. There is room for respect and tolerance of religious persons—you’d rather form a majority with the socialists?

          • ariarmstrong

            Michael, You state that you are “revulsed,” but what you do not do is make any argument in favor of your position. If you proceed to attempt to do so, I suggest you keep several points of context in mind. First, the large majority of abortions take place in the first trimester. Second, I am not arguing that it is moral for a woman to wantonly put off having an abortion until late in the pregnancy; I am arguing it should be legal. Third, if you argue it should be illegal, then you must support police intervention and criminal penalties for abortion—and you are welcome to spell out what you think those should be. Fourth, nothing about a woman’s right to seek an abortion compels a doctor to provide one. And, fifth, legal restrictions on abortion mean that some bureaucrat, not the pregnant woman, must decide if her reason for getting an abortion is adequate, according to the standards of the bureaucracy. (Regarding your ad hominem attacks on atheists, I will ignore those.) Thanks, -Ari

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

            Ari,

            Fair enough. Clearly the state has an interest in protecting life. We outlaw murder of any “born” person. I will assume we do not disagree on that.

            Therefore, a line does have to be drawn where the interest of the state supersedes the interest of a Mother. You argue that is the moment a baby is separated from a Mother’s womb. I argue that happens on viability. Yes that is arbitrary at some level but so is your line. Your line is drawn at sever-ability, mine at survivability. Granted that is hard to define given the shifting sands of science but laws need objective rules. The supreme court drew those lines roughly at six months but left the states latitude in defining the exact boundary. Most people would be comfortable with that, few people with your line of demarcation. The penalty is murder and accessory to murder except as abortions are allowed by law given the exceptions we discussed earlier for maternal survivability and indefensible pain and suffering.

            The state has an interest, the question is only when it begins.

            ps. My commentary on Objectivist atheism was not meant as an ad hominem attack. It was a heartfelt statement that the pervasive atheism holds the movement back. It marginalizes the movement…

          • ariarmstrong

            I do appreciate your comments on this difficult topic. They key problem is that a fetus is in such a unique situation. However, I continue to uphold the standard of individual rights, not any “state interest” theory. Given the nature of the fetus (as contained inside the body of the woman), and given the nature of rights, a woman has rights, but the fetus does not. In addition to the relevant sections in the paper mentioned above, you might find Craig Biddle’s article, “Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights,” to shed more light on this position. Thanks, -Ari

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

            Ari,

            It is useful to probe the edges of this debate as we have done here because that is where the hardest decisions reside. If I understand you correctly—having stated you do not believe in the “theory” of a state interest to protect life against murderous intent—you believe that it is rather a violation of an individual’s right to life that has been violated, or something to that effect…

            If a person rights are impacted by murder, who determines guilt or innocence, compels testimony, seizes and protects evidence, hunts down, arrests, and incarcerates an accused killer etcetera ad nauseam? The murdered victims family who lost a valued member or the state?

            In a constitutional republic the rule of law establishes rules of behavior by grant of authority from the people whom the state serves. The constitution, at least in theory, constrains that law by its proscribed principals. That’s not a theory, that is a system, good or bad. When I say “state interest,” it is under that context, a constrained set of laws given breath by the consent of the governed…

            I used to think that, “Ayn Rand’ian Objectivists,” were useful allies but, perhaps, just a bit egg-headed and ungrounded in pragmatism. I find myself moving away from that position. I am now moving to the idea that the objectivist movement is dangerously naive and blindly doctrinal—kinda like the churches you seem to loathe. Certainly much to narrowly defined and poorly proselytized for real political impact. A pity…

          • ariarmstrong

            I don’t see any point to responding to your comments, as you are bizarrely attributing beliefs to me that I do not hold. To reject Ayn Rand’s ideas, you would have to first understand what they are, and I’m not persuaded that’s the case. Thanks, -Ari

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

            Ari,

            I agree, there probably is no point in further discussion although I would like to understand what you meant to say when you said [Quote: I continue to uphold the standard of individual rights, not any “state interest” theory ] If I misunderstood the intent of these words then elaborate as I did when I used the word “state”. (Admittedly a loaded word on an objectivist website.)

            Btw, it is true that I do not have an in-depth understanding of Ayn Rand’s ideas. While my interest has been piqued at times because I share some of her principals I am not motivated by what I have seen here in this debate and in other venues to probe deeper. I can glean what I need by interacting with her acolytes and probing the edges of their “reasoned opinions.” If I had liked what I saw, then, sure, I’d be all in. Unfortunately…

          • ariarmstrong

            If you wish to understand Rand’s ideas, then read Rand’s ideas. Don’t try to judge her philosophy as a whole by a highly specialized application of philosophy in a brief blog post and exchange. That’s just not a realistic expectation.

      • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

        beautifully said.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Edward-Gaddis/1180947052 Michael Edward Gaddis

      Dale,

      That’s one opinion, nothing more. You state this as if fact; “Without the ability to be independent from the womb it cannot posses rights.” But this definition is only consistent within your defined rule set. Why is independence the sole criteria for legal personhood? Defined morally or legally, it is just one criteria of many you could define. A person who is confined by Lou Gehrig’s disease is as helpless as any baby, should we euthanize Stephan Hawking (motor neuron disease) because his illness demands constant care?

      Do you have the courage of your convictions. In your universe would allow a women to abort her baby when she goes into labor—ready to deliver?

    • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

      Many fetus’s senses, especially by the third term are in fact very developed. Just as developed as the moment they exit the womb… Should a new born baby be allowed to be killed based on the fact that it’s senses are not fully actualized? Also if you hold it to that definition alone your logic about disabled people does not hold true. There are people born and or through injury that become extremely disabled… Their senses are less actualized on many levels then a 3rd term baby… They should technically be allowed to be murdered according to your logic and not by choice of their own but by their mothers choice… You can’t say they are somehow meeting a criteria when they fall beneath the spectrum than a 3rd term fetus on certain criteria…

      • Dale Netherton

        How can a fetus experience any connection with life outside the womb? It cannot see, it cannot hear, it cannot smell nor can it begin to integrate any of its senses as it has yet to experience reality. People already born are people and are not classified as pre born and therefore have the right ot life they earned by being born. A pregnant woman’s choice is hers and not some bureaucrat.

  • Larry

    See how big a can of worms your arbitrary standard opens? Since it depends on whether the fetus is wanted or not (even by the father alone in this case), the doctors were not sure how to proceed. Pregnant or not pregnant – that is your only non arbitrary point.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t read anything about the doctors being unsure about the parents’ intentions. The mother kept the twins for 7 months, so a reasonable conclusion would be that she intended to continue on to birth. The father wanted the babies, so I don’t see any uncertainty on that point.

  • Larry

    See how big a can of worms your arbitrary standard opens? Since it depends on whether the fetus is wanted or not (even by the father alone in this case), the doctors were not sure how to proceed. Pregnant or not pregnant – that is your only non arbitrary point.

    • Mel_M

      I didn’t read anything about the doctors being unsure about the parents’ intentions. The mother kept the twins for 7 months, so a reasonable conclusion would be that she intended to continue on to birth. The father wanted the babies, so I don’t see any uncertainty on that point.

  • Anonymous

    Another sticky question. Given that the mother intended to go to term, does the father have a right to stop a C-section? Would a legal document stating the mother’s wish, in case of her pre-term death, have a bearing? Even without a document, it seems to me that her intention may be legally presumed.

  • Mel_M

    Another sticky question. Given that the mother intended to go to term, does the father have a right to stop a C-section? Would a legal document stating the mother’s wish, in case of her pre-term death, have a bearing? Even without a document, it seems to me that her intention may be legally presumed.

  • John Gold

    Say you saw a man kick a pregnant women in the stomach. Most people would think there is something quite bad about that and in large part because there is a fetus involved.

    • Friend of John Galt

      This would be assault with intention of great bodily harm. The assailant should be arrested and subject to severe penalties. The presence of a fetus makes the crime worse, since there can be damage to the woman’s reproductive organs, and the fetus might be injured or the pregnancy may be interrupted due to the damage inflicted.

      That means that the decision about carrying on a pregnancy is by another person, not the woman’s choice. That is always morally wrong.

  • John Gold

    Say you saw a man kick a pregnant women in the stomach. Most people would think there is something quite bad about that and in large part because there is a fetus involved.

    • Friend of John Galt

      This would be assault with intention of great bodily harm. The assailant should be arrested and subject to severe penalties. The presence of a fetus makes the crime worse, since there can be damage to the woman’s reproductive organs, and the fetus might be injured or the pregnancy may be interrupted due to the damage inflicted.

      That means that the decision about carrying on a pregnancy is by another person, not the woman’s choice. That is always morally wrong.

      • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

        Your argument doesn’t hold up logically. You say it’s different if a mother wants to abort as oppose to someone else inflicting harm to kill the fetus. If a fetus has no rights to life and is not defined as a person that rule permeates across the board. The issue does in fact boil down to “should a fetus have rights”… which boils down to “is a fetus in fact a person”. The answer from any scientific standpoint is yes even in the most basic to complicated sense of the argument. The only two arguments that can be made then are dependence and development as an argument to say they are not a person but if you argue developmentally they are not a person yet once again scientifically you are wrong. there is virtually no difference between a 3rd term abortion and killing a child outside the womb other then current dependance (which is the second argument). If you want to base allowing murder or defining humanity as a state of independence then a newborn baby is completely dependent on it’s mother for survival and should be allowed to be killed as well. The logical argument of dependance being a reason to justify killing something is not rational and doesn’t hold up ethically. I rather hear people say abortion is disgusting but it is a necessary evil in our fed up world then to take some moral high ground and to pretend it’s ethical and somehow about women’s rights and nothing else. That is a delusional standpoint and I lose people when they go in that direction. We live in a tough world and unfortunately things that aren’t ethical need to be done but let’s not pretend we are saints. Abortion by any logical definition is murder… It’s jut a socially acceptable convenient kind of murder that we overlook because its easy.

        • Friend of John Galt

          A fetus has no rights *INDEPENDENT* of the mother before it is born. The mother has rights to be free from the infliction of force by others. So the “kicking” of a pregnant woman’s abdomen would be a crime against the woman. Laws often reflect situations where there is a greater crime under some circumstances. (Consider the difference between ‘manslaughter’ charges vs. ‘murder’ charges.) So, it is not illogical to establish a higher penalty against an assailant who causes harm to a pregnant woman than might be assessed to a non-pregnant woman. This is not because of any “rights” that the fetus might have, but it does reflect the greater potential harm to the woman due to the differences in medical condition.

          Before the latter part of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for a pregnant woman to have and accident (such as falling on stairs or falling from a horse) that resulted in her death that might have only left painful bruises had she not been pregnant. The fact that a woman is pregnant makes her more susceptible to certain types of injury. Thus it is logical to impose a greater penalty to a criminal who injures a pregnant woman.

          • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

            Wouldn’t you then have to base it entirely on the damage done. For example losing the fetus could not play a part in a longer sentencing short of more significant or life threatening damage being done because of the fetus. The distinction of manslaughter and murder is intent it has nothing to do with damage or anything stated above. Theoretically speaking if she loses the fetus but is otherwise fine besides bruises or whatever damage was done from the assault it would still be simply interpreted as a regular assault, You could not rationally sentence the person to a longer sentence based on the loss of the fetus or the fact she was pregnant based on your logic. it’s irrational in my opinion.

            Although my argument and entire post was more about the two major debate topics that take place when discussing whether a fetus should have rights as in my eyes development and dependance are not rational reasons to deny rights and could easily permeate to other circumstances and conditions as I stated in my post…

          • Friend of John Galt

            No. The presence of the fetus only suggests that the woman would be at risk of greater injury. When the RISK of greater injury occurs under criminal law, it commonly results in a higher level of punishment. For example, robbery by verbal threat is treated less harshly than armed robbery. In many crimes, use of a gun results in higher penalties than the same crime made without a gun. Indeed, if a crime is committed by several people, and only one has a gun, then ALL involved are treated as if they were all armed.

            The crime committed has certain levels of RISK to the victim associated with it. Thus, the penalties are often higher when the risk to the victim is greater, even if the victim is not injured in any way.

            As noted below. “Rights” are REQUIRED for a person to survive — that is, to live their life. You can not survive if you can not have freedom to live your life based on your own judgement. A fetus has no judgment — and is simply dependent on the blood supply and nutrition taken via the mother. Thus, it has no need to use its judgement to live its life and is thus exists entirely under the control of the mother’s judgement (choices).

  • Friend of John Galt

    A woman’s uterus is part of her body. So long as a fetus is in the parasitic mode (unable to survive without receiving life-giving sustenance from the mother), then the mother can make whatever choice she wishes regarding the continued presence of the fetus in her womb. No one else should have any input. Once the fetus is born, then it is an independent being and should have rights as any other child would have. At that point parental custody can be determined or it can be put up for adoption, if that is desired by both parents.

    This is a private matter and government should not be involved. The error by those who wish to make abortion illegal is that by involving government, they give the power to the government to decide whether abortions should be performed or not. In that view, the one-child policy of China (which mandates involuntary abortions) is a “reasonable choice” made by the government for its economy and society. Once the decision becomes the purview of government, then we all have our individual rights infringed a little more. With government making the decision, then todays anti-abortion policy could become tomorrow’s forced abortion policy.

    I support the first amendment rights of those who wish to persuade women to not have abortions — so long as their efforts are performed without fraudulent methods (“clinics” that only offer adoption counseling) but they should be free to offer whatever persuasive arguments they wish to those freely willing to listen.

  • Friend of John Galt

    A woman’s uterus is part of her body. So long as a fetus is in the parasitic mode (unable to survive without receiving life-giving sustenance from the mother), then the mother can make whatever choice she wishes regarding the continued presence of the fetus in her womb. No one else should have any input. Once the fetus is born, then it is an independent being and should have rights as any other child would have. At that point parental custody can be determined or it can be put up for adoption, if that is desired by both parents.

    This is a private matter and government should not be involved. The error by those who wish to make abortion illegal is that by involving government, they give the power to the government to decide whether abortions should be performed or not. In that view, the one-child policy of China (which mandates involuntary abortions) is a “reasonable choice” made by the government for its economy and society. Once the decision becomes the purview of government, then we all have our individual rights infringed a little more. With government making the decision, then todays anti-abortion policy could become tomorrow’s forced abortion policy.

    I support the first amendment rights of those who wish to persuade women to not have abortions — so long as their efforts are performed without fraudulent methods (“clinics” that only offer adoption counseling) but they should be free to offer whatever persuasive arguments they wish to those freely willing to listen.

    • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

      A child is technically dependent on the mother after birth as well. If you try and say no they aren’t since someone else can raise a newborn then the logic permeates to incubators being able to take care of babies even within the second term. By your logic as long as a child is breast feeding the mother should be allowed to kill it. I fail to see a difference between being in a parasitic state in a womb and being in a parasitic state outside the womb where both rely on outside sources for survival… If you somehow want to justify killing based on that alone you seriously have a large ethical flaw in you argument. It’s the same old dependance and development argument which when brought down to it’s core does not hold up ethically. If a fetus remains unharmed it will become a fully grown person in the identical sense that a newborn will or a 1 year old etc… They are just at different developmental stages. If you want to justify murder on that ground you will have an issue. You literally define murdering the fetus as acceptable as long as it is within the mother… That logic is so disturbing to me.

      • Friend of John Galt

        Well, I might be persuaded to accept the concept of the “retroactive” abortion — that is, parents have the rule of life or death over their children up to the age of majority (now generally accepted as 18 years old). This would certainly give children (especially adolescents) an incentive to treat their parents with more respect…

        While your attempt to wildly extend the logic of the situation during pregnancy to after birth, there is the unique difference in the situations. In the first case, the zygote, embryo, fetus is specifically tied into the blood supply of the mother, and draws nourishment from her … in some cases to the physical detriment of the mother (particularly if there is famine or other stressing situation).

        An infant, outside the mother’s womb is easily cared for by others (as you point out — only to withdraw the possibility). While an infant does require adult care, even an infant in primitive situations could be cared for by others, if (for example, as was once common, the mother died in childbirth — a risk that still exists). Check the definition of “wet nurse.” In the modern context, babies are frequently “given up for adoption” — and that is often what the anti-abortionists claim is the ideal solution (though it ignores the significant health risks/burdens placed on a pregnant woman).

        The mere fact that we have technologies that could support the life of a premature infant does not render moot the burdens placed on the mother during the progression of the pregnancy. While abortion offers some health risks to a woman, the health risks of carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth are greater (despite some badly skewed research presented by the anti-abortionists.)

        Indeed, a relative wrote her masters thesis on the economics of caring for extremely premature infants — with the general viewpoint that it is excessively wasteful of resources (funded by insurance and in some cases by government). The irony is that a few years later, she gave birth to an extremely premature baby — who survived thanks to the very technologies that she felt were unreasonably expensive. (The irony was not lost on her…)

        The salient point is that YOU believe an potential human (that is, a pregnancy) is a “human” and is subject to all the rights and privileges that independent beings possess. I do not agree with your premise, as I see a potential human (a pregnancy) as just that — a potential human who does not have precedence of existence over that of the mother. Indeed, the anti-abortion folks do allow for acceptance of that logic, when they agree that abortion should be “allowed in a case where the life of the mother is at risk or in the case where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest.” These exceptions actually call into question the whole logic that anti-abortionists use.

        • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

          I appreciate your willingness to discuss but once again it comes down to the ethical reason to terminate a life. Terminating the baby on the premise that the mother will die is far different ethically than killing it for the purpose of being able to go back to school. It does in no way hurt the argument that the fetus is in fact alive. Also in the cases of psychological illness etc… there is a different ethical standpoint to debate the need to abort… It is still killing the fetus (and by my definition person) inside her body but is far more ethically debatable then once again for the purpose of money issues, going back to school etc…. The flaw pro rights people have is that 30 seconds before the baby comes out it is still subject to fetal law which to me once again is ethically not justifiable, the entire incubator response you posted doesn’t hold since a vast majority of abortions have nothing to do with health risks to the woman.

          “The mere fact that we have technologies that could support the life of a
          premature infant does not render moot the burdens placed on the mother
          during the progression of the pregnancy.” T

          he overall majority of abortions conducted in the US (I think it was over 75%) had to do with the following 5 issues.

          1. No male figure (husband or boyfriend) present
          2. Money related issues
          3. A child would affect their job
          4. A child would affect their schooling
          5. The child was an accident and they aren’t ready

          I have read multiple studies regarding the purpose for a majority of abortions and most (not all abortions) come down to those 5 reasons in almost all the studies. To me when considering terminating a potential human as you put it, are not ethical reasons to stop a life that unaffected or un-aborted will come to be a fully developed human. When dealing as I said with the mothers life at serious risk (small percentage of cases) there is a completely different ethical starting ground to analyze the situation and justification of the procedure.

          • Friend of John Galt

            If anti-abortion folks accept ANY reason as valid for an abortion, then they morally accept abortion. See Anthony Ibbott’s remarks below. Rights are “inherent” in humans as a requirement for survival. We must be able to act on our own judgment to live our life. A fetus does not have this requirement, nor CAN it exercise any judgment.

            The simple fact (that anti-abortionists can’t accept) is that Objectivists (and others) simply have a different concept as to when “life begins” and when “human rights” apply. We can go round and round, but I’ll never agree with you that abortion is immoral. I doubt that you will agree with me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rodger-Bartlett/100001395203768 Rodger Bartlett

    Life is an absolute?

  • rkb100100

    Life is an absolute?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.ibbott Tony Ibbott

    I think there is a crucial point that has been overlooked. Rights do not derive from one’s ability to survive independently but from man’s lack of any alternative to reason as a means of survival. That means that a fetus in the womb that is receiving all requirements for life via an umbilical cord does not require freedom to act on his own judgement (rights) thus killing a fetus while the umbilical cord is functioning cannot be called murder. Murder only becomes possible at the stage when the newborn has no alternative means of survival but the exercise of reason (regardless of the degree to which he can succeed at exercising reason), that is at the stage where the umbilical cord no longer functions (has withered naturally or been severed). Now what of the fetus whose mother has died leaving him with no functioning cord and now trapped in the womb? I say this makes him a separate entity with reason as his only means of survival and the principle of rights applies. Should the doctor or hospital be charged with murder because the decided against saving his life?

  • http://web.mac.com/acibbott/Site/Home.html Anthony Ibbott

    I think there is a crucial point that has been overlooked. Rights do not derive from one’s ability to survive independently but from man’s lack of any alternative to reason as a means of survival. That means that a fetus in the womb that is receiving all requirements for life via an umbilical cord does not require freedom to act on his own judgement (rights) thus killing a fetus while the umbilical cord is functioning cannot be called murder. Murder only becomes possible at the stage when the newborn has no alternative means of survival but the exercise of reason (regardless of the degree to which he can succeed at exercising reason), that is at the stage where the umbilical cord no longer functions (has withered naturally or been severed). Now what of the fetus whose mother has died leaving him with no functioning cord and now trapped in the womb? I say this makes him a separate entity with reason as his only means of survival and the principle of rights applies. Should the doctor or hospital be charged with murder because the decided against saving his life?

    • Ilan Chico Srulovicz

      so a second term baby that was removed from the womb and put in an incubator can not be murdered but a 3rd term baby that is about to be removed from the womb but still attached via umbilical cord should be allowed to be killed on the spot… Nice logic really makes sense :)

      • http://web.mac.com/acibbott/Site/Home.html Anthony Ibbott

        Yes, that is correct. Hence the title of the article: Fetuses don’t have rights; Pregnant women do. Thus, anyone wishing to discourage a woman from terminating her pregnancy should use the polite method and nothing more: persuasion.

  • http://web.mac.com/acibbott/Site/Home.html Anthony Ibbott

    Rights are requirements for survival, not a reward for growing up and figuring out how to survive. Nearly everyone misses this crucial point. It’s in GS, but it goes by quickly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Hello there! I have a bit of trouble figuring out what the thesis of your response is. Would you like to clarify, please?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Hello there! I have a bit of trouble figuring out what the thesis of your response is. Would you like to clarify, please?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Hello there! I have a bit of trouble figuring out what the thesis of your response is. Would you like to clarify, please?