I agree that human life is precious and deserves extra consideration. But the beginnings of human life are not of equal value to the mother’s life or a human being that can survive outside the womb.
When the Preservation of Life is Secondary to Other Values
When valuing human life, we, as a society have prioritized other objectives over the preservation of life, for its sake alone. We agree that the taking of the lives of our enemies in times of war is acceptable. We permit a criminal justice system that is empowered to take the life of someone who has been found guilty of crimes so antithetical to the social contract that this ultimate punishment is considered justified. And we have even grown accustomed to the death of our kids, our families, and our loved ones in the interests of a broadly interpreted Second Amendment.
A Woman’s Right to Control Her Own Body Outweighs the Preservation of the Promise of Life
The statement that a woman’s right to control her own body is one grounded in both fundamental beliefs and real-world consequences.
First, women are in no way lesser than men. They are, at a minimum, just as intelligent, considerate, thoughtful, nurturing, kind, generous, and empathetic as men. In fact, taken outside of this discussion of abortion, I think most would agree that women epitomize many of these characteristics more so than their male counterparts.) The thing that makes us excellent mothers also is what makes us excellent decisionmakers about our own bodies. Legislatures, predominantly comprising men, do not possess special knowledge, information-processing abilities or emotional range that exceed that of women.
Second, in addition to having at least the capacity to reason equal to men, women understand their bodies, their bank accounts, their partners’ ability to parent, and their own capabilities to raise a child better than anyone.
Third, our country was founded on the belief to each person’s right to privacy. A government’s ingression and interference in decisions about our own bodies is the ultimate violation. There is nothing more intimate and sacred than a person’s own body and their ability to control it. We see these values in action all the time.
Further, in a representative democracy in which women comprise 51% of the population and the right to privacy is considered fundamental to citizenship, the idea that male-dominated bodies have the authority decide what happens to women’s bodies is particularly problematic.
Fourth, by forbidding women the ability to control their own bodies in the name of life, that seedling of life is prioritized over the very real, very complex human life of the mother. This is made all the more stark in situations in which the life of the mother is at risk, and yet lawmakers mandate that termination of the pregnancy should still not be available.
Finally, the real-world, measurable repercussions of forcing women to have unwanted children has significant repercussions for both individual women, families and American society as a whole.
- Families who have unwanted children are more likely to suffer financially. Their children are more likely to be poor, less educated, and ultimately more likely to commit crime and enter our criminal justice system.
- The prohibition of abortion affects poor families disproportionately, as families with means will still be able to access abortions.
- The prohibition of abortion results in bad abortions being performed, putting women’s lives at risk.
- The inability of a woman to access an abortion further perpetuates a cycle of poverty.
It’s Not About the Sanctity of the Prospect of Life, It’s About Controlling Women
It is possible to look at all of the counterbalances above and, based on your own moral code, make the calculation that the preservation of the promise of human life still outweighs the principles that state-ordered pregnancies undermine and the real-world consequences that state-mandated pregnancies cause.
And I have three thoughts on that.
First, we live in a diverse society. There is no other person on this entire planet who is going to think or believe exactly like me. If I am going to be a member of society and benefit from all the ways in which we are different, then I must accept this fact to a certain degree. As a liberal in Texas, I know firsthand especially well what it is like to hold my tongue for the benefit of the social contract. Just because someone doesn’t believe that all of these above-identified reasons to allow abortion outweigh the prospect of human life does not mean that the state has the right to outlaw abortion.
In fact, the legislators that decry abortion are usually the same people that maintain the state’s right to take a person’s life, even as mounting evidence illustrates inherent racism in our criminal justice system and DNA evidence has proven innocent people have been convicted for crimes they did not commit.
Just because someone does not agree with abortion does not mean that the state has the right to violate women’s privacy and bodily autonomy and prevent them from accessing safe abortions.
This brings me to my second point. If the concern was really about preserving the prospect of human life, it would seem that more energy and resources would be spent in ensuring that unwanted pregnancies didn’t occur. If anti-abortion activists really wanted to limit abortions, then they could support provable methods that decrease pregnancy. They could support sex education and promote affordability and accessibility to birth control and other forms of contraception, as well as the Day After pill. But they don’t. In fact, they often lobby against such efforts. If it is really about preserving human life, it would seem that reducing the number of unintended pregnancies would be equally as important.
Finally, if the concern was really the preservation of human life, then one would think that there would be more interest in ensuring the quality and experience of that life. But there is not. The same people who argue that a woman does not have the right to terminate an unwanted or unviable pregnancy are the same people who:
- Defund Medicaid, food stamps, WIC and other public programs that benefit the babies of Americans most affected by unwanted pregnancies, the poor
- Oppose expanding healthcare, forcing the uninsured to incur tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills for deliveries of babies they would not have otherwise chosen to have
- Have yet to do anything to reduce the infant mortality rate, which is one of the highest of any high-income country in the world
- Take no issue with the fact that the United States is the only country but for four others (Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland) in the entire world that does not provide paid family leave upon the birth/adoption of a child
- Do not prioritize affordable childcare options thereby allowing parents to return back to work
- Undermine the accessibility of a quality public education by supporting the privatization of public schools.
And the list goes on.
The truth is that for the majority of people advocating for the criminalization of abortion, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the sanctity of life, and everything to do with controlling women’s lives.
Women’s ability to access safe abortions is a human right. Attempts to legislate and regulate women’s bodies are a violation of our most sacred privacy, and a tool by which majority-male government bodies attempt to diminish women’s worth and power.
I will fight with all of my being for a woman’s autonomy and her right to control her own body. I will empower her in whatever her decision is, whether it be abortion or motherhood, and will fight to ensure that her children are provided with the most fundamental of necessities, including healthcare, a quality education, shelter, food, and clothing.
*Please note: citations to follow.