“Fetal Rights,” Abortion, And Public Funding Of Abortion

By definition, a fetus does not possess rights because the things in nature that give rise to rights are human individuation and the power of choice, which in turn gives rise to moral agency.

A fetus, however, is the diametric opposite of individuated: it lives parasitically (in a literal sense) off of an individuated host. For this reason, the right belongs exclusively to the host — i.e. the woman — from whom that fetus derives life entirely. When the fetus is born, it becomes individuated, and that is when rights begin.

On this issue, as on many others, I am in complete disagreement with the so-called rightwing and am more aligned with the so-called left. And yet here’s one thing I’d like for someone to tell me:

How does it then follow that because a woman does possess the inalienable right to choose abortion or not, I or anyone else should therefore be forced to fund the abortions of others, as Barack Obama and the leftwing all believe?

Answer: it does not follow.

My rights, your rights, everyone’s rights stop where another’s begin.


  • Dale

    April 9, 2011

    I like your argument, which at first blush is cogent and self-consistent.
    I, for one, am unqualified to say when life begins and should be protected, i.e. be “individuated” as your say.

    The problem in your argument, it seems to me, is the concept of “power of choice”. Like a fetus, I don’t think an infant has much “power of choice”, hence the need for diapers for example, but I would not deprive it of the right to live on that basis.
    Can you clarify?

    While I would not intrude in abortion choice, I agree my country should not borrow money from the Chinese to pay for someone else to get one, or to pay for it anyway.

  • ScummyD

    April 10, 2011

    What strikes me about the argument that rights begin at birth is that human unborn young are capable of living outside the womb prior to natural birth. How do you factor that into the equation? It seems odd to me to say that one minute a fetus has no rights but the next a child does have rights simply because it was pulled or pushed out.

    What if a woman dies during child birth before the baby is actually birthed? Does the unborn young not have rights because the bitch died on his ass?

    What about a prematurely born baby that like a parasite necessarily depends on machines as a host to sustain its life?

  • Ray

    April 10, 2011

    Rights do not begin when life begins. If they did, you’d wind up with the absurd spectacle we have indeed wound up with in certain parts of the (liberal) world: granting plants rights (because plants too are alive):


    The power of choice develops gradually as humans mature into adulthood. Children (like adults) possess the right to life and liberty but they cannot exercise them until they have developed the mind and the independent nature capable of exercising the full rational faculty. “Reason,” said John Milton sagely, “is choice.” This is why when a child is a child, the parent must support her or him. But it’s also why the parents (or anyone) may not legally abuse the child.

    “Does the unborn young not have rights because the bitch died on his ass?”

    Jesus, I don’t know that I’d quite phrase it that way, ScummyD, but in answer to your question, no, the unborn do not possess rights. Individuation — not viability — is the precise moment at which rights begin.

    “It seems odd to me to say that one minute a fetus has no rights but the next a child does have rights simply because it was pulled or pushed out.”

    But it is at that moment that individuation takes place, prior to which, the fetus is part of the body of its mother. Look at it this way: you’d have to say the exact same thing you just said no matter what standard you chose — be it viability or a heartbeat or basic cellular-zygotic life: one moment something has rights, the next it doesn’t, and this seems odd. But it’s not odd. It’s the way of the world.

  • Dale

    April 12, 2011

    “Rights do not begin when life begins.” – Ray Harvey

    I do not dispute your argument; it seems cogent to me, as stated so far.
    What seems provocative is the assertive wording: as a matter of fact.
    When, in fact, as your very next comment suggests, it is not generally realized by laws, governments, people, or religions.

    So, I wonder. Do you hypothesize, or are you simply being the train man?

  • Charlee

    April 12, 2011

    Ewwwww – yuck! I beg to differ with your statement that the fetus is “a part of the body of its mother”. Pre-born human beings are NOT female body parts before they are born. What if the child is a BOY? What if it has a different blood type than the mother? In every way imaginable they are separate entities: two unique human beings or distinct individuals, or as you put it – individuated (and this, prior to birth, therefore individuated from the moment of conception) The mother’s life is in no way dependent on the child, as it would be if it were her liver or kidney or heart. The connection between the two individuals is a placenta and an umbilical cord (which are her body parts), or “feeding tube”, if you will, transferring life sustenance to the child. A baby one hour before birth is the same exact baby one hour after birth. All that changes is its location (inside a womb or outside a womb) and the fact that the child now breathes air instead of receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord. The newborn babe is still dependent on the mother for life sustenance – but now breast milk sustains life vs. the umbilical cord. So is it the ability to breathe earth air (the only real difference in a human being before and after birth) through its lungs the deciding factor that grants a newborn “rights” or the right to…join the human race in this thing called life? What about the ability to feed and care for itself? Without continued provision of food it will cease to exist. Unborn or newborn, rights or no rights, it’s fate is entirely dependent on the mercy of adult human beings. Yes, my rights begin with everything having to do with MY body, but my rights end when choosing life or death to the distinctly unique individual that is temporarily residing in my womb.

  • M Kathy Brown

    April 18, 2011

    I am what is called a Logical Objectivist in modern Philosophy. You perfectly express that point of view in what and how you wrote this post. Thank you for being bold and honest enough to put it in writing, and thank you for saying it so succinctly.


  • Johny

    October 7, 2011

    Your logic is flawed. A human fetus being dependant on the biological support systems of his mother in no way proves him/her to not be alive or not human. Your comparison of the fetus to a parasite is typical of most modern nihilist types but even if I conceded to such a vulgar reduction of human life, you’d still be wrong. A parasite by definition must be a separate life form from its host entity. What about conjoined twins, are they to be considered one life form? Plus a fetus has an entirely unique DNA coding from his/her mother. Stop making excuses and wake up to the truth.

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