Much of today’s debate about abortion rights deals with questions about the point in pregnancy at which the fetus or embryo first acquires the right to live. But the real question we must answer to resolve the debate is a philosophical one about the nature of rights, not a specialized scientific one about the nature of the fetus. This talk will argue that if we understand rights as individual rights in the original Enlightenment American sense, neither an embryo nor a fetus can be understood as having rights. Opposition to abortion rights stems from pre-Enlightenment religious notions of morality and rights, not from disagreement about biology.
Ben Bayer is fellow and director of content at the Ayn Rand Institute. He teaches in the Objectivist Academic Center, lectures and gives interviews for ARI. He writes for and is an associate editor of ARI’s online publication, New Ideal. Dr. Bayer holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and his writing focuses primarily on the application of philosophy to contemporary cultural and political controversies. Dr. Bayer received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2007. He also completed the program of coursework in ARI’s Objectivist Graduate Center between 1997 and 2006.