ABORTION AND LIFE
I took particular note of Thomas Johnson's letter on abortion in the September '72 issue. I do not agree that "it is a well known and fully proven fact that an actual new human life begins at the time of fertilization of the egg, at conception," but I will reserve comment until I have read Dr. Johnson's article in FREEMAN. I will, however, explore the premise that an embryo "possesses the most basic of all rights,…the right to life."
The right to life does not guarantee the sustenance of life. As Rand states in an article cited by Dr. Johnson ("Man's Rights"), "A right does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one's own effort." If the embryo is, indeed, fully human, its utter helplessness has no bearing on what it can ask of another fully human being. No hungry man can claim another man's bread simply on need. No embryo (or its champion) can claim a woman's life, even for nine months, simply because it cannot exist without that life. To demand this form of involuntary servitude betrays either altruistic leanings or the inability to apply one's concepts consistently.
An embryo's right to life can only equal, never supersede, its mother's right to life. As a wholly parasitic entity, an embryo's continued existence depends on the sanction of the woman whose exploited body must sustain it. Charity is voluntary. A woman has not sinned by refusing to feed a beggar. Why should the beggar within her have more rights than the one on the street? Why should it have more rights than she?
The holes in Dr. Johnson's logic are showing. Badly.
Ruth A. Miller
St. Louis, Missouri
ABORTION AND RIGHTS
I substantially agree with Prof. Thomas Johnson's letter objecting to the pro-abortion stand most libertarians take. The sperm and the egg, ununited, end their life cycles as a sperm and an egg respectively. But when union occurs, the sperm and the egg become something new, the human embryo, thus marking the beginning of a new human life cycle. Conception is creation, not birth or any other point along the way. The sperm and the egg, separated, are the potential human. The fertilized egg is the new individual, however unlike a person it may appear to be. Abortion is the cessation of a life, a human life, by means of aggressive force. It is a killing. Whatever one says the fertilized egg cell is, it is self-evident that it dies if aborted. I could mention and rebutt[sic] more arguments in favor of abortion, but I have a different purpose in writing this letter, that is, to point out the following.
Prof. Johnson refers the reader to his article in the FREEMAN magazine where he asserts that there is no conflict of interest between the parent and the child. (I use the term 'child' as a generic term and in contrast to the term 'parent'.) I don't agree with him on this point and, I believe, this is the tough nut of the abortion issue. He presented no demonstration or proof, but just rested his case on Miss Rand's statement about the rights of man. Because of the laws of nature, the child's existence and wellbeing are helplessly dependent upon the labor of the mother or substitute before and after birth. But if this labor is not performed voluntarily, then it must be classed as involuntary labor. Involuntary labor is inconsistent with the concept of man's rights. Here seems to be a clear-cut case of a conflict of interest between two people, perhaps an unresolvable one.
If all individuals have an absolute right to life, then it must follow that so does the innocent child. But Prof. Johnson said abortion should be allowed if it is it necessary to save the mother's life and when there has been a rape or incest, thus declaring the child's right to life is not an absolute. He is, in effect, saying there are times when he would allow the taking of an innocent child's life. Doesn't this situation have the makings of a conflict?
Prof. Johnson favors contraception as a means of avoiding the problem, but I don't think that affects the consideration of the abortion question. Contraception still isn't and certainly hasn't been foolproof and without its own complications. This week there were news articles citing side effects of vasectomies. The only sure method of contraception, not without its own side effects, is abstention, but who favors that?
If I had to make a decision today on abortion, I would tend to favor the rights of the mother because of her prior territorial claim to her body and because she is a person possessing awareness. The hapless kid is not responsible for his predicament or hers and it seems a shame for him to pay for it with his life, but fortunately he is not aware of what is happening to itself. Mother Nature is cold and amoral and doesn't give a damn about anyone's life or rights. Man being fallible and not omniscient, hasn't yet devised a perfect moral code that can be successfully applied to all situations yet.
Silver Spring, MD
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".