Life, Unconditionally


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Life, Unconditionally

  1. 1. Chance Stoodt Philosophy of Law - #1 Submission 963 Words Life, Unconditionally As former president of the United States, Ronald Reagan expressed; “With regard to thefreedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there is one individual who is notbeing considered at all. That is the one who is being aborted.” President Reagan later goes on tosay in the same speech;“I have noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.”The aim of this essay is to address the controversial debate on abortion. The position defendedconsists of articulating that, from conception, the cluster of cells can be regarded as a person andtherefore has the corresponding rights.This argument objects to the views that fetuses lackpersonhood and that the mother may take necessary actions without moral or legal constraint.Refuting this claim is of philosophical interest to the readerbecause it is certainly a matter of lifeand death and involves a side that cannot directly defend or represent itself. Killing a person is morally wrong most of the time. However, cases exist in which itisappropriate to question the moral permissibilityto end any person‟s life. These cases includeself-defense, just punishment, and war. To bypass the discrepancy, added qualification to thestatementcan be useful. Instead of, “killing a person is morally wrong most of the time,” it can beworded, “the intentional killing of an innocent person is always morally wrong.” Abortion, bydefinition, is the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy. In other words, an abortion is theintentional killing (deliberate termination) of afetus, the result of a human pregnancy. Thus,abortion is always morally wrong. However, this statement is a prima facie, or „at first face‟argument. A few problems arise in the aforementioned argument. First, what is being killed? Theassumption is that the fetus is indeed a human. To take it one step further, it can also be said that
  2. 2. the fetus is a person, which is logically not the same statement. To differentiate the terms,understanding the process of human pregnancy is vital. The process begins at conception. Thesperm, which consists of twenty-three chromosomes, fertilizes with the ovum, which alsocontains 23 chromosomes. The end result is a unique combination of the two, thus creating agenetically new and distinct organism. Furthermore, the sources of this new creation, the maleand female parents, are two human beings as well as moral persons. The genetic structure of theorganism is also constitutive of the human species. The entire development, barring accidents orunforeseen circumstances, ends in a human individual. Therefore, the direction of the growthindicates it is a human life. The objection to this logic is that the resulting organism is simply acollection of human DNA, which may not necessarily suggest a human being is present. Theobjection is correct, in part. DNA equivalent cells in a culture dish or individual organs, such as aheart, separate from the body are not human beings. This statementdoes not disprove the position,however. The new organism contains all of the resources, information, and positive reality tofully develop, which is not the case for individual organs or cells apart from the body. Therefore,all functioning human embryos are a complete human being from conception. The next questioninvolves bridging the moral gap between a human and personhood. A person is defined as an intelligent and free subject.1 Immediately, the objection is thatthe fetus is not an intelligent being. It is important to understand that intelligence is not simplyreferring to an individual who is currently thinking, but an individual who has the capacity orpotential to. For example, a human who is asleep or in a coma is still regarded as a person,despite lacking morally inert thought. Just the same, the fetus will someday have a consciousthought, barring accidents. Because the human fetus has the capacity of intelligence and, as was1 Patrick Lee, Abortion & Unborn Human Life (Washington: The Catholic University ofAmerica Press, 1996), 5.
  3. 3. previously declared, is a complete human being, the fetus contains the moral standing ofpersonhood upon conception.There is no morally significant difference between killing anequally innocent adult person, a two-year-old child, or a fetus.Thus, the intentionally killing of afetus is morally wrong. In 1776, The Declaration of Independence was written declaring, among other things,that all men have certain inalienable rights. These rights are not granted by the state, but arenatural and secured as such. Arguably one of the most important rights inherent in the world isthe right to life. It is important to differentiate between a positive right and a negative right inthis case. A positive right is a right to something, such as education or health care. Alternatively,a negative right is a right from something, such as the hindering of free speech.2The right to lifeis a negative right. We do not have a positive right, or entitlement, to life because we die naturaldeaths. People are not entitled to immortality. The right must be protected not from natural death,but from the intentional taking of life by another human being. Therefore, a human being has aright not to be killed by another human being. If the law‟s purpose is to limit and enable citizenconduct to protect rights, which it is, abortion should be regarded in a similar light to murder. I conclude with a summary of my argument. Upon conception, the cluster of cells is notonly human, but also a person. Because rights are natural and not granted by the state, all humanbeings have rights. Therefore, the individual receives rights after fertilization, or conception. Oneof these rights is a right to life. Human beings have the natural, negative right to not be killed byanother human being. Therefore, it can again be stated that abortion is the intentional killing ofan innocent human being and should therefore be referred to as such, by the law.2 Wenar, Leif, "Rights”,The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition,
  4. 4. Bibliography Lee, Patrick. Abortion & Unborn Human Life. Washington: The Catholic University ofAmerica Press, 1996. Leif, Wenar. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition).