It seems that babies, although they are obviously human beings, don’t have the same rights as adult human beings. Even compared to young children they have less rights. Young children normally have a right to expression. Babies don’t. Because they can’t express themselves (with language) they don’t need a right to expression. Such a right doesn’t even make sense in their case. For the same reason, namely their lack of certain abilities, they also don’t have a right to political participation and self-government (in this respect they are like young children, although there’s a push to lower the voting age or to at least grant children a say on political matters). The same is true for free movement, property and many other rights. Babies’ liberty and equal status are severely limited (they can be force fed, traded etc.).
Of course, you can’t go about and kill or maim babies, so they do have some rights. It’s just that the set of their rights is very small compared to the set that belongs to adult humans. Babies aren’t the only group of human treated in this way. I mentioned young children, but there are also categories of adult human beings whose rights are a subset of the standard set of rights: criminals, immigrants, foreigners etc.
So, it looks like we’re not talking about human rights after all, but rather about different sets of privileges granted to different groups of people according to different sets of criteria. Some groups of human beings have more rights than others, and some may not even have any rights at all (e.g. fetuses, according to some, and to the extent that fetuses count as human beings). And then there’s the opposite case: why not grant certain categories of non-humans also some of the rights which we erroneously call “human” rights? Animals, perhaps, in an effort to avoid speciesism. Or maybe also future enhanced human beings who will no longer be biologically human (or at least not fully biologically human).
Hence, it seems that we should ditch the qualifier “human” from the concept of human rights. Doing so, however, means according too much credibility to the somewhat confused narrative set out thus far (a good example of this confusion is this). The case of babies is different from the cases of criminals and foreigners, which in turn are entirely different from each other. Let’s remember that human rights are tools for the realization of cherished human goals and values (such as peace, prosperity, identity, belonging and knowledge). Categories of persons who don’t – as yet – have those goals or who have decided to abandon them should not be accorded human rights or can, if they want, waive them. Babies obviously belong to this group: they can’t waive their rights, but they clearly don’t need them. Migrants and criminals are different. They usually don’t waive their rights and neither are they in a position in which they objectively don’t need them. The case for limiting their set of rights is therefore a lot harder to make.