Thursday, July 11, 2013

A discussion of abortion and related issues

I was asked to respond to a series of questions relating to abortion and religion in health care. Here are the questions and answers.


Response to Campaign Life Coalition Ontario Provincial Election Questionnaire

1. Do you acknowledge that human life begins at conception (fertilization)?

No. The first thing to tackle when examining this subject is the definition of life. As opposed to many people who view life as something that is static, I believe that an appropriate definition of life must involve action. Thus I agree with the definition of life as “a process of self-generated and self-sustaining action”. The word “process” is included to denote that life is constantly changing and is directed towards the purpose, namely the sustenance of the beings’ own life.  

Life must be self-generated otherwise the entity is not an individual but a parasite that depends on the life of another for its existence. Note that this does not mean simply that it is supported by the efforts of another but rather that the life of another is all that enables its existence.

Life must also be self-sustaining, meaning that the beings’ own actions are responsible for its survival. Note that when a being is immature it may be supported by a parent or other mature adult, however its own biological system is that which sustains it, and not that of another entity.

If we apply the definition of life to humanity, it means that an entity becomes an individual human being at the moment when it emerges alive from its mother and is able to breathe on its own. Until that time it is a potential human being that relies entirely on its mother for all nutrition and oxygen and the death of the mother would automatically result in the death of the potential human being, known in science as a fetus.

Further to this it is important to recognize the nature of rights. A right is the moral sanction and recognition of the freedom to act in furtherance of your life so long as you do not violate the rights of other individuals. Therefore, only individuals have rights, whether they are acting alone or whether they are acting in groups with rights derived from their individuality. No group can have rights higher than those of an individual. In the case of a pregnant woman, her unborn child is an integral part of her body and not a separate individual.  Thus it is not proper to assign legal rights to this unborn child. Legally, a mother must be free to exercise her right to her own life and the full control of her body.

2. Are there any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion?  If yes, please explain.

Yes. I think there is an important distinction to make here between what is legally right and what is morally right. When we say something is legally right, we mean that it is proper for the force of law to be applied either to prevent an action or to force an action to take place. When we say something is morally right, we refer to an action that is appropriate for the life of a human being. There are certainly cases where we may pass a negative moral judgment although there has been no objective law broken. This does not necessarily mean that the law is immoral but rather it recognizes that not all morals should be backed up with the force of law.

Abortion is a medical procedure undertaken to end a woman’s pregnancy. At the moment of fertilization of a human egg and for some time to come, the organism in question is simply a small and growing number of undifferentiated cells. It is not correct to refer to these cells as a human being as they exhibit none of the defining distinct characteristics of an individual human being. As a pregnancy progresses and the cells differentiate and specialize and the entity becomes what we refer to as a fetus, it comes to physically resemble a human being and eventually is fully formed, perhaps even being a viable individual if delivered prior to the natural process of childbirth. I believe there are suitable changes in the moral assessment of a person who has an abortion at different stages of the process of gestation. I do not believe that any individual other than the mother or any group of individuals found in society has the right to force a mother to have or not to have any particular medical procedure including abortion. Such a right would imply that others have the right to control your life and body and thus that you’re a slave to their wishes. Slavery is not proper for the life of a human being and is thus immoral.

3. Will you support measures to stop funding abortions with taxpayers’ money in Ontario?

Yes.  To answer this question I must first address a much higher level of question, which is the morality of funding any medical procedure with taxpayers money. In other words this question is more fundamentally about the morality of forced taxation under threat of seizure or imprisonment. In Ontario there are many kinds of taxation, such as sales tax, income tax and a wide range of other fees, levies and charges. I believe that any kind of taxation backed with the threat of force against an individual is immoral, thus any action that is taken by government with such funds is also immoral.

While it would require a large essay to fully validate, let me also say that it is immoral for any level of government to interfere in the free decisions of citizens unless a citizen is harming or threatening to physically harm another citizen. This applies in particular to economic activities such as all forms of work, employment, business and trade. In a free country all economic activities are voluntary and require the conscious consent of two parties. In the case of employment, it requires an employer who is willing to pay an employee, and an employee who is willing to accept that remuneration in return for work of a certain type and under certain conditions as specified by the employment contract. If the employee does not wish to do the work or does not find the compensation acceptable the employee must be free to not take on the work. If the employer does not wish to hire the employee or keep the employee on the payroll, then so long as the employment contract is followed the employer may terminate an employee as he decides is best for the business.

In the business of healthcare, this means that in a free society healthcare is an agreement between a patient and a healthcare provider and there is no moral right for any other individual or government agency to interfere in their agreement. The type of medical procedures and the payment made to compensate the healthcare provider are entirely a private matter and not subject to review by any other individual or organization. Thus we can see that using money taken from individual citizens by government through the use of force and then using it to pay doctors who have been conscripted by the state and whose practice is controlled, to perform or not to perform procedures on any individual is immoral at many levels.

In summary I would do more than support measures to top funding abortions with taxpayers money in Ontario, I would support measures to move in the direction of ending funding all medical procedures with taxpayers money and instead restore healthcare to the private agreements it used to be. While this would represent a major shift in the healthcare industry in Ontario it would soon result in vastly superior healthcare and a much more free society.

4. Do you agree women have the right to be thoroughly informed about the serious health consequences of abortion, the development of their child in the womb and the alternatives to abortion?

No.  The way the question is worded implies that an individual woman would have the right to something (such as information) from someone else even if someone else does not consent. Women have the right to ask all the questions they want and to learn all they want but they cannot have a right to any particular information from any particular person without that person’s consent. If another individual wishes to provide such information, he is certainly free to offer it, whether for no charge or with compensation, but he is also not free to force it upon anyone else. I believe that individuals have the right to choose their own path in life free of interference by other individuals or the state, unless they consent voluntarily.

5. Will you protect the rights of parents to educate their children according to their faith in matters of moral principles and beliefs concerning abortion, contraception and homosexuality?

Yes. Since I believe individuals have a moral right to determine their own choices in life so long as they do not cause or threaten physical harm to another individual, I believe this extends to parenting and especially the education of children. I believe there is a proper role for government to intercede in cases where a parent is physically harming a child, the details of which are a matter for the law to determine, but I do not believe it is proper for government to dictate any particular method of parenting or education, even in cases where one person may consider a parent negligent or even abusive in an educational sense.

6. Will you oppose euthanasia and instead support measures to promote palliative care, the purpose of which is to alleviate pain, and enhance the quality of life for terminally ill patients and those with disabilities?
*Euthanasia is the direct and intentional killing of a person by action or omission, with or without that person’s consent, for what people mistakenly believe our compassionate reasons.

First, I must disagree with the definition of euthanasia as given in the footnote to this question. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives the following definition of euthanasia: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. I believe this is a good definition of the word. I would further disagree with the definition given in the question because it states that euthanasia may be with or without that person’s consent. It is the issue of consent that is key in this discussion and the two conditions cannot be equated. Because I believe each individual human being has the right to choose his own path in life, this necessarily means he has the right to choose to end his life under conditions he considers unbearable and under which he considers life to be not worth living or even a form of torture. This is a corollary of a person’s right to life. If I do not have the right to choose to end my life then I do not have the right to my own life and therefore the word “rights” has no meaning.

I do believe that any act that involves another individual in the ending of a person’s life should be carefully scrutinized by the law and government to ensure a very high degree of compliance. For example, any laws referring to the act of euthanasia should be derived in an objective fashion and have objective and very clear standards of application.

On the other hand it is also not moral to force anyone, especially a healthcare practitioner, to participate in any such action. As referred to in a previous question I believe all individuals have the right to freely contract with other individuals, and this certainly includes the right of doctors and patients to form agreements voluntarily. Thus we can see that in a free country no doctor is forced to perform a procedure that is against his conscience or judgment and no patient can be forced to undertake a procedure that is against his conscience or judgment. The exception would be in the case where an individual patient has permanently lost the ability to reason and communicate or by another objective standard is no longer able to live a life appropriate to a human being, the distinguishing characteristic of which is the ability to think, and has left no instructions for end of life care. In a case like this the court may place responsibility for decision-making in the hands of another individual.

7. Will you support legislation to protect the right of healthcare workers who refuse to participate in procedures which are in violation of their religious or conscientious beliefs?

Yes, absolutely. The subject of this question (individual rights), is a perfect demonstration of how the extension of government force into the lives of innocent individual citizens and the economy necessarily leads to the violation of rights. As per my discussion in earlier questions it is not moral for government to interfere in healthcare unless physical harm is being done or threatened to an individual against his will. Thus any action that forces a worker to act against his will is immoral. On the other hand, an employer may contract with an employee and expect certain types of actions to be part of the job. If the employee does not wish to contract he is free to seek employment somewhere else or to leave the employer. This question is fundamentally one of contract law and not one of religious or conscientious beliefs.

8. Do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice?

Both, since this question presents a false dichotomy. Since I hold human life as the highest possible value I have to consider myself as a pro-lifer in the extreme. Referring to one of my earlier answers regarding the definition of life, I am totally in favor of the legal protection of individual human beings by government, since this is the single proper role of government.

For the same reasons I am also completely in favor of what is incorrectly referred to as pro-choice. A pregnant woman is most certainly an individual human being with the right to determine her own life and choose all aspects of it, especially any actions to be taken with regard to her own body or any part of it. I believe answers to previous questions provide more elaboration of this concept.


  1. Hello David,

    I have a few questions with respect to the argument that "the fetus is 50% male and 50% female". What are your views regarding that argument with respect to individual rights and conflict resolution from the state; would the female still have 100% of the decision making process to abort (individual right)? Would the female only have 50% of the decision making decision making process to abort and the male has the other 50 % (excluding convicted rapists)? If the female says yes to abortion and the male says no to the abortion; what legal guidelines would you enshrine in the law, if any, to deal with the conflict resolution, regarding the individual rights of two people, if it makes it way to court?


    1. Your statement in unclear. I will respond as if you mean to say that the abortion decision belongs 50% each to the male and female parent.

      I completely reject the argument and this should be clear from my essay above. Until birth the fetus is an integrated part of the mother's body and no one has the legal right to force her to do anything with regard to her body, or else the result means she is a slave to the wishes of others. This includes the father. Please note the distinction I made between what is morally right and what is legally proper also applies here.