topical

That’s all on abortion

It’s wearying to have to constantly explain to people why you should be treated with dignity and are deserving of basic rights. We shouldn’t have to fight to gain the final say over our own bodies. Unfortunately the world is full of political authoritarians whose first instinct when seeing other people living and acting freely is to stop them at all costs.

I’ve always believed that a woman should have the right to choose when she becomes a mother, and is capable of making that decision without the interference of the state. This doesn’t mean I think the foetus has no inherent value, or that I don’t think it’s sad when abortion occurs, just that “life” is more than simply being born. I don’t see the circumstances that drive women to have abortions in the first place being eliminated any time soon: poverty, family breakdown, rape and incest, crime, violence, abuse. These are the sort of problems that would seriously erode the quality of life these kids would have were they to be born.

Even if we did live in a world where those things didn’t exist, I still don’t think there is any moral wrongdoing in prioritising the wishes of people that are already living and feeling. “Right to life” doesn’t translate to a right to use somebody else’s body against their will, and a foetus is fully dependent on the body of the mother. You have the right to refuse to donate body organs that you don’t need, even if doing so means that somebody else dies. That is an important right, even when there are moral implications attached to it. Forcing parenthood upon people who are not ready does not create strong family units, it only strengthens the cycle of neglect. Children would be growing up in unstable environments by parents that didn’t really want them.

Defending the “rights of the unborn” all sounds very noble on paper, but in practice you have to be realistic about what that actually means. “Pro-life” is one way of framing the defence of the foetus, but I can’t think of much that is more coercive and violent than “forced childbirth”, which is what you’re advocating when you ask that women are stripped of reproductive autonomy. It also risks women taking their situation into their own hands and seriously harming themselves in desperation. Nobody wants to see the return of the coat hanger as a surgical instrument, and a society that would treat women with such contempt is not one I want to be a part of.

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