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The Abortive Debate

Donald Trump, throughout his very public career, has displayed a penchant for taking live wires, stripping back the insulation, and sinking his gleaming pearlies in with unhindered glee.  The most recent example has been his juggling of the abortion issue under fire from Chris Matthews.

Among my many criticisms of Trump is that he is not a very bright or thoughtful man.  You may argue that his vast wealth is proof of his intelligence, but as Bernstein so aptly put it in Citizen Kane, "Well, it's no trick to making a lot of money, if all you want is to make a lot of money."  A survey of the British royals will quickly disavow one of the connection between wealth and intelligence.

In any case, prying the lid off the abortion debate as Trump has done is a fine opportunity to weigh in with our Far Side take on the issue, and as usual, we don't expect that a lot of folks will be happy with it.  I'm sure that if Trump were even slightly more intellectual and educated, he might have put forth the following argument against abortion.

It all begins with the Enlightenment, that quiet little period from the late 1600s to the early 1800s, when Western philosophy caught fire and took a decidedly Libertarian course.  This period, punctuated by intellects like Voltaire, Descartes, Locke, Franklin, and Jefferson, single-handedly brought down the monarchies of Europe and endowed humanity with individual sovereignty and rights.

Before we go any further, it is important to dissect the word "unalienable."  To most folks, the root of this rather important word is "alien," meaning foreign.  That is a mistaken impression.  The root is "lien," meaning to lay claim to or place a debt on some property other than your own.  The prefix "un-" means "reverse" or "not."  The prefix "a-" means "to" or "upon."  The suffix "-able" means "capable of."  Thus, "unaLIENable" means "not able to place a claim or debt on."  It does not mean "not able to be foreign on."  Just wanted to make that clear.

So when we read the immortal words of the US Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," we see that the positive claim here is that Rights are innate property of the individual and may not have claims or debts placed upon them.

This was then, and for the most part still is, a wildly radical claim.  We are born with property that may not be taken away or claimed by anyone else - at least morally and ethically.  In practice, this often fails to hold true without the owner forcefully protecting that property.  Thus the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, but that's an argument for another time.

And so, at long last, we come to the core issue of this rant: abortion.  A great many people say that abortion is included in a woman's right to choose.  I disagree.  There are three individuals involved in the choice: the man, the woman and the child.

Obviously, the child is incapable at this point to verbalize its choice, so under any moral or ethical standard, its guardians must speak for it.  Since all life has an inborn desire to continue, we must default to the child's choice being for Life, and we must protect that implied choice until the child reaches the age of wisdom.

Some people will take issue with calling a fetus a child.  The fetus represents one developmental stage in the mental, biological and/or spiritual growth of a human being.  It is a product of, and carries copious amounts of DNA that can only create a human being.  There is no chance that the fetus might end up a chicken or an elephant.  The DNA also ensures that the fetus is in every way an individual, since its genetics distinguish it from all others.

Thus, from the moment of conception, the zygote (later fetus) has a complete set of human DNA, and is therefore human and entitled to all the rights every other human claims.  It is disingenuous to say that a fetus has no rights because it is not fully independent of its host.  The same argument can be made to randomly kill prisoners because  they are not free and the guards must make choices for them.

When one "chooses" to have an abortion, one is most certainly killing an individual human being that our culture, over many long and painful centuries, has endowed with certain unalienable rights, chief among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  By destroying the fetus, one lays claim to these three key Rights and deprives the fetus of innate property in a way that would be completely unacceptable and a capital offense at nearly every other stage of human development.

To argue that abortion is a right is to say that any individual may deprive any other individual of their basic human Rights, without recourse or due process.  All other considerations aside, this is the core of the matter.  The only way to refute this claim is to deny and unwind centuries of legal and philosophical debate and development.  The conclusion is self-evident, as Thomas Jefferson points out..

The "choice" in this situation is whether or not to have sex where procreation is possible, and to choose methods of birth control, should one so desire.  Once the parents' matched sets of 23 chromosomes combine to make the full compliment of an individual human being, there can no longer be a choice to place a lien on that individual's Rights.  Quod erat demonstrandum.

Except that no one is sufficiently educated in history and philosophy any more, I cannot understand why people, 1) cannot articulate this argument, and 2) cannot see the rationality of it.  If we callously strip any class of human beings of their innate and unaLIENable Rights, then it becomes increasingly easy to justify each successive deprivation.

In fact, it may be argued - though not here now - that legalizing abortion has led to rapid degradation of rights in the countries where it has been done.  Mass surveillance, arbitrary police powers, official corruption, and erosion of public discourse seems to follow from the choice to deprive society's most defenseless members of their unaLIENable rights.

In an age when so many options are available to prevent unwanted pregnancies, it seems high time to revisit this most divisive issue, but in a calm and rational manner.  As I have shown here, it is possible to make a clear argument without destructive emotions interfering.  There is no rational justification for placing liens on that which is unalienable, and if we try, we only succeed in eroding our own precious freedom and destroying centuries of human social thought and development.

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