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.

 
Bonus

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.

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Science is just another religion?

The other day at dinner I heard someone claim that “science is just another religion.”

No.

It is most certainly not.

I’ve learned to pick my battles when it comes to responding to outlandish statements in a crowd which wouldn’t appreciate my response anyhow, as I’m sure no real productive ground would’ve been covered by a discussion in the first place. Thus, when I heard this, I just kept my mouth on my margarita to avoid bursting anyone’s bubble in exchange for enjoying the awesome Mexican food in front of me.

“Science is just another religion.” Let’s deconstruct this. This is a pathetic attempt at lowering science to the level of superstition. Lumping science in the same group as religion is, to me, not only impossible, not only preposterous, but highly offensive to anyone who appreciates the value and power of the scientific method, including myself. To be so bold as to claim that it requires the same amount of faith to believe what science tells us about the world as it does to believe in any particular religious or supernatural claim is laughable. The only way it’s possible to accept something so ridiculous as this is if you dilute your definition of the word “faith” to mean “anything less than absolute certainty.” Since there is no absolute certainty of anything (yes, even in science), then everything must necessarily require “faith” according to that definition. And at that point, what good is using the word “faith” anyhow if it can be applied universally to everything all at once?

I don’t know about you, but I do not use faith to assume there will be a floor underneath my feet when I get out of bed in the morning. Applying the scientific method to every morning I’ve ever gotten out of bed has demonstrated to me that it is overwhelmingly likely that there will be a floor there. There is no room for faith in this situation, the mountain of evidence is more than sufficient to assume this. The same is true in assuming that the sun will rise each morning, or in assuming that a chair won’t break when you sit on it. Where there is room for faith is in the claims of the supernatural, whether they be religious or not. Supernatural claims either have insufficient evidence to support them (where believing them before such a time would necessarily require faith) or they are unfalsifiable, meaning the scientific method cannot apply (this is not a limitation of the scientific method, but rather a crippling limitation regarding the validity of such claims).

Another difference between science and religion is that the scientific community is full of nerds who are desperately trying to beat all the other nerds in discovering the next big thing. And just as soon as someone does, they’ve got throngs of other nerds ready and willing to tear down their idea. This ensures that bad ideas are thrown out and good ideas are kept around and built upon. This is exactly the opposite of most religions. What you have with most religions are groups of people (usually not scientists) all spouting the same tired drivel, never questioning, never vetting old conventions in exchange for newer and better ones. This is the worst path to truth imaginable.

I’ll never understand some people’s fear of science, and frankly, I’d rather not go down that rabbit hole at all. Science is the single most reliable method the human race has devised for constructing models that help us better understand our universe. This better understanding of reality has given rise to harnessing the power of electricity, antibiotics, vaccines, evolutionary biology, the internet, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, among others. What groundbreaking, life-changing discoveries have been realized through divine revelation or transcendental meditation? The answer is zero. Zero groundbreaking, life-changing discoveries.

“Science is just another religion”? Please. And Whitney Houston was just another pop artist.