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In a post that covered a number of things, John Crawford, who normally comments here in protection of gun advocacy, a sort of faux-libertarianism and other positions, commented as follows:

So, what is the heritage of our belief in the sanctity of life, that you support abortion?
What is the heritage of our belief, that you decry the protection of our Rights?
What is the heritage of our belief, that you stand with those who wish to force others to their will?

To which a commenter called hiernonymous posted this following slam dunk of a quality response:

“So, what is the heritage of our belief in the sanctity of life, that you support abortion?”

The three core values of the Enlightenment – the basis of the DoI, the Constitution, and our concept of rights and what government exists to protect – are life, liberty, and property.

These rights mean that nobody has the right to kill or injure another without justification; nobody has the right to enslave another; nobody has the right to violate the integrity of another’s body.

Sometimes rights seem to come into conflict, and we have to work our way through them to see if they really are in conflict.

In the case of abortion, we have the case of human A – the mother – and human B – the fetus. When couched simplistically as “A wants to kill B,” then it seems obvious to you that this is wrong.

But that ignores that B is demanding the use of A’s body for its own sustenance. Its continued existence demands the continued violation of the integrity of A’s body, and the continued risk to A’s health.

Under the principles on which this country is founded, nobody has the right to do either of those things – violate A’s body, or risk A’s health – except A. A must grant consent.

Abortion is what happens when A refuses or withdraws her consent.

And “B must make those demands because of A’s actions” is irrelevant. Our principles – and our laws – so strongly defend the concept of the right to bodily integrity inherent in the right to life that even trivial violations of that integrity (taking blood for a DUI case, for example) require extensive legal justification and are conducted under strict limits. I can think of no cases at all in which the actual use of another’s body can be compelled, even if the need for that use is the fault of the person to be compelled.

If you and I are the only two people in the county with matching blood types, and I run you off the road and injure you badly, neither you, nor the government, nor your representatives can compel me to give blood to save your life. If I was committing a crime when I put you in those circumstances (if I ran you off the road because I was driving recklessly, for example, or road raging), then I can be punished for that crime, but cannot be compelled to give you access to my body. On the other hand, if I were performing a legal action and not engaged in criminally negligent behavior, you might disapprove of my refusal to help you, but you have no moral or legal basis to compel me.

That, John, is the link between a position supporting legal abortion and our heritage.

“What is the heritage of our belief, that you decry the protection of our Rights?”

I’m not sure if your continued inability to master English capitalization is cultishness or just lack of education, but this is one of those statements so vague as to be empty of meaning. I’m sure you think it sounds impressive, but what action, exactly, are you characterizing as “the protection of our Rights [sic]?”

“What is the heritage of our belief, that you stand with those who wish to force others to their will?”

This actually has a really well-known and obvious answer. It’s remarkable that you don’t know it.

It’s probably too late to educate you, but you need to put down the keyboard, go to the library, and read some Hobbes, Locke, and Montesquieu for starters.

The entire Enlightenment concept of government – you know, the one on which the Constitution is based – is predicated on some form of the social contract. In short, it is a recognition that humans are fallible, that rights (or Rights, as you type it) cannot be defended or protected in a state of nature, and that the best solution is for men to voluntarily surrender some of those rights in order to better protect the rest. It’s a recognition that compulsion and coercion are sometimes necessary, and that the purpose of government is to best protect those rights. (In case you’re wondering where Montesquieu comes in, he’s the guy who takes the theoretical groundwork of Hobbes and especially Locke and proposes a concrete basis for making it work, largely through the idea of separation of powers).

This idea that every exercise of cooperation, coercion, or even force is somehow unjust or an exercise in tyranny is an adolescent resentment. 3lemenope captured it perfectly in noting that “I understand that you think freedom is “I get to do whatever I want, and ‮kcuf‬ everyone else”, and that is a child’s understanding of freedom in the context of citizenship.”

That took some time, but I want you to see that there actually IS an answer to your questions – and one you should have already known or been able to figure out.

Massive kudos to all the great commenters here who keep these threads so active and engaging. Thank you.

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A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...