Your body; not mine.

In light of the various nasty things that Republicans are doing regarding women’s reproductive rights in the US lately, I’ve been musing on a woman’s right to choose.

When you get down to it, this isn’t an issue that’s very likely to concern me directly, but I still have an opinion. My stance comes in two versions; short and long.

The short version is; I don’t have a uterus, and don’t have the right to tell the people who do have one what they can and cannot do with it – frankly I don’t actually care what you get up to in there. I expect that courtesy to be extended to me and my reproductive organs, and the only real way to do this is to extend that courtesy to others – it’s kind of like the rules of war.

The long version is a tad more nuanced, and is as follows.

In an ideal world, there would be no abortions, because every single pregnancy would be planned, wanted, and prepared for; the parents would desire the child and provide them with a loving and supporting home. There would be no abortions, because there would be no need for them.

But this is the real world, and I understand that the scenario of “every pregnancy that happens is one that is wanted” simply doesn’t happen. It is a simple fact that abortions will take place, legal or not. And if they are illegal, they will be unsafe. Prohibiting abortion is a direct assault on the health and well-being of women.

I also find the notion of using the law to force women to do anything with their bodies against their will to be extraordinarily unethical; we’re talking “in the same post code as slavery” here.

A few other things;

      • Post-abortion depression is a load of old tripe. Like increased incidence of mental illness in the gay community, increased incidence of depression amongst women who have had an abortion is most likely caused by the snots condemning them;
      • The anti-abortion arguments that try to play on pity are complete and utter hogwash, in addition to being emotional blackmail;
      • The anti-abortion argument that life begins at conception is hogwash too; 50-70% of conceptions fail to pass the first trimester.
      • Arguments based on religion don’t convince me of anything, and all that happens is I think unkind thoughts about the person making them;
      • If the lady in question is under 18, but over the age of consent, then you still ought to butt out – involving her parents should be something decided by her and the medical professional;
      • If the lady in question is beneath the age of consent, then I’m afraid there’s going to have to be awkward conversations, but under no circumstances should she be subjected to any adverse treatment – a person in that position needs support, empathy, and care, not judgement or harassment; and
      • No, I don’t consider a foetus prior to the point of viability to be an individual human being (edit: this is looked into further here).

In the time I spent researching this post, I managed to develop a pet hate around the whole business; the two “what if?” questions posed by anti-abortionists.

1. What if your mother aborted you?

Well, I wouldn’t be around to have an opinion, then, would I? For around 13.75 billion years I wasn’t born, and I don’t recall being bothered by it; I doubt my stance would change if I had continued to not be born. The question is utterly inane.

2. If you encountered a pregnant woman with [insert adverse life circumstances here], with [number greater than five] children to support, would you advise her to get an abortion? If yes, you just killed [insert great cultural or academic icon here, most often Ludwig van Beethoven].

I’ve seen it many times, and it is complete rot; it’s trying (often using blatantly false and misleading information) to goad a pro-choice person into hypothetically preventing the death of a great cultural icon. It’s practically begging for this response;

If you encountered a pregnant woman with [insert good life circumstances here], with [number] children to support, would you advise her to carry the baby to term? If yes, you just midwifed [insert horrific individual like Stalin, Jack the Ripper, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, or Anders Breivik here], which led to [insert atrocity here].

See? I can play “what if” too! This is a fun game! But it doesn’t prove anything. It’s a hypothetical; at best a thought exercise, but the inverse exercise blows it apart. At worst it’s pure sophistry.

You know what’s real? That 13% of annual maternal deaths is due to unsafe abortion, mostly carried out in areas where it’s illegal, and the millions of women who suffer long-term damage or disease because of unsafe abortions (source). That women will have abortions anyway, and that to deny them this is to assault their health and their rights.

Everyone with any grip on reality owes it to the women of the world, and to sanity, to keep the procedure legal, safe, readily available, and free from stigma.

Not a difficult concept poster
I’m not sure how to simplify it further.
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7 thoughts on “Your body; not mine.

  1. “increased incidence of depression amongst women who have had an abortion is most likely caused by the snots condemning them;”

    It could also be caused by hormonal fluctuations, just as it is in post-partum depression. But of course you don’t see the anti-choicers clamoring for women to stop having children because childbirth causes depression, do you?

    • I did look into that, and it seems (and I stress “seems”) to be that any depression women experience post-abortion is due to a multitude of factors – including, in some cases, hormonal fluctuations. Other causes include the psychological stress brought on by, among other things, being called “baby-killer” (and probably suppressing the urge to throttle the vile individual who uttered those words).

      You’re entirely correct Margaret though; anti-choice logic is not like our Earth logic (hat-tip to Joss Whedon for an immortal line).

  2. Great post! And as someone without a uterus I wholeheartedly agree – stop telling people what to do with their bodies.

    But I’m not sure the “this is not a” memes help, a foetus is not a tree/dress/chicken – I think it is over simplifying it.

    My 2c.

    • I was iffy about the meme, and then I remembered the execrable attempts in the US to legally define human life as beginning at the moment of fertilisation (see this example from Oklahoma; http://tinyurl.com/7vcg8jp – fortunately reports indicate that it never passed the legislature).

  3. The article is powerfully argued but it treats abortion as if it were like having a haircut or a tooth removed. The reality is not so simple. The concern which many people feel is that there are potentially two people involved—or rather, one person, the pregnant woman, and a potential person. And that’s without considering any rights which the potential father may have.
    I agree that, in an ideal world, there would be no abortions and that in the real world abortion should be legal and not stigmatised. I support stem cell research and the use of zygotes for medical purposes.
    On the other hand, this matter is reasonably one in which society has a voice. Abortion should be legal, but not unregulated.
    Ralph Seccombe

    • Thanks for your comment Ralph.

      First of all, I don’t regard abortion as anything like a haircut or a tooth removal, and I don’t think the piece treats the matter that lightly (if it did, it would be laden with profanity, trust me). What drives the piece is the simple recognition that it’s going to happen anyway. Like outlawing, say, homosexuality, or premarital sex, prohibiting abortion will simply drive it underground, and result in the whole business being unsafe for everyone. The only rational response then is to make it legal, stigma-free, and as safe as possible. Personally I prefer that the whole thing be rendered academic by means of providing adequate contraception and information about safe sex, but no contraceptive method is 100% effective (and “abstinence only” is a delusion).

      Regarding the potentiality of a foetus to be a person – I explore that in detail in my next post (and have edited the one above to include a link to it). The two-sentence version of it is that a non-viable foetus isn’t a person and cannot be at that point in time; the mother is. Her actual rights as a real person trump any hypothetical rights this non-existent person is thought to have.

      I did wonder about the father’s input… then remembered that, even if we assume the best possible scenario (loving couple, mutual consent to intercourse, etc.) the father still cannot ethically compel the mother to carry a child to term against her wishes. To do so would be a gross violation of the mother’s right to control her own body. Taking control of another’s body against their wishes is tantamount to slavery, and her right to freedom from slavery trumps any rights he might have in this instance.

      The final point you raise, regarding regulation, is one we are in total agreement on; all medical procedures must be regulated, including this one, otherwise we end up with the snake-oil salesmen of the 19th Century running around killing people with their “remedies”.

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