A common retort against pro-abortion and antinatalist positions is that no one should make decisions for anyone else, and to enshrine such a delegation into law is tyrannical. So telling people they should abort or should not have children is wrong. They should decide for themselves whether they should do so, decisions about their lives are theirs to make.
There are many problems with this retort. One of them, as I’ve pointed out before, is that we already do this all the time. We prohibit murder, theft, rape, assault, and we “take the decision” for people who commit these actions that they should not repeat them. If this is tyrannical, then every society in history, including Anarchist ones, have been tyrannical. Surely this is nonsense.
But then we cannot say that it is tyrannical to, say, forbid a woman to give birth to a compromised child. Given the fact that all children have the right to the highest standard of health, giving birth to a compromised child is the equivalent of assaulting and severely injuring a healthy person. If forcibly making a person’s health compromised is a criminal act, then so it creating a person’s health as compromised.
People ask, where do we “draw the line”? They try to reduce it to an issue of choice, because people will always disagree. But disagreement does not mean the issue is an issue of personal choice. Billions of people think evolution didn’t happen, but it’s not an issue of choice, it’s a fact. Hundreds of millions of people think you go to some extra-dimensional cubical city when you die. So what? Arguing from dissent, without dissenting evidence, is not rational.
Given that, what evidence can anyone present to demonstrate that giving birth to a compromised child is not a criminal act? Well, they would have to either prove that children do not have a right to the highest standard of health (but even if children only have a right to living below a certain level of illness or disease, something which must still be proven, that still excludes many births), or that having a compromised health is somehow inconsequential.
The problem is that this request for evidence would never be answered, because to them children don’t have rights, period. Children are property, and therefore irrelevant from an ethical standpoint. In fact, they will look at pretty much everyone’s rights before even starting to consider the child’s rights. Which leads me to my next point…
“Choosing for someone else” is exactly what they’re doing! By deciding to start a new human life, they are deciding that the risks of life are low enough to make new lives desirable. But that’s their opinion. Everyone has a different threshold as to how much suffering or hardship they find acceptable. To some people, only concentration camp-level suffering makes life not worth living. To others, the threshold is much, much lower.
Unlike the previous point, there are no facts here, only preferences. People have different levels of tolerance towards risk, because that tolerance depends on a lot of other factors, some of which are personal. Some people wouldn’t even try skydiving, even though the chance of dying from a jump is 1 out of 100,000 (granted, the chance of injuring something is somewhat higher). Some people become firefighters, an occupation which is considered risky by others, especially where wildfires are concerned.
The point here is that, while any person can decide to try to be a firefighter, it would be wrong for that person to force anyone else to become a firefighter. This is exactly what people do when they start new human lives: they judge the risks of living sufficiently low that procreation seems reasonable, to them.
Furthermore, it’s important not to forget what happens after the new life is started: 18 years of parenting. After all, what is parenting if not constantly making decisions for someone else?
Some may reply that it is necessary to do so in order to raise children properly. That may be so, but such a reply misses the point. I am not passing judgment on the institution of parenting, merely pointing out that parenting does imply “choosing for someone else.” That’s all I’m talking about here.
The root of this objection is a desire to use voluntaryism and self-ownership as an argument. At this point I refer you to my entry “Voluntaryism: it’s not just about capitalism…” for further discussion on this line of argument.