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Who are you to make a woman’s lifestyle decisions for her?

Some rights are more fundamental than others.1 In most cases, we consider a person’s right to live to trump someone else’s “right” to the lifestyle of his choice. Furthermore, it is simple to show that whatever entitlement one might have to a lifestyle of choice is far from categorical, even when lives are not at stake. For example, suppose my lifestyle of choice involves living on a plot of land that I do not own. My conditional right to the lifestyle of choice does not permit me to steal that property from another person, since her right of ownership is more fundamental than and therefore trumps my right to a preferred lifestyle when those interests are in conflict. In the vast majority of abortions, what is at risk for the mother is her lifestyle; what is at risk for the child is his life. We do not argue that the lifestyle changes suffered by the mother are trivial; indeed, an unplanned pregnancy is a difficult burden that society ought to do more to alleviate. But we do argue that those changes are preferable to an innocent child’s death—that the mother’s right to preserve her pre-pregnancy lifestyle is trumped by the child’s much more fundamental right to life. By killing him to preserve her lifestyle, the mother is treating the child as a mere means to an end, which is a violation of his intrinsic dignity. Again, the question is whether or not the fetus is a person. If he is, then his right to life takes precedence over the mother’s right to a lifestyle of choice when those two are in conflict.

  1. On one level, this challenge begs the question like those in Category 1 and can be dealt with using the now-familiar BPA approach seen here. The pro-choicer might respond by saying that he was making a more subtle point—namely, that pregnancy represents an undue burden on the mother. As this argument is fleshed out by the Violinist Analogy, we will address it on the next page

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