“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.