In my last post, I went on about bodily autonomy. I wanted to continue that discussion with specifics regarding what I see and regard. You don’t have to agree like I said before. You just have to play nice when you decide to play. If you can’t, please take your toys and go home.
To remind you, bodily autonomy or bodily integrity is:
Bodily integrity is the inviolability of the physical body and emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy, self-ownership, and self-determination of human beings over their own bodies.Wikipedia
Where we ended the last discussion was about, specifically, the arguments people will have against bodily autonomy. The arguments that will pop up first relate to the effect of one person’s bodily integrity on another human being. For example, the lack of taking vaccines harms others. Abortion kills a life. Body modification is offensive. Gender reassignment impacts medical and governmental costs. I could go on. But, let’s try to unpack some of this baggage, shall we?
First, vaccines attempt to stop the person taking the vaccine from contracting the disease or minimize its effects. It doesn’t necessarily stop the spread nor create herd immunity, which is created when 83% to 94% of the population has antibody resistance either due to catching the disease or vaccination. Does this mean we all need to be vaccinated? No. What it does mean is that we all need to have antibodies. Vaccinated persons can spread disease as well as non-vaccinated persons, and all of us may unwittingly pass the disease along. If you don’t take a vaccine, that should be your choice. Some people cannot be vaccinated, including adults like my brother who are allergic to the ingredients in many vaccines. It’s NOT your right to spread disease, on purpose, to others. You don’t want to take any vaccine, for whatever reason? Then mask up, physically distance, wash your hands, and don’t engage in risky behaviors. Limit personal contact until the danger is past. If you’re sick, stay home – regardless of the illness. Is it your right to take your Hepatitis infection and spread it to others on purpose? No. We’ve seen that. We’ve prosecuted that. If you have Covid-19 and spit on someone, that’s no different. This has less to do with bodily autonomy and far more to do with respect for other people. If we cared half as much for others as we do for ourselves, the pandemic might not be lasting so long.
Let’s now talk about abortion. Most arguments, generally against, are morality issues, not scientific ones. If they were scientific, it would be solely about the viability of human life, the health and welfare of the mother, and the examples of where abortions are necessary to save both a potential child and the life of the mother. However, the majority of arguments against abortion are about the “sanctity of human life” or the “life” of an unborn fetus. It’s the murder of an innocent or robbing a potential life of a valuable future. The argument generally goes, “when abortion kills a fetus or embryo, you kill a soul.” You know what? We don’t know that. Not yet. Maybe never. As a species, we don’t remember our “womb time.” We had no self-awareness or self-direction, and we could not have survived outside of the mother’s womb. An embryo is not a human life – it’s not “a person.” That embryo is potential life. Do we have souls then? That is a religious and philosophical issue, one that is open to opinion and debate and not settled science. And what if your religion doesn’t believe there is a soul until a year out of the womb, or five days out of the womb? What we know is that the mother is alive and is a human being. What we know is that she should have bodily autonomy as to what happens to her body, if we are to afford her the freedom we all say we desire. It doesn’t matter what you religiously or morally believe. We are talking about what is the truth of human life – the woman’s life. For all we know, it could be that the fetus is on its own journey, it was never meant to be born, nor do we know what its ultimate purpose is.
At this point, we might split the difference between a zygote, embryo, and fetus. We might split about fetal viability (23 weeks or 24?) or healthy vs. unhealthy (do you put the child through excruciating pain from genetic malformation just to say you didn’t abort it? No Brain Stem?) What about those that have to abort the extra embryos (maybe two of four) so that the mother and other embryos can continue in a healthy way? These are extremely individual discussions and again, should be left up to those who are responsible for that potential child’s life and death. There can be no sweeping law to cover all possible situations. It’s not possible. Hence, we come back to bodily autonomy. We come back to, again, the idea of the right to choose. I believe that we all should have morality and that we need to live by that morality. However, we cannot impose it on another, or else we succumb to fascism. You cannot have freedom without choice.
I’ve heard it said often that people are pro-life or pro-choice. What the reality seems to be is pro-birth or pro-choice. Pro-Brith implies that you want to absolutely ensure that the child is born, no matter what its condition is and no matter what happens to the mother. After birth, it’s up to those that created the child to handle it. In other words, you do not have bodily autonomy until after that human life is born. Then, you can do what you want as long as the baby too has bodily autonomy. If my definition of pro-birth is wrong, then how would you define it? I would like to understand what “pro-life” limits are? And are they consistent? Is it never abort? What are the implications for incest, rape, or life-threatening situations? What about a woman raped by her caregiver while she was in a coma? Does she have rights? A ten-year-old?
I don’t say these things to be inflammatory or stir up hatred. I say them because that is the world in which we live. Until we really get to the root cause of these issues, respect for other humans and their right to bodily autonomy, we are going to face them. We need to hold perpetrators responsible, not their victims. We need to hold everyone responsible for their own, free actions. I really am asking the question – what are the limits of “pro-life” and for whom?
If the answer is there are limits to “pro-life,” then the answer is to let the mother, the one whose life is literally under attack from this pregnancy, make her own decisions. You cannot have it both ways. Pro-choice is not Pro-Abortion. Pro-Choice is about bodily autonomy. Pure and simple. It’s about the person carrying the child to be responsible, in all ways, for whether or not she carries a child into the world and then manages it for the rest of its or her life. The mother is morally, ethically, physically, and emotionally responsible for this decision. We all don’t want other people’s morality imposed on us; do you want to be forced to have a blood transfusion if you see it as an offense to God, for example? Letting people make their own choices is important, as long as it isn’t harming another living, breathing human being who also needs to be able to make their own choices. If they choose wrong, why would you care? Guide, discuss, debate, educate but in the end, they need to make their own decision. Without this autonomy, we do not have access to all the other freedoms we espouse.
There’s so much more to all of this and part of my reason for posting this, here, is to just get it out. I know that I will trigger things for people and make some people angry with me because they expect me to think like they do. I am a mixture of emotions as well as thoughts. People who believe so critically on the polarized ends of these debates exhaust me. You can’t discuss with extremists. I believe that we should have the personal right over our own bodies, in all ways, without hurting other humans. I go with science on most of these issues because I think it’s the most impartial, least emotional aspect. Maybe I’m wrong. So be it. I accept that responsibility.
I also desperately believe in everyone’s right to choose what they do with their own body. You can’t have it one way or another. You can believe what you want about another person’s actions but you cannot force them to choose what you would. We have to respect people, and maybe more so those that we disagree with passionately.
My hope, my dearest hope, is that we can have civil discourse on these subjects, enough to perhaps learn from each other. I know I don’t have all the answers. Like you, I think I’m doing the best I can. I know you are, too.
Kris, I always love and admire your thoughtful expression of complex subjects. I, like you, believe in self autonomy, self choice -isn’t that what being an adult and having freedom should, at minimum, give each of us?
Thank you for starting the discussion.
I love that we can have these discussions, Michael. We don’t always agree but I always walk away learning more than I did before. You are a wonderful, liberating soul!