Volume 12, Issue 2, Autumn 2007
The Positive and Negative Rights of Pre-Natal Organisms and Infants/Children in Virtue of Their Potentiality for Autonomous Agency
In this paper, a rights-based argument for the impermissibility of abortion, infanticide and neglect of some pre-natal organisms and infants/children is advanced. I argue, in opposition to most rights-ethicists, that the potentiality for autonomous agency gives individuals negative rights. I also examine the conjecture that potential autonomous agents have positive rights in virtue of their vulnerability. According to this suggestion, once an individual obtains actual autonomous agency, he or she has merely negative rights. Possible solutions to conflicts of rights between parents and their offspring are investigated. Finally, I discuss a lexical order between positive and negative rights, which may solve conflicts between the rights of potential autonomous agents and actual autonomous agents.