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What kind of life has a right to life? (abortion, animal rights, etc)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/10/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 966 times Debate No: 86388
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
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Some might call this a debate about whether abortion is moral or not. I've titled it so as to indicate what I think is the key issue at play.

Unborn humans are alive, yes, but we don't think ending all kinds of life is murder, like killing animals (if you're cool with that) or killing less cute animals like mosquitos (if you're vegan or something).

And clearly some think it's okay to kill even certain kinds of human living things, trivial (like living human skin cells) and nontrivial (like fertilized eggs and fetuses).

So, where do we draw the line? When do we start granting rights like we do to mature humans, and why there?

I don't know a good answer, so if you want to present one, I'll ask you to explain how we can tell that the answer is the right one.


Abortion and animal rights are different in my view. Animals are not a life that we can decide for because we have shown as a whole, we can't be trusted with a responsible that big. The extinction rate is 24 animals a day and it only continues to grow. We have decided that those animals that aren't cute, fuzzy, or tasty are not valuable to live and we continue to destroy their habitat. A fetus is not the same as a mature human because it can't think and therefore it doesn't have a future since it hasn't been born.
Debate Round No. 1


I'm having a little trouble picking apart where you think we should draw the line.

You seem to imply one, or some of the following:

1. Any not human organism not useful or appealing does not have a right to life (you seem maybe not to actually believe this one?)
2. Anything which can't think has no right to life.
3. Anything which hasn't been born has no right to life.

Is one of these or some combination of them your position?

Or how would you prefer to word it?
And if possible, whatever your position ends up being, how did you determine it was true?


I believe that we don't have the right to decide anything for animals but I do believe that anything that can't think or hasn't been born doesn't have rights. There is no point in fighting for something that doesn't realize it's alive. Also, there is no point of forcing a woman to keep a baby she does not want because she might even abuse the child for the resentment she has from her decisions. Adoption may be an option but the stats are that the majority of children wait three or more years. They also move three or more times to different foster homes. This isn't healthy for children because it creates an instability in their lives.
Debate Round No. 2


If you don't mind, I'll respond just to the parts about where to start granting rights. I didn't mean for this to be about anything else, like what effects abortions have on the mother or on society at large.

Okay, so "anything that can't think or hasn't been born doesn't have rights."

Do you mean it must lack BOTH of these characteristics, or just lack EITHER characteristic to have no rights?

For example, if something is born, but can't think, does it have rights?
Or if something can think, but hasn't been born, does it have rights?

In what sense are you using "think" in this case?
The kind of thinking that only mature humans, not animals can do?
The kind of thinking that a newborn baby can do?
The kind of thinking that someone in a coma can do?
Something else?

And to address a separate issue, what do you mean we don't have the "right" to decide "anything" for animals?
Do you mean we have the ability but are morally obligated not to use it?
That we are incapable?
Something else?

What do you mean by "right?"


I'm using thinking as the process your brain does to insure your survival once you are born. By right, I mean the ability to make decisions of any sort by themselves without being influenced. What I mean when I said we don't have the right to decide anything for animals is that we shouldn't be able to kill, take as pets, or influence their habitat in any why. When I say animals, I mean more of the wild and domesticated(ie dogs, cat, and bird) but not animals we eat(ie cows, chicken, and fish). I do realize that cutting out animals in some of our diets isn't the best but there are animals who wouldn't live well under our rules. Things that qualify to having rights have to be born and think. Someone in a coma doesn't have any rights since they aren't thinking so that right would be handed to the person who the coma person had trust in.
Debate Round No. 3


"anything that can't think or hasn't been born doesn't have rights" (even though you say "anything," you don't seem to be using this rule for animals. I'll get to that below)

And then you clarify what you mean by "can't think:"

" Someone in a coma doesn't have any rights since they aren't thinking"

So, minds which used to think, but "aren't thinking" IN THE PRESENT MOMENT have no rights.

I won't hold you to that since I'm pretty sure you'll want to make a clarification. As it stands, this would allow you to kill people in their sleep, yah?
Plus you could put people into comas and then kill them without violating any right to life, since they have none. Do you think putting someone into a coma should be considered murder?

"I'm using thinking as the process your brain does to insure your survival once you are born"

So, why is the actual moment of birth important? The actual shape and substance of the mind do not change in the period directly before and after birth, yet you're saying that it's at this moment that it should be granted rights.

Suppose there was a developed, intelligent, self-aware mind like yours (not like a human baby's) that didn't want to die. And suppose this mind is in a body that hasn't been born.

Are you really okay with killing it just based on whether it's been born or not? Doesn't the actual nature of the mind matter?

And you don't seem to be applying this "has to be born and be thinking" rule to animals. You're suggesting we decide whether or not they die based on something about whether we eat them or not, or they're wild or not, or would live well in our society or something.

I'm not clear what rule you're using, actually, but it doesn't seem to be as simple as "be born and thinking." If it was, we'd be talking about which animals think and so on, not any of that other stuff you mentioned.

We're running out of rounds, so I'll get just a tiny bit ahead of myself and ask you something. Say you respond, with a clear rule for determining what has rights to live and what doesn't. Great. Now we have the WHAT of the rule.

But if you are willing, I will ask you to please add WHY.
WHY is that rule correct?

You must have concluded that the rule is correct by some process. WHY did that process produce a correct rule, instead of an incorrect one?


Animals do not apply to the rule because they can't help each other or change something if they are going extinct. Animals do not apply to the rule I'm talking about. The rule I'm stating to determine if something has rights or not is correct because like I said before, there is no use of defending something that doesn't "realize" it's alive. The understanding that you know that you are alive makes you have rights. This doesn't have to be an official law because something we all socially recognized. That means there isn't going to be judgement if someone gets an abortion or if someone pulls the plug on their relative, no one will protest or go a rant on how wrong it is.

You speak of rights but you're forgetting the rights of the mother who is choosing if she wants to bring a child to the world who she can't support or if she deciding it's better it ends there. You're also forgetting the right of a rape victim who will be forced to carry a child of a man who had disregards of her rights. Are you willing to sacrifice the rights of human being who are living, who have a future, for cells that don't know they're alive?
Debate Round No. 4


Okay, so now you've stated: "The understanding that you know that you are alive makes you have rights."

Is this supposed to replace the rule you said before? That something must be "born and thinking" to have rights?

Since it's the last round, I'll run with what you said most recently, but I'm worried that we still haven't nailed down precisely what rule you think we should apply.

Because you say that animals don't apply because "they can't help each other or change something if they are going extinct."

Which would mean the real rule is "That understanding that you know that you are alive AND can help other members of your species or change something if you're going extinct gives you rights" or something like that.

Honestly, I'm not confident at all that's what you mean, but it IS the last round...

Now, if that's the rule, then it seems to me that you'll have a devil of a time granting infant children rights. Their thinking is not nearly as advanced as that of say, adult chimpanzees, or even cows. Babes have no understanding of their existence, no self-awareness, so that means they don't have rights?

Which would mean you can kill born children up to the age of, who knows exactly, maybe three or four? Until they become self-aware?

Or if we want to add that bit about being able to help other members of the species until they provide more benefit to their species than they provide costs? That could be until age six or seven at the earliest, or NEVER, depending on the person ;)

The alternative is to say that whatever degree of thinking an infant human does IS enough to have rights, and that it doesn't MATTER if the child can help its species survive right now.

But if that's the case, then cows and chimps and lots of animals have THAT degree of thinking going on. And they're much more capable of helping their species survive. So we should grant the same rights to any animal more intelligent than an infant human, and it should be counted as murder to kill one.

Further still! If that degree of thinking in an infant is sufficient for it to have rights, then we have issues with late abortions, too. The infant didn't learn to think any better in the space before and after the moment of birth.

If it has rights the moment it's born because of its thinking, then it surely must have had those rights right before it's born, also because of its thinking. And for some time back in the pregnancy, until we get far enough back that the thinking is significantly less developed.

Well, at any rate, the rules you've suggested don't seem consistent with each other.

As for the bit about the mother's rights, I've never contested anything about it. It was never the issue of the debate. I was never arguing for any particular policy. Maybe it'll turn out that unborn humans have rights, but the policy will be to abort them anyway, for the sake of the mother.

Doesn't matter, the point of the debate is to determine where to grant rights, nothing else.


A newborn child is aware that it is alive. Maybe it doesn't say, "hey, what a great time to be alive," but their brain is working to keep them alive. Rights isn't something you can add to the laws because it's such a huge controversy that we as humans can't agree on. But I say it clear so there is no confusion, fetus don't have rights. Rights are granted to the living not to the almost living. To be considered living, you have to think and and be born. You can't have one without the other so there isn't an either or option. Also I'm not looking at how advance but thinking in general.

"And clearly some think it's okay to kill even certain kinds of human living things, trivial (like living human skin cells) and nontrivial (like fertilized eggs and fetuses)." It's alright to abort a fetus because it's not something I can say no. It's the decision of the mother. If she would like to become a mother, fine with me. But if she doesn't, then alright. That is giving the right to someone who is born and understands they are alive.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by ViceRegent 2 years ago
Because only humans have duties to God, only humans have rights.
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