Ayn Rand on Abortion

Ayn RandNever mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights — and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable… Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, that is, the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.

—Ayn Rand
“A Last Survey” in The Ayn Rand Letter


See the excellent Abortion page at the Ayn Rand Lexicon. Regular readers know my long history with Ayn Rand and my many specific criticisms of her. But she was quite right on the issue of abortion. I wish that liberals would talk about the issue with such force.

2 thoughts on “Ayn Rand on Abortion

  1. Not clear that they don’t. Also, Rand’s potential vs. actual metaphysic is pretty questionable even to its coherence, and anyway is unlikely to animate pro-abortion activists.

    Still no abortion law in Canada, but the massive tide of 8 2/3 month abortions the ‘pro-lifers’ predicted has not happened yet. I like our legal regime as to this issue.

    • I suppose what I like about the quote is that Rand definitely saw her philosophy as an all-or-nothing deal. Yet the vast majority of those who follow her just want to take part of her philosophy — the part that lets them do what they want. But I think there is something to the potential/actual discussion, although not necessarily from a metaphysical standpoint. When the government starts placing the potentiality of the fetus on par with the actuality of the mother, it could deprive her of any rights while pregnant. Needless to say, the anti-choice groups have not thought this stuff through very carefully. I believe they just hate women.

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