The Rights of Fetuses as Citizens

The question that has been stewing in my mind for close to a year now is this: If a fetus is a life and has a right to be protected starting at conception, does that mean that any baby conceived on American soil is a natural born citizen? And why or why not?

I will hopefully not leave out any options here, but it seems like one has four choices as a conclusion:

1. The fetus is life and is a citizen of the nation where it is conceived.

2. The fetus is not a life but is a citizen of the nation where it is conceived (this seems the least likely).

3. The fetus is a life and is not a citizen of the nation where it is conceived.

4. The fetus is not a life and is not a citizen of where it is conceived.

Now, in my opinion, conclusion #1 and #4 are the most internally consistent—and yet many would selection option #3. I find this puzzling at best. What leads one to deny a right of citizenship of the fetus, but not to deny its right to life, liberty, etc.? That sounds like ageism to me, which isn’t a good reason to deny rights. 

Of course, one could argue that citizenship (and the privileges which come with it) is not a right, but wouldn’t this keep from certain people the equal protection of the law, a clear denial of liberty? The only logical thing to do, then, is remove a law that by definition restricts the liberty of location to some. Or, if citizenship is determined by paid dues, then a simple citizenship tax and nothing more will suffice. This would allow any fetus’ parents the opportunity to pay for their child’s passage into a desired country.

In fact, there is a territorial tax in place already, known as the income tax. Taxing the lives of citizens for working is not much different from taxing their location. According to CUNY, it cost $680 to become a US citizen, so why not charge this to the parents who wish to make their fetus a citizen?

Perhaps someone might argue that rights and privileges are progressive, and they are given in a variance to different physical and mental states. But then again, who decides this? Is there an age limit on one’s rights? Certainly not for those that hold the belief that “a fetus is life.”

So, what restricts one’s rights? Is it mental capacity? If so, do some never gain rights, and do some lose rights? This is a very unsatisfying answer. If rights are not applied equally to all, then how can we criticize the most serious violations of rights, like slavery?

In short, unless a clear case can be made that rights should be limited on a basis of age, it seems to me that citizenship must go hand in hand with the assumption that the unborn have a right to life.


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