Bodily autonomy

I’m throwing my hat into the ring on abortion.

One of my favorite podcasts has been off the air for a while, but I can’t help relistening to their past episodes over and over again. Various topics on their podcast include religion, politics, social equity, women’s reproductive rights, and many more. On more than a few instances they discussed the concept of bodily autonomy. I had never seriously considered until the latest Texas legislative session how much weight bodily autonomy carries in the fight for women’s reproductive rights. It’s really the one single argument you need to make to conclude that the only rational stance is to fully support a woman’s right to choose.

Bodily autonomy is one of the greatest rights we possess as human beings. No one may use your body unless you consent to its use. If in the future you change your mind, you have the right to withdraw consent, thereby denying someone else the right to use your body.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario: Consider an adult man named John. Unfortunately, his body is unable to support itself on its own without depending on the body of his mother, Jane. For the sake of argument, let’s assume he’s in need of a kidney transplant. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, he could need merely a pint of blood.

Does John’s continuing survival at the expense of Jane’s body make any difference in how she herself chooses to use her body? Should the government be able to compel the use of Jane’s body against her will? Would Jane be “killing” John by refusing the use of her body? Should Jane’s right to bodily autonomy be overshadowed by John’s requirements to survive? The answer to all these questions is no.

Even after originally consenting to a procedure, Jane could’ve been prepped and ready in the seat until ultimately changing her mind at the last minute. She withdraws consent and leaves the hospital but she didn’t kill her son. For whatever reason, Jane decided against the use of her body, and that’s her decision to make, not a decision to be mandated. There may come a time when a person’s body won’t be able to support itself on its own, and they will die. But their impending death still doesn’t justify the use of another’s body against their consent.

Let’s revisit the hypothetical scenario from before by changing it a little: Consider a fetus. Unfortunately, its body is unable to support itself on its own without depending on the body of another person. A pregnancy hinges on the woman’s ongoing consent, because it is happening to her body. She is not a slave to her own biology (a walking, talking incubator as many religious texts would have you believe). Were she to withdraw consent, the pregnancy would end. Not only that, but abortions are one of the safest medical procedures out there, much safer than pregnancy itself, carrying to term, and delivery, in fact.

So there you have it, bodily autonomy trumps all. We wouldn’t even compel someone on death row to give up their body for the use of another. Yet, conservative lawmakers want to make this the norm for all women, be they adults and current mothers themselves whose families aren’t ready for another child or teenage girls who aren’t even old enough to support themselves, much less an unexpected child. Moreover, any government that would legislate that you can’t have an abortion is the same government that could turn around and legislate that you must have an abortion. That’s why it’s a choice. I wouldn’t want or dare to claim that I know what’s right for someone else’s body. Would the anti-choice crowd prefer all their personal medical decisions dictated to them?

For the record, if I could snap my fingers and eliminate the need for abortions, I would. I’d love nothing more than to see every pregnancy be planned for and wanted. But that’s not reality. The fact is that the only way to minimize abortions is by eliminating abstinence-only sex education in favor of comprehensive and evidence-based sex education, providing free contraception to everyone, and putting a stop to valuing women based on their virginity.


Some of my favorite anti-choice counter-arguments in ascending order:

1. “What about the monsters who electively abort at 8.5 months?”

Only 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks and only for serious and/or life-threatening medical reasons, so this just doesn’t happen.

2. “Well she had sex, she must’ve known what would’ve happened!”

Yeah, I mean we can’t just let those dirty, dirty sluts get away scot-free with enjoying sex, right? This is the same as saying about the victim of a car crash, “Well he got behind the wheel, he must’ve known what would’ve happened!” What, as if he asked to get into a wreck? Just as driving a car is not the same as asking to get into a wreck, having sex is not the same as asking to get pregnant. Humans are sexual beings. We (in this case, specifically women) are allowed to enjoy sex without expecting pregnancy as an inevitable outcome.

3. “But you’re killing a child!”

This is the most common from what I’ve seen. Imbuing a fetus with its own consciousness, hopes, fears, identity, desires, or goodness gracious a “soul,” makes this a strong emotional argument. Nevertheless, it presupposes the woman’s consent to pregnancy. Imagine someone whose only way to survive is by following you around connected to a catheter attached to your arm, living off your blood. This person even has their own consciousness, hopes, fears, identity, and desires and the conclusion is no different than with the fetus. Your consent to the use of your body comes first.