Bodily Rights

What Happens When Rights Seem to Conflict?

Since the preborn have the same human rights as the born, what happens when those rights seem to conflict?

For example, the preborn have a human right to life, but a woman also has a human right to personal liberty. Does exercise of her rights, however, allow for an abortion?


For example, someone may have the freedom to throw a ball, but that doesn’t give him or her license to throw that ball into the head of a toddler.  Abortion is analogous to the latter — inflicting harm on a separate, distinct human being — and liberty rights were never designed to allow for that.  Moreover, of those two rights, life and liberty, one is more foundational: the right to life, which means it gets priority when the two are in conflict.[1]

Some might say that the right to life doesn’t mean others have a duty to always uphold it. For example, Person A may have a right to life, but if they need a blood transfusion, it doesn’t mean Person B should be forced to donate blood.  Likewise, some argue, even though the preborn have a right to life, it doesn’t mean a woman should be forced to “donate” her uterus. There is, however, an important distinction between these two examples: while it is nice to donate blood, there is no legal duty to do so.


Parents have certain obligations to their children. Since parents have a responsibility to meet the basic needs of their offspring after birth, it follows they have the same duty before birth.  “Donating” one’s uterus for a preborn child is equivalent to using one’s body after birth to feed, burp, change, hold, and seek shelter for a born child. Even fathers who had no knowledge of their child’s existence during the pregnancy can be expected to pay child support for eighteen years.

Children, because they are dependent, weak, and vulnerable, need adults to meet their basic needs.  Civil societies typically grant extra protections to the youngest among us because of this.  In fact, the United Nations, in its Declaration on the Rights of the Child,[2]says, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

Some people argue that there will always be women who will choose abortion, therefore, it is best to make abortion legal so it’s “safe” — but is it?

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