Eve on Objectivism and Abortion
Eve has a second blog devoted to questions concerning Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism (which is the underlying philosophy of many libertarians). A while back she critiqued the arguments of some Objectivists who supported the right to abortion. Read this post and the one right beneath it (which is chronologically prior to the one linked).
Among several great arguments, Eve makes this one: "I don't care what a first-trimester fetus looks like. (Although newer, more-powerful technology has allowed us to learn just how early the fetus begins to resemble a baby, that isn't really relevant.) The question is when individual identity begins. If there is a physical component to identity--if it's not some emanation of your consciousness--then presumably it begins when you are a physically distinct being. Having different DNA, or being of a different sex from your mother, are fairly good ways to tell that a physically distinct being has begun. The question isn't whether I could do math in the womb, or what I looked like; the question is when I began. When I was an infant I looked like an infant; when I was a neonate (newborn) I looked all red and wrinkly; when I was in my third trimester in the womb I looked like a funny little child in a sac; before that I looked kind of like a tadpole; before that I looked like a blastocyst, because I was one. The fact that I have not always been as beautiful as I am now (heh) is irrelevant."
Amen. The argument she is criticizing is similar to the one which claims that "microscopic life" is not "human life" (see Virginia Postrel's post from 3/31). Since when does size have any significance vis. ontological and moral status? Following that logic completely undercuts any argument for specifically-human rights. After all, the size difference between the human at the blatocyst stage and the adult human is ridiculously insignificant when one considers the size of an adult human on the scale of our universe's dimensions.
Degree of (in)dependence, development, size, and physical location have nothing to do with the essence of a thing. But again, more on this later...