Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's My Body; It's My Right!


When we discuss the issue of rights, we need to first distinguish between the natural rights of the individual and legal rights granted by a government.

A natural right
is inherent--existing in someone as a permanent and inseparable element or quality. Natural rights are universal (exist in all human beings at all times) and are self-evident (requiring no proof or explanation to be true). They are inalienable--incapable of being withdrawn, surrendered, or transferred.

A legal right
(also called an artificial, statutory, or positive right) is one bestowed by a government to its people. It is specific to a culture, time and sitting government; thus, it is subject to change.

Human beings precede governments. Man is social, however, and must interact and contract with other humans within community for sustenance and gain. In doing so, governing structures arise from within a cooperating populace with the intent to protect people's rights as they socialize.

Therefore, the only function of a legitimate civil government should be to protect the already-existing inborn rights of citizens when disputes or threats against these rights occur. But as we know, governments formed by flawed men become centralized centers of expanding greed, deceit, and oppression.

Rather than take full responsibility for self-rule, most people want others to assume that responsibility for them and cover any resulting consequences. Governments become parental, indulging the co-dependent and keeping them dependent on the federal tit.

To keep society's creative individuals and freethinkers dwarfed, the State's parental focus shifts to that of a strict disciplinarian, using stifling rules and regulations to reward compliance and punish self-reliance.

In a society where an individual's inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property) are protected, there is no need for a complex web of legal rights.

Only the sovereign individual has true rights. Any legal considerations granted to descriptions--race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, creed, ethnicity, handicaps, etc.--are privileges that create ill will, artificial classifications, and more problems than they solve.

People with similar distinctions and interests normally associate together. These collectives, recognizing power in numbers, then petition their government for certain rights (privileges and societal powers) because of these shared distinctions.

Inevitably, when a government grants a legal "right" to one group, another collective's place in society suffers, as in the case of affirmative action. Ultimately, the preeminence of individual liberties are diminished and threatened.

The answer does not lie in trying to please everybody with artificially created equality, but in going back to the fundamental, inalienable rights of the INDIVIDUAL as sufficient. A government should refuse to grant legal rights to ANY collective or union of people.

Similarly, we don't have to pass special "hate crime" laws to protect the LGBT community. Our society should recognize that all crimes stem from various forms of hatred. Hate is hate and crime is crime.

Don't single out the LGBT community for special considerations if you're not going to do the same for the elderly who are mugged because they're easy targets or for Down's syndrome girls who are raped. Do you not see the Pandora's Box?

Punish the criminal according to the actual damage inflicted upon the individual and/or his property...not how he thinks.

"A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights that he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations. Any group that does not recognize this principle is not an association, but a gang or a mob . . .

The notion of “collective rights” (the notion that rights belong to groups, not to individuals) means that “rights” belong to some men, but not to others—that some men have the “right” to dispose of others in any manner they please—and that the criterion of such privileged position consists of numerical superiority." --Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness

That's why inalienable rights are often called negative rights, while legal "rights" are deemed positive. Positive rights permit or oblige action, whereas Negative rights permit or oblige inaction.

In other words, in order for me to exercise my inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property), no one has to permit or enable me to do so. In fact, they stay out of my way! (The whole purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is to state what the government CANNOT do as I exercise my natural rights.)

Positive rights, on the other hand, do not exist prior to some sort of contract. They must be initiated and implemented from an outside source for people to take advantage of them; hence, a law and the taxpayer’s money to enforce it. Those wanting legal rights require powerful people in civil authority to grant them. Individuals, however, inherently possess--from the beginning of their human condition--the superior, resident authority to:

  • Life: Everyone is entitled to live.
  • Liberty: Everyone is entitled to do anything he or she desires, as long as it doesn't conflict with the first right.
  • Estate: Everyone is entitled to own all he or she creates or gain through gift or trade, as long as it doesn't conflict with the first two rights.

Against this backdrop of inborn rights, I remain convinced that in the face of the biological evidence, we have no civilized choice but to acknowledge that the single-cell zygote is already a human being; and therefore, a growing person with inherent rights that should not be denied due to the bearer's location, size, or functional abilities.

The person in the womb has a root capacity for functioning (an already existing nature, which is there from the beginning) that enables active capacity--(actual functioning; a right-now demonstration of the root capacity).

For example, you buy a computer because of certain functions it can perform for you; still, once turned on, the computer must go through a series of progressive steps to reach full capacity to execute those tasks. When did the piece of hardware become a real computer...before or after performing its program?

Biological evidence also proves that the single-cell zygote is pre-programmed and self-contained, taking no tissue or blood from the host. He or she needs no outside permission, direction, or intervention to develop fully in the womb. He simply needs to be left alone. The only thing the embryo needs is room (along the uterine wall) and board (shared nourishment).

Which brings us to our next question: What about the inherent rights of the host (mother)?

Many pregnant women say that carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term is tantamount to slavery. Some also claim the right to self-defense against an intruder, thereby justifying aggression against the fetus. Others claim the unwelcome fetus is parasitical, stealing life from the mother.

These claims are serious to the libertarian, whose philosophy centers on non-aggression and freedom from coercion. One person's inalienable right will never conflict with a true, inalienable right of someone else. Although at first a dispute appears to exist, the simple gathering of facts, clarifying boundaries, and the application of sound reasoning will resolve the matter.

Libertarianism does not address morality in general. It addresses only one category of good versus evil: justice versus injustice, non-aggression versus aggression. To violate another's rights is to be unjust.

Libertarianism's basic principle is the obligation not to violate rights. This non-aggression principle is the foundation, the sine qua non, of a moral society. We owe others non-aggression. People who commit murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, fraud, or fail to pay their just debts are aggressors.

Implicit in the non-aggression principle is the right of defense. We have no obligation to allow others to succeed in attacking us before we react. There is a related principle: no one has a right to negligently or intentionally endanger the innocent and then allow the harm to happen.

If we endanger others without their consent, we incur a positive obligation to prevent the harm. This might be called the non-endangerment principle: you endanger them — you protect them from the harm.

Non-aggression is an ongoing obligation: it is never optional for anyone, even pregnant women. If the non-aggression obligation did not apply, then earning money versus stealing it and consensual sex versus rape would be morally indifferent behaviors.

The obligation not to aggress is pre-political and pre-legal. It does not arise out of contract, agreement, or the law; rather, such devices presuppose this obligation. The obligation would exist even in a state of nature. This is because the obligation comes with our human nature, and we acquire this nature at conception.

Each of us has this obligation regardless of contrary personal opinions, consensus, or laws. We have it whether we wish to obey it or not. We have it even when others are not able to defend themselves. This obligation can neither be created nor destroyed. It is logically necessary to the concepts of liberty and property. (Doris Gordon, "Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly" )

Let's look closely at the argument of fetal aggression using the two exceptions to taking another person's life: self-defense and self-preservation:

I. Abortion is not an exercise of the privilege of self-defense, since the unborn child is not an aggressor.

A. Aggression involves an act of will or an act of negligence. It can never arise from an act that is caused by existential forces beyond an individual's control. i.e., there cannot be aggression if human action, in the sense of purposeful behavior, is not involved at all.

B. The creation of the fertilized egg and its attachment to the uterine wall are not "acts" of the unborn child in the sense of being purposeful. They are the result of existential biological forces independent and beyond the control of the child and brought into play by the combined acts of the father and mother.

C. Since the unborn child cannot rationally be held responsible for its own creation, it cannot rationally be held to have committed aggression by coming into -- indeed, being brought into existence. Aggression implies responsibility; and no human being is responsible for his own creation.

D. Since the unborn child is not and cannot be an aggressor, the mother cannot invoke the privilege of self-defense against its continued existence in the one place in which, at that stage in its development as a human being, it is both logically and biologically appropriate for it to be. (Note: Whether the father in a rape situation is guilty of aggression is another matter. In any event, his guilt cannot rationally be imputed to the child.)

II. Abortion is not an exercise of the privilege of self-preservation, since, in the usual case, the mother's life is not endangered by the pregnancy.

A. A privilege of self-preservation arises only in those situations in which the lives of two or more equally innocent persons are in jeopardy, and not all of them can be saved.

B. Pregnancy is not such a situation in the normal case. Were it so in extraordinary cases, the mother would have a privilege to defend her own life through abortion, or to choose to give up her life to save the child (assuming this could be done medically). In such a situation, neither the state nor even the father of the child would have any right or privilege to interfere with the mother's decision.

(Note: Pregnancy complications that threaten the mother's life are extremely rare and continue to decrease with medical advances. The statistics often reported by various organizations in this category primarily reflect such mental health "issues" of the mother as depression, anxiety, and stress--all permissible reasons in the United States for late--term abortions.)

III. In sum, since abortion does not come within the two recognized exceptions to the right to life, and is inconsistent with the right as far as the unborn child is concerned, abortion must itself be a form of aggression repugnant to libertarian principles. (Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., "If the Unborn Child is a Person Entitled to Rights, Abortion is Aggression”)

Unwanted, prenatal children have been compared to burglars climbing into windows. Who can possibly believe that the mother is the innocent victim of a crime?

As much as truth rains on our parades, vaginal sex always carries a risk for conception and pregnancy--even among the most careful participants.  NO contraceptive is 100% effective 100% of the time--even when consistently used.

Even the birth control pill’s high rate of effectiveness (but not absolute) can be compromised by the use of antibiotics, anti-seizure and anti-fungal medications, as well as  OTC herbal supplement St. John's Wort. (Source)

The Guttmacher Institute reports that nine out of ten women having abortions claim to use birth control, but confess they do not use it as prescribed.

Overall, 58% of the women having abortions claim a contraceptive failure; 31% had used a method in the past but were not using one during the month in which they conceived, and 11% had never used any method.

The majority of the women among the 42% who were not using a contraceptive method when they became pregnant had most recently relied on either the pill or the condom. Fifty-three percent of prior pill users and 76% of prior condom users became pregnant within three months of stopping use.

By the way, we're not talking about the contraceptive bungling of naive teens. Most women (56%) having abortions are between the ages of 20-24. They are legal adults in an information-saturated country whose government has poured billions of dollars into comprehensive sex education in public schools for years--along with free condom, pills, and instructions--all surrounded by a sexually driven culture whose exploits can be accessed with ease 24/7. In other words, there is no excuse for negligence.

But let's get back to the uterine burglar analogy:

Trespass implies an unjustified interference with the rights of another. It implies some volition on the part of the accused: the "invader" acted intentionally, recklessly, or negligently, and could have avoided the "invasion." Mere presence on another's property, absent more supporting evidence, is insufficient to prove volition.

Who among us could have chosen not to begin life or not to inhabit our mother's body when conceived?

Inhabiting the mother's body is a byproduct of the parents' volitional act, not the child's.
What the prenatal child does, she does by necessity. This necessity is also a byproduct of the parents' volitional act.

Conception and pregnancy are foreseeable consequences of even careful sex. By causing children to be, parents also cause them to need support--it's a package deal. When parents mutually enable their sperm and ova to join, the parents are not enslaved -- they've volunteered.

This may put the needs of a parent and child in conflict, but it creates no clash of rights between them. This is because parents owe children support.

Feeding our own children is not merely something we ought to do under morality; it's what we owe them under justice. Parental obligation is not a special obligation, in that acting justly towards everyone else is a universal obligation. Parental obligation does not arise out of contract or because a tort or other injustice was committed. The obligation is, basically, the obligation to avoid injustice in the first place.

Our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, can be boiled down to one central unalienable right: to be free from aggression, the initiation of force or fraud. With this right comes the unalienable (i.e., non-optional) obligation not to aggress.

Non-aggression is a negative obligation -- do not hit first. Yet because of it, we can incur positive obligations. For example, we don't aggress by entering contracts; yet, by doing so, we can incur debts. We also can incur debts apart from contract or harming others.

We do this by threatening harm, by endangering others without their consent. If harm results, we not only caused the danger, we caused the harm and initiated force. Since we have no right to initiate force, we have no right to endanger others and then let harm befall them. The principle is: If you endanger them, you owe them protection from harm.

The kind and degree of preventative care we must take depends upon the kind and degree of the risk we've imposed on others. For example, when we drive a car, at the minimum, we must stay alert and drive carefully. Our right of defense gives us the right to prevent drunk drivers from using the road.

Causing a child to be is not, in itself, endangerment (it's a normal, natural fact of life), because the very fact of pregnancy automatically protects the child against the possible dangers of an unsupportive environment. But by conceiving a child, parents give themselves a life-or-death power over her, and they do this without her consent.

If parents intentionally or negligently use their power to put her in harm's way (let her starve, say), they cause the danger. If the child gets harmed, they caused the harm. They initiated force and violated the child's rights. (Doris Gordon, "Comments on Why the Prenatal Child Has the Right under Individual liberty to be in the Mother's Womb")

I would suggest that the general libertarian principle is that when you impose something on someone else without his or her consent, and at your free will, then, yes, you are obligated.

You do incur particular obligations to that particular individual, whether it's somebody that you ran down with your car or whether it's a kid that you brought into the world without their consent.
(John Walker, "Why Parental Obligation?")

Again, if the rights of the fetus are inalienable, they will not transgress the true rights of the mother. Inherent rights may interfere with preferences, but never another's rights. Is the fetus legally the property of the mother?

It is a biological fact that the embryo is a human being with 46 chromosomes. Attaching at a suitable place along the uterine wall of his host, the embryo simply grows. There is an exchange of oxygen, nourishment, gases, hormones, and fetal wastes between the separate blood vessels of the mother and fetus. This is accomplished through a remarkable filter that allows for transfers without any mingling of blood.

Remember our premise that two natural rights cannot conflict:

In the early stages of a woman's pregnancy, her body emits a hormone that prevents her immune system from attacking the zygote as a foreign body before he can further develop and build his own protective barrier (placenta).

Her immune system is also proactive in preparing the uterine lining to cope with the inflammation associated with implantation. Interestingly, this hormone, cortocotrophin, is the "master" hormone that commands the body's response to stress. (Source: "Stress Hormone Prevents Mother from Rejecting Embryo" )

Any other foreign body in the host would trip alarms that would rush white blood cells from the immune system to devour the invading organism. But the fetus also emits the same hormone in his distinct immune system to keep Him from rejecting the host and his own developing organs!

Until now, the fetal and infant immune system had been thought to be simply an immature form of the adult system, one that responds differently because of a lack of exposure to immune threats from the environment. The new research has unveiled an entirely different immune system in the fetus at mid-term that is derived from a completely different set of stem cells than the adult system.

"In the fetus, we found that there is an immune system whose job it is to teach the fetus to be tolerant of everything it sees, including its mother and its own organs," said Joseph M. McCune, MD, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Division of Experimental Medicine who is a co-senior author on the paper. "After birth, a new immune system arises from a different stem cell that instead has the job of fighting everything foreign."

The team previously had discovered that fetal immune systems are highly tolerant of cells foreign to their own bodies and hypothesized that this prevented fetuses from rejecting their mothers' cells during pregnancy and from rejecting their own organs as they develop.

The adult immune system, by contrast, is programmed to attack anything it considers "other," which allows the body to fight off infection, but also causes it to reject transplanted organs.

"The adult immune system's typical role is to see something foreign and to respond by attacking and getting rid of it. The fetal system was thought in the past to fail to 'see' those threats, because it didn't respond to them," said Jeff E. Mold, first author on the paper and a postdoctoral fellow in the McCune laboratory.

"What we found is that these fetal immune cells are highly prone to 'seeing' something foreign, but instead of attacking it, they allow the fetus to tolerate it."

The previous studies attributed this tolerance at least in part to the extremely high percentage of "regulatory T cells"- those cells that provoke a tolerant response -- in the fetal immune system. At mid-term, fetuses have roughly three times the frequency of regulatory T cells as newborns or adults, the research found. (Source: "Human Fetal Immune System Arises from Entirely Different Source than Adult Immune System" )

If the embryo is indeed a "burglar", then the mother's body immediately opens all doors and windows as he approaches!

In addition, unlike a tumor, the embryo is not just a growing mass of his mother's cells.  His DNA is unique. He builds himself and his habitat with his own cells.

Therefore, his body, as well as the placenta, is HIS property. The fetus and his belongings are lodging temporarily within a womb that not only prepared itself for his arrival, but offers room and board for nine months.

Let us honestly acknowledge the biological facts, and reason correctly in regards to the personhood of the fetus and the weight this truth must carry in society. How we treat other human beings--regardless of their size, location, appearance, and current functionality--defines the quality of our humanity and the legacy we'll leave to future generations.

Although we do not live for others, responsible members of a healthy society live in consideration of their neighbors. At times, this respect will surely conflict with our preferences and plans, but never our true rights and those of another. And this is the distinction of a great people.

I don't have to like you to uphold your rights as a human being. I don't have to agree with you to defend your right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Despite expected deviations among imperfect humans, most people embrace the Golden Rule (the ethic of reciprocity) as the maxim of a healthy, flourishing society. Whereas the principle of the Golden Rule predates New Testament, times, most people recognize it as a teaching of Jesus:

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

This rule of life embodies two forms:

A person should treat others in a manner he or she wants to be treated.
A person should
not treat others in ways he or she would not like to be treated (
also called the Silver Rule)

We look at failing economies and crime rates as evidence of a declining society, but these are  just two cascading effects from a singular cause--how people in that society treated each other as members of the larger, human community--particularly the most vulnerable among them.

I once saw a bumper sticker that said,
"I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."
It was a fun way of complaining about having to drag one's body
to work in order to make the car payments.

And it also taught a fundamental truth:

The right to control one's own body doesn't justify
the failure to pay one's debts.

Doris Gordon, "Abortion, Choice, and Libertarian Principles"

I encourage you to visit the following sites for pro-life voices that are being heard in diverse communities. You may not be aware of these organizations.

Feminists for Life

Secular Pro Life

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