My dog, my choice?

“My body, my choice” is a favorite slogan of abortion advocates. It’s thin gruel.

To the extent this slogan is an analysis and not just a chant, it assumes the conclusion. It assumes that a fetus anywhere from hours old to nearly born is simply owned in a legal property sense by the mother in whom it resides.

But that’s the whole question, right? That question is not answered by just determining the location of the fetus. If it were, then a mother wrapping her arms around her baby or toddler or husband could make the same argument; “My body, my choice.” Or could leave a toddler outside the house overnight with the argument, “My house, my choice.”

In other areas of law, philosophy, religion and morality, we don’t subordinate the rights of living creatures to legal property interests. The left’s sudden libertarian argument that it can do whatever it wants with whatever it owns seems not to apply in such things as building codes that require carbon monoxide detectors in “my” house. Or laws against indecent exposure of “my” body. Or noise ordinances against “my” stereo. Or laws against me ending “my” life. Or laws requiring me to wear a seat belt in “my” car.

So, what about “My house, my body, my stereo, my life, my car . . . my choice”?

You may reply that in those examples, there’s a societal interest countervailing the individual interest. We don’t want people to have to see your naughty bits, or hear your noise, or breathe your car’s emissions. But what about the laws requiring carbon monoxide detectors in my house? And what about the laws requiring me to wear a seat belt? And laws prohibiting me from ending my life? It’s hard to argue that society has a direct interest in those things.

Here’s another example. Suppose a person buys a dog. Unlike a soon-to-be-born baby, the dog is indisputably owned by its owner. The dog is legally the owner’s property.

Suppose further that the dog owner decides when the puppy is about eight months old that he doesn’t want a dog after all. It’s too much effort, too expensive, too constraining, too interfering with the owner’s dating life, and too limiting on the travel that’s necessary for the owner’s career.

Note that there’s an alternative for a dog owner who changes his mind. He can bring the dog to the animal shelter where another person can adopt it.

Should the owner be allowed instead to slice and dice the dog with a machete and vacuum up the pieces, as we do with a fetus in a dilatation and extraction abortion?

After all, my dog, my choice. And after all, a dog is not a human being, is it?

No, we don’t allow that, and we shouldn’t. The reason we don’t allow that is that we’re not barbarians. We don’t have public executions either.

So, the abortion-on-demand crowd is left with the position that dogs have more right to life than 8-month-old unborn babies. Really?

There’s ownership and there’s ownership. What you “own” is not determinative of what you’re allowed to do with it. Society has a legitimate interest in regulating activities that lessen us as a culture.

After that little rant, you might assume I’m an abortion abolitionist. I’m not. I see it as the most difficult political/social/moral/legal issue of our time. I firmly believe the Supreme Court was right in deciding in an exercise of judicial modesty that it’s not a decision for them but for the people. As one of those people, I would favor state legislation that bars abortion in most instances after 15 weeks, as they do in most of Europe and all of Mississippi, but not before.

In that, I think I’m balancing legitimate and even a few illegitimate interests of a mother against legitimate interests of society and legitimate interests of the living creature within her womb. I recognize that others may reach a different balance. That’s why this is a decision for the people, not the judges.

It’s complicated. Saying that a fertilized egg is a human being like you and me that is entitled to all the protections of one, and so “abortion is murder,” does no more to illuminate the discussion than saying “My body, my choice.” Let’s get beyond sloganeering.

48 thoughts on “My dog, my choice?

  1. As usual, you present a logical and cogent argument in favor of your position. (I disagree, being one of those absolutist types who believe that the time for a woman’s choice is prior to engaging in the act of coitus, and even if the act that results in conception is rape or incest, aborting the innocent child in utero is a miscarriage of justice, inasmuch as it is the guilty perpetrator who should suffer the punishment.) Regardless, neither your arguments nor mine are likely to carry any weight with those who support unlimited abortion, because they do not come to their position logically or ethically, but simply as a matter of personal preference or expedience. For them, the decision is in the same category of what color shirt to wear, or whether to eat sushi or have avocado toast. There is no moral issue involved in such decisions, thus, no need to think deeply about it. Of course, after one has been indoctrinated to believe that human life has no transcendental meaning and is simply the end product of a billion years of random activity, there is no need to fret about extinguishing one more living being. (I do find it ironic to reflect that there are probably more people who sympathize with the predicament of your dog instead of the human being in utero. Maybe it’s because pictures of cute puppies engender greater response than ultrasound scans. I dunno.)

    • You are correct in pointing out that the majority of abortions are simply post sex birth control, given little more thought than removing a wart. The theory that the majority of abortions are the result of rape, incest or are in the case of a desperate teenager is to focus the “sympathy” on the pregnant female who may be inconvenienced, suffer discomfort or pain or have reduced financial circumstances, rather than on the baby who is being killed.

    • Steve, you included at least an approach to two great ideas: 1. “…[T]he time for a woman’s choice is prior to engaging in the act of coitus, and even if the act that results in conception is rape or incest, aborting the innocent child in utero is a miscarriage of justice, inasmuch as it is the guilty perpetrator who should suffer the punishment.); and 2. “…after one has been indoctrinated to believe that human life has no transcendental meaning and is simply the end product of a billion years of random activity, there is no need to fret about extinguishing one more living being.”
      Brilliant, sir!

  2. One point that has occurred to me, which I has been absent from this debate, is that Life is either sacred, or it is not. I do not think it can be a la carte or a continuum. (So the question is – At what point does a ‘choice’ become a Life?)
    When most everyone – perhaps especially the Left – decries mass shootings, especially at schools by teenagers of teenagers, it is not hard to understand how teens see Life as disposable.
    I agree entirely on one point Steve makes and that is that women do indeed have a choice, (excepting rape/incest) but it occurs LONG BEFORE the possibility that a pregnancy could occur.

  3. I’m in agreement in general, although I’d go for something like 10-12 weeks except for serious physical risk to the mother thereafter.

    It would be a good thing, and it may be a result here, if more young women decided not to have sexual relations without commitment.

  4. The term “fertilized egg” should be obliterated. Why? Because the instant an egg is fertilized it is no longer a “fertilized egg” but an embryo in its zygote stage. To make things even more ridiculous, you will see some indicate fertilized eggs implant. Impossible as that is an embryo not a “fertilized egg” then. So, why is the term used? Because it avoids using the word embryo which people recognize as a human. “Fertilized egg” is a dehumanizing term. I work in the livestock area and we do not use “fertilized egg”. Follow the science!

  5. Exquisitely well reasoned. I differ only with your final paragraph: What makes an abortion NOT “murder” is not some kind of forced argument that a human zygote is not a human being — the science of biology affirms that it is — but rather that murder, by definition, involves an element of malice, which I doubt is present in the vast majority of elective abortions. (Before continuing, I’ll acknowledge that you qualified “human being” with the words “like you and me,” to which I’ll reply that the seven-year-old Bitter Klinger was not a human being just like the one who’s addressing you now — he wasn’t bitter, for one thing. He also wasn’t “abortible,” any more than I am.)

    But if abortion isn’t murder, it’s still killing, and there’s no getting around that except to say that if killing is declared “legal” — even a “right” — then it’s morally OK. According to the Thomas Aquinas formulation of “Just War Theory,” it’s sometimes OK even in aggressive acts of war— just as in certain states euthanasia, capital punishment, and standing my ground with a fatally discharged shotgun are OK. So as you say, it is We the People that determine the morality of killing — not the tortured reasoning of a court, and certainly not the individual who reasons that anyone and anything affecting “my body” is fair game for annihilation.

    Of course now the question arises, do The People, ie., democratic majorities, always occupy the moral high ground? History’s well-regarded martyrs testify to the contrary. They also demonstrate that the way to protest against an immoral, tyrannical majority is not by way of lawless, me-first anarchy, but by way of martyrdom.

  6. As a (former Republican) until our great nation elected a ‘mob boss’ and liar extraordinaire that almost destroyed our democracy, the upcoming midterms are for the Republicans to lose. Only 3 times in the past century has the President’s Party GAINED seats in the midterms! Why is this relevant to your article? By the Republicans taking such an extreme view on abortions, what happened in Kansas this past week, where only 25% of the State are registered Democrats, will continue to repeat itself again and again. Think about it, almost 60% of the people who voted -chose to allow abortions with limits. A majority of Americans, almost 55%, are still in favor of keeping abortions legal with limits. Thanks to the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, the President’s Party has the opportunity to make it 4 times in the past century that the Dems gain seats in the Senate and House! This situation did not exist prior to the Supreme’s ruling on Roe vs Wade. Do not continue to allow a “minority” of the Party continue to speak for the MAJORITY!

    • I assume you refer to Biden when describing the “mob boss and liar extraordinaire (“I never discussed Hunter’s business dealings with him.”), but regardless, let’s by all means put electoral success ahead of morality. That worked out well for that other minority in Germany, you know–the ones forced to don a yellow star when the majority party elected its chosen candidate.

      • I think we both know, Steve, that he’s referring to Trump; further, that when someone calls himself a “former Republican,” he means that he’s a member of the Uniparty, which understands morality only as the Greeks did, as valuing “moderation in all things” and which defines “sin” as that which is “extreme” (more than one standard deviation from the mean). When those “fringe” Republicans start speaking of “absolutes” (good and evil) and “the sacred,” and try to mix church and state, well, that’s the real sin! Let’s all just get along, and continue incinerating baby parts that we can’t recycle on the black market.

    • And that process is the right one. This is a decision for the people, not the courts. I expect the people to come to nuanced positions based on many factors including the state they live in. Good. That’s the architecture of this county.

      BTW, if you’re correct that the Dems will benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs because the GOP will overplay its hand (which is possible but I think not likely, especially after Kansas) then it’s curious that the Dems are out protesting Dobbs. Sheesh, they should toasting Kavanaugh et al, not roasting them.

  7. Abortion shall be allowed in only 2 cases: 1) When the doctor goes to the mother and says, “I can save one of you; but not both. You pick.” This is very rare with the advent of modern medicine. (St. Gianna Molla picked her baby. St. Gianna died about 12 days after her baby was born. Her baby grew up to be a physician just like her mother.) 2) When a child has been raped and her body has not developed enough to sustain a pregnancy. Then we have to abort the baby to save the life of the mother. Otherwise, we lose both child/mother and baby.

    When people turn away from God, he turns away from them; and you end up with the dreadful society in which we are now living. Faith is dead; civility is dead; honor is dead; respect is dead.

  8. My body, my choice: if I want to abort it the father has no say. If I decide to keep it, the father must support it financially, but still has no say in how it is raised.

  9. It isn’t complicated at all. It’s only complicated if you waver on whether killing an innocent human being is acceptable. The “single cell,” trope is perhaps the biggest red herring in the abortion debate. Almost nobody wants to make things like birth control pills illegal, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. After implantation, which happens within a few hours after fertilization, cell division begins, so that 24 hours after conception, there is a multi-celled human being developing. Most surgical abortions take place after all organs, limbs and the nervous system is developed, and the baby is torn apart limb by limb and it’s head crushed. We look back in horror at the Aztecs and Mayans with their bloody human sacrifice while 60,000,000 unborn babies have dissected alive in the name of sexual freedom. People have not changed. We all think we would be different but we’re not. Without the sanctity of life, we are no better than those wonderful native Americans with their towers of skulls.

    • “Almost nobody wants to make things like birth control pills illegal, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.” I agree with you. Almost nobody wants to ban birth control pills, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.

      But aren’t you advocating just such a ban? That fertilized egg is a human being under your definition. Are you saying that it’s OK to destroy a human being that has not implanted in the uterous, but it should be illegal to destroy one that has? That seems to put a lot of weight on geography.

      Alternatively, are you saying that a single cell embryo is not a human being but one with 4 cells is? That, too, seems to me an arbitrary cutoff. Why isn’t your cutoff 8? Or 16? or 128?

      My point is that, actually, this IS complicated.

  10. Let’s get beyond sloganeering? What, are you kidding, Glenn? Then how are we supposed to all march & rhyme & chant in unison? You know, of the “Hey, hey, ho, ho …” variety? C’mon, man!!

  11. Remember when people are “owned” like pets, the “master” does whatever they please. In the case of abortion, the pregnant woman is considered the owner. No other party can weigh in. Not the father, grandparents or the state. This is what has disturbed me the most about abortion. It’s the complete antithesis of what the Constitution and Bill of Rights supposedly grants to all human beings who are under its jurisdiction. There is no equal protection under the law. There is no right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Pregnant female decides whether the child lives or dies and if anyone thinks this is usually an agonizing and well thought out decision, they are being naive. The majority of abortions are for convenience, finances, or because of parental or partner pressure. So I do believe in limitations on this barbaric practice. The problem with your conclusion is the 15 week cut off. Why 15 weeks? Are you aware of fetal development? A 15 week fetus is very clearly a human being. Why not six weeks or at the point of a fetal heartbeat? Unfortunately everything other than conception is arbitrary. Conception is the only point at which a separate human life begins. As a Catholic I believe in protecting human life from conception until natural death. However I’m also not a fool and realize this definition would be unenforceable. So I don’t know what is the “correct” cut off date but at the point the fetus has basic bodily functions and can feel pain seems a lot less barbaric than 15 weeks or 20 weeks or any other arbitrary date. Better yet, people, be responsible and don’t have sex with someone unless that person is willing to support the child you may create.

  12. A well reasoned column by Glenn … it dovetails with a very recent David French column I had just read in which he advances the secular case for pro-life policies restricting and/or prohibiting abortion.

    Nat Hentoff, the late and very left-of-center, civil libertarian writer described a human embryo and fetus as a developing human being, not a kangaroo, not a giraffe. It’s a developing human being.

    See: https://youtu.be/BVoAJ6mmRQ8

    Hentoff also quoted another leftwing advocate against abortion, Mary Meehan, with this often quoted argument criticizing the leftwing movement for not advocating for pro-life:

    “It is out of character for the left to neglect the weak and helpless. The traditional mark of the left has been its protection of the underdog, the weak and the poor. The unborn child is the most helpless form of humanity, even more in need of protection than the poor tenant farmer or the mental patient. The basic instinct of the left is to aid those who cannot aid themselves. And that instinct is absolutely sound. It’s what keeps the human proposition going.”

    See more at: https://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/nvp/consistent/indivisible.html

    Anyways, Glenn’s column and the recent French column both dovetail with my thought that an unborn baby ought to have, even if only just a fraction of, the constitutional due process rights that heinous, murdering psychopath routinely receives ad infinitum while awaiting execution on any one of America’s death rows.

    Such fractional constitutional due process rights for a developing human being would have a definite time limit too, probably no more than seven or eight months, but definitely not much more than nine months. These time limited, in-the-womb, special due process considerations would immediately end, upon birth. This sounds entirely reasonable to me.

    And while I also ardently remain pro death penalty for heinous, psychopathic murderers on death row, I can squarely fit this within my conscience and worldview as I would advocate for the protection of innocent life.

    I believe too that the death penalty makes a balanced approach to the protection and valuation of innocent life in that we as a society put far greater value on the innocent lives lost at the hands of a depraved, convicted, pre-meditated murderer. Such murderers should be subject to forfeiting their right to roam the earth for the murders of innocent people who were valued.

    So, this is where I would differ from many of these secular, pro-life, civil-libertarians like Hentoff. I’m okay with “aborting” guilty human life … as long as those who are guilty have been duly convicted in a fair trial by their peers and the crimes rise to such a level of notoriety, revulsion, and wickedness that death is a suitable punishment.

    Anyways … check out French’s substack column for his take on secular pro-life advocates; he writes this as a self professed Christian.

    See: https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/there-is-a-secular-case-for-life?utm_source=email

    Lastly, going back to Glenn’s original theme “my dog, my choice” … I have always wondered what would happen if this thought experiment were played out to the public. Let’s say that local animal shelters, because of the overpopulation of stray dogs and cats, adopted mandatory abortion policies for all pregnant dogs and cats brought into the shelters. All those cute little unborn puppies and unborn kittens would be dismembered and vacuumed out utilizing standard abortion methods.

    I would hypothesize that this would create lots of anger and outrage among most people in society, even among people on the left, like animal rights activists in PETA.

    We as a society seem to be mesmerized by cute and unborn baby animals, be they puppies, or penguins, or lions, yet so many of us have hardened hearts towards our own species. This is just some food for thought … but check out these fascinating photos of unborn animals and perhaps then my point has some more relevancy:

    https://www.prima.co.uk/leisure/tv-and-film/news/a34585/national-geographic-animals-inside-the-womb/

    In the end, to put it simply … unborn babies are innocent and deserving of due process and protection. Duly convicted, guilty murderers on death row deserve to be aborted. When it comes to abortion, we seem to be using sledge hammers then treating every problem as if it were a nail.

    Wrong Solution

  13. Wow. I figured this one would generate some passion. It’s about time. My body, my slave. If I made it I can kill it or sell it, or even keep it. NOYFB. Well, I think it is, for all the reasons you mentioned. You can argue forever just when the conception happened and how long it’s been since, and that’s why consideration of allowing a time lapse before killing the slave/baby/dog that is now just a mistake, is considered OK. I once read in a psychology course that early killing or torturing of animals was a precursor to becoming a sociopath. If I go chop up a dog, it’s cruelty to an animal, at the minimum. If I chop up a baby, …………..
    Bill Grant

  14. Yes a deductively sound argument. It’s the premise that’s up for grabs, the the fetus is the mother’s property, liker her dog. That is not the premise pro-choice people work from. Their premise is that the fetus is not a separate person, but a part of the mother’s body. It’s no more her property than your hand is your property. Substitute that premise and the column is simply irrelevant. Moreover, it’s the premise that causes the disagreement; at what point in human development does personhood begin? This is a more or less arbitrary decision. Science can tell us a lot about the nature of a fetus at different points, but it can’t tell us at which point to assign personhood. That’s a matter of perception of values and that’s why this argument cannot be won.

    • Fair points, and I agree with your suggestion that the argument cannot be “won” logically be either side because it depends on some imponderables.

      But I’ll quibble with one point. A fetus in a woman is not like a hand on her arm. The hand never becomes a person. And if you remove that hand from the woman at 8 months old, it’s not going to stay alive for long.

    • What you call the Pro-choicer’s premise is simply stupid. My hand is indeed a property of mine: I may choose to cut it off if it’s gangrenous, or if it’s inextricably trapped between boulders in the Utah wilderness, or if it “offends” me by being instrumental in behavior that shames me. Even if I have no reason at all, I can chop it off. But I have no such dominion over another being with distinctly different DNA, that has as much of a claim to life as I do.

      As for the distinction between “a person” and a human being by any other name, that’s a quibble that paves the way to rationalization. The notion that “personhood” is absent until it’s mysteriously conferred at some stage of development is tantamount to the older belief that “life” itself doesn’t occur until the stage of pregnancy known as “quickening.” To the extent that personhood has a genetic determinant, and it does, it is conferred at conception along with everything else. To the extent that personhood has an environmental determinant, then obviously one must be allowed to be born in order to become a person. It doesn’t happen during pregnancy. Does that mean that I can kill the non-“person” right up to the moment of birth? That’s the kind of power that no one should want to wield.

      • Calling people stupid is not a good argument and redefining a differing position as a quibble isn’t much better but the remainder of what you said makes sense and is somewhat consistent with what I said. One of the characteristics of property is that it can be bought and sold. You can legally chop off your hand but you cannot legally sell it to me. Pro-choice folks feel (and I want to stress the word “feel”) that the same rules to a fetus. It’s not property to be bought and sold, but it IS a part of the woman’s body that, like a hand, she should be able to remove when it suits her.

        Apparently your position is that personhood begins when unique DNA is created. Fair enough!. Catholic Dogma is that DNA itself is holy, ergo even contraception is murder. Just as reasonable and arbitrary as your position. Some moderates postulate that fetal viability (a blurry line) ought to be where personhood starts. Other conservative moderates choose measurable heartbeat as the line of demarcation. That’s my point. Choose a premise and you can make a deduced argument from it, but choice of the premise itself is based on values and we are unlikely to get consensus on that.

        Glenn chose a weak premise that pro-lifers rarely hold, argued against it, and declared himself the winner. His argument from that premise was flawless but unimportant because few pro-lifers don’t consider a living fetus property to be bought and sold. They consider it a body part over which the individual and not the government ought to have control. Clearly you and Glenn (and many more) choose a different premise, but it’s disingenuous to make up a weak one, argue against it and then declare yourself the winner.

        I think one could viably argue that body parts lack potential to survive independently, are never sentient. and that therefor a fetus cannot morally be considered to be a body part. But that’s a different argument. Intra-uterine fetus as “property” is silly. That said, I’m afraid there are people silly enough to make such an argument.

      • Sorry, I hit the wrong key and posted before I was finished. I wanted to add that although the “property” argument is silly, there are unfortunately, people silly enough to make it. e.g. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1262&context=faculty Seems that once a person is convinced they are right, they’ll resort to almost anything to prove it. This is so on either side of any fence and truer as the fence becomes higher.

      • rdk, I did indeed call the fetus-as-part-of-the-woman’s-body premise “stupid,” but would stop short of declaring the general intelligence of a person adopting such a premise as deficient in all other respects.

        As for Becca Rausch’s contention that the actual “property” at issue here is, not the fetus, but the uterus, and that the unexpected fetus is a “foreign entity” and “trespasser” whose removal is warranted by property laws, I’ll concede that your characterization of this as “silly” is certainly kinder than my impulse to proclaim it as “stupid.” We probably agree that it’s a kind of “desperate” reasoning.

        There are decisions that mere mortals should never have imposed on them. The decision, constantly second-guessed, to drop “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago is among them. And our post-Margaret Sanger ability to withhold or truncate life, a power never previously possessed (except by Onanists, etc.), is truly an awful burden to bear. Little wonder that we’re all a little “mad.”

      • hey, Bitter Klinger–and we do understand that your handle comes from the very stupid Obama reference, and we find you not to be bitter at all, and further we agree with your treatment of, the comparison of the hand to the baby in the womb, but did you direct your comment to Glenn, who in rare moments does require correction?

    • If the argument had been rightly framed as pro-abortion vs. pro-life I think we’d be having a very different discussion.

  15. This whole issue is grounded in the modern denial of human nature. Women and men are in fact different. Women, from puberty until menopause, have the possibility of bearing children. Actions should be consistent with that possibility. Pretending that women are just like men leads to the physical and emotional damage of killing babies growing the womb. If society in general taught its young women (and men) these facts, we’d be dealing with only the hard cases, which are less than 5% of the total, and we could discuss what compassionate limits are called for.

    • Katherine, this is extremely intelligent analysis of, not only the immediate problem of abortion (“Actions should be consistent with that [fact] [we have changed your ‘possibility’ to fact], but more importantly the general, more fundamental consideration of humanity, of our human nature. Thank you.

  16. Pingback: Links and Comments | Rockport Conservatives

  17. Only when abortion is consistently and publicly viewed as the “Big-R-racist” clear-cutting of humanity that it is, will people stop treating the killing of the innocent as “healthcare”.
    I wonder if there was a “gay gene”, would pro-abortion liberals care if the mother “chose” to target her homosexual fetus growing in her womb with an abortion?

    • Phil – Please keep in mind, the deep RED State of Kansas where only 25% registered Dems exist voted almost 60% last week to allow abortions with limits. You labeling LIBs are inaccurate when a majority clearly want abortions to continue with limits, of course. Speaking of limits, the extreme on either side on this issue is approximately 22% Republicans and 25% Democrats.

      • Yes, I think this is true nationally and this presumed majority includes me. But I think it’s important to remember that while public opinion is relevant, justice includes but is more than a popularity contest. This is a gut-wrenching issue.

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