Peikoff and Abortion

by Jason Stotts

Leonard Peikoff published a good essay recently in the Huffington Post (of all places) called “Abortion Rights Are Pro-Life.”  In it, he makes a number of good points:

1. “Abortion rights advocates should not cede the terms “pro-life” and “right to life” to the anti-abortionists.”

2.”Nor should abortion-rights advocates keep hiding behind the phrase “a woman’s right to choose.” Does she have the right to choose murder? That’s what abortion would be, if the fetus were a person.”

3. “The status of the embryo in the first trimester is the basic issue that cannot be sidestepped. ”

4. “We must not confuse potentiality with actuality. An embryo is a potential human being.”

5. “If we are to accept the equation of the potential with the actual and call the embryo an “unborn child,” we could, with equal logic, call any adult an “undead corpse” and bury him alive or vivisect him for the instruction of medical students.”

I recommend going and reading the whole thing.  I wouldn’t call the arguments original, except #5, but it’s well put together. If you want my take on abortion, see my somewhat older essay “Truly Pro-Life: Personhood and Abortion“. For those of you who are surprised I’m referencly Peikoff positively, you shouldn’t be.  I treat the man justly, praising him when it is deserved and condemning him when it’s deserved (like when he advocated rape or called swingers immoralists).  I do, however, appreciate the fact that he’s now openly mocked the “Checking Premises” idiots (Chip Joyce, Claudio Caballero, John Kagebein, Klaus Nordby, and their ilk) and their complete misunderstanding of both Objectivism and philosophy.

2 Responses to “Peikoff and Abortion”

  1. ST

    “We must not confuse potentiality with actuality. An embryo is a potential human being.”

    This point is especially important I think. When do you start calling it a baby? For me, it’s always been the moment in which the mother has decided that she is going to be a participant in the birth of the child. When she wants to help it grow, thrive, allow it to develop into a little person, and then support it when it enters the world. Thanks for the link.

  2. JasonStotts


    I think that’s a very hard question. Certainly your answer has merit. For me, what determines it “being a baby” is its separate existence. So, the moment of birth is when it stops being a potential human and starts being an actual human.

    Let me draw a parallel to the acorn, the sapling, and the oak tre. When does the acorn become a sapling? When it breaks through the earth. When does a sapling become an Oak tree? When it is mature. The argument is the same for human, mutatis mutandis.