[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 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.
“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
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