What Gives You The Right?

The phrases “my rights are being violated”, “God-given right”, “human rights”, etc. are used with great frequency, especially now that the TSA has adopted its Every-Citizen-is-a-Suspect policy. But what are rights? What rights do we actually have, and what makes them rights in the first place? I think there are many issues which people believe they have rights entitling them to something or from something which really are not rights. I think this happens most often due to a blur between what they believe ought to be rights and inalienable rights which exist for every human simply  by virtue of being a member of the human family; and government granted rights which the State decides it should take an interest in granting its citizens, but individuals could certainly do without.  Freedom of speech for example.  The United States government felt was important for a stable and free society that the people be able to speak openly and without fear of State intervention, but really is something people can do without while maintaining their dignity as a human being.  The freedom to not be killed, tortured, or abused are rights we enjoy solely in virtue of our humanity.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights defines human rights as follows.  Elsewhere on the site the UN provides a list of what it calls Human Rights Issues.  I must admit, many rights which the UN lists, I would not consider human rights, even by their own definition.  I will not go into detail since it is outside the scope of this article.

Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible.

Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law , general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.

All this is lead up to a website I stumbled upon, reproductiverights.org (hereafter referred to as RR).  This is an abortion advocacy organization which “has used the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.”  Of course by reproductive freedom RR means abortion “on-demand”.  RR believes “Reproductive freedom lies at the heart of the promise of human dignity, self-determination and equality embodied in both the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”  Neither document references abortion as a right.

It may come as a surprise, but this article is not going to be a defense of the pro-life position, nor is it a refutation of pro-abortion arguments, though briefly I will refer to biological facts.  The aim is to show a flaw in the mission and vision of RR, to expose the absurdity of considering on-demand abortion a human right which deserves legal protection as a human right.

I would briefly like to go off on a tangent from my primary focus, and take issue with RR and its obfuscation of its mission and vision.  It is intentionally and rhetorically parsed in a way which makes it difficult for a reasonable person to disagree.  Who is not for allowing people the freedom to reproduce?  Perhaps it is Article 16 of the UDHR which advocates for the right to marry, divorce, and start a family to which they are referring in their mission and vision statement.  Herein lies the deception, if all one is seeking is legal protection to start a family, that is something the law ought to preserve.  But that is not for what RR is seeking legal protection.  The are in fact seeking to prevent the start of a family rather than begin one.   What RR seeks to have protected, endorsed, and fulfilled i.e., funded by, and facilitated by the government, is abortion on-demand.  I wish it were puzzling to me why RR chooses to soften and cloak its agenda with vague language which appears to be advocating for the opposite of what they are really seeking.

What RR does not realize, or perhaps they do and hope you do not, is their mission and vision produces absurdities and even contradictions to their own agenda.  Their passion for abortion on-demand has possibly clouded their reasoning.  One point, as I mentioned above, their mission and vision is petitioning for the opposite of what they claim to want.  Granted when questioned about this, RR will explain it is not the desire to start a family per se, but rather to start a family at a time of their choosing.  They think this ought to be achieved by removing the consequences of people’s actions: the child conceived via unprotected sexual intercourse, instead of inhibiting the actions which produce the consequence: the unprotected sexual intercourse.  RR is in effect advocating for the right for people to pursue their sexual desires at all costs.

RR’s mission and vision actually runs contrary to the UDHR (Article 3), which seeks to guarantee for everyone the right to life and security.  It is a medical and scientific fact (See: Get A Life, Part 1)that at conception there is a wholly different entity growing within the mother.  It is alive, and by every conceivable means of  identification, human.  It is genetically unique from the mother and father, and as such not simply a growth or arbitrary set of cells.  This fact is the root of the problem of RR’s entire declared mission and vision statements.

RR in advocating for abortion on-demand, violates not only Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, but also Article 6: Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.  The growing child in the womb is being deprived of both of these protections.  The embryo inside the mother is alive and human, abortion takes its life and its security, a violation of Article 3.  The only way to justify the taking of the life and violating Article 3, is to deny the baby, which is human, the protection of Article 6.  All governments recognize the unjustified taking of a human life to be illegal.  Abortion denies the protection of the embryo from these laws protecting persons.  That is, the only way to skirt the protections is to declare the embryo is not worthy of personhood.  And since biological science affirms at conception the fertilized egg is alive and human, it would seem to take significant linguistic gymnastics to deny it the protection of Articles 3 and 6; especially since the language affords the rights to “everyone” as declared in Article 2, not just those we/they deem worthy to be granted the status of personhood.

One minor flaw RR’s mission and vision suffers from is that according to the UN, a source which RR grants authority,  human rights are rights afforded to all, specifically regardless of “sex…or other status”.  Men by nature cannot have abortions.  In this way, abortion cannot be a human right as it is not afforded to men, otherwise it would be a right not granted to half the world’s population.  Human rights are described as rights granted to all and thus does not qualify by the UN definition of a human right.  This point serves to undermine RR when they claim abortion on-demand is a fundamental right.

The mission statement of RR in particular is what caught my attention initially.  They describe abortion “as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.”  While RR does not elaborate on what they mean by fundamental human right; what comes to mind when we think of fundamental human rights?  I think of the absolute basics, the right to life; to live unmolested and un-harassed by a government, which entails the freedom to pursue means to feed, clothe, and shelter yourself (this is not understood to mean the government should be required to provide food, clothing, and shelter, but should allow you unhindered to provide them for yourself); the freedom to migrate and emigrate, to name a few.  RR appears to include the right to have an abortion on-demand fully funded and endorsed by the government.  This however seems out-of-place.

The fundamental right to abortion on-demand necessarily violates the rights outlined in Articles 3 (everyone’s right to life and security) and 6 (the right of everyone to be recognized as a person), since it both denies the right to life and security of the yet-to-be-born by denying the right to be recognized as a person who would be protected by law; which itself is a denial of Article 2 that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.  “Yet-to-be-born” is a status of among the kind listed, in that it is a condition which the baby has no control and is innate to and a requirement of it’s nature.  The womb is the natural location and environment of a person–every person– at that stage in their development.  It is on these points where I take umbrage with RR’s mission.  Furthermore, it would also seem that the yet-to-be-born baby–if female–has more of a right to an abortion on-demand after being birthed, than a right to first be birthed.  Not only does this seem contrary to clear reason, it is absurd; if abortion is a fundamental right, but life is not.  What we also find is the woman who had the abortion has now denied her yet-to-be-born baby–if female–her right to an abortion.  An act which RR, according to their mission, would  consider a human rights violation.

The consequences of accepting the terms of RR’s mission necessarily entails that when one person’s rights are secured, another’s are denied simply by virtue of exercising the right of abortion on-demand.  In order to fulfill  RR’s demand it must deny rights to the yet-to-be-born.  Their defense for considering abortion a fundamental right in fact denies multiple rights of others as outlined in the UDHR, a document RR grants authority.  Contradictions of this sort of course is necessary in order maintain their position.


For an excellent foundation and defense of the pro-life position, Life Training Institute is the most thorough.  They provide a wealth of information which is easy to learn and communicate.  For further reading I recommend,The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf.


  1. Kelsey Barringham says:

    “One minor flaw RR’s mission and vision suffers from is that according to the UN, a source which RR grants authority, human rights are rights afforded to all, specifically regardless of “sex…or other status”. Men by nature cannot have abortions. In this way, abortion cannot be a human right as it is not afforded to men, otherwise it would be a right not granted to half the world’s population. Human rights are described as rights granted to all and thus does not qualify by the UN definition of a human right. This point serves to undermine RR when they claim abortion on-demand is a fundamental right.”

    If you want to say abortion isn’t a human right, fine, but don’t twist in the argument that it can’t be a “Human Right” because men can’t have them. This has been one of the major issues with the recognition of Human Rights from the very beginning. Men are recognized as the “Neutral Human” who don’t need “special rights”. Females are different from males biologically. Something no female ever got to choose. But having the ability to carry babies doesn’t make you less than human, and it doesn’t make men the “neutral sex”. The UN has both DEVAW and CEDAW to stress this point. These conventions were written when the UN realized that the UDHR was written primarily thinking of men. Women can still be Human and have different needs then men and just because their rights may be slightly different does not mean they are no less entitled to them simply because they are Human. If you lower the needs of Women to “special rights”, it lowers women as “Human”. Lowering women as Humans is one of the reasons many middle Eastern officials will argue they already follow human rights because denying women there rights is some how different. We also have CRC which recognizes the rights of the child. This recognizes that because of the vulnerable state adolescents maintain during this period of their Human life cycle they have their own set of rights, but still derived from being Human. If you don’t like abortion fight it with this argument, the fetus is a human at the most vulnerable state of its existence. But don’t say abortion isn’t a human right because men can’t have them. Because that’s easily fightable with any men is just as entitled to one when he gets pregnant.

    • Why would you conclude from that paragraph that somehow women are being classified as less than human. Additionally, focusing on a minor point in the article does not do anything to refute the overall claims.

      Also I stand on a human right applying to all humanity, not just half the population. Men are human as are women and it serves to show abortion on demand is not a human right.

  2. Kelsey Barringham says:

    My objective was not to refute your entire argument, just to refute your one point. Through out history, men’s humanity has never been in question, it has been women who have need to fight for recognition as human. By saying a human right is only a right when it applies to men is saying the only human aspects women have are the ones they share with men, and any separate needs come from something other than their humanity. Males and Females are biologically different, and that needs to be recognized. It’s easy to say that human rights are only the ones that apply to everyone because historically those rights cover all the needs of men. But women are just as human and should have their needs met as well. This disagreement reaches far beyond abortion. I’m not trying to argue your beliefs on abortion, just your beliefs on human rights needing to apply to all members of the population for them to be human rights. UDHR article 5: freedom from torture. If torture is only defined as that which can happen to both men and women, then vaginal rape by definition is not a form of torture. Vaginal Rape is a Human Rights violation when used as a systematic tool of war and ethnic cleansing. Men can’t be forcibly impregnated either as a weapon of ethnic cleansing, but it’s still a human rights violation. So when crimes like this committed against a women they are crimes against her humanity not just her womanhood.

    Women can’t be castrated either. But if a groups method of ethnic cleansing is to simply castrate all the men in a village so that all the children of the next generation are not of that race or ethnicity that is a human rights violation too. That would actually fall under genocide by definition as well.

    If weapons of war can be used to target Humans based on gender, then Human Rights recognize the rights and needs of all people regardless of gender even if those rights and needs vary a little from one another because of biological differences. Human rights are about protecting those things essential to human dignity and if women (or men) have a need essential to their dignity as human (since their genetic sex isn’t changeable) those needs must be met in the context of their sex.

    • You seem to be confusing what makes torture, torture; and what makes a right a right. A human right is such because it applies to people by virtue of them simply being human. Torture on the other hand even if it is inflicted on a person because of their sex, or only effecting their specific sexual organs, it is only secondary. The primary offense with torture is inflicting pain, mutilation or death upon the person, where upon the body is irrelevant to the definition of torture proper.

      Secondly, pregnancy is not a disease which needs a cure, so depriving a woman of an at-will abortion is not a deprivation of a right in the same way as depriving a mortally dehydrated person a glass of water. The most common rejoinder of “what about cases of rape, incest, or health of the mother?” is also inadequate. Less than 5% (and I believe it is only 1%) of all abortions are conducted for these reasons. So the vast, vast majority of abortions are perfomed for matters of convenience, and as such is not a human right.

      • Kelsey Barringham says:

        A women is women by virtue of being Human. She is not a cat, dog, horse, or monkey she is human and a human female because she was born that way.

        To be honest, I was never arguing for abortion. I think abortion is murder. I think that there are cases where abortion can be morally considered like in those few cases you mentioned, but I would never call it a human right in any other case.

        My argument the entire time has been that a Human Right can still be Human Rights even if it doesn’t apply to every last person as long as it’s essential to protecting someone’s dignity as a person. Since being human comes with the requirement of having a sex in 99% of cases, human rights need to be considered in context of having a sex because it is as much apart of being human as having arms, legs, a brain, etc and there are certain human rights violations such as forced pregnancy that can only be inflicted on women because of their sex. By definition a Human Right is a claim by someone for something on someone that is essential to human dignity. So the major focus of a human right is protecting “human dignity” not it has to apply to every single last person.

        Also, “depriving a mortally dehydrated person a glass of water” is usually considered a human rights violation by the vast majority of human rights scholars. It’s the whole promote, protect, fulfill thing. And forcing someone to go with out water is usually considered torture.

        • I think we may be lost in translation a bit. You seem to be focusing on the “details” where I am focusing on the nature of the act. For instance, when you speak of forced pregnancies, or rape, you are narrowing in on the fact that it is happening to the woman and not the man, therefore in the case of a forced pregnancy by rape it is an act solely against a/the woman, since men do not get pregnant. I get the impression that in a case such as this you believe I would not consider that a violation of a human right since it effects only women and not the total population. However what I am focusing on is the rape itself. Forced sexual contact is wrong no matter which sex it is perpetrated upon. The fact that the rape of a woman can and does result in pregnancy is irrelevant to the violation of the right to not be sexually assaulted. Are we on the same page here?

          • Kelsey Barringham says:

            Sexual assault is definitely a human rights violation regardless of who it happens to. Forced Pregnancy is more than just sexual assault though. When purposefully done as atactic of war it is much more than sex. It’s about breaking the women. It’s about forcing her to defile her body to get rid of the child or caring the her rapist offspring, delivering that child, and being forced to care for that child even though in a war torn country she may not even have the resources to care for herself. She is often reject by her community, since the nations where forced pregnancy occurs tend to be muslim or of other groups who reject women for being raped. So she is left isolated carrying a child whose existents tortures her with the memory of her attacker. This is far more than just rape. This action is as planned out as any other military procedure. This is not to say that the women won’t learn to love their children many do but that doesn’t heal the pain, and just as many end up killing themselves and their child because the can not live with the pain.

            Rape is an awful, awful thing don’t get me wrong, but forced pregnancy is something forced upon only women. And I wish I could say this was just me being mellow dramatic, but this is the reality for thousands of women who have lived through ethnic cleansing and civil wars such as in Bosnia, Rwanda, and even now in Darfur and the Congo. Forced Pregnancy, even when separated from rape, is an attack on a women’s human dignity.

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