Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Jackson Family's Prenatal Testing Story

The Jacksons always knew they wanted a large family from the beginning. Jennifer and her husband Richard have enjoyed the family lifestyle: bowling, movies, water fights, being outdoors together, and actively participating in their church.

In February 2016, the Jackson family found out they'd be adding another child to their home and everyone was ecstatic! Jennifer went in at ten weeks for Harmony testing, which is a genetic test that boasts ninety-nine percent accuracy in detecting Down syndrome at this gestation. The test is fairly simple, as it only requires a blood sample from the pregnant mother.

After patiently waiting for the 7-14 days to pass, the Jackson family received the news that their baby tested positive for Down syndrome. Jennifer’s specialist at the Shenandoah Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic in Winchester, Virginia, strongly and without hesitation suggested aborting the baby.

In many countries around the world this is common practice. In fact, Iceland takes pride in their statistics which show a nearly “eradicated” population of people diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Pro-life celebrity Patricia Heaton smartly retorted: "Iceland isn't actually eliminating Down Syndrome. They're just killing everybody that has it. Big difference."

According to CBS News, nearly one hundred percent of women in Iceland who received a positive screening for Down syndrome aborted the child. Approximately eighty to eighty-five percent of all pregnant women there choose to participate in the testing. Iceland has only one or two children born with Down syndrome annually, which is staggering when you compare to the United States births at approximately six thousand. Denmark is desiring to follow Iceland's example, hoping to be "Down Syndrome free by 2030."

Consider all of these facts as I take you back to the Jackson family. Jennifer and Richard chose not to follow their doctor's advice and continued with the pregnancy. They later had a beautiful baby girl who did not have Down syndrome at all. She was born completely healthy with no genetic issues as indicated in the initial testing at ten weeks. A test that claims ninety-nine percent accuracy, along with the push to remove Down syndrome from the population, could have taken baby Scarlett Jackson's life. Now imagine, how many of the children aborted in Iceland, or anywhere, were in fact killed over a false positive?

To be clear, abortion is also horrific when a Down syndrome test result is accurate. There are so many happy, healthy people in the world diagnosed with Down syndrome. They deserve the chance to live. Justifying the killing of millions of children to "cleanse" the world is a tragedy.

Scarlett Jacskon
How many of these tests were wrong as the Jackson family had experienced? How many providers take the time to help families truly understand how happily and healthily someone with this diagnosis can live?

I urge you to look at this beautiful little girl, Scarlett, born October 8, 2016. At thirty-nine weeks, she weighed six pounds and fourteen ounces. She has had no medical issues and is thriving beyond expectation at thirteen months old. If her mother followed the specialist's counsel; this perfect little girl would not be here today, bringing joy to all those she encounters.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A model pro-life response to violence

Earlier this month, pro-life activist Purity Thomas, who is fifteen years old, was punched in the face as she stood peacefully outside an abortion facility in Roanoke, VA. She was treated for a concussion. The pro-choice assailant has not yet been identified; however, employees of the facility have been ruled out.

Purity's courageous response is both inspirational and instructive. Here is a short list of everything she did right, in chronological order:

(1) She got it on video. The assailant began by screaming at Purity and her friends, and stealing one of their signs. At that point, one of her friends started recording, with the result that the physical attack was caught on video.

When an interaction with an abortion supporter becomes heated, pull out your phone. It's for your own safety; people tend to be better behaved when they know they're being recorded. And if the situation nevertheless escalates, at least you have evidence. (I know some pro-life activists who take this a step further and wear GoPro cameras during all outreach as a matter of routine, but that's impractical for many, especially in a sidewalk counseling setting.)

(2) She did not fight back. Purity did not make any attempt to defend herself against her attacker. Whether that's because she physically couldn't, or chose not to, or both, is unclear. Regardless, it was the right move for two reasons. First, self-defense probably would not have deterred the abortion supporter; Purity could have received another punch, or worse. And second, taking the punch is an act of solidarity with preborn children, who are physically defenseless.

(3) She stood firm. This is what Purity had to say:
“I think it encouraged me and spurred me to continue my pro-life work,” she told us after the attack. “I know that there’s always a possibility to save a baby’s life and the woman from the violence of abortion. That is more important than my own well-being.”
Purity, you are awesome. May pro-lifers everywhere follow your example.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Human Rights Day

On Sunday, December 10, the world marks Human Rights Day. We hope our readers will take this opportunity to reflect on the meaning of human rights, and we especially encourage our fellow pro-life activists to think about how they can apply these fundamental principles to their advocacy.

Human rights are for all human beings equally. But not all human beings have an equal need for human rights protections. Human rights documents are designed to shield the weak from the strong, and the unwanted minority from the dominant majority. The implications for abortion are obvious (unless, of course, your identity and/or income depends on not seeing them).

"Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law."
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 6

"Every person has the right to have his life respected. This right shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."
-American Convention on Human Rights, Article 4.1

"...nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."
-United States Constitution, 14th Amendment

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person."
-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3

"The child ... shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection
shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care."
-Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Principle 4

"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life."
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 6.1

Human rights for ALL human beings

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Alabama special election shows need for pro-life Democrats

In case you've been living under a rock, there's a special election coming up in Alabama to name a new senator. The slot was previously held by Jeff Sessions, who stepped down to become Attorney General. Republican candidate Roy Moore was the obvious favorite in the state so red it's crimson (oh hey, congrats on making the playoffs, Bama)—until multiple women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct when they were teens and he was a young adult.

The evidence against Moore is compelling, but due to the amount of time that has passed, there will be no definitive ruling from a court of law. Besides, even if it were to go to court, there certainly wouldn't be a ruling before the December 12 election.

Moore is still favored to win, but it's no longer so obvious. Democratic candidate Doug Jones has a real chance. The main thing holding Jones back?

You know it. He's a no-abortion-limits Democrat, running for a position that has a significant vote on judicial appointments and federal abortion policy. Moore, in contrast, has a long record of opposing abortion. Pro-life voters in Alabama must weigh which is more damaging to the lives of preborn children: an alleged sexual predator, the very type that we call out Planned Parenthood for concealing, who votes our way but damages our credibility in much the way Trump has; or a Senator with zero regard for children in the womb, but who has no skeletons in his closet. As far as we know. Yet. (Future readers: at this time, it seems every week brings fresh allegations against another dozen or so powerful white men. If Jones turns out to be one of them, have a sad laugh at my expense.)

And now, an open letter to the Democratic Party.

WHAT THE HELL, YOU GUYS. You couldn't run a pro-life candidate in Alabama? In Alabama?! If Doug Jones were pro-life, or even if he committed to abstain from life-related votes, you'd have this election in the bag. Instead, you're so deep in Big Abortion's pocket than you couldn't manage to run a moderate candidate in a state so pro-life, its abortion rate is 43% below the national average. You morons are probably developing an anti-gambling candidate for Nevada. Get a hold of yourselves.

Voters Everywhere

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Seeking partners for an upcoming project

Have you experienced a coerced abortion or threat of coerced abortion? Have you survived sex trafficking? Or do you work for an organization that combats domestic violence and sexual abuse?

Do you want to tell your story? If so, we want to amplify your voice.

The abortion lobby is pursuing a course of action that could be devastating for mothers in abusive relationships and victims of sex trafficking. To effectively fight back, we need to bring your stories front and center. It will not be easy, but we will be with you every step of the way. (I'm sorry to be so vague; we need to keep the details under wraps for the time being.)

If you are interested in learning more, please email us at We will not publish your story unless and until we have specific permission from you.

If this doesn't apply to you, you can help by sharing this post on social media. The more partners we have in this project, the more effective it will be!

Monday, December 4, 2017

The dying gasps of an industry

Suppose that you were the CEO of a business in crisis. Industry-wide, sales are down a shocking 21 percent. What would you do?

You might start by trying to improve your company's public image. If that fails, you might go negative, increasing your customer base by scaring them away from alternatives to your product. And if you're truly desperate, you might seek a government subsidy.

The Centers for Disease Control recently released its 2014 abortion statistics. The number of abortions in the United States fell to a new record low—from the previous record low set in 2013. In the ten-year period from 2005 to 2014, abortions plummeted 21 percent. And while the CDC's consistently delayed reporting is obviously an issue, all signs point to the abortion industry being in even more dire straits today than it was in 2014.

Pro-life legislation is certainly one cause of the drop in abortions. But even in states that are hostile to life, babies were better off in 2014 than they were in 2005. Other contributing factors include improved contraceptive methods; a spike in sexual abstinence among young adults; pro-life educational efforts, which have a greater reach than ever thanks to social media; and the continued work of pregnancy resource centers, many of which have harnessed innovative marketing tools to reach mothers in crisis.

So what's an abortion vendor to do?

Try to improve your company's public image: Last year, Planned Parenthood blew $4 million on an effort to "refresh our brand."

Go negative on your competition: The abortion lobby has dramatically increased its attacks on pregnancy resource centers, but has little to show for it. A recent attempt to smear pregnancy centers with fake online reviews fell flat, and the reviews were taken down for violating Google and Yelp terms of service. Laws forcing pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion have run into First Amendment obstacles.

Seek a government subsidy: Naturally, Planned Parenthood is working overtime to preserve its existing $500 million annual taxpayer subsidy. But Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups are also out to destroy the Hyde Amendment, which is a restriction on federal funding of abortion through the Medicaid program. The Hyde Amendment has prevented over two million abortions since it was first enacted in 1976; if you were born through the Medicaid program during that time frame, there's a 1 in 9 chance the Hyde Amendment saved your life. Eliminating the Hyde Amendment would create a massive subsidy for the abortion industry, and could even reverse the downward trend in abortion numbers.

The days of "safe, legal, and rare" are long gone. As I wrote a few years ago:
There is a kernel of fundamental tension between the movement for "choice" and the movement for "access." They can coexist while there are a million abortions a year. But in the long run, in order to have access, a critical mass of women have to make the "right" choice.
"Choice" has fallen by the wayside. The abortion lobby's current priorities—rebranding, attacking on pregnancy resource centers, and pushing for subsidies—points to one goal: increasing the number of preborn babies who die by abortion.

I realize there are still moderate pro-choicers out there. If that's you, I have a message: Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and all the other "pro-choice" organizations stopped representing you a long time ago. The abortion industry is dying, and as it struggles to stay afloat, it has quickly shed any pretense of charity. It is acting like the profit-driven business it has always been. If you find this appalling, please consider joining our efforts to help women and children. Even if you aren't 100% on board with the anti-abortion stance, look into what your local pro-life charities are doing. You'll find many opportunities to advance true choice.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Newly launched project advances health for mothers and babies of color

"What would it look like opening a birthing center in the hood?" That question sent Cessilye Smith of Dallas, Texas on a journey.

Cessilye is a pro-life feminist, racial justice educator, and doula—on top of just being an all-around rad woman. (Disclosure: she's also a friend of mine, obviously.) She is incredibly knowledgeable about the past and present of racism, the devastation abortion has inflicted on the black community, and low-income mothers' needs. I cannot think of a better person to open a birthing center in the hood.

I am so excited to share that Cessilye has teamed up with fellow Texas activist Bethany Stricker to launch Abide Women's Health Services!

If you were at the Life/Peace/Justice conference in October, you may have heard Cessilye speak about the crisis facing black mothers and babies. On nearly every maternal, fetal, and infant health measure, people of color fare orders of magnitude worse than the general population. And Abide plans to open its first location in a segregated, under-served neighborhood of south Dallas where the statistics are staggering: it has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, maternal mortality, infant mortality, and small-for-gestational-age births in the county.

Abide aims to break down the barriers keeping low-income mothers and babies from quality prenatal and birthing care. Not only that, Abide will help like-minded aspiring midwives, doulas, and other birth workers overcome obstacles to training and certification.

In their own words:
Abide Women's Health Services is dedicated to improving outcomes in maternal and child health by providing education and care that is easily accessible, culturally competent, and woman-centered within our diverse and under-served communities. This includes comprehensive prenatal, labor, delivery, and postpartum care, as well as women’s health services. Understanding that poor outcomes are related to quality health care worker shortages, Abide prioritizes offering excellent, relevant accessible training for aspiring doulas, birth assistants, midwives, and childbirth educators.
This project has so much life-saving potential, and Abide is counting on the pro-life community's support. Monetary donations are always welcome, but for this phase, Abide especially needs in-kind contributions: web design services, logo design services, volunteer consultants, and help creating educational materials. If any of that sounds like your wheelhouse, please email

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Baby Nielson and the humanity of the preborn child

Jaelyn Barnes had a miscarriage at eleven weeks. Baby Nielson, as you can see in this family photo, was a human being.

This being Jaelyn's fifth child, she was an experienced mother and their entire family was ecstatic for the newest addition. Jaelyn's husband was serving their community as police officer when they first discovered there wasn't a heartbeat. They were urged not to worry and the midwife advised rechecking in a few days; however, her husband was injured badly on the job and the fetal heartbeat check was put on hold another few days. Nearly a week later, the heartbeat still could not be found. After an ultrasound, it was confirmed that the baby they looked forward to meeting had passed away a week prior.

At this gestation, many people believe that babies are a clump of cells and nothing more. Jaelyn bravely shared this photo of her miscarried baby to spread awareness about how human these children truly are, even at only eleven weeks. In addition, there is a common misconception that because these precious lives are "just a clump of cells," they feel zero pain during abortion.

Dr. Maureen Condic is a professor of neurology at the University of Utah. She testified before Congress that a person's experience of pain evolves over time, beginning in the first trimester:
The neural circuitry responsible for the most primitive response to pain, the spinal reflex, is in place by 8 weeks of development. ... This is the earliest point at which the fetus experiences pain in any capacity. ... A fetus responds just as humans at later stages of development respond; by withdrawing from the painful stimulus.
By 8 to 10 weeks, Dr. Condic says many of the neural connections are formed. How can any person who has the knowledge that a baby can feel the pain of abortion and see this beautiful and perfectly formed child, still think abortion is humane?

[Today's guest post by Heather Hobbs is part of our paid blogging program. Heather is an editor and blogger at Life Defenders.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cultivating a pro-life worldview?

Last January, at my presentation to the Students for Life of America east coast conference, I was asked a question that I don't recall verbatim but was something along the lines of: "Rather than making the case against abortion in isolation, shouldn't we instead work to advance a pro-life worldview, like by converting people to Catholicism?" I don't remember my exact answer; it was probably fine, but it was very off-the-cuff and short because the session was about to end.

The question resurfaced in my mind recently. Eleven months later, with no further ado, here's my better answer in two parts:

(1) Practicality: What the pro-life movement is asking for is so basic—don't kill babies!—that it's compatible with a wide range of worldviews. Not all worldviews, sadly, but many. That's why you'll find pro-life Catholics, atheists, evangelicals, Jews, agnostics, mainline Protestants, Muslims, neo-pagans, and so on.

It's much easier to convince a person that the pro-life position is compatible with their pre-existing worldview than it is to change that person's whole worldview. That's especially true in the time-limited situations that activists frequently encounter.

(2) The hidden cost: Getting someone to adopt a "pro-life worldview" sounds great, but what happens if the person's worldview changes? Time and time again I've seen people who grew up in strict religious households abandon their Christian worldviews in favor of atheism or agnosticism, and become pro-choice at the same time—throwing out the literal baby with the metaphorical bathwater. If people are taught that being pro-life is a mere accessory to some larger cause, and don't have a solid independent basis to reject abortion, we risk tying the success of the pro-life movement to factors completely out of our control.

So there you have it, better late than never! If you'd like to hear me elaborate more on these thoughts, come to the Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life on January 20, 2018 at Georgetown, where pro-life student leaders will explore the theme "(Ir)religiously Pro-Life: The Future of the Movement in a Secular World."

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Plot Thickens: Rasanen on Ectogenesis

I recently wrote an article responding to Joona Rasanen's arguments regarding ectogenesis. Ecogenesis refers to an organism growing in an artificial environment outside the body in which it would normally be found. In this context, it refers to the human embryo or fetus gestating in an artificial womb rather than the woman's womb who conceived the child. That article was, itself, inspired by comments that I left on an earlier article on BioEdge. Rasanen, who is apparently a reader of BioEdge, responded to my comments in general. He wrote,
Thanks for your comments. However, I suggest you, and others, to [sic] read my article... I have not argued that a genetic mother has a right to the death of the fetus. I claimed that the right to the death of the fetus is couple's [sic] collective right which they can use together.
A right to genetic privacy should be understood not as an individual but as a collective right. That is because reproduction is not an individual but a collective action. Even though a fetus shares 50% of its genetic material with each genetic parent respectively, 100% of the fetus' genetic material comes from its genetic parents.
Also, I do not believe that we have full moral status from the moment of conception. Elsewhere, I have argued against such views (but if I am wrong it probably [sic] change the outcome of this debate).
I e-mailed Rasanen and he was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his article.[1] To recap, the four arguments I presented against his view on ectogenesis are:
  • Considering the embryo/fetus the property of the mother is dehumanizing.
  • The genetic material is not identical to the mother's genetic material but is a combination of the mother's and father's genetic material.
  • This argument proves too much (it would justify coerced abortions in some cases)
  • A violation of this nature would justify killing a person at any age if it justifies killing the embryo/fetus
Rasanen's thesis is that despite the views of abortion-choice thinkers, and despite the possibility that ectogenesis for the human embryo/fetus may become a reality one day, a pregnant woman doesn't just have a right to be unpregnant, she also has a right to the death of the fetus. I have perused Rasanen's article and now I intend to show that the arguments he provides don't justify the woman having any sort of right to the death of the fetus, even if we grant her the right to removal of the unborn child from her uterus (and I would only grant this for the sake of this particular discussion -- I obviously do not hold this position).

Argument #1: The right not to become a biological parent

Rasanen spells out his argument as follows:

1. Becoming a biological parent causes harm to the couple because of parental obligations to the child.
2. The couple has the interest to avoid the harm of parental obligations.
3. Therefore, the couple has a right to the death of the fetus to avoid the harm of parental obligations.

This argument is a non sequitur just on the face of it. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. If we assume that both premises are true, then one can avoid the harm of parental obligations simply by abstaining from having sex. Like bodily rights more generally, if the argument succeeds, then it only justifies abortion in rape cases, not in non-rape cases, which make up the vast majority of abortions.

However, let's examine his reasons for believing the premises to be true. He only offers reasons to accept the first premise, and they are: 1) even if the child is adopted out, if the fetus is allowed to survive the biological parents will always feel morally responsible for the child, which then could cause them significant psychological harm, and 2) he believes that biological parents actually do remain obliged, life-long, to their birth children, even when adopted out. Adoption doesn't resolve this issue, he says, because parental obligations cannot be fully transferred or delineated to adoptive parents. They are, by nature, non-transferable according to his view. However, Rasanen doesn't justify these two supporting arguments; his justification is simply that as there is no alternative ways to avoid the harm of parental obligations, then the parents have a right to the death of the fetus.

Even if we accept Rasanen's view as correct, that the responsibilities of parenthood cannot, by nature, be transferred (and I would argue he is wrong about his view of the non-transferability of parental obligations via adoption), his argument would not succeed. My counterargument is simply that Rasanen's argument is invalid because its conclusion doesn't follow from its premises. There is, in fact, an alternative way to avoid the "harm of parental obligations" -- to abstain from having sex. If you don't have sex, you don't get pregnant. Now I know that many readers of this blog might not find this an altogether appealing response (you should hear some of the things I've been called due to holding this view). But it doesn't matter whether or not this response is ultimately appealing. All that matters is that it is an alternative way to avoid this harm. Rasanen's argument is dependent on there being no alternative to avoid it, so by presenting a valid alternative, Rasanen's argument is also shown to be unsound.

Argument #2: The right to genetic privacy

Rasanen's second argument is formulated as follows:

1. People have a right to genetic privacy.
2. Ectogenesis abortion violates the genetic privacy of the genetic parents of the fetus.
3. Therefore, genetic parents have a right to the death of the fetus.

I agree with Rasanen's first point. I think that people do have a right to genetic privacy. After all, if someone steals your DNA and clones you, it seems that two wrongs have been committed: first, in stealing your DNA, and then in cloning you. So I'll accept Rasanen's first premise.

However, even if I, again, grant Rasanen's second premise for the sake of argument (which I do not grant otherwise), his argument is, again, a non sequitur. It doesn't follow from the first two premises that the genetic parents have a right to the death of the fetus. Here are a few reasons why:

1) This argument proves too much. The fetus is already in existence. The parents' DNA has already been used to conceive a new human being. If we accept that this violation of the right to genetic privacy grants the parents a right to the death of the fetus, there is no principled reason why this would not grant them the same right when the child is older. Some women are not aware they are pregnant until they give birth (as incredible as this is to believe). Why wouldn't the mother have the right to kill her infant if she gives birth to a child she didn't even know she had? Or what if she gives birth to the child, but a couple of years down the road decides that it's just too difficult and wants to claim her right to genetic privacy? What principled reason is there to deny this? If your response is that the child is a person at that stage, then it's not a right to genetic privacy that is doing the work of justifying the death of the fetus but the argument that the fetus is not yet a person. So in that case, this argument doesn't justify the conclusion.

2) This argument again proves too much in the fact that it would justify coercive abortions. Now, Rasanen justifies his right to genetic privacy by saying because procreation is an act that requires two people, the right to the death of the fetus is not an individual right but a collective right. So the decision must be unanimous in order for the fetus to be killed. However, I'm not sure there are such things as collective rights, and the concept is a controversial one. It seems to me that all rights are reducible to individual rights, and any supposed right a group might possess must never infringe on the individual right of a human being, certainly not if the infringement is a greater harm than the prevention of being able to act in some way. So even if we conceive of the "right to genetic privacy" as a collective right, that collective right must never infringe on the individual right of a human being, so it still would not justify a "right to the death of the fetus."

Now, if both parents have a right to genetic privacy, then the child would be violating the father's right to genetic privacy just as much as the mother's. So he would have the right to force her to have an abortion. Or if they do give birth to a child, any grandchild that their child eventually conceives will also have come from their genetic code, so this would also justify the grandparents forcing their daughter to have an abortion for whatever reason. Rasanen apparently believes that when the child is still in the uterus, the choice to terminate the pregnancy is the mother's and the mother's alone to make. But this doesn't make sense considering his argument that reproduction is a collective act. If reproduction is a collective act, and the death of the fetus a collective decision, then the right to terminate the pregnancy must also be a collective act, requiring the permission of both parents because removing the child from the natural environment of the uterus would present a harm to the developing embryo/fetus. So while the embryo/fetus would not die, this would be allowing the mother to harm the child against the father's wishes.

3) The child is not violating the right; the perpetrator of the act has violated your rights and must be punished for it. The child is doing nothing wrong by merely existing. The harm of violating the right to genetic privacy has already been done. The DNA has already been used to produce an embryo from the parents' DNA, and even after you kill the child, that won't undo the conception. There will still be a dead human being with the combined DNA of the parents. Only now a child has been punished for these circumstances beyond his control.

So again, his conclusion doesn't follow. The fact that their right to genetic privacy has been violated does not justify a "right to the death of the fetus" because the harm has already been done, and because this would allow killing a person at any age, not just while in the womb. Also, there is simply no causal link between the violation of the parents' genetic privacy and the right to the death of the fetus as killing the fetus will not remove her genetic code or undo the conception.

Argument #3: The right to property

Rasanen's third argument is formulated as follows:

1. The fetus is property of the genetic parents.
2. People can destroy their property.
3. Therefore, genetic parents can destroy their fetus.

Now this is the most barbaric of the three arguments. I can cite numerous examples where human beings were considered property in world history, with disastrous results. This is simply dehumanizing and not an argument that a person concerned with ethics ought to be making. An embryo/fetus is a human being at an early stage of development. Even if the fetus is not a person, there is no justification for considering it of such low status as to be simply a piece of property. So this argument is unsound because premise one is simply not true (and oddly enough, this is the only one of his three arguments that is actually logically valid).

However, aside from the previous paragraph, this is also an instance in which Rasanen just didn't seem to be paying close attention to what he was arguing. The only justification he gives for the two premises is that common intuition supports them (for example, many people have an intuition that a couple who uses IVF to get pregnant can destroy the excess embryos if they wish, and no one can use them against the couple's consent). This is despite the fact that many people have strong intuition in the opposite direction, such as myself and most pro-life people, that a couple who conceives through IVF does not have the moral right to destroy the excess embryos (to say nothing of whether or not it is even ethical to conceive them artificially in the first place, but that's irrelevant to the present discussion). This is, frankly, shocking since in his discussion of the "right not to become a biological parent" he chides two abortion-choice philosophers, Eric Mathison and Jeremy Davis, for arguing that intuitions against the claim that gamete donors and surrogate mothers have rights toward the child means that there are no such rights, and thus there are no ethical problems with those practices. He scolds them because of the numerous philosophers who argue that they do, indeed, have rights toward the child, so intuition, alone, cannot justify their argument. So Rasanen is making the same kind of argument, that common intuition, alone, justifies that the fetus is the property of the genetic parents despite the fact that numerous philosophers have argued that human personhood is established during fertilization.

In fact, to make matters even worse, he concedes that older children are not property because they are persons, and persons cannot be property. But he doesn't justify his position that early fetuses are not persons. Despite conceding that if the early fetus is a person, it might change the outcome of the debate, he makes no attempt to justify his position, instead stating that it is outside the scope of his article. Under ordinary circumstances, I would agree. But since his third point literally rises or falls on whether or not the early fetus is a person, it is well within the scope of his article to address it. In fact, it is mandatory, if he expects his arguments to convince anyone.

Post Script

Rasanen finishes up with a discussion about what happens, in his view, when biological parents disagree over the fate of the fetus. I have already argued that all rights are reducible to individual rights, so there may not be any such things as collective rights, but even if there are, they certainly could not infringe on the individual rights of a human being, especially if that infringement is a greater harm than being prevented from acting. So I need not comment on this section, as I believe the discussion in this section of his paper to be without merit or meaning.

But something needs to be said. Apart from the lack of awareness of what he's writing in his own article, one of Rasanen's supporting points is that "when a man and woman are having sex, they implicitly accept the possible consequences of their activity." This is quoted verbatim from his article. He is meaning this to show that we should accept the status quo -- the fetus is alive, and killing it would change the status quo. So we should protect the life of the fetus if the genetic parents are in disagreement. But the problem is that Rasanen's statement basically negates the whole abortion debate. I agree wholeheartedly that when a man and woman are having sex, they implicitly accept the possible consequences of their activity. But this includes conceiving a child! When a man and woman have sex, which results in the conception of an embryo, they now bear a responsibility to care for this embryo because they engaged in an act which leads to the creation of a naturally needy child. So they implicitly accept the possible consequences of their activity.

It gets worse for Rasanen, and this one I'm going to quote at length: cases where genetic parents disagree, I believe we should follow what can be called the status quo approach. According to this approach, change needs a stronger justification than keeping things as they are. 
As long as there is no intervention to the pregnancy, the fetus will naturally develop inside the woman's womb. This means that there is no change to the status quo and the fetus' naturally probable potential to develop into an infant would be actualized. Following the status quo approach would mean that when one parent wants the death of the fetus and the other does not, the fetus should not be killed or left to die. Therefore, when, for example, a pregnant woman wants the fetus to die, but the father wants it to live, the fetus should be detached and implanted into an artificial womb where the fetus would continue its development into an infant. Thus the status quo should be understood from the point of view of the fetus: an already developing fetus would continue its development in a womb -- albeit an artificial one.
Did you catch that? There are several things wrong with his statements here. First, there's a fairly obvious one. Rasanen is essentially arguing that a woman should be forced to have an operation (i.e. "detach the fetus") against her desires. This is unethical medical practice. Second, if the fetus is not a person and is merely property of the genetic parents, then on what grounds should we understand the status quo from the point of view of the fetus? I have never asked my car whether it prefers 10W-30 or 5W-30 motor oil. I've never asked it whether it would be willing to give me a lift to the store or if it would prefer to stay at home, or even acted in such a way, from its perspective. It's my property; it has no say in the matter. In fact, it has a specific purpose that I own it for. When it can no longer fulfill that function, I sell it off for parts. Third, if the fetus is merely property and is not a person, then on what grounds should we accept the status quo argument? Why not allow the mother to kill the fetus against the father's wishes? He could, after all, find someone else to have children with. If the fetus is merely property, it isn't being harmed by being killed. I'm not harming my wall when I take a sledgehammer to it. The status quo argument implicitly assumes personhood of the fetus. But fourth, if changing the status quo requires a stronger argument than keeping it the same, it's not obvious why the woman should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy at all, especially if the pregnancy is a normal, healthy pregnancy. If the status quo should be understood from the point of view of the fetus, and it takes a stronger argument to change it than keep it the same, there is no reason why a woman in an average pregnancy should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy (and note: I'm not saying that pregnancies are easy, I'm simply saying that barring cases in which the pregnancy presents a danger to the life or serious health of the woman, the status quo argument would not justify terminating the pregnancy).


I have examined four arguments by Rasanen (the right not to become a parent, the right to genetic privacy, the fetus as property, and the status quo argument) and shown them all to be flawed for various reasons, either because they are logically invalid and unsound, simply logically unsound, or they actually argue against his position rather than for it. For these reasons, Rasanen's arguments cannot be seen as weighing in favor of a right to the death of the fetus, even if we grant a right terminate the pregnancy but keep the fetus alive.

[1] All quotations and paraphrases from Joona Rasanen, unless otherwise noted, are from his article "Ectogenesis, abortion, and a right to the death of the fetus," Bioethics, 2017, 31:697-702, DOI: 10.1111/bioe.12404.