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Not Really Your Body, Not Really Your Choice

photo credit: Human Coalition

This is perhaps the most common argument for abortion. My body, my choice. Nobody should be forced to have a baby they don't want. Don't tell me what I can and can't do with my body.

We love to be independent and free. If we want a piercing, we get it. If we want a tattoo, we get it. We wear want we want, listen to what we want, and manage our physical appearance the way we want. If anyone objects we become angry and irritable. We complain about people being "prudes" and ruining all of our fun.

So, if I can do what I want when I want, what's wrong with abortion? Someone else shouldn't be allowed to intrude into my body, take up space for nine months, force me through a bunch of discomfort and even danger, and then exit in a wholly unpleasant way. An abortion allows me to go right back to doing what I want to do without any inconvenience. And, after all, it's not like the baby can move out and continue to live. So, I'm not really killing anyone. I'm just evicting someone who can't live anywhere else.

Further, if someone forces me to carry a pregnancy to term that's essentially the same as slavery. It's labor that I do not want to do, therefore forcing me to do it is unethical. The term that's been floating around to describe this is "gestational slavery." We don't want to enslave anyone or make them do something against their will, so abortion is then ok.


Well, no. Not at all, actually.

First of all, yes, we have great freedom to wear/do/behave/modify ourselves as we want to. I am sure there are some public decency laws but I can't imagine the average person finds them incredibly restrictive. And, if they do, they can probably find places where they can experience the freedom they desire. However, even though the government doesn't intrude too much on our decisions in this realm, we do find ourselves following rules.

If you work in a machine shop or with heavy equipment you'll find yourself wearing protective gear. No decent workplace would consider this optional.

Schools have rules about what students can wear and so do workplaces. Some of them are incredibly restrictive and others are more relaxed, but there aren't many places that allow you complete and utter freedom. Personal choice is limited by our day-to-day lives, whether it's an HR handbook telling us we can't wear leggings or the unspoken norms that say we can't dye our hair bright purple and expect to be taken seriously. If we choose to violate these rules or customs there are consequences. If we're at school we might get sent home with a note or end up in detention. At work you could be reprimanded by a supervisor, written up, or even fired. If you violate a social norm you could find yourself with fewer clients or less respect in your field.

Second, while there are some legal restrictions about how we appear in public, there are many more about how we act and interact with others. My right to bodily autonomy doesn't mean I can kill somebody else. It's my hand, isn't it? So, can't it do what I want it to? No. It can't. The law tells me that if I use my hand to hurt someone else, steal something, or damage something there will be consequences. "My hand, my choice" isn't a legitimate legal defense.

We're also limited regarding what we do with our property. If you live in a city you may not be allowed to burn things in your backyard. You probably can't decide to mine for coal on your property, and you can't add on to your house without the permission of your city or township.

In fact, unless someone is a dyed-in-the wool anarchist, they probably agree that many of these laws are necessary and good. People generally like rules. We need boundaries. We're more comfortable when we know what we can do, and what we can't do. Not only do we find these boundaries comforting because they guide our behavior, we like them even more when they limit our neighbor's behavior. I might be totally fine with adding on to my house without permission, but I certainly don't want my next door neighbor to start farming pigs 10 feet away from my bedroom window.

Sorry, buddy. You're cute but too stinky.

So, what does this have to do with abortion?

A general rule of thumb is that it isn't permissible to kill other people. In fact, this is such an incredible violation of what's right and good that even if you kill someone accidentally you could end up in jail. Even in self defense, it has to be very clear that you or someone else is in imminent danger. You can't stab your neighbor because you're certain he'll come after you tomorrow.

We first must acknowledge that a human is a human from the moment of conception, and that this tiny human should have all the same rights as any other human. Perhaps the greatest of those rights is the right to life. The right to live without fear of someone else killing you for no reason and with no consequences.

Maybe you're thinking, "Sarah, that's well and good. But, we can't force women to carry babies! It could ruin their lives. Childbirth isn't risk-free. If they don't want the baby they shouldn't be forced to be pregnant for nine months."

First, realize that unless a woman has been raped (more on that in my last post) the pregnancy didn't begin without her consent. By engaging in sex, whether or not birth control was used, the woman is stating that she is open to beginning a new life. Once the new life has begun, options need to be limited. This debate is no longer just about the mother's body, the baby is present and must be considered.

Second, pregnancy is not permanent. In fact, I would say that as a strong pro-life mother of four I am a huge proponent of ending pregnancies. Never more so than when baby #4 (pictured) was five days past his due date.

At 9 lbs 9 oz I don't see why he couldn't have exited in a more timely fashion. Just saying.

Pregnancy begins, it continues for several months, and then it ends naturally. This natural progression is certainly uncomfortable, inconvenient, and at the end quite painful. However, it is not acceptable to say that one person can kill another in order to avoid discomfort and inconvenience.

My body, my choice? Absolutely. Right up until the moment of conception. Then, we have two (and possibly more) bodies to think about. One person's convenience or comfort does not and cannot outweigh another's right to life. Roughly fifty per cent of the population will have to worry about pregnancy at some point in their lives. Whether or not that's "fair" doesn't really matter. It's how our bodies work, so we have to live with it. Railing against our anatomy doesn't change anything.

A related argument sometimes comes up here. "Well, my birth control failed so I should be able to get an abortion." Or sometimes, "I wanted a hysterectomy/tubal ligation and can't get one." Anyone who uses any kind of birth control is using it with the understanding that it isn't 100% effective. There is no such thing as a 100% fool proof method of avoiding pregnancy other than abstinence. Therefore, as I said above, if someone engages in sex they're doing so with the understanding that they may become pregnant and then need to carry that baby to term. What if they wanted a more permanent form of birth control and were denied? Well, if the risk is still too high then don't have sex. Problem solved.

Pregnancy isn't the only time we're told we can't do something that we want to do. There are plenty of other places in society where our right to make a personal choice is restricted to protect someone else. We see them everywhere. If you have a child they have to be in a car seat or wear a seat belt. You can't just let them rattle around loose because you don't want to damage your upholstery or listen to them whine. Another law related to children, you have to have heat and water in your home. Their right to a clean and safe environment outweighs your choice to save money by not paying your utility bills (or save time by not applying for help to keep your utilities on).

Children have to be in seat belts, even if we would rather make a different choice.

What about a teenager? Legally, you can't throw them out of your house or leave them unattended for extended periods of time.

Why do we have these laws? Because the state, the government, has a vested interest in protecting the weak from those who would harm them or who would to allow them to come to harm through neglect. Who is weaker and more vulnerable than an unborn child?

What about this "gestational slavery" bit? Stop it. Nine months of pregnancy isn't comparable to slavery. The vast majority of the time a pregnancy won't significantly inhibit your lifestyle or choices. Even if it does, it's for a limited time with a definite end date. At the natural conclusion of pregnancy, the mother is free to go on her way without further encumbrances. There are women out there who are actually enslaved and forced to provide sex and other services with no freedom and no pay. Don't downplay their suffering by calling an unplanned pregnancy "slavery."

Pregnancy lasts for a limited time with a definite end date.

Pregnancy isn't easy and it isn't always fun. I have the greatest compassion for young women facing an unplanned pregnancy and I believe they need our support. They need medical care, resources, information, and education. They may even need a place to live or help finishing school. With the right support, they can complete their pregnancies and then either choose to raise their child or make an adoption plan.

Right now, the law says that a mother can choose to abort her child for any reason or no reason. The gestational age may vary slightly from state to state, but each state allows unfettered access to abortion at some point in pregnancy. We, as believers in Christ, need to do all we can to change this.

I'm not against choice. We just need to find one that everyone, including baby, can live with.

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