After one of our more rip-roaring meetings about Left wing politics (in which we went into great length about abortion), I started thinking about all of the points presented. There were many great arguments for both “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” Personally, I tried to defend the idea of “evictionism” wherein a lady is allowed to evict a baby from her womb, so long as she tries her best not to kill it. I am still unsure of how plausible this solution is and I will continue to think it through. But…I stumbled upon something for which I haven’t thought of a satisfactory answer to and I hope one of you might be able to help me.
I offer this thought experiment for your consideration.
A lady has been pregnant for four months. She planned to get pregnant with her loving husband who he has been nothing but supportive. However, recently she has become depressed. She has thought long and hard about it and she has decided that she would like to kill herself. She knows if she kills herself the baby will not survive. Is she allowed to go through with it?
I believe this thought experiment highlights a dilemma for us libertarians. We believe the idea that the “right to life” is congruent with the “right to death.” That is, if one is allowed to do with their life what they wish, then ending it is as justifiable a measure as any other. (Now, there is some debate as to whether this is entirely true, but, for most of us, we would say that a person has a right to kill themself.)
So, is the mother allowed to take her life knowing that she will take the life of another (we are, for the sake of argument, holding that life begins at the very moment sperm touches egg)? One obvious answer is no, she hasn’t that right. It would be comparable to saying a suicide bomber is justified in detonating in a marketplace. Suicide is ok, murder is not.
The rebuttal, however, is: well, what right do any of us have to force the mother to live? Can we say, justifiably, that we may violate the right to life of one person in order to uphold the right to life of another? I do not believe we can in this case. We cannot agree to this because what it requires is that a third party (who is not in danger of someone violating their right to life and who the two parties concerned have not agreed to let arbitrate the dispute) deciding whose life is more important. Clearly allowing this third party to decide is a violation of both the mother’s and the fetus’s right to life.
What if the mother “evicts” the fetus before she kills herself. She tells her husband to take her to the hospital where the doctors will do everything in their power to save the life of the unborn child. Being only four months old, however, the child has little chance of surviving without the mother’s womb. Is this justified? May she now kill herself?
I think she may. If she does everything in her power to let the child live and yet (due to the inabilities of modern medical techniques or what have you) the child dies, I do not think she could be held culpable for murder any more than a poor mother would for letting her child die by not being able to afford vaccinations. Thus, simply by “evicting” the fetus, the mother is not responsible for murder, even if she knows the child may die.
And I believe this stems from the fact that the “right to life” is simply a form of the “right to property.” Consider a life without a body, without any material property at all: to what extent could this be called a life? If you are religious you may believe that there exists a soul and perhaps that soul has no material property and that may exist, yes—I can grant you that. But, then, in what sense can one “kill” a soul? Without delving into theological complexities, I think we can agree that life as it exists on earth for us right now is, at base, at least tied intractably with physical material—that is, property.
Therefore, the right to life is a facet of property rights. Well, if this is the case, then isn’t the developing fetus responsible for a greater violation of rights than the mother? Even conceding that both the mother and the fetus are violating each other’s right to life in equal proportion (once again, who’s to decide it would be unequal?), isn’t the fetus also violating the property rights of the mother? Surely the womb of a woman is hers. The mother isn’t violating the property rights of the fetus. The fetus has no “right” to live in a womb any more than I do. The fetus has a right to life, yes, but it has no right to usurp property.
If we are just chalking up who has violated the least amount of rights, it can clearly be seen that it is the mother who has done the least amount of rights violations and has had her rights violated the most. We must hold then that it is the mother who we must support in her decision as the more justified. If a pregnant lady wants to kill herself, I think she must be allowed. And if a pregnant lady is allowed to kill herself, I do not see why she cannot simply evict someone from her womb without having to resort to suicide and homicide to do it.
Or am I completely wrong?