Editor’s Note: This article originally was published on December 23, 2018, in another blog I write. See here. See also this immediate response. As far as I’m concerned, Michael Rozeff’s honor is above reproach. The only change between this post and the original is the cleanup of a few links. None of the subject matter or text was altered.
I have a lot of respect for Michael Rozeff. I read his articles and letters regularly and usually do not find anything with which to disagree. In a recent post on Lew Rockwell, however, he wrote something which just grated on me and, apparently others as well. See here and here.
Michael Rozeff is wrong. Something does not have to be capable of life outside the womb (with assistance, of course) in order to have being. (An unhatched bald eagle does not need to be capable of living outside the shell to be considered worthy of legal protection.) He says that “Fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb are not yet human beings…” (Which is like saying that a chick which cannot survive outside the shell is not yet an eagle.) My question to him is that if they are not human beings, then what are they?
Being means existence and it is scientifically undeniable that a human life exists. If there is no existence, there is no need of argument. The new human being (zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, unborn child) IS, emphatically so, and therefore HAS being.
Even after 23 weeks of pregnancy when a fetus can conceivably survive outside the womb, it cannot live without care, nurture, and a protective environment, in other words, exactly what is needed to survive before 23 weeks. Furthermore, when a person becomes old or disabled and cannot survive without care, nurture, and a protective environment, does she, according to Rozeff’s argument, lose her so-called right of being and risk being “aborted”. Did Terri Schiavo become a non-being and were all the lengthy machinations over her life and death simply much ado about nothing? Or did they really matter?
Everyone needs assistance from other people to survive and live at some point in their lives. Everyone, without exception! There has never been nor ever will be anyone who simply springs into being who does not require care, nurture, and a protective environment at some time in his life. If one’s innate right to live is contingent on his ability to live independently of others, then we are all in trouble, since none of us are truly independent.
Rozeff uses the argument that if a woman wants an abortion, no one can deprive her of it. It is her “right”, if you will. What this line of reasoning does, however, is to give pregnant women the authority to violate the rights of their unborn offspring, at their own discretion, without repercussion, hindrance, sanction, or punishment. He then attempts to get around this dilemma by declaring that “viable, with assistance” is the determining factor in deciding when an unborn fetus actually becomes a “person”, which approximates the Roe v. Wade ruling of the Supreme Court. He never says what the unborn fetus is before it reaches that point. I repeat my question—if it is not a human being, then what is it?
The NAP is dead. Long live the NAP!
It appears to me that the NAP (non-aggression principle), so beloved by libertarians everywhere, has a fatal contradiction. On the one hand, no one can (should be able to) force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term. On the other hand, no one should be able to initiate aggression against an unborn human being by killing and aborting it. These two positions are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled. Either the NAP will allow women to act aggressively against their unborn children or it will accord protection to unborn children against that aggression until a point is reached when viable separation (eviction, birth) can occur. Either one or the other, but not both! The problem lies in deciding which of these positions is supported.
In an earlier blog post, Rozeff lays it out quite well.
“…to resolve this problem of definition and starting point philosophically or religiously, we need to specify what a human being or person IS. What IS this “I”? What is the BEING that “I” am, and that you are?”
Exactly! What is a human being? What is a person? This whole argument over abortion and women’s “right to choose” is going to forever hinge on these two questions. How do we determine the answer to them? What will be the TRUTH that we point to and anchor our decision in? Dogmatic religious beliefs? Scientific fact? Fluctuating social mores? Fickle political whims? Regardless of the method used, someone is going to be upset with the result. There will always be someone who feels that the decision is wrong and must be changed to better reflect their own opinion.
Human beings ARE. Being is real and is a gift from God or, if you prefer, a random accident of chance. Before pregnancy, a child can be hoped for or dreamed about. After death, people are considered memories. While alive, however, he or she IS a person, no matter how young or old. The right to live is granted to persons everywhere simply because they are, by virtue of being, persons.
The political definition of “person-hood” is something else entirely, an abstract notion which is conferred and can mean anything at any time. (Dred Scott, Jews in Nazi Germany, e.g.). This so-called person-hood is a “right” given by certain powerful people to other less powerful people and can be taken away at any time, depending on the whim of the moment. Just because five members of a nine-member panel say that a human being does not become a “person” and have “rights” until he or she is viable does not necessarily make it so.
It is inevitable that aggression will be forced on someone—either the woman or the fetus. Someone will have to undergo suffering against her (or his) will. How do we determine which will be the one to suffer? The methodology used today, right now, is politics. If you make a loud enough noise, you will be given what you want. At someone else’s expense! For a long, long time the loudest noise has been made by the pro-abortion crowd, which has attempted to justify its position by declaring that unborn human beings are not really “persons”. Since at least Jan. 22, 1973, this has been the deciding factor.
When viewed from a purely moral (right vs. wrong) standard, it is obvious that abortion, as it is practiced today, is a heinous crime against the most vulnerable persons among us. This morality does not have to incorporate any religious beliefs in order to be valid. The scientific facts are enough—an unborn fetus IS a live personal human being and, as such, requires that measures be taken to care for, nurture, and protect it until it becomes capable of independent living, with assistance, of course. The NAP must apply, despite protestations to the contrary! Sadly, the moral viewpoint is denigrated and dismissed in much of the discussion of this issue. Instead, it has taken a back seat to the idea that some people have more “rights” than others and interference with those “rights” is a blatant aggression. Rights have become more important than what is right.
I do agree with Rozeff that the government should not support or subsidize abortion, but I am emphatically opposed to the idea that it should not be outlawed. The common view of government is that it exists to protect those within its domain against outside aggression and to offer justice and redress in case such aggression occurs. Until and unless the day comes when every individual is a government in and of themselves (in other words, not until the end of time), certain people are going to be dominant and make the rules, while other people submit and do as they are told. No question! Because of this, I have no problem at all with government ordering a pregnant woman not to abort her unborn fetus, under pain of punishment.
In the post cited above, Rozeff makes this statement.
“…people need to understand their essential be-ing in order to understand how they should treat one another.”
Perhaps he should consider rephrasing this statement to read that “pregnant women need to understand…how they should treat their unborn children.” Perhaps abortion proponents should consider “doing unto others in the same manner that they would like to have done unto them.” Perhaps the Humanity Bureau will rise one day to determine who should live. And who shouldn’t.
Until everyone is protected from aggression, no one is safe.