An interesting point about abortion

Natural rights theorists / libertarians are often pro-choice. There are often two reasons given for this position a) the baby is taking resources from the woman that the woman is not required to give up. She has a right to her body and so can choose to withhold nourishment from the child. b) the baby is an aggressor that is invading the personal space of the woman.

I think b) is not really an argument at all, because an aggressor is so called because it will or is doing harm. The fact that the baby is inside the personal space of the woman is not in itself causing any harm, unless one wants to talk about the taking of resources, which is just argument (a) again. Also, notice that even if there is something wrong with invading someone’s personal space, it does not seem that deaths is the proper remedy. If I followed you around all day, 1 mm from your body, this would surely be creepy at the very least, and might be grounds for a lawsuit, but you could not turn around and kill me just for being in your personal  space.

(a) is a more serious argument, but notice that it has an interesting consequence. In most cases, the woman would be permitted to kill the baby if she is allowed to control the resources of her own body, but this ability to withhold resources does not in itself guarantee a right to abortion. Imagine that in the far future, a charity group comes in and offers to pay for the costs of all the food that the woman must eat to sustain two lives. They also offer to pay for costs resulting from being inconvenienced by being pregnant and promise to take the baby and find parents for it. Now, on what grounds could the woman now claim a right to abort the baby. There are considerations of her health, but those reasons to abort a baby are not controversial. The question is, can the woman abort a baby when her health is not endangered.

It seems that there is no reason to permit her to abort the baby if she will be compensated for the harm she undergoes and will not have to care for the baby. What this indicates is that maybe a traditional conception of rights, autonomy, and self ownership cannot ground the right of abortion.

(note: this entire post depends on the argument that a fetus does have some more consideration, whether that is a full right to life or just a more limited weight in moral deliberation I do not know. The point is that the argument above is not valid if someone denies that fetuses have any moral value).


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