Friday, January 18, 2013

A Woman's "Right" to Choose

(Photo courtesy of

The issue of "rights" cannot be discussed in a vacuum that ignores either the history of what "rights" means or the philosophical and political underpinnings of "rights." Just because someone says, "I have a right" does not mean that s/he does. Nowhere in the writings of Enlightenment philosophers, and nowhere in the recorded annals of pre-Constitution documentary history, does any thinker or writer even hint at a "right" to abortion; contrarily, the "right" of self-defense is documented and defended consistently by the Enlightenment philosophers from whom Jefferson derived the language and ideas of the Declaration of Independence, and from whom the framers of the Constitution derived the Bill or Rights, most especially Montesquieu whom the Founders quoted more than any other philosopher, and who asserted that the "right" of self-defense is inherent to the "right" to life; that's why those amendments fall one and two in the Bill of Rights. So to speak about a "woman's right to choose" is an abuse of the term "rights" that has no historical or philosophical vindication; it is vindicated only by law, which is not the same thing as a "right." The only inalienable "right" that has a bearing upon the issue of abortion is the "right to life," first among rights listed by the framers; that's why abortion advocates ever debate the chronology of pregnancy and what constitutes a "viable fetus." It may be "legal" for me to drive an automobile, but that privilege can be taken away by the government, and thus I do not have a "right" to drive, for a government can neither bestow nor take away a "right," hence the Founders' use of the term "inalienable." Just because a government legalizes something in no wise makes it a "right." Rights transcend law and government. Jefferson did not say that governments exist to "bestow" rights, but rather to "secure" rights previously and inalienably bestowed by God. Abortion may be legal, but it is not a "right."