Anarchy, Liberty, and Abortion: A Rejoinder

I like to read Butler Shaffer[i]. Whenever I see something he has written, I take a look at it. He is intelligent, well-educated, and thinks and writes in a style which most people can understand. His analyses are written calmly, rationally, and include a good measure of common sense. In 2012, he wrote an article which originally appeared on Lew Rockwell. Some of it did not set well with me. This is my response. The relevant parts are copied below with some minor editing.

 “…narrowing the inquiry to the issue of when a given life form becomes a “person,” I regard this as occurring upon conception. It is the point at which one acquires his/her unique DNA that the sense of “thingness” is transformed into a  “personhood” that is relatively free of arbitrary definition…”

I am in complete agreement with this. See my blog post.

“I also believe that it is wrong to kill or use any form of violence against a person, which…makes the killing of an unborn child an act of murder…”

Assuming he means aggressive, initiatory killing or violence against another, I also agree with this. However, he goes on to say that,

“…I am unwilling to sanction the use of violence to either (a) physically prevent, or (b) punish a woman for having an abortion…”

This is where the disconnect begins. It appears to me that there is a contradiction here.

  1. Humanity and person-hood come into being at conception.
  2. It is wrong to kill another person, including those unborn.
  3. We should not use violence or force to:
    a. Prevent a woman from killing her unborn child, or,
    b. Punish her if she does.

[Side note: Although I may not agree with them, I can understand the reasons why we cannot (should not) stop any woman from pursuing an abortion, in the same way that we cannot stop any person from killing another by any other means. If a person is determined to kill someone else, there is literally no way to stop them unless they are completely and forcefully isolated from that person, which action, in itself, then becomes an infringement of civil liberties. A crime is not a crime until it has happened, at which time it is too late to prevent it. It may be foolish or dangerous to aim a rifle at someone 500 yards away, but there is no crime until the trigger is pulled and the bullet is sent on its way. It may be despicable and abominable for a woman to think about killing her child or even to go to the ‘clinic’ with the intention of doing so, but until the abortion happens, she cannot be found guilty of a crime.[ii]

This is a legal matter as opposed to a moral one. Whether we have a moral imperative to pass laws to stop someone from pulling the trigger on any forceful, violent, or deadly act is something else entirely, which is a discussion for another time.]

Assuming we do nothing to stop a pregnant woman from aborting her unborn child (an act of aggression, murder), what then do we do about the act? What do we do about the “doctor” who performed the deed? The clinical staff which facilitated it? The company which owned the clinic? The husband, boyfriend, or parent who encouraged it? The woman, herself? It is 100% certain that an innocent human being has been violently destroyed. What should be the response of society to this act?

As I see it, according to Shaffer’s line of argument, abortion (which results in the death of an unborn human being) is murder, but there should be no sanctions against it. If I am understanding him correctly, society and the law should do nothing. Nothing at all.

This has implications. If we do nothing about an abortion, an act of murder, which kills a human being before she is born, then why should we be concerned about an act of murder which kills her after she is born?

You get my drift. Everything is relative.

 “From a libertarian perspective, the question becomes (as it does in our daily lives): how do we exercise our freedom so as to minimize harm to others?”

This is good, but he didn’t go far enough. The question becomes—how do we exercise our freedom, not only to minimize harm to others, but also to punish the harm done to others? There are at least four possibilities here. There may be more.

  1. Abortions should be illegal, regardless of any woman’s wishes. They are not free to kill their unborn children. Period. It is the Law!
  2. Abortions should be legal. Any woman can have one if she wishes and no one else has anything to say about it. Period. It is the Law!
  3. I don’t approve of abortions, but it’s not my problem. I’m not going to get involved. A poor companion of this is, “I don’t have an opinion, one way or the other.”
  4. No one should be able to forcibly prevent a woman from aborting her unborn child, but she needs to understand that she may be prosecuted for murder if she does and is found out. This is my position.

It may sound strange, but everyone has the innate ‘freedom’ to kill someone else. It is no different than having the ‘freedom’ to drive a car at 50 mph in a school zone which has a posted 15 mph speed limit or to burn down your neighbor’s house because you got into a fight with him earlier in the day. We have the freedom to do all these things, and more, but that doesn’t mean we should or that our actions will go unpunished if we do.[iii] If we are not free to do wrong, then we are not free at all. In this sense, we are simply walking in God’s footsteps after Him. After all, God did not prevent Cain from killing his brother Abel, but called him to account for the deed after it was done.[iv] God simply does not engage in pre-crime.[v]  

“In my view of the world, a pregnant woman will make her own decision as to whether to abort. I may disapprove of the decision she makes, but I will not resort to — nor sanction — force against her to make her conform to my value. I ask only that she be willing to defend my freedom to make choices in the world.”

If you ask him (I did), Butler Shaffer will tell you that he holds his position on this matter because of his strong anarchist philosophy. I can agree with this in most things, but we are dealing here with the violent death of unborn human beings. If there were any single issue which would drive me to prefer minarchy (minimal government) over anarchy (no government), it would be this one. If we cannot defend the lives of unborn babies from the murderous depredations of their own mothers, then we can defend no one.

I want other people to not interfere with my day-to-day life. In return, I try to do the same for them. I’ll leave you alone. You leave me alone. Which is all perfectly acceptable until something bad happens to someone who doesn’t deserve what they got at the hands of someone I left alone.

What are my responsibilities then?


[i] Butler Shaffer is Professor Emeritus at Southwestern University School of Law. I usually find his articles on Lew Rockwell and always find them interesting.

[ii] In a similar vein, according to the teaching of Jesus, “…if you look at a woman with lust, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart.” God doesn’t stop men from looking at women lustfully, but He does hold them accountable if they do.

[iii] The State of Florida, in which I lived for almost ten years, takes a very dim view of motorists driving faster than the posted speed limit in a school zone. You can do it, but you’d better not.

[iv]Genesis 4:1-18. See this version of the story here.

[v] I find it ironic that the State tries to eliminate death and injury in certain cases, i.e., mandatory vaccinations and required seat belt use while driving, but it abets and facilitates them in others, i.e., wars and abortions. Do as I say, not as I do. Talk about contradictions. God, at least, is consistent.

Drowning Swimmers or Deliberate Murder

In their article, “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy”[i],  Walter Block[ii] and Roy Whitehead[iii] make the following argument.


“However, just because aborting the fetus is abominable, it does not follow that it should be prohibited by law. Under a just e.g., libertarian law code,
136 there are numerous despicable acts, which are not legally pro­scribed, since they do not constitute “invasions” or “border crossings.” Abortion falls into this category. It is a failure to come to the aid of or an unwillingness to become a “good Samaritan.” The woman who refuses to carry her fetus to term is in exactly the same position as a person who refuses to rescue a drowning swimmer. Abortion is not, in and of itself, an act invasive of other people or their property rights, even when fetuses are considered persons.”

My paraphrased version of this: Just because abortion is abominable, we should not prohibit it. After all, there are other despicable [abominable] acts which would not be proscribed under libertarian law.

I agree completely with this statement, as it is written. We should not prohibit abortion because it is abominable. Instead, we should prohibit it because it is the deliberate killing of an unborn human being, who has done nothing wrong, nothing deserving the punishment of execution. It is the murder of an unborn, personal, human being; therefore, it should be prohibited. It is a sad commentary on our modern way of life that it is not.

The numerous despicable acts (unnamed in the quote) are not legally proscribed because they do not constitute “invasions” or “border crossings.” Ah, yes, trespass again. In all the imagined acts, however, there is a common thread–all the parties involved MUST be willing participants. If there is even one unwilling participant in any one of these “despicable” acts, then someone’s borders have been crossed. Ask an unborn fetus if she is willing to have her space (the placental sac) invaded. I daresay that, from her point of view, abortion does not, absolutely does not fall into the “despicable action” category which will be allowed under Block and Whitehead’s “just” libertarian code of law.

The woman who refuses to carry her baby to term is NOT the same as someone who refuses to rescue a drowning swimmer. Refusal to act in order to save a person’s life is not equivalent to deliberate action in order to take a person’s life. Not at all, not even close. There may not be any criminal intent in refusing to save a drowning swimmer, e.g., overloaded lifeboats at the sinking of the Titanic, where taking on one more drowning swimmer would have sunk the lifeboat, killing them all. An action such as this could be considered self-defense. Emotionally excruciating, perhaps, but not criminal. Aborting a fetus, though, is not just morally repugnant, but a deliberate act of homicide.

A more appropriate analogy would have been to compare the woman who aborts her unborn fetus with someone who holds a swimmer’s head under water, refusing to allow him to breathe, thus drowning him. Comparing the fetus with a drowning swimmer is ludicrous. A drowning swimmer is in mortal danger, while there is nothing more alive than a healthy and growing fetus. Really now, if you wanted to see it like this, the fetus is swimming laps (no pun intended), preparing herself to become an Olympic champion and is in no danger at all except from the person who “owns the pool.”

Abortion IS, in and of itself, invasive of other people and their property rights, especially and particularly unborn children who are (or ought to be) considered persons with their own set of rights. It is plain to be seen that, in order to maintain the cohesiveness and integrity of the theory of property rights, “rights” MUST be more important than what IS right.


[i] Block, Walter E. and Roy Whitehead. 2005. “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy,” Appalachian Law Review, 4 (2) 1-45

[ii] Walter Block, an Austrian school economist and anarcho-libertarian philosopher, is Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Chair in Economics and Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans and Senior Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

[iii] Roy Whitehead, JD, LLM, Associate Professor of Business Law, University of Central Arkansas.

Tidal Waves, Social Waves, and Changing Attitudes–The End of Roe v. Wade

It would have been logical to think that after the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, the debate over abortion would slowly and gradually disappear as more and more people became reconciled with the idea and the practice. Such has not been the case. Instead of fading out, it seems this issue has become more contentious, especially in recent months as state after state enacts laws either tightening the restrictions or codifying “women’s rights” and access to abortions into law. See these articles.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-06-01/illinois-set-pass-sweeping-abortion-rights-bill

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-04-11/texas-abortion-bill-could-put-women-physicians-death-row

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/23/health/new-york-abortion-measures-trnd/index.html

https://www.vox.com/2019/2/1/18205428/virginia-abortion-bill-kathy-tran-ralph-northam

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-05-17/missouri-house-passes-strict-anti-abortion-bill

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/alabama-governor-restrictive-abortion-bill-law

Why is there so much turmoil in this issue after so many years? What has happened? I cannot say for certain, but my gut feeling is that it is due to the election of Donald Trump and the subsequent placement of Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court bench. If Hillary Clinton had won, I am quite certain that much of this would not be happening. I am also sure that if Trump can nominate and seat another ‘conservative’ judge on the Court, the chances that Roe v. Wade will be revisited go up considerably. I think that the anti-abortion faction smells blood in the water and is pushing the issue, while the pro-abortion lobby smells of fear and is desperately trying to consolidate their position while they can.

Of course, this is only my opinion and, just to avoid any confusion, I want to say that I am not an adherent nor a supporter of either conservative nor liberal politics. I do know the difference between right and wrong, however, and that makes me glad that we are finally seeing some serious movement on this issue. I look forward to the day when abortions are only performed as a last resort because there are no other options, not as a matter of ‘choice’ or convenience as they are today. 

Nothing lasts forever, not even ‘settled law’. Sooner or later, the decision-making on abortion will be taken away from the federal government and returned to the states, where it rightly belongs, according to the US Constitution. When, not if, this happens, most of the various states will regulate abortion tightly or prohibit it entirely, while a handful will allow it virtually unrestricted.

Ocean tides flow and they ebb. So do social and cultural tides. Abortion is one such which has flowed in one direction for decades. Is it close to reaching its limits? Is social acceptance changing? I’m beginning to think so.

Correcting the Terminology of Abortion: Parasites and Trespassers Defined, Part 2

[Editor’s Note: This is the second part of an article which was originally published in one piece. None of the content has been changed, except to facilitate the split. See here to view Part 1.

Section II: Trespassing

A Legal View of Trespass[i]

Murray Rothbard[ii], a major contributor to modern libertarian thought, stresses the “legality” of abortion in the quote shown below. He appeals to law to validate his claim that a woman has an absolute right to have an abortion.

“What we are trying to establish here is not the morality of abortion (which may or may not be moral on other grounds), but its legality, i.e., the absolute right of the mother to have an abortion”[iii]

Well, all right, then. Let’s look at this from a legal perspective. As you will see below, I argue that a fetus is not a trespasser based on the legal aspect of what it means to be a trespasser. I state firmly and unequivocally that a fetus CANNOT be a trespasser because there is no legal justification for the attribute. Trespassing is a criminal act, punishable by law! A fetus cannot be tried and convicted, by law, for the crime of trespass, therefore, a fetus is not a trespasser.

I will go further. Saddling a fetus with the pejorative label of “trespasser” or “parasite” is nothing more than an attempt to justify the pro-abortion position. It is in the same class as calling the fetus “a clump of cells”, “fetal tissue”, “product of conception”, “blob of protoplasm”, or “uterine content” and seeks to obfuscate the real meaning of what an abortion is–the deliberate killing of an innocent, unborn human being.

Dictionary definitions of ‘trespasser’ can be seen here.[iv]

“One who has committed trespass; one who unlawfully enters or intrudes upon another’s land, or unlawfully and forcibly takes another’s personal property.”

and here[v].

“In the law of tort, property, and criminal law a trespasser is a person who commits the act of trespassing on a property, that is, without the permission of the owner. Being present on land as a trespasser thereto creates liability in the trespasser, so long as the trespass is intentional.”

In these descriptions, the emphasis is on unlawful entry, forceful taking, and intentional action. This is about as far from a newly conceived zygote or a four-month old fetus as anything could get.

Let’s break this down. Trespassing is a criminal act, prohibited by law and punishable under law. It is embedded into the legal code. Trespassing may be done willfully, ignorantly, or mistakenly, but it always involves the crossing of a previously established boundary. The trespasser always intrudes on someone else’s space (property) from some other location or position. If there is no transgression of boundaries, there is no trespass.

To intrude on someone’s property by mistake or out of ignorance should not be (and usually is not) considered criminal unless damage is done to the property. More likely than not, trespassers who are confronted will remove themselves promptly, with the knowledge that behavior of that sort will not be tolerated. Trespassers who offer a sincere apology will probably be allowed to vacate the property without any further trouble and that will be the end of it. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) An honest, contrite confession of a mistake or lack of knowledge will go a long way in defusing a potentially violent situation.

An example of this might be that a young woman from the city visits her uncle, who lives in a heavily forested part of the country. While there, she decides to venture out and explore the wilderness. Since there are no fences or signs, she has no idea that she has left her uncle’s property and is now walking through his neighbor’s forest. The neighbor sees her, confronts her, and warns her that she is trespassing and must remove herself from the property. In response to this, she confesses her mistake, asks for direction back to her uncle’s place, and leaves without further ado.

Under this scenario, the neighbor whose property boundary was violated would likely do nothing more, unless he called the uncle and asked him to inform the niece of the property lines. Legally, he probably would not be able to make a case for the arrest and trial of a young woman who had simply made a mistake.

Intentional trespass, on the other hand, requires deliberate action and knowledge. It is done with the understanding that a boundary has been placed around the property by the rightful owner. The trespasser would have to consciously violate that boundary without regard for the will of the owner. Such a violation could and might result in a penalty being assessed against the trespasser, if the property owner was inclined to push the issue.

Suppose that this same young woman, while walking through the forest, came to a place where there was a four strand, barbed wire fence, arrow-straight and fiddle-string tight. In addition, there was a “No Trespassing” sign fastened to a fence post at fifty-foot intervals. There could be no mistaking of the intent. This would be a clear indication that she was not allowed to go any further, under penalty of law. The choice then would be hers–to obey the injunction and turn back or to willfully climb over the fence in a deliberate act of trespass, which would be considered criminal if discovered and prosecuted.

Criminal trespass cannot happen in the case of pregnancy, because the (supposed, alleged) violator, the fetus, was conceived and has always existed in the womb[vi]. It originated from within the womb. It has never been anywhere else. It has never crossed any boundary. How can something, anything, be charged with trespassing if it began inside the boundaries and never crossed them? The fetus may be unwanted, but it is not a trespasser. Call it a noxious weed if you wish, but don’t call it a trespasser. Assert your right to remove weeds from your “lawn”, but don’t base your claim on trespass law.

Criminal prosecution usually takes the form of arrest, charge, hearing/trial, verdict, and penalty/release, or some variation of this process. Every person who is arrested for a crime should be advised of the charge(s) against him. Not only that, but he should be expected to understand why he has been charged and what the penalty might be if he is found guilty. Moreover, he should have a right to counsel and the opportunity to defend himself. In addition, he should be able to appeal his case to a higher authority. Or at least this is the way it’s supposed to work.

Trespass is a legal concept. It must be handled in a legal manner. In order to prove a case of trespass, these steps (at a minimum) must be followed:

1. Charge or accusation

2. Hearing or trial

3. Evidence presented

4. Verdict pronounced

5. Penalty imposed or case dismissed.

In a case of (supposed) fetal trespass against a woman, this will not be the course of action. Consider:

1. No charges or accusations have ever been (nor will ever be) brought against the “offender”.[vii] If they were, it would not be able to hear nor understand them.

2. There is no trial or hearing in which the fetus is given the opportunity to defend itself nor is anyone else appointed to act on its behalf. In fact, if someone else did make an attempt to speak for it, he could be charged[viii] with a crime himself.

3. The only evidence presented at all is that the woman is known to be pregnant. There is no evidence presented to prove that the fetus committed any “crime” of trespass.

4. The verdict is not based on objective proof beyond a shadow of doubt, but solely on the subjective decision of the woman and anyone around her who might benefit from the abortion, either financially or emotionally.

5. The penalty is carried out–execution–without any possibility of appeal.

This sort of proceeding reminds me of the poem, A Mouse’s Tale[ix] in Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice in Wonderland[x].

“…I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury, said cunning old Fury. I’ll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.”

Fetal trespass is a misnomer. There is no law directly forbidding a fetus to reside in a womb or compelling it to vacate the premises. There is no law which orders a fetus to act in a certain manner regarding the violation of property boundaries. None. Nada. Nyet. Nein. There never will be. It would be the absolute height of foolishness to forbid a fetus from trespassing, at least as much as it would be to forbid a dog from pooping on a neighbor’s front lawn.

Identifying a fetus as a trespasser is dissembling. It is incorrect terminology. In today’s social and political environment, it would be equivalent to “fake news.” Calling something what it is not in order to justify a viewpoint is not only false and misleading, it is morally reprehensible. It is irresponsible at best, deadly at worst.

The counter-argument might be presented that, since the fetus is not a person[xi], legally correct criminal proceedings really don’t apply. Even in cases of non-persons becoming trespassers, however, the law still operates in the same way. Trespassing is a criminal act and must be treated that way.

Domestic animals, dogs, for instance, can and do leave their owner’s property and trespass on someone else’s. Sometimes they poop on front lawns, which is a nuisance. Sometimes they are more aggressive, e.g., killing a neighbor’s sheep. A tree can (and sometimes does) fall across a property boundary and cause damage, for example, if it crashes through a neighbor’s garage roof.

In the case of the tree falling, someone would cut it up, clean it up, and remove it from the site. If you wanted to imagine it this way, the tree would be “punished” for its trespass.

In the case of the sheep-killing dog, the dog might be shot by the shepherd, thus “paying” for its crime. It might be imprisoned (kenneled, chained) by its owner to keep it from running wild and causing more damage. Pre-crime[xii], so to speak.

However, no matter how much cases like these can be twisted and contorted, the owner of the dog or the tree is, legally speaking, ultimately the one who is “charged” with trespass and is forced (restitution, insurance, etc.) to make things right. Dogs and trees, while able to “trespass” and cause damage, are not held legally liable. Their owners are.

Dogs and trees can trespass on a person’s property, but they do not understand that they do so. To them, it is a completely natural act. They know nothing else. It is futile to legally charge them with trespass, so we take the more rational step of charging their owner, requiring that he make the situation right and compensating the victim for damages caused.

Some might claim that I have blown my case. If dogs and trees can trespass unknowingly, then so too can a fetus. This assertion collapses, however, under the same point that I made earlier–trespass cannot occur without the violation of a boundary. While dogs and trees can and do violate property boundaries, the fetus never has. Dogs and trees came across the line from some other place. The fetus arrived from nowhere and, from the very beginning, has always existed on the property.

The whole process from sexual intercourse to the realization that a woman is pregnant can be roughly compared to the appearance of alien spaceships from (seemingly) nowhere into Earth’s space without warning.

  1. We broadcast and blast radio waves into the universe non-stop, sometimes with the express purpose of catching the attention of other-worldly entities—sexual intercourse.
  2. We know that “intercourse” of this nature might result in the appearance of a spaceship into Earth’s space and time–possibility of conception and pregnancy.
  3. We understand that this appearance might have repercussions and possibly even prove fatal—pregnancy which adversely affects the health and well-being of the woman.
  4. We also understand that the appearance might produce future benefits which we can only imagine at the time—interaction with the new-born baby.
  5. In the event that an alien spaceship does appear, we have to make a decision either to live with it, cooperate with it, and benefit from its presence, or to use violence to blast it out of the sky and justify that violence in an attempt to maintain the life we prefer and have become accustomed to, regardless of the death and damage that might ensue–to abort or not to abort.

The one discrepancy in this comparison is that alien spaceships, regardless of where they originate, come from another place within the universe, or for those who are really into it, from some other parallel universe. Consequently, they can, according to our code of justice, legally be charged with criminal trespass, found guilty, and “punished”. After all, it is our space! How well that might work out remains to be seen.

Unborn fetuses (and this is the pivot of my argument) do not and never have come from another location. They appear out of nowhere. They do not exist before they arrive. They spring from nothing. They are “created” within the womb by the simple joining of an egg cell and a sperm cell. Before this union, there is nothing but two individual cells. After that, there is a new human being, who has committed no crime and is completely innocent of any charge or accusation against it.

Conclusion

If the unborn fetus is not a parasite nor a trespasser, then what is it? There is only one answer left–a unique, personal, human being which has been placed, through no action, will, or desire of its own, in a vulnerable, dangerous position. It deserves all the protection that we can give it, if we are so inclined. Unfortunately, quite often, we are so NOT inclined, consequently, it ends up dead.

Greg Koukl has written what I consider to be the perfect sentiment to end this article. I couldn’t have said it any better.

“A child is not an invader, though, a parasite living off his mother. A mother’s womb is the baby’s natural environment…One trespasses when he’s not in his rightful place, but a baby developing in the womb belongs there.” [xiii]


[i] I am not a legal scholar, judge, nor lawyer. I could be entirely wrong about this whole train of thought, however, I am willing to stick my neck out and stand according to what I do know and believe to be true. In this sense, I am relying on common sense and moral justice as my guides.

[ii] https://mises.org/profile/murray-n-rothbard

[iii] Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (New York: New York University Press, ©1998), 98.

[iv] https://thelawdictionary.org/trespasser/

[v] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trespasser

[vi] I use the term “womb” to include the entire reproductive system of the female body.

[vii] Martin Armstrong writes this which closely parallels what I have outlined above. “In law school, they teach you that the Due Process of Law comes from the Bible. God already knew what happened between Cain and Able. He still granted him the Due Process of Law to (1) summon him providing notice and (2) the right to be heard. We no longer allow Due Process of Law. We presume guilt and condemn people without trial.”

[viii] https://www.lifenews.com/2017/05/15/pro-lifers-arrested-for-blocking-entrance-to-the-last-abortion-clinic-in-kentucky/

[ix] I hadn’t read this poem in close to fifty years until I started researching this article, but I still remembered most of it. “Fury said to a mouse that he met in the house…” I wish I could have met Lewis Carroll.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouse_(Alice%27s_Adventures_in_Wonderland)

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice’s_Adventures_in_Wonderland#Publication_history

[xi] For my view on this, see here and here.

[xii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-crime

[xiii] https://www.str.org/articles/unstringing-the-violinist#.XEp7os1lBPZ

Correcting the Terminology of Abortion: Parasites and Trespassers Defined, Part 1

[Editor’s Note: This was originally published as one article, but has been split in two. Nothing in the content has been changed, except to facilitate the division. See here to view Part 2.]

Introduction

“To hold individuals guilty of crimes they couldn’t have committed is a moral obscenity.”–Robert Gore

Within the abortion debate, it is not uncommon that unborn children are called either parasites or trespassers, sometimes both. This article seeks to prove in a straight-forward manner that this idea is wrong. It is nothing more than an attempt to marginalize and dehumanize the unborn child in order to justify a position.

“… given that the fetus is unwanted, it is in effect a trespasser or a parasite.”Walter Block/Roy Whitehead[i]

“What human has the right to remain, unbidden, as an unwanted parasite within some other human being’s body? This is the nub of the issue: the absolute right of every person and hence every woman, to the ownership of her own body. What the mother is doing in an abortion is causing an unwanted entity within her body to be ejected from it: If the fetus dies, this does not rebut the point that no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person’s body.– Murray Rothbard[ii]

Whether she is wanted or not is irrelevant. The unborn child is neither a parasite nor a trespasser.

Unfortunately, these men have based their claims on “property rights”, i.e., the woman owns her own body (property) and can do with it whatever she wishes. The “right” of the fetus to own her body is discarded out of hand. They assert that property rights are all that matter. Morality (the sense of right and wrong) does not enter the picture. In the case of abortion on demand, rights have become more important than what is right.

Section I: Parasites

Parasites, biological and social

The number of types of parasites can be numbered–there are two. Only two. Biological and social. See here[iii] for a typical definition of the term. Unborn children are neither.

Parasites (biological) are not a part of the host. They do not derive from it and are not related to it. In fact, they are a species which is completely different from the host. They draw nourishment and sustenance out of the host, debilitating and weakening it. They give nothing back. If they grow and/or reproduce unchecked, they can, and sometimes do, literally kill the host. A tapeworm is a parasite. Mistletoe is a parasite. Lice and bedbugs are parasites. A fetus is not.

Unborn fetuses DO draw nourishment and sustenance from the woman, via the umbilical cord, but they are not a threat to the woman under normal circumstances. They are not a different species. They are related to the host (mother). They derive half their DNA from her, but they are not[iv] a part of her. The only time that a woman is threatened by the fetus is due to an ectopic pregnancy or (perhaps) other complications brought on during the pregnancy.

Biologically speaking, a fetus cannot be a parasite.

Parasites (social) are another sort entirely. They are human beings who prey on other human beings. They may or may not be related. They may attach exclusively to one person or draw from more than one. They have a desire to be supported by others and have their wants and needs filled by them. They know their current (preferred) lifestyle would suffer if the parasite/host attachment were severed for any reason. One common characteristic of social parasites is the selfish belief that other human beings exist for their benefit and should be used to that effect. They are users of people and seek to control them for personal gain. Taken to an extreme, this becomes an “all for me, none for you” attitude and way of life. In an unrelated but not entirely irrelevant article, Brandon Smith describes it like this[v].

This attitude can also be seen in the common actions of narcissistic sociopaths, who have no qualms about conning or exploiting people around them as resources, feeding off others like parasites” 

To some degree, all of us are social parasites. Everyone, at one time or another in his life, uses someone else for personal gain or benefit. This type of action, for most of us, tends to be minimized as we grow older and wiser and it can be personally overcome to a large degree.

It is commonly accepted that fetuses do not have any consciousness of their own until they have developed sufficiently[vi], probably not until very late in the pregnancy. How can a fetus (which is not aware of its situation and surroundings) use someone else selfishly? How can a fetus which has not attained the characteristic of self-consciousness be a parasite? Quite simply, it can’t. It does not knowingly use anyone else for its benefit. It knows nothing except what has always been, i.e., the womb and a state of total dependence. It will never know anything differently until and unless it is born and (gradually, progressively) taught to become independent.

In the timeline of the unborn baby/newborn baby/small child/teenager/adult, the individual progresses from complete dependence on her mother to a state of some degree of independence. If she is considered a parasite before birth, at what point does she cease to be one? What is the point in a person’s life where she does not need or depend on anyone else? When does a person stop “taking” and start “giving”? Everyone takes more at the beginning, but eventually we learn (hopefully) to give more than we take. It can be argued that we live on a sliding scale, one end being total dependence, the other total independence. The only choice we have is where we live on that scale and that is determined through a lifetime of personal change, either positive or negative, with varying degrees of success.


[i] [i] Block, Walter E. and Roy Whitehead. 2005. “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy,” Appalachian Law Review, 4 (2) 1-45

[ii] https://mises.org/sites/default/files/For%20a%20New%20Liberty%20The%20Libertarian%20Manifesto_3.pdf

[iii] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/parasite

[iv] https://catholicvote.org/10-reasons-the-unborn-is-not-a-part-of-a-womans-body/

[v] https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-02-07/brandon-smith-secular-look-destructive-globalist-belief-system

[vi] https://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/12/04/what-can-science-add-to-the-abortion-debate/

The Political/Scientific Divide of Abortion

There are two aspects of the abortion debate we need to be concerned about in determining the definition of an unborn child: biological and political. Humanity and person-hood are two different things and we must be careful not to confuse them.

On the biological side, there should be no argument about the humanity of the child, no matter its age. See here. Embryonic biology confirms 100% that a new, unique, human, individual comes into being at the fusion of the sperm and egg cells. This is objective, fixed, and permanent. It is based on science–cold, hard facts.

On the political side, there is the question about person-hood, which is an arbitrary, subjective decision. It is fluid and can mean different things at different times, depending on the fickle whims of the populace or its rulers. This is what we are dealing with in our current debate on abortion, not the humanity of the unborn fetus. See here with my reply to Walter Block concerning a snippet he wrote about the meaning of the libertarian philosophy.

Michael Rozeff has written about creating a new definition—nascent human—attempting to define the time when an unborn child becomes human and therefore legally protected from abortion. See here, here, and most recently, here. During a brief e-mail conversation between Rozeff and myself, he asked the question, “Is the category of nascent-human plausible or specious?”

Merriam-Webster defines nascent as ‘coming or having recently come into existence’, which can easily describe a zygote or embryo, but the fact remains that while the term ‘nascent’ might apply at the very beginning, it must be discarded at some point. When and at what stage of development does that occur? Can that even be determined? When does a nascent human become a full-blown human? Who is going to make the decision?  This plays into the political argument, but not the biological one and is no different than trying to determine at what stage an unborn fetus becomes a person. Brain waves? Heartbeat? Viability at 24 weeks? Or maybe 26? As such, it will constantly change and reflect the mindset of societies in the future as the thinking about abortion changes. This is not solid ground on which to base an argument and Rozeff is in danger of losing his footing.

The social trend toward moral subjectivity and away from moral objectivity has not done us any favors. We need to change that as concerns the humanity of the unborn child. It is a human being, no matter what anyone thinks, and, as such, merits protection against the aggression of abortion, which results in the death of an innocent human being, which is murder according to Rozeff’s definition. The descriptive terms—nascent, potential, developing, etc.—are irrelevant. This is not to say they are not accurate, but as far as concerns the humanity of the unborn child, they are irrelevant.

The abortion war can be settled once we decide to stop defining the unborn embryo or fetus in political (subjective) terms and start defining it according to biology (objective). Born or unborn, a human being is a human being. End of argument. So long as we focus on whether it is a person or not, we will have abortions and the legal murders of countless human beings. The attitude of the general public is what will change the dynamic of abortion, not because laws are passed, but because already born individual, human beings decide to do what is right and refuse to be a part of that murderous lifestyle any longer.

Is this wishful thinking or a pipe dream? I think not. Tides advance and they retreat. So do societal and moral values. I am under no illusions about the length of time it may take, but I am certain that abortions will one day, someday, again be verboten, because, as a society, we understand what is right and are willing to act on that understanding.

Unplanned–In a Theater near You. Go see it!

Last Sunday afternoon, my wife and I went to a local theater and watched the movie, Unplanned, along with about forty other people. It was powerful. It has reinforced my determination to work for the day when the last legal abortion is performed in this country, at which point I will shift gears, change direction, and start focusing on the last illegal one. Since I only have twenty or so more years, I might see the first, but I’m not so deluded as to think I will see the second.

Aside from the pro-life message and the not-so-subtle Christian viewpoint, there was one thing which impressed me about this movie–the quality of its manufacture. Typically, Christian based movies trend toward B-grade or worse quality, but in my opinion, this one looked as if it was made by a top-flight studio with people who knew how to make a movie and had the money to produce it. They deserve to be congratulated and honored. Of course, I’m not a film critic, so my opinion won’t count for much, but I do know a good piece of work when I see it. Watch the trailer.

If you hold to a pro-life stance, you should see Unplanned. It will enhance your convictions. If you’re not sure where you stand on the issue of abortion, you should see this movie. It will probably answer questions you may have. If you are in favor of abortion, for any reason, you should see this movie. It will shine a light on the dark shadows that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers would prefer to keep undercover and unseen. It may change the way you think.

The abortion industry, in general, and Planned Parenthood, in particular, have nothing with which to counter this movie. They will not produce one of their own. They can’t. If they tried, it would fail miserably and turn even more people against them. The only thing they can do is to put a brave face on it, knowing that the message about their heinous practice is getting out into the public consciousness.

Their days are numbered. It’s only a matter of time.