Quick Response #3: The Fetus Is a Parasite

Emily Albrecht responds to the pro-choice claim that the fetus is a parasite. What does being a parasite mean, and do the unborn qualify?

Watch all the videos in ERI’s Quick Response series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsN8Ay8poS-It-dWSmblq1ZufOH-MVj1L

Related Links:

Health Benefits from Pregnancy:

Pro-Life Apologetics: The Equal Rights Argument:

Quick Response #5: Women Have the Right to Refuse the Use of Their Bodies – The Violinist Argument

Script Text

It’s not uncommon for pro-choice activists to shout that the fetus is a parasite. The claim doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and it doesn’t even seem plausible to most people. But that doesn’t stop people from claiming that unborn children illegitimately feed off of mothers because mothers feed them.

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One common pro-life response is to point out that parasites are not the same species as whatever they’re leeching off of. This is probably still true, but the different species requirement isn’t present in every definition of parasitism we found, and some people are arguing that cases such as angler fish constitute same-species parasitism. There are problems with that case and others used as evidence, but it’s better to use a different response and spend your time talking about abortion instead of arcane scientific studies.

There are two other problems with the idea that the fetus is a parasite. The first is that parasites offer no benefits to their host; women actually do experience health benefits from pregnancy, and many of these are extended or heightened by nursing. Such long-term health benefits include brain growth, increased empathy, increased productivity, decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, decreased risk of multiple sclerosis, decreased risk of heart disease, and—particularly in case of a vaginal delivery—easier periods. This is without fully studying the potential benefits of the fetal cells exchanged with the mother, which could offer regenerative or other benefits. It isn’t an equal partnership between mother and prenatal child, but it’s not a parasitic relationship.

The other reason the fetus isn’t a parasite is because PARASITES AREN’T PEOPLE. If two people, perhaps conjoined twins, shared the burden of supporting one body unequally, it doesn’t matter how unequal the burden is, the person who contributes less isn’t a parasite because the term implies a denial of value. It would be ableist and gross to say one conjoined twin was a parasite because the other carried more of the burden. If the fetus is, in fact, a person, the same should be true. We argue that the fetus is a person in Quick Response #2: The Embryo Isn’t a Person.

If someone says that the fetus is a parasite, they also might be vaguely referencing a completely different pro-choice argument that a woman should have the right to refuse the use of her body to another person who is trying to use it. In this sense, they aren’t using the term parasite literally; it’s more of an analogy. It can be helpful to ask a clarification question so you know if the pro-choice person LITERALLY thinks the fetus is a parasite or if they’re just vaguely describing the “right to refuse” view.  For more on responding to the latter, check out our video “Quick Response: Women Have the Right to Refuse the Use of Their Bodies — The Violinist Argument.” Link in the description.

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