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By rights, one means an entitlement a person has to do something.

Abortion, on the other hand, does not concern the pregnant woman doing something. People don't do abortions on themselves. Rather, abortion, as it is usually understood, refers to the act an external party, the doctor, performs at an external location, the hospital, all made readily available by yet another external party, the government. Further, there are costs and logicistal issues associated with this entire procedure, which, again, are external matters.

Hence, why is abortion usually spoken of as if it is a right, when it involves primarily other people doing something, and hence does not only fail to meet the definition of a right, but actually seems to be the opposite of a right?

Imagine, for example, a world in which nobody wishes to perform an abortion on somebody else. In this hypothetical world, abortion cannot possibly be a right. It would be self-contradictory, since it would be a right that would restrict everybody else (mainly: everybody's right to not be forced to perform abortions against their will).

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    Regardless of abortion, the characterization of "rights" is too narrow, there is e.g. a right against unreasonable search and seizure, which also concerns external locations and somebody else doing something. There are also mechanical and chemical ways to induce miscarriage which will result in the death of the fetus and can be done by the woman herself, so the question will stand even in the imaginary world. Doctors are just offering a service for what people can do themselves with more trouble, which is hardly unique to abortion. – Conifold Oct 30 '17 at 18:00
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philip Klöcking Oct 30 '17 at 20:54
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By rights, one means an entitlement a person has to do something. Abortion, on the other hand, does not concern the pregnant woman doing something.

Your definition of rights is overly restrictive. That a woman ought not to be obliged to carry a pregnancy to term also falls within the traditional scope of a right:

From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Rights are entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states; or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states."

People don't do abortions on themselves.

As in you're stating that were it not for the involvement of a third party, an abortion would not occur? Because the concept of clinician-administered abortions is a relatively recent development in the history of abortions. Ultimately, the capacity for a woman to have an abortion is not at the mercy of a third party i.e. it's a procedure that, if required, she would be able to perform on herself.

Rather, abortion, as it is usually understood, refers to the act an external party, the doctor, performs at an external location, the hospital, all made readily available by yet another external party, the government. Further, there are costs and logicistal issues associated with this entire procedure, which, again, are external matters.

In the United States, the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion are prohibited under the Hyde Amendment. In circumstances where the costs of an abortion are borne by private parties, the matter of a right now appears to be whether a woman can enter into a commercial contract with another party.

  • Faustus, your answer does not make sense. OP is clearly speaking about abortion when it comes to the government-granted abortion. He is not speaking about abortion as in independent procedures made by individuals not authorized to do so. – Dule Oct 30 '17 at 18:01
  • @Dule i disagree -- whether or not another party holds a monopoly of over a woman's ability to abort a foetus will reflect the extent to which we might interpret the need that such parties do so as an obligation or as a matter of preference (cf. performing brain surgey). also the validity of my argumentation is not contingent upon that component of my response being correct. – faustus Oct 30 '17 at 19:17
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You're mixing up the existence of a right with the ability to exercise the right.

If you take the UN Declaration of Human Rights as a somewhat less contentious example. Take Article 10. Your position is equivalent to saying that you don't have that right to a full and public hearing if a fair court isn't available to you. That doesn't make sense. The presumption is that you have the right regardless of circumstances and, in fact, a government that does not make the court available is infringing on your rights.

A similar argument can be made for abortion i.e. if one considers it a right then a government would be obligated to provide facilities to perform a safe abortion. Otherwise it is infringing on your rights.

Note: I am not making any comment on whether or not it should be a right as this wasn't asked.

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It is not a right, so that's the answer. It's just a figure of speech, or propaganda if you wish.

The criticism offered by Phillip Klocking in the comments is not sufficiently convincing either. It is true that deciding whether one wants an abortion certainly does qualify as a right .... but women always have that right. You can always decide to have an abortion.

Whether you'll actually get one is a different matter ;)

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    A right that is not enforceable is not a right in any substantial way. To offer an analogy: I think it is actually not meaningful to say "I have the choice to fly to the Andromeda Galaxy", since effectively, I can't. The same applies to this problem: If there are no (legal) means for abortion, there is no (legal) right to choose abortion. Stating that you can "choose" whatever you want leads to meaningless utterances. – Philip Klöcking Oct 30 '17 at 18:44

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