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.
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 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
This is where the disconnect begins. It appears to me that there is a
Humanity and person-hood come into being at conception.
It is wrong to kill another person, including those unborn.
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.
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
Abortions should be illegal, regardless of any woman’s
wishes. They are not free to kill their unborn children. Period. It is the Law!
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
In their article, “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A
Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy”[i],
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
“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
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
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
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
5. The penalty is carried out–execution–without any
possibility of appeal.
“…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
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
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
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
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.
broadcast and blast radio waves into the universe non-stop, sometimes with
the express purpose of catching the attention of other-worldly entities—sexual
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.
understand that this appearance might have repercussions and possibly even
prove fatal—pregnancy which adversely affects the health and well-being of
also understand that the appearance might produce future benefits which we
can only imagine at the time—interaction with the new-born baby.
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
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.
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.
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]
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.
use the term “womb” to include the entire reproductive system of the female
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.”
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.
[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.]
“To hold individuals guilty of crimes they couldn’t have
committed is a moral obscenity.”–Robert
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
“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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.