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Friday, October 11, 2013

Does the Right to Life Exist? (Part Two)

Continuing my brief discussion on the right to life and what it entails, I will look at a few more statements from people I encountered who were trying to argue that a right to life does not exist. You can find part one here.

Another statement made by a pro-choice person on-line was, "If we truly had a right to life then nobody would die unless someone was directly responsible for taking that life. Therefore we truly have no right to life."

This is just not a very strong argument. As I mentioned in my last article, rights and duties speak about how persons are to treat each other. The fact that people die naturally does not negate the concept of a right to life, which just means that no one has the right to take my life unjustly.

Another person has a misunderstanding about what natural rights are. This person wrote:

"...are we talking about a legal right to life or natural? Because if we are talking about natural, well, nature takes it course no matter what. You cannot tell nature what to do. However, you have a right to life legally and morally that other people should not be able to infringe on your well-being unless you invite them to do so. That is the right to life. There are risks and consequences to everything. These consequences do not negate the right."

Now, this person I took to be pro-life, but saying that we have a "natural" right does not mean we are saying that nature has to respect our rights. What a natural right is is a right that we have by virtue of being human. Our forefathers recognized this when they composed the Declaration of Independence, that all humans are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, like the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that we are entitled to these rights by the Laws of Nature and Nature's God. These natural rights were spelled out in the Constitution.

There is a distinction to be made between legal rights and natural rights, and you can see my article here for more on that.

Another person made the following claim: "[The Right to Life] doesn't really [exist]. We have war, capital punishment, many varying degrees of homicide charges, and abortion. It doesn't exist in the way pro-lifers wish it did."

This claim is easily dispatched with. All this person is showing is that killing is not always wrong. But murder is always a violation of one's right to life. One's right to life does not entail that one can never be killed, only that one should never be killed unjustly.

Finally, one last person made the following comment:

"The right to life is a concept, but it is not guaranteed. My right to life does not supersede [sic] someone else's bodily autonomy over a kidney. Soldiers kill people all the time. We put people to death in our country all the time. And the things that KEEP people alive like heathcare, food, shelter, etc are not guaranteed either. However, even the rest of the Constitutional Rights are not without exception either. Why would you take away a prisoner's second amendment right to bear arms? Why would you fine someone for yelling fire in a crowd, when they were just using their freedom of speech? Everything has exceptions. The right to life is one of them, therefore it is NOT a universal right granted to all without exception. And until we can say that there is no exception to that right ever, it cannot be a real 'right' to life because you have to add 'unless' to the end of it."

This is probably the most egregious error in all of the quotes I responded to in this series. One obvious error is that when it comes to your child, you are required to provide food, shelter, and adequate healthcare. There is no inconsistency, as you are also obligated not to kill your child. But second, we can also show that someone's right to bodily autonomy is not absolute, so it is not a "real" right because you have to add "unless" to the end of it (e.g. I have absolute right to bodily autonomy unless my body will be used to harm or kill someone else). If rights have exceptions, it is only because there is another entity in question who is a bearer of rights and should not have their rights infringed upon. It's not because we can just negate someone's rights at our own whim.

We all have the right to freedom, unless you commit a crime. Then your right to freedom is negated as you spend time in jail. If someone supports capital punishment, they can say that your right to life is negated if you take someone's life in cold blood. Rights can be superceded, but only if the reason is of sufficient weight. And since most women are responsible for their pregnancies, the unborn human being's right to life supercedes the woman's right to bodily integrity.

As I indicated last time, there is much to be said about rights and duties. This has only been a very short discussion of them. But a proper discussion of abortion requires a proper understanding of rights. Only then can we adequately discuss who has what rights, and whose rights should be respected.

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