I need to give you some background for this article. Don’t worry
if it looks like I’m wandering, I’m only setting the stage. I’ll be getting to
the point in a minute or two.
I follow a blog—Bionic Mosquito. You can see it here. It’s a mix of hard-core philosophy, libertarianism, Christianity, and the never-ending quest for truth. Sometimes the author, Bionic Mosquito (or BM, as he is known), gets into subject matter which I am not interested in and I skim through it and move on. Other times, he presents a topic to which I go back, over and over, until I have it thoroughly understood. Occasionally I comment.
Recently, a post on ethical absolutism appeared which drew my attention. In this, Bionic Mosquito posted some comments by Murray Rothbard, the demi-god[i] of libertarianism. Rothbard was apparently in disagreement with Ludwig von Mises, who was instrumental in the creation of Austrian economics, about the question of ethics. Is ethics absolute or relative? Is there an objective truth or is all truth subjective?
Rothbard had this to say.
“The absolutist believes that man’s
mind, employing reason (which according to some absolutists is divinely
inspired, according to others is given by nature), is capable of discovering
and knowing truth: including the truth about reality, and the truth about what
is best for man and best for himself as an individual.”
I have included here a quote from
Bionic Mosquito’s post. He makes an argument that I cannot improve on.
“I could probably stop here;
from this statement, two points are clear: first, that there is an objective
truth regarding humans and for humans, and second, that it is to be discovered
by humans, not created by humans.
But I won’t stop here; his statements grow ever stronger and more
Back to Rothbard.
“Philosophically, I believe that
libertarianism — and the wider creed of sound individualism of which
libertarianism is a part — must rest on absolutism and deny relativism.”
All right, then, so far, so good.
Rothbard (and Bionic Mosquito) states that there is an objective truth that man
can find if he searches for it. That truth is best for man as an individual and
as a society. Furthermore, it does not come from man, but it is available to
man. He (Rothbard) then states without any doubt or equivocation that
libertarianism “must rest on absolutism and deny relativism.”
OK, let’s get to my argument.
If Rothbard could be so certain that there was absolute truth, an absolute ethic, an absolute moral code that he would bank his life’s work on it, then why in the world would he spend so much time and effort trying to justify abortion as a woman’s right? Why would he pursue the idea of ‘property rights’ so vigorously that he arrived at the conclusion that a woman’s subjective decision could override the objective truth about the unborn child in her womb?
“The proper groundwork for analysis of
abortion is in every man’s absolute right of self-ownership. This implies
immediately that every woman has the absolute right to her own body, that she
has absolute dominion over her body and everything within it. This includes the
fetus. Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to
this situation, but the fetus is there by the mother’s freely-granted consent.
But should the mother decide that she does not want the fetus there any longer,
then the fetus becomes a parasitic “invader” of her person, and the
mother has the perfect right to expel this invader from her domain. Abortion
should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the
expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body.2 Any laws restricting
or pro- hibiting abortion are therefore invasions of the rights of mothers.”[i]
Rothbard says that there is an absolute ethic, an objective moral code which all men and women would be better off following, but spends a large part of his life on the issue of property rights—compelling him to declare that women have absolute ownership of their bodies and the concomitant right to destroy their unborn children.
If there is an absolute, objective moral code which declares that all human beings have value and that to kill one is to commit murder, then it is certain that killing an unborn child is murder, because it is without doubt a human being. If this is true, then Rothbard is wrong. It is my opinion that he became so caught up in the theory of property rights that it simply transcended his viewpoint about absolute ethics. In other words, he lost sight of the forest looking at the trees.
The question to ask then is this. Is there an absolute code
which declares that unborn children are human beings, that they have value in
the sight of that code, and that it is wrong to treat them as so many are today—torn
apart and thrown away? I have no better answer than this quote from the
Ultimate Definer of absolute morality, ethics, and truth.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; …”—Jeremiah 1:5
the circles of libertarian thought, Rothbard is viewed with the same type of reverence
and awe that Hercules was in ancient Greek Mythology.
Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, New York University Press, 1998 ,
pg. 98. See this review.
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