Abortion Part 1: A logical appeal

Atticus is the author of the progressive-right political and lifestyle blog BlogTruth. His experience spans almost a decade providing business and consulting services to firms across the globe. Stop by his blog and say hello.

What are Property Rights?

Before we begin it may be helpful if I define what I mean by “property rights”.  The most obvious answer is in the term – the rights an individual has to their property.  But what is property?  Your house is your property, your cell phone is your property, your car is your property, but is your property limited to only your material possessions?  No.  One’s property also includes your own body, your life, and liberty.

Therefore, based on this definition we can conclude that each individual is granted, naturally, a certain right to their property: property rights.  After all, I think that everyone can agree that in a civilized society your own personal right to yourself, your stuff, and your ability to make decisions is paramount.  Who would want decisions about their own property, that they worked for, their own life, which is theirs, and their right to make decisions, made by someone else?  I’m guessing no one. If you take away these basic rights you essentially become a prisoner on death row.  Guards making your personal decisions for you.  Deciding when you will eat, when you can exercise, what you can own, and even when you will forfeit your own life.

Since it is morally and socially unacceptable to live in such an environment why do we conclude, in many cases, it is justifiable to give up or ignore the guiding principals of property rights?  Abortion is such an issue.

Row v. Wade

In the infamous case of Row v. Wade in 1973 the supreme court ruled and upheld the woman’s right to have an abortion upon the grounds of the 14th amendment.  Basically, the court ruled that a woman has a right to privacy under the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and that right extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

However, the supreme court ignored a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to property rights, the child.  One may argue that the child’s rights are insignificant or that the woman’s rights supersede the rights of a fetus.  Many justify this by arguing that the fetus cannot survive outside of the mother’s womb, thus the mother’s right to privacy and thus abortion must be upheld; however, I ask what is the difference between a 1 year old and a fetus?  Can a child survive without the constant looking after by the parent any more than a fetus?  No.  Once a heart beats in a fetus it becomes a living person, although the needs may be different than a child or adult, it is none the less a person with property rights.

Fetus v. Baby

I ask: What is the real difference, except for the amount of guilt the parent feels or perhaps guilt one feels for performing the deed itself, between murdering a one year old and disposing of an unwanted fetus?  Is there a true recognizable and logically arguable difference? The fact is that by day 22 after conception “[the baby’s] heart begins to beat with the child’s own blood, often a different type than the mothers’” and by only 6 weeks “brain waves are detectable; mouth and lips are present; fingernails are forming.”  Should not the law uphold the property rights of such a person?

Others argue that it is unfair or unjust that a woman who becomes pregnant accidentally during recreational sex should be forced to undergo pregnancy.  However, doesn’t everyone old enough to have sex understand the potential consequence is pregnancy?  Even contraception and birth control pills are only 99% effective at best – if you have sex 100 times statistics tell you pregnancy will occur!  So recognizing this fact is it fair that two individuals engaging in mutually agreed upon sex have the right to violate the property rights of another human life?  A human’s life, though it may require a special kind of care, is no less human than anyone reading this now?  What good is the law if not to protect those who cannot protect or speak for themselves?


  1. From some I’ve talked to, including one post-abortive woman, they’d argue against you from your first premice: property rights. They don’t believe in property rights. I’ve never been able to get a clear definition of what they *do* believe in (after all, they are also home owners) but as best as I can figure out, they believe a concept of everything owned by the community. Kinda like the reserves here in Canada. Except that system has left most reserved with conditions similar to some of the worst third world countries. Of course, that’s the government’s fault (so long as the government is a conservative one, that is).

    Logic? What’s that?

    • Well if they believe in community ownership then it would be up to the community if they are allowed to have the baby in the first place. I doubt they would agree to a democratic vote when it comes to their personal bodies. As you pointed out…what logic…?

  2. The link to Part 2 isn’t working – is there somewhere else I can find it?

    • Josh, I haven’t posted it yet for Atticus. I should have removed the link first.

      What are your thoughts about the angle, property rights, that he brought up?

  3. John will be posting Part 2 very soon (I’m guessing tomorrow) – the link is in preparation for that.

  4. I think what may be a good question to try and address why property rights even exist. In todays society property rights make sense, but in the beginning no one owned anything, why did one person have the right to claim one thing over another person? However in our situation, most things are generally owned by someone somewhere, so there is some logic behind property rights, and something becomes your property when given to you by someone who previously owned the property (commonly in exchange for something.)

    If we were to accept property rights for your own body, then the only thing I can think of to determine what is your body and what is someone else’s body is DNA. Something with your DNA is yours when attached to your living body, though that right is forfeited for parts of your body that you “dispose of” or give away (the former exception I put in is mainly for say police investigations, someone can’t say they own evidence because it’s their DNA, though if that was possible in doing so they would probably incriminate themselves.) If we agree to property rights, then every human should have property rights equally, but it also means no human can own another human.

    From that, I would say that you don’t have property rights to your child. Whilst for a woman, their child will at some point be attached to her living body, it’s not part of her body because of differing DNA. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to your child, or a responsibility for the child. It is your child after all, and a child is infinitely more precious and important than property, so I’d really say that using property rights to claim your child undervalues the child. I’d probably use the terminology parental rights and parental responsibilities – someone can’t just come and take your child unless you either give it up willingly (e.g. adoption) or society reasonably deems you are endangering the welfare of your child (this mixes both the rights and responsibilities – the rights are somewhat, but not entirely, dependent on your execution of the responsibilities.) I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that the right to life trumps property rights (anyone wanting to argue with that probably doesn’t mean it – in most cases they’d probably choose keeping their life over keeping their property if put in a situation like that.) If someone trespasses on your property, you don’t have the right to end their life for that reason and that reason only – you would if they are putting you in danger, but that’s protecting you life rather than your property. I’m saying this as some may argue that a child is trespassing on her mother’s body – even if this argument was free of fault, the life of the child comes above the property of the mother (e.g. the mother’s body.) That said, when this argument even comes up, I honestly question where love and compassion has gone from society. Those arguments are entirely emotionless, and we’re talking about ending a life here.

    However, all this is if we accept that each human being has property right to their own body anyway. In a godless world view, this is absolutely fine. Though I would suggest that God is the one who have the biggest claim to the property rights of our body – he’s the maker of our bodies. Doesn’t the maker of something have claim to the property rights of his creation until that right is forfeited (many ways that could happen.) Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that we are not our own, that our body is a temple… that God bought us (the latter part is interesting – if God bought us, being Christians, does that mean he didn’t have claim to our bodies beforehand? I’m not arguing for this view, though I just thought of it when I saw the way the passage was worded. Never any harm in questioning what the Bible means – it’s the path to better understanding.) There are so many things that could be looked at for this, mainly slaves and how ownership worked there. I’m not intending to take that verse out of context, which I feel I may be since it’s talking about sexual immorality. However, the reasoning for why sexual immorality is wrong is partly because our body belongs to God (I think I’ve interpreted that correctly – always happy to be corrected though!)

    Lastly, there would be issue with the DNA thing when it comes to identical twins and triplets etc. but that’s an exception to the rule that can be explained separately, and exceptions or extreme situations shouldn’t affect the basic rule… another example would be “rape exception” that people claim should exist for abortion – even if we did accept this as an exception, it’s not an argument for allowing abortion 99% of the time, which it so commonly is used as (e.g. “abortion should be readily available because of rape victims” is a logical fallacy, it should be “abortion should be readily available to rape victims only” if that argument is to have any merit behind it.) Anyway, that’s going down on a big tangent that’s only partly related.

    Sorry, I can go on for a very long time, especially when I try and address so many tangents – I think I’ve beaten the original article in the word count department.

  5. @Josh – You covered a lot here, but I think on point I want to make is about my definition of property rights. Property rights include, most importantly, each individual’s right to their own life. No one person can own, including parents, another person. Thus when a man and women engage in a sexual act, thus accepting the potential for a child, and a child is created – that child automatically has right to his/her life.

    I am not saying that a child is property – I am saying that each individual has a natural right to claim their own life as theirs.

    Part 2 is posted up. It might make more sense when you read both together.

  6. Yep, I agree, a new child has a right to life that trumps property rights. What I was initially questioning at first was why do we even have property rights in the first place? That’s probably a distraction though – I’m not arguing for or against it, rather just questioning it. I’m definitely happy to accept the premise of property rights in the argument though.

    I’ll have a look at part 2.

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