The abortion debate was reignited recently after the president signed an executive order unilaterally terminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood, primarily because the organization markets and provides abortion services. This represents an indisputable victory for the Pro-Life movement, at least until a Democrat president comes along and simply reverses it through another unilateral executive order. Whether Congress will take the action necessary to push the ball further is yet to be seen.
Regardless, if this is going to happen, conservatives must win the abortion debate, once and for all. To achieve this, we must address the strongest current arguments of abortion proponents. Presently, the strongest argument in favor of abortion policy as I see it is the “body autonomy argument“, which is: a woman has a Natural Law right to her body and may do with her body what she wishes, and that no one has any Natural Law right to her body without her permission, including the fetus.
The “body autonomy argument” is extremely strong for several reasons. First, it appeals to Natural Law. Second, Natural Law does, in fact, support the basic premise of the argument that a person, in this case a woman, has a fundamental right to dictate what happens with their physical body. Finally, it is, at least on the surface, logically agnostic as to the personhood of the fetus. The assumption is that the mother has a right to her body whether the fetus is a person or not.
On the surface, this is a solid and well thought out argument, however, the very things that make it strong, specifically appealing to Natural Law, the existence of Natural Law precedent supporting their appeal, and the superficial agnosticism to the personhood of the fetus, are actually its core weaknesses.
“Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”
Natural Law is the necessary core of conservative political ideology and should inform every element of our political philosophy, from the proper role of government to the rights of the individual in society. From Natural Law, we get the three fundamental “rights of man“: Life, Liberty, and Property (Locke). These three fundamental rights and their necessary duties create the framework of American common law as the Framers understood it. When the abortionist appeals to an element of Natural Law, it puts their argument squarely in our backyard.
There is no debating the first two premises of the “body autonomy argument“, because they are, in fact, grounded in Natural Law. A woman does, in fact, possess an inherent right to her own body, and Natural Law, via common law, does indeed support the first premise. As it turns out, however, we don’t have to attack the first two premises of the “body autonomy argument“, because they make it clear that the abortionist has evoked Natural Law. Unfortunately for the abortionist, direct rights, such as the woman’s right to her own body, are not the only component of Natural Law.
Why are rape, murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, aggravated neglect, and aggravated manslaughter all considered criminal behavior? The Natural Law principle of Reciprocal Rights. Simply by acknowledging that any objective Natural Law rights exist, the abortionist must concede that these Natural Law rights exist for every human being. The “body autonomy argument” bizarrely evokes the woman’s Natural Law direct rights, then turns around and denies she has any of the duties that these rights impose, like some despotic monarch, solely on the basis of convenience.
This is the chink in the abortionist’s armor.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Natural Law was born from the philosophy of the Enlightenment thinkers and was a direct rejection of the customs of human civilization that go back to the very dawn of humanity whereby certain people, almost universally men, had absolute political dominion over all others, by chance of their birth. These very same customs denied a woman rights to live her own life, to speak her own mind, or to even own property. These very same customs made women the chattel property of their fathers and then their husbands.
By evoking Natural Law, the abortionist rejects these ancient tyrannical customs and claims for herself the fundamental rights and duties entitled to all human beings but simultaneously condemns the unborn to suffer the ancient custom of “first breath” humanity. By asserting the blessings of the Enlightenment Era understandings of humanity for women while denying them for the child in the womb, the abortionist proves themselves a first class hypocrite.
We are no longer subject to the tyranny of superstition and ignorance that informed ancient customs. There is no chance that a woman’s pregnancy will result in a goat, a demon, or any other capricious imposition of heaven or hell. We know without question that the only possible offspring of a human woman is a human child. Given this, it is an absolute certainty that an unborn child is, in fact, a human being, because it can naturally be no other thing. Further, the unborn child must necessarily, in fact, have been a human being from his or her conception.
Being a human being, the unborn child is thus necessarily entitled to the same Natural Law rights as any other human being anywhere else in the world.
“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”
Since the abortionist acknowledges Natural Law exists by evoking it, the abortionist also acknowledges Reciprocal Rights imposed by Natural Law and must necessarily reject “first breath” humanity just as they do the ancient customs of female servitude rejected by Natural Law. It follows an unborn child is a human being by Natural Law, and thus entitled to the very same “body autonomy” of the mother, specifically, that the mother has no right to take any action that would injure or terminate the human life within her womb.
The mother, in fact, has a Natural Law duty to protect and defend the human life within her womb, just as others have a Natural Law duty to protect and defend her own human life.
Liberty is For The Win!