Now it’s Hillary Clinton’s turn.
After saying that an “unborn person” doesn’t have any constitutional rights, Clinton insisted that it’s reasonable for people to, “do everything we possibly can … [to] help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy … It doesn’t mean that you don’t do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations.”
In this Jan. 25, 2013 file photo, pro-abortion rights activists, rally face-to-face against anti-abortion demonstrators as both march in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in a demonstration that coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
This, of course has left people wondering: what kind of a person doesn’t have rights? And what obligations do we have to fulfill toward a person with no rights? And, if the unborn have no rights, why is it important to make sure they grow up healthy?
It sounds like the pro-choice position also has its share of hypocritical inconsistency.
This shouldn’t be any surprise, should it? Abortion is an overlap of two complicated moral questions. First, what kinds of living things have what sorts of rights? Second, how much does our obligation to help others force us to sacrifice? Virtually any position you take on these questions – and on abortion in general – has implications that are hard to swallow.
Just look at some of the usual rhetoric we hear about abortion, and how easy it is to find fault with it.
1. “A woman can do what she wants with her own body.”
We typically give people rights over their own body and its parts because they need them to live. But, although a fetus is inside a woman, it isn’t an organ – like a heart or liver – that contributes to her existence. Actually, the dependence is the other way around: the fetus’ life depends on the mother. The fetus is a separate living thing that can be killed without killing the mother (that’s the whole point of abortion). Are you allowed to kill a distinct, innocent living thing in order to save your own life?
2. “Abortion has amounted to the genocide of millions.”
If abortion is really no different from genocide, then why aren’t pro-lifers resorting to violence to stop it, just like you would if it were in Germany during the Holocaust? Are pro-lifers OK with genocide? Or do they implicitly accept that many abortions occur before the fetus has a nervous system sufficient to feel or experience anything, and therefore aren’t on par with putting people into Auschwitz?
3. “People should be free to choose for themselves whether the unborn have rights.”
This is no different from saying that the unborn don't have rights. If I get to choose whether you have a right to life, then you don’t have a right to life. Period. A right is something that everyone has to recognize, regardless of their personal preference. There is no class of beings – humans, animals, anything – where we get to “choose” whether they have rights. If you think the unborn have no rights, fine, say so. But don’t offer them as an optional accessory.
4. “We have an obligation to help the helpless.”
Fine, but how much must a woman sacrifice in order to give birth to a child, particularly if the child puts her life at risk? Suppose that it is a woman’s obligation to give nine months use of her body – with all the accompanying health issues – to aid the life of a fetus: do the rest of us have the obligation to do the same? Like donate a kidney to someone with renal failure? Or skin to a burn victim?
5. “The unborn don’t have rights.”
OK, then what about laws against the aggravated battery of an unborn child? Shouldn’t those laws be repealed? And what’s the difference between the unborn and the newly-born? It’s usually just moments and several centimeters. If abortion is OK, then why not infanticide?
6. “Abortion is murder.”
If that’s right, then so is (or, at least, was) Donald Trump: women who pay for an abortion are essentially paying a hit man. And we don’t just punish hit men, we also punish the people who hire them.
I get that people are passionate about abortion. It’s a moral issue involving liberty and compassion, and people get energized about those things. And they should.
But this false bravado of pretending to know all the answers to moral dilemmas isn’t helpful. At what point do the unborn get rights? Do they get them all at once, or gradually, on a continuum as they become more and more developed? And how much are we expected to sacrifice, personally, in order to secure the life of another?
If you don’t have pinpoint answers to each of these questions, then you don’t have all the answers to abortion. So stop acting like you do.
Alasdair Denvil runs The Civil Debate Page.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.