Clichés of Progressivism: My Body, My Choice
By Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America
Struggling to understand the reasoning of a vastly different point of view can be difficult but effectively and concisely responding is even more challenging. When it comes to the polarizing topic of abortion, it is crucial to understand where a person is coming from who has a distinctly pro-abortion view in order to properly address their argument and hopefully plant seeds of thought so that person may come to eventually abandon their view and see the destruction of abortion in full light.
One common argument among those who adamantly see abortion as their right is the phrase “my body, my choice.” As with most clichés, this one is popular almost entirely because of its rhetorical power, not because it is concise or intellectually powerful. It also fits nicely on signs at protests but that’s another topic for another day.
When dismantling this well-used cliché, it’s important to understand exactly what it means. Most often, there are two possible arguments when they say “my body, my choice.” The first argument is that even though the preborn person is a human being, the woman has no obligation to allow the fetus the use of her body to grow and live. The second argument is that while the preborn person is a human being, because it lives inside the woman and the woman has control over her body, it is therefore her right to do whatever she pleases to the fetus.
Firstly, science has already proven when life begins and that the prenatal child is a completely distinct human person from its mother. It has its own DNA, its own blood type, and is a unique human being, part of the human species. Because of technological advances, life inside the womb is easy to see and document – and hard to ignore. Even abortion advocates will admit that yes, they know the developing baby inside the womb is a distinct human, but even so, the woman’s rights to her own body trump her child’s.
Secondly, the prenatal child, while a separate being from the mother, is indeed inside the woman’s body, which raises legitimate questions. Pregnancy is unique because there is literally one human being living inside another. The question is, do human beings inside other human beings have any rights whatsoever, or are all of their rights trumped by the person they’re living in?
Having already established the scientific fact that a fetus living in its mother’s body is a distinct human being, the question goes back to the rights that they should have and if their mother’s rights should trump theirs.
Do they have any human rights at all? To answer this question, many pro-life apologists use the following thought experiment.
The drug Thalidomide became insanely popular in the late 1950s and early 60s in Europe as an over-the-counter drug for sleeplessness and it was thought there were no adverse effects for pregnant women and their babies. But an Australian ob/gyn found another use for the drug: to alleviate morning sickness. He started prescribing it for his pregnant patients. However, in 1961, he started noticing that babies were born with deformities such as missing limbs or limbs that failed to fully develop. The link was made to thalidomide, thus thalidomide is now banned for prescription to pregnant women.
Should pregnant women be allowed to take thalidomide, knowing that it will cause severe deformities for their preborn children? If the argument that the woman’s bodily rights trump all is correct, the answer must be ‘yes’.
Going down this same line of reasoning, what would pro-choice advocates be ok with a pregnant woman doing to her preborn child? Would drinking a bottle of vodka be all right? What about smoking? The alcohol and tobacco industries are all required to have labels on their products that inform pregnant women about the harmful side effects to their developing babies. If pro-choice advocates are to be consistent, they must maintain that there are no justified limits to what a pregnant woman can intentionally do to her preborn child.
Why are they shamed? Because they knowingly did something that has the potential to significantly damage their preborn child. Because that prenatal child has at least some rights, particularly the right to not be unjustly harmed.
Claiming that a prenatal child has no rights whatsoever is extreme. If they have any rights at all, they have the right to not be killed. The cliché “my body, my choice” isn’t so much an argument as it is an assertion. When this assertion is analyzed in detail and the implications are considered, it is shown to be extreme and out-of-line with the vast majority of what Americans believe about life before birth.