The Democracy of the Unborn

Abortion is a fundamental violation of the natural rights of human beings. We must fight it at all costs. Not just for the unborn, but for the entire web of obligations on which society is built.

The duties of motherhood and the lifelong commitments that come with child rearing are the quintessential examples of living selflessly for others. The duties of motherhood entail sacrifice in the present for the benefit of the future. The sacrifices our parents and ancestors made for our benefit are not, nor cannot be, forgotten in the present or future. The love for our children and the drive to nurture them for posterity are among the most basic and fundamental elements of the human condition.

 

Society has been reduced to those living in the present; but in being reduced, it has excluded the democracy of the dead and unborn. We, in the present, must fight for this most obscure of all classes.

In the abortion debate, one of the pro-choice arguments is based on the idea of “personhood.” Personhood is the status a fetus receives, “after a fetus becomes ‘viable’ (able to survive outside the womb) or after birth, not at conception.”[1] Essentially, to those in favor of abortion, the unborn are not living people, which means they have no rights. Only once the unborn enters this world do abortion advocates believe an infant has rights.

This seems peculiar, as one of the pillars of liberalism is the language of rights.[2] Liberals believe in a seemingly endlessly-expanding universe of rights. For a good example of this, note the rhetoric of Senator Bernie Sanders. According to Senator Sanders, healthcare, education, and even Wi-Fi are all natural rights of Man.[3]

The source of the liberal moral foundation of rights endowed to Man in this fashion is Thomas Paine, specifically his book, The Rights of Man.[4] Yet oddly, in this instance, The Rights of Man actually strips the unborn of their rights.

Paine advocated for the emancipation of the individual from the oppressive ties of tradition, particularly the notion that the dead have any authority over the living:

I am contending for the rights of the living, and against their being willed away, and controlled and contracted for, by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead, and Mr. Burke is contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living.[5]

Paine desired to free himself from the oppressive dead-weight of the past, enabling the present generation to live their lives freely, unencumbered by the deceased.

The “Mr. Burke” Paine references is Edmund Burke, the first conservative. He refers to a passage from Edmund Burke’s brilliant and enduring work, Reflections On the Revolution in France:

Society is indeed a contract…. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature. It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.[6]

Burke understood that the dead and the unborn are as much a part of civilization as the living. We are not born free and independent, but rather are born into a context built for us by our ancestors. This context is maintained by the complicated web of duties to piety and posterity.

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