In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|July 23- July 29, 2009
• See Letters page
• Jim Hightower
Don’t ban or force abortions
by Ari Armstrong
TThe debate over abortion seems more contentious than ever in America today. Some want to ban all abortions from the moment of conception. Others want to forcibly sterilize people and compel women to get abortions.
But are those two groups really that different? They share fundamentally similar goals. Both would sacrifice the individual to some alleged greater good. Both would use the force of government to squash the rights of individuals. The moral alternative is to consistently uphold the rights of individuals to determine the course of their own lives.
Comments by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and by President Obama’s “science czar,” John Holdren, have raised concerns about politically promoted or required abortions.
In a July 7 interview with the New York Times Magazine, Ginsburg said, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” Ginsburg added that, given subsequent rulings, “I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.”
The context of Ginsburg’s remarks did not stop Michelle Malkin from claiming that Ginsburg is “channeling eugenicist Margaret Sanger.”
Holdren’s comments prove dramatically more troubling. The 1977 book Ecoscience, which Holdren co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich, posits that “population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution.”
Holdren’s office told David Harsanyi of the Denver Post that Holdren “does not now and never has been an advocate of compulsory abortions or other repressive measures to limit fertility.” While it’s good to know that America’s “science czar” distances himself from the eugenics of Brave New World, many quotes from Holdren’s book are shocking.
Comments like those from Ginsburg and Holdren stir up the religious right’s attacks on abortion. For example, some blogs that berate Holdren also tout the proposed 2010 Colorado initiative that would define a fertilized egg as a person with the full legal rights of a born infant. Likewise, many who condemn Holdren also blast Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for apparently favoring abortion.
Advocates of abortion bans typically try to tie abortion not only to coercive abortions, but to eugenics, forced euthanasia and infanticide. The argument is that abortion disrespects “life” and breeds abuse of people generally.
But the religious right’s entire line of argument rests on the fallacy that a fertilized egg is a person. In place of argument is sectarian faith that God infuses a fertilized egg with a soul.
As Diana Hsieh and I argued in “Amendment 48 Is Anti-Life,” personhood begins at birth. A zygote is a clump of undifferentiated cells, not a person. More fundamentally, a fetus is fully contained within and biologically dependent upon a woman’s body. Because a fetus is not an independent individual, abortion bans require agents of the state to forcibly restrain and control women.
Individual rights apply only to individuals. They apply to a woman, not to a fetus contained within her body. As an extension of the law’s rightful protection of a woman’s rights over her own body, the law also protects a woman’s fetus from criminal harm.
Advocates of abortion bans ignore the biological nature and relationship of a woman and a fetus. They resort to the argument that a fetus has the potential to develop into a born infant, and therefore it should be granted the full rights of a born infant. However, as philosopher Leonard Peikoff replies, an adult person is a potential corpse but should not be treated as an actual corpse. A potential person is not an actual one.
Because their arguments ascribing personhood to a fertilized egg fail, abortion banners invariably resort to tarring abortion with violations of the rights of actual people. But the same facts establishing that a fertilized egg is not a person also establish that a born infant is a person and remains one until death.
Those who would outlaw abortions and those who would compel them treat a woman’s body as the property of the government, to dispose of as politicians and their appointed agents see fit. The only difference is that those who would ban abortions wish to sacrifice women and their rights to God’s alleged will, while those who would force abortions wish to sacrifice women to the collective or the environment. The individual and her rights suffer either way.
A woman has the right to bear and raise children if she wants (though no right to force others to provide the financing). A woman also has the right not to have children and to control her body. She might make a mistake either way, but the choice is properly hers. Whatever her decision, the government’s sole legitimate responsibility is to protect her from others’ use of force.
The fundamental debate is not between those who would force abortions and those who would ban them. It is between those who would forcibly sacrifice individuals and those who champion individual rights.
back to top