Abortion and the Right to Life - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

I. The Right to Life

It is a fundamental principle of most moral theories that all human beings have a right to life. The existence of a right implies obligations or duties of third parties towardsrepparttar right-holder. One has a right AGAINST other people. The fact that one possesses a certain right - prescribes to others certain obligatory behaviours and proscribes certain acts or omissions. This Janus-like nature of rights and duties as two sides ofrepparttar 132656 same ethical coin - creates great confusion. People often and easily confuse rights and their attendant duties or obligations withrepparttar 132657 morally decent, or even withrepparttar 132658 morally permissible. What one MUST do as a result of another's right - should never be confused with one SHOULD or OUGHT to do morally (inrepparttar 132659 absence of a right).

The right to life has eight distinct strains:

IA. The right to be brought to life

IB. The right to be born

IC. The right to have one's life maintained

ID. The right not to be killed

IE. The right to have one's life saved

IF. The right to save one's life (erroneously limited torepparttar 132660 right to self-defence)

IG. The Right to terminate one's life

IH. The right to have one's life terminated

IA. The Right to be Brought to Life

Only living people have rights. There is a debate whether an egg is a living person - but there can be no doubt that it exists. Its rights - whatever they are - derive fromrepparttar 132661 fact that it exists and that it hasrepparttar 132662 potential to develop life. The right to be brought to life (the right to become or to be) pertains to a yet non-alive entity and, therefore, is null and void. Had this right existed, it would have implied an obligation or duty to give life torepparttar 132663 unborn andrepparttar 132664 not yet conceived. No such duty or obligation exist.

IB. The Right to be Born

The right to be born crystallizes atrepparttar 132665 moment of voluntary and intentional fertilization. If a woman knowingly engages in sexual intercourse forrepparttar 132666 explicit and express purpose of having a child - thenrepparttar 132667 resulting fertilized egg has a right to mature and be born. Furthermore,repparttar 132668 born child has allrepparttar 132669 rights a child has against his parents: food, shelter, emotional nourishment, education, and so on.

It is debatable whether such rights ofrepparttar 132670 fetus and, later, ofrepparttar 132671 child, exist ifrepparttar 132672 fertilization was either involuntary (rape) or unintentional ("accidental" pregnancies). It would seem thatrepparttar 132673 fetus has a right to be kept alive outsiderepparttar 132674 mother's womb, if possible. But it is not clear whether it has a right to go on usingrepparttar 132675 mother's body, or resources, or to burden her in any way in order to sustain its own life (see IC below).

IC. The Right to have One's Life Maintained

Does one haverepparttar 132676 right to maintain one's life and prolong them at other people's expense? Does one haverepparttar 132677 right to use other people's bodies, their property, their time, their resources and to deprive them of pleasure, comfort, material possessions, income, or any other thing?

Abortion and the Right to Life - Part II

Written by Sam Vaknin

IE. The Right to have One's Life Saved

There is no such right as there is no corresponding moral obligation or duty to save a life. This "right" is a demonstration ofrepparttar aforementioned muddle betweenrepparttar 132655 morally commendable, desirable and decent ("ought", "should") andrepparttar 132656 morally obligatory,repparttar 132657 result of other people's rights ("must").

In some countries,repparttar 132658 obligation to save life is legally codified. But whilerepparttar 132659 law ofrepparttar 132660 land may create a LEGAL right and corresponding LEGAL obligations - it does not always or necessarily create a moral or an ethical right and corresponding moral duties and obligations.

IF. The Right to Save One's Own Life

The right to self-defence is a subset ofrepparttar 132661 more general and all-pervasive right to save one's own life. One hasrepparttar 132662 right to take certain actions or avoid taking certain actions in order to save his or her own life.

It is generally accepted that one hasrepparttar 132663 right to kill a pursuer who knowingly and intentionally intends to take one's life. It is debatable, though, whether one hasrepparttar 132664 right to kill an innocent person who unknowingly and unintentionally threatens to take one's life.

IG. The Right to Terminate One's Life

See "The Murder of Oneself".

IH. The Right to Have One's Life Terminated

The right to euthanasia, to have one's life terminated at will, is restricted by numerous social, ethical, and legal rules, principles, and considerations. In a nutshell - in many countries inrepparttar 132665 West one is thought to has a right to have one's life terminated withrepparttar 132666 help of third parties if one is going to die shortly anyway and if one is going to be tormented and humiliated by great and debilitating agony forrepparttar 132667 rest of one's remaining life if not helped to die. Of course, for one's wish to be helped to die to be accommodated, one has to be in sound mind and to will one's death knowingly, intentionally, and forcefully.

II. Issues inrepparttar 132668 Calculus of Rights

IIA. The Hierarchy of Rights

All human cultures have hierarchies of rights. These hierarchies reflect cultural mores and lores and there cannot, therefore, be a universal, or eternal hierarchy.

In Western moral systems,repparttar 132669 Right to Life supersedes all other rights (includingrepparttar 132670 right to one's body, to comfort, torepparttar 132671 avoidance of pain, to property, etc.).

Yet, this hierarchical arrangement does not help us to resolve cases in which there is a clash of EQUAL rights (for instance,repparttar 132672 conflicting rights to life of two people). One way to decide among equally potent claims is randomly (by flipping a coin, or casting dice). Alternatively, we could add and subtract rights in a somewhat macabre arithmetic. If a mother's life is endangered byrepparttar 132673 continued existence of a fetus and assuming both of them have a right to life we can decide to killrepparttar 132674 fetus by adding torepparttar 132675 mother's right to life her right to her own body and thus outweighingrepparttar 132676 fetus' right to life.

IIB. The Difference between Killing and Letting Die

There is an assumed difference between killing (taking life) and letting die (not saving a life). This is supported by IE above. While there is a right not to be killed - there is no right to have one's own life saved. Thus, while there is an obligation not to kill - there is no obligation to save a life.

IIC. Killingrepparttar 132677 Innocent

Oftenrepparttar 132678 continued existence of an innocent person (IP) threatens to takerepparttar 132679 life of a victim (V). By "innocent" we mean "not guilty" - not responsible for killing V, not intending to kill V, and not knowing that V will be killed due to IP's actions or continued existence.

It is simple to decide to kill IP to save V if IP is going to die anyway shortly, andrepparttar 132680 remaining life of V, if saved, will be much longer thanrepparttar 132681 remaining life of IP, if not killed. All other variants require a calculus of hierarchically weighted rights. (See "Abortion andrepparttar 132682 Sanctity of Human Life" by Baruch A. Brody).

One form of calculus isrepparttar 132683 utilitarian theory. It calls forrepparttar 132684 maximization of utility (life, happiness, pleasure). In other words,repparttar 132685 life, happiness, or pleasure ofrepparttar 132686 many outweighrepparttar 132687 life, happiness, or pleasure ofrepparttar 132688 few. It is morally permissible to kill IP ifrepparttar 132689 lives of two or more people will be saved as a result and there is no other way to save their lives. Despite strong philosophical objections to some ofrepparttar 132690 premises of utilitarian theory - I agree with its practical prescriptions.

In this context -repparttar 132691 dilemma of killingrepparttar 132692 innocent - one can also call uponrepparttar 132693 right to self defence. Does V have a right to kill IP regardless of any moral calculus of rights? Probably not. One is rarely justified in taking another's life to save one's own. But such behaviour cannot be condemned. Here we haverepparttar 132694 flip side ofrepparttar 132695 confusion - understandable and perhaps inevitable behaviour (self defence) is mistaken for a MORAL RIGHT. That most V's would kill IP and that we would all sympathize with V and understand its behaviour does not mean that V had a RIGHT to kill IP. V may have had a right to kill IP - but this right is not automatic, nor is it all-encompassing.

III. Abortion andrepparttar 132696 Social Contract

The issue of abortion is emotionally loaded and this often makes for poor, not thoroughly thought out arguments. The questions: "Is abortion immoral" and "Is abortion a murder" are often confused. The pregnancy (andrepparttar 132697 resulting fetus) are discussed in terms normally reserved to natural catastrophes (force majeure). At times,repparttar 132698 embryo is compared to cancer, a thief, or an invader: after all, they are both growths, clusters of cells. The difference, of course, is that no one contracts cancer willingly (except, to some extent, smokers -–but, then they gamble, not contract).

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