It’s the Equality, Stupid

Cross-posted from Secular ProLife

Marriage equality. Racial equality. Gender equality. Everywhere there’s equality. It’s hard to go about even one day in life without hearing a story in which one member (or class) of our species is accusing another member (or class) of our species of unequal treatment.

So allow me to throw my hat in the ring and argue for existential equality. By existential equality, I don’t mean to imply anything spiritual as the term seems to imply in a quick Google search. I simply mean to state my belief that in the same way that one strives for the realization of equality between LGBT persons and heterosexuals, blacks and whites, and males and females, so too should we strive to realize the equality of existence. To put it in simplified form, equality of existence is allowing something that already exists to continue to exist in order to maintain a more general principle of equality.

Equality of existence obviously comes into direct conflict with the practice of abortion. Abortion, after all, is the practice of terminating a life that already exists. So my conclusion is that if the equality of existence is true, then it follows that abortion cannot be a matter of individual choice.

My argument that the principle of equality of existence is true relies on the following premise: that equality of existence is required for any subsequent claims of equality or rights. A brief illustrative example: In America, we generally recognize two rights (these obviously aren’t the only two): the right to life and the right to vote. Do these rights stand independently? Or would violation of one affect the other? The right to vote begins at the age of 18. Imagine that every person’s life is subject to review on their 17th birthday by another individual person. If they are deemed worthy, they may go on their way, if they are not, they are killed. Does this violation of the right to life affect your right to vote? If your family member is killed, your first thought wouldn’t be concern over the fact that your loved one won’t be able to vote in subsequent election cycles. So the best way to consider this question is to ask, do the individuals who survive their 17th birthday have a right to vote? It’s plainly true (in this scenario) that this choice is arbitrary in the sense that this person is allowed to make the choice for any reason that suits his or her fancy. It’s also plainly true that a survivor’s right to vote is wholly dependent on another’s choice to let them live. Because of this dependence, it follows that if your life was upheld arbitrarily, then your right to vote, even if exercised perfectly freely thereafter, is also arbitrary. If the right to vote is arbitrary, then it is not, in fact, a right. Thus, the right to life is a pre-requisite for the right to vote. If there is no right to life, there is no right to vote.

Now, for the purposes of abortion, let’s define the right to life as beginning when personhood begins in the most pro-choice sense of the word (consciousness, self-awareness etc.) so that a fetus does not have a right to life and would only attain it at some future date. Does this right require a prior right to shield it from the arbitrariness that infects the above example? Again, the question to ask is do survivors of abortion have a right to life? Again, here it is plainly true that this choice is arbitrary in the sense that the mother is allowed to make the choice for any reason (this is not, in any sense, a claim that mothers generally make this choice lightly). Again, here it is also plainly true that the survivor’s right to life was wholly dependent on the mother’s choice to let them live. So it also follows that since this choice was arbitrary, the right to life (that kicks in at consciousness), even if exercised perfectly freely at that point is equally arbitrary. If the right to life is arbitrary then it is not, in fact, a right. Thus, equality of existence is a pre-requisite for the right to life. Equality of existence is true. Therefore, abortion should not be a matter of individual choice.

Equality and rights are temporal processes. The flawed assumption on which every pro-choice argument must rest is on the idea that you can introduce arbitrariness at the very beginning of the process and that this has no consequences for those that survive such arbitrariness. On the contrary, introducing arbitrariness at such an early stage renders equality and rights thereafter meaningless. On what basis can you claim rights and equality when your very existence is dependent on the choice of another person? You can’t. Your existence is a privilege, not a right. And consequently, everything else you enjoy thereafter are privileges.

So to all who can read this, congratulations on your membership to life’s country club. I hear the pool is really big.

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