PHILOSOPHYnDefining Lifenby Steven GoldbergnThe morality of abortion is entirelyna matter of definition: is the fetus anperson or not? The definition —nwhether derived from millennia of religiousntradition or from individual analysisnand subjective choice—both generatesnand justifies the intense emotionsnthat are given free rein when fact isnirrelevant.nThere is no logical or empirical waynto demonstrate the superiority of eitherndefinition, that of the fetus as a personnor as a nonperson. Nor is there any waynto demonstrate the superiority of eithernof the impulses that lie behindnthem — a tradition-rooted identificationnwith the fetus; or an identification withnthe pregnant woman, defended analyticallynand pragmatically. These differencesnmanifest themselves in differentnpremises, each of which is both imperviousnto attack and incapable of logicallynor scientifically persuading the othernside. Nonetheless, once you accept onenof the definitions, you are committed tona specific position on the permissibilitynof abortion.nLet us assume that no one is willingnto argue for the routine killing of normal,ninnocent persons. Then, if thenfetus is defined as a person, there isnnothing more to say. Abortion, so defined,nis an extermination of persons,none that would (morally, though per­nVITAL SIGNSnhaps not legally) justify almost anynresponse capable of stopping a massacre.nIf, on the other hand, the fetus isndefined as a nonperson, there is nothingnmore to say. Abortion, so defined, is anpurely personal act that would (morally,nthough perhaps not legally) justify almostnany response capable of stoppingnan intolerable intrusion on personalnfreedom.nThe various attempts to get aroundnthe problem of definition all fail on thengrounds of irrelevance. If the law definesnthe fetus as a person, then a lawnoutlawing abortion is no more a lawncodifying “a matter of religion” than isnthe law against murder the same asn”Thou shalt not kill.” From a legalnviewpoint, an act is “a matter of religion”nonly to the extent that it is not an”matter of law.”nA law outlawing abortion is no morena law against a private decision than is anlaw preventing a slaveholder from definingna black man as a nonperson onenagainst a “private decision” of thenslaveholder; a decision is “a privatendecision” or “a matter of conscience”nonly to the extent that it is legal.nOf course, a “legal illegality” is ancontradichon in terms, whether thensupposed mitigating consideration benprivacy or conscience. An act can, ofncourse, be moral but illegal, but the actncannot be defended in terms of legality.nThis is true even when, as in thencases of conscientious objectors, andnrape victims who want an abortion, thenlaw recognizes exceptions. To the extentnthat the law recognizes an exception,nthere is no conflict; to the extentnthat the law does not recognize annexception, the law cannot, by definition,nrecognize the exception.nA law against abortion is not a legalninfringement of “a woman’s right tonher own body” because an abortionnlaw recognizes no such right; if it did itnwould be a self-negating law. Moreover,neven on a moral level, the conceptnof “a woman’s right to her ownnbody” is merely obfuscatory; assumingnthat the right of normal, innocentnpersons to live takes precedence overnany noncapital right, “a woman’s rightnto her own body” supposes the fetus tonbe a nonperson, in which case neithern”a woman’s right to her own body” nornany other justification for abortion isnrequired.nThe mutilation of pregnant womennand other horrors associated with illegalnabortion are capable of nauseating anyonenworthy of being called “human”;nthey are not, however, capable of justifyingnabortion when the fetus is definednas a person. For—assuming theneasily-demonstrated fact that the totalnof women and fetuses killed whennabortion is legal is far greater thannwhen abortion is illegal — even thenhorrors of illegal abortion cannot justifynwhat is, to one who defines the fetus asna person, murder on a much greatern. scale.nThere are many powerful, pragmaticnarguments for the legalization ofnabortion (for example, those concernednwith overpopulation). Howev-nTHE CHILD ABUSEn’CRISIS’:nFORGOnEN FACTS ANDnHIDDEN AGENDASnAn air clearing analysis of one of the mostnmisunderstood and controversial issuesnfacing Americans today.nSend for a copy(s) of this remarkablenreport by sending this coupon and $2.50neach (includes postage & handling) to:nSpecial Issue Offer, The Rockford InstitutenCenter on The Family in America * 934nNorth Main Street * Rockford, IL 61103.nSPECIAL ISSUE ORDER FORMnEnclosed is $ for copies ofnThe Child Abuse’Crisis’nNamenAddress.nnnCity . Slate. .Zip .nThe Itockfoid Institute Center on The Family in American934 North Main Street • Rocltford, IL 61103n4/89nAPRIL 1989/51n