Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Aborting to protect our bodies?

[Today's entry is re-posted from "Yeah, but..."]

We hear a lot about bodily rights during the abortion debate. Moving beyond the abortion debate to society in general, I think it's clear that bodily rights are fundamental. It seems most other pro-lifers think it's clear too. You'll be hard-pressed to find a pro-lifer that says they'd be fine with laws forcing drivers to donate blood to people they hit with their cars, or even requiring parents to donate kidneys to their sick children.

Yet when we are discussing abortion, it seems to me a lot of pro-lifers tend to avoid the bodily rights argument. They brush off the "my body my choice" assertion as a cop out, a cover up for less noble justifications. I've seen many pro-lifers respond to the bodily rights argument with disgust or bewilderment, claiming it's a bunch of mental gymnastics, a twisted, desperate attempt to justify a horrible act. After denouncing bodily rights as a red herring, they see no reason to consider or discuss it.

Of course this doesn't apply to the entire pro-life movement; there are plenty of pro-lifers who try to explore the moral distinctions between pregnancy and allegedly analogous situations. Still, in my experience it seems too many pro-lifers haven't seriously considered--and in some cases refuse to consider--how much bodily rights do play into the abortion debate. Sometimes I'm surprised by this, because the issue of bodily rights weighs heavily in my consideration of my abortion stance.

I wonder if pro-lifers dismiss the bodily rights argument partly because it's not usually why women get abortions in the first place. While bodily autonomy is a commonly cited reason for keeping abortion legal, it's not a commonly cited reason for actually getting an abortion.

According to Guttmacher:
The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman's education, work, or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).
Not mentioned is a concern for bodily health, or a frustration or fear over sharing her body with another.

The Guttmacher report elaborates:
In a 1985 study of 500 women in Kansas, unreadiness to parent was the reason most often
given for having an abortion, followed by lack of financial resources and absence of a partner. In 1987, a survey of 1,900 women at large abortion providers across the country
found that women’s most common reasons for having an abortion were that having a baby would interfere with school, work or other responsibilities, and that they could not afford a child.
Again, the main reasons women choose abortion have nothing to do with their bodily autonomy.

Still, that doesn't mean bodily autonomy is irrelevant to these women. Guttmacher found that 12% of women cite concerns over their health as cause for an abortion, including "from chronic or debilitating conditions such as cancer and cystic fibrosis to pregnancy-specific concerns such as gestational diabetes and morning sickness."

Why is there such a divergence between the reasons people insist abortion should be a right and the reasons women actually get abortions? Does the difference matter? Are there parallel differences between the reasons people protect other rights vs the reasons people exercise those rights?


Beth Presswood said...

If these abortions weren't about what happens to these women's bodies, then why wouldn't they be all happy to be pregnant and place the baby for adoption?

Yvonne said...

With this one I think the main point to understand from a pro life perspective is that there are two bodies involved, the mother's and the unborn baby's. I don't think it is right to kill one of those bodies. None of those reasons above are good enough to justify killing another human being, not even a small one that nobody has seen yet.

Clinton Wilcox said...

I think it might be a combination. Even though bodily integrity might not enter into the mind of a scared sixteen-year-old girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock and her boyfriend threatens to leave her, or a woman who finds herself pregnant and thinks she'll have to drop out of college if she has the baby, or any other situations, I think a pro-choice advocate would claim that because a woman should not be forced to be "life support" for anyone else, even an unborn human being, then I think they would argue that the reason she aborts is irrelevant.

Jameson Graber said...

That's a fairly good rebuttal, but I think some research should be done to see whether your implication is correct. Is it really the danger/pain of pregnancy that turns people away from giving their children up for adoption, or is it the very sad thought of giving up a child to someone else? It could very well be a combination of both, but the survey answers given to Guttmacher appear telling. I wonder if we could get some more precise answers on this.

Jameson Graber said...

Legally speaking, I would say no, there is no necessary relationship between the reason people have a particular right and the reason they use it. Just look at free speech. The reason we have it is to prevent political oppression; the reason people use it can be anything from pure entertainment to artistic expression.

However, as someone who thinks abortion is in most cases not justified, I would say it is useful to understand why people choose to abort. Unfortunately, the data appears to show that abortion is being used as a second line of birth control. I don't mean that it is being used lightly; I simply mean that it is being used as if it could *prevent* having children. Perhaps that means, unfortunately, that the average person simply doesn't take the humanity of the unborn seriously, or is unaware of it.

Diane said...

Great post. Very thought provoking.

I have a side note comment (while still digesting everything you've said here). :)

There's something else about the "bodily rights" conversation that continues to confound me. There is often little mention about how, aside from rape/attack situations, it is within our legal rights to not ALLOW a male, including a male we're married to, to ejaculate sperm specifically into the inside of our reproductive organs, during times when we KNOW that we do not want to create a new human inside of us, go through pregnancy and childbirth, and become a parent to a new child in the world, etc.

All religious and/or moral considerations aside, this seems like pretty basic cause-and-effect. Applicable within marriage just the same as outside of it (Not a specifically religious or moralistic "anti-premarital sex" thing). And applicable when addressing the full scope of our true "bodily rights" as females.

What are females's bodily rights, really? Are there rights that we do not want to discuss or give much weight to - as legitimate rights - because doing so might upset or inconvenience men?

Diane said...

I think it's also important to consider how a woman's intentions factor into her resulting "feelings". If a woman has vaginal intercourse - for a reason other than wishing to become pregnant (and does not want to be pregnant in the first place) then she's probably not going to become magically "happy" about being pregnant and giving birth, even if a part of her also believes that giving the baby up for adoption is a good and right thing to do. It was not what she desired and intended, even if she is the one who took the action that ended up CAUSING conception to occur.

Now, being "willing" to do something... that is different from being "happy" about it.

I also really appreciate what Jameson said, here, "Is it really the danger/pain of pregnancy that turns people away from giving their children up for adoption, or is it the very sad thought of giving up a child to someone else?".

Dolce said...

I think one reason that the focus is not on bodily rights arguments is that for the average (somewhat uneducated) pro-lifer AND pro-choicer, bodily rights never really enters in to the equation, and it is definitely NOT the foremost reason why people are in support of abortion. That doesn't mean we should ignore bodily rights, and that they never come into play, but in cases other than rape, it is quite an easy to argument to refute.

When you think about it, late term abortions would be illegal across the board if abortion was really about bodily rights, and people would be a lot angrier about cases like the Kermit Gosnell trial. But it isn't, they aren't, and the debate doesn't really centre around bodily rights. Instead it centres around when something becomes a someone - a human deserving of rights (i.e.: a person). And that is a far more difficult argument to refute.

Kara Baylog said...

I'd add to that. In an unplanned pregnancy, should a woman be faced with financial, professional, social concerns, it puts her on shaky territory. If you disregard the humanity of the pre-born, then one option is the faster, more assured, less red tape option, while the other is a long drawn out process. I'm not saying these women necessarily mind using their body for 9 months, but a host of questions might pop up, "what if I can't find parents? How will I pay for prenatal car in the mean time? What will the people I know around me say?" People in general will often try to take the one step option, particularly in a state of duress - in the search for instant gratification. On a side note, this is why fast food thrives so well.

Jameson Graber said...

I'm not sure I understand why late term abortions would be illegal if it were all about bodily rights. On the contrary, bodily integrity is precisely what pro-choice apologists use to justify late term abortions. The question of when a fetus begins to be a person may be complicated from many points of view, but when a fetus is six to nine months old and resembles a newborn baby in pretty much every way except for being smaller, most people understand what that is. Only if a woman has an *absolute* right to her body, over every other priority there is, can abortion justified at such a time.

chava said...

The reason I don't find the bodily integrity argument persuasive is that there is a difference between refusing to go the extra mile to save someone's life (like someone refusing to donate a kidney) and actually, actively killing someone. If someone is already dying from an outside cause, you shouldn't be able to force someone else to risk his life to save that person.

Abortion is actively killing someone. I see it as being more akin to one Siamese twin killing the other, or better yet, as akin to a parent who was accidentally super-glued to his child, killing the child, rather than waiting several months for the super-glue to wear off. I don't believe either of these scenarios is morally acceptable, despite the bodily integrity argument.

The question of whether it would be okay for women to simply have early C-sections or get induced, even too early for the baby to have a decent chance of survival, but nonetheless allow the hospital to do their best to save the baby, would to me be a more interesting question.

Terence57 said...

People lie. People lie to psychologists they willingly pay money to. The main reason a woman gets an abortion-- the MAIN reason-- is because she wants one.

Dolce said...

But the point of bodily integrity/autonomy arguments is that a women is pregnant when she doesn't want to be (i.e. another person is using her body to survive) and so she has a right to terminate that relationship, even if it results in the death of the baby.

For late term abortions, the issue of another person using her body without her "consent" can be solved by inducing birth and treating the baby. Abortion (the baby's death) is NOT necessary in order to restore the woman's bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy arguments only apply to abortion when the baby would die if it was separated from the mother - otherwise, separation can be accomplished in a way that does not cause death to the baby - solving the issue of bodily autonomy, and avoiding the death of the innocent party.

And I am not sure where you see such widespread use of bodily autonomy arguments in support of late term abortions - I almost always only see "life of the mother" arguments used in such cases. I think that is one of the reasons many countries (and states in my understanding) place limits on abortion around the time when a fetus is viable except in cases where birth would put unnecessary risk to the mother's life (which I always find confusing because whether the baby is alive or dead it has to come out somehow and many late term abortions involve birthing a whole, but dead, baby).

Dolce said...

Also, see Peter Singer's philosophy for sophisticated (if horrible) arguments in favour of late term abortions. He, like many other pro-choice philosophers, recognizes that if late-term abortions are morally justifiable, then so is infanticide (i.e.: they are equivalent acts). Clearly, infanticide has nothing to do with bodily autonomy.

Caterina Maria said...

Actually, that IS my reason, or do you want me to find out firsthand how bad hormonally-induced depression can get? Before birth, even? Because that's entirely likely. For me, it's the integrity of my mind and forget my body. It's the peace I fight so hard to maintain. I will not be murdered or driven insane by anyone. That is my right as a human being, isn't it?

Caterina Maria said...

Two people had that sex. She didn't get herself pregnant; he helped.

Chaoticblu said...

That's a good point you made that it would be more rational to induce labor and try and save the baby than to just kill then. I haven't seen that mentioned before. I've never understood the 'need' for late term abortions as you can detect if your are pregnant well before that. if one insists on ending the life of their child since it is currently legal- at least do at as soon as possible before they feel pain or are very developed. At least show SOME compassion, as much as one can in that situation.

Chaoticblu said...

I discuss bodily autonomy with people, but how does one really discuss it (successfully I guess?)when it comes down to simply whether or not another human beings life trumps another bodily autonomy? I'm not sure how a or any pro lifer is supposed to understand where a pro choice person is coming from, when it comes down to the value of life. I point out that there is help for people dealing with unplanned pregnancies, yet many people seem to still think there is none. Or it still doesn't matter to them. I'm not sure then what I'm supposed to be trying to understand with that argument Though i do appreciate the chart and found the actual health concerns mentioned (such as cancer) interesting and something truly to think about (as in how do we resolve issues such as this in a pro life way?) as I've rarely if ever heard actual medical causes argued by pro choicers.

Chaoticblu said...

It also comes down to personal responsibility which I have a different view on then most if not all pro choice people I've interacted with. It seems to be that pro choice people believe that one holds no responsibility to a life they create if birth control was used. So, even though they are still choosing to take that risk and have sex that could cause procreation, they feel their bodily autonomy trumping finding a pro life solution to their unplanned pregnancy (raising the child or giving them up for adoption) is justifiable. I certainly am all for (embryo safe) bc methods but it should be to reduce the amount of abortions by reducing conception in the first place, not an excuse to still abort if you are the 'unlucky 1%' as one person I discussed this with called it.

Chaoticblu said...

So, I just would like to know how to discuss these concepts of bodily autonomy and personal responsibility with people and possibly have some success in at least getting them to consider my stances and the ethics behind them. I feel like I do understand where they are coming from ,but again it all boils down to the value of life. I'm not sure how we expect to persuade pro choice people who won't budge on that issue. Sorry for sounding pessimistic.I feel like we have a better chance with younger people though who haven't been misinformed about fetal development yet.And we can educate our own children of course.

Chaoticblu said...

I think a part of that is that most people still do not understand that a new human being has COME into being at conception, not pregnancy. I just read something on a forum where a women admitted to aborting in the past and still felt right about it due to being in a bad relationship at the time, and some fears about the child's health apparently. Quote:

Why create and bring into this world a human being that would probably
suffer from mental problems and/or have to live with no functional/
reliable dad, and for sure a mom that is always depressed and angry
because of the pressures that I'd go through?"

What worries me is she acts like the child wasn't even created yet, when of course they had been. She just chose not to let them survive and leave the womb to continue their life in the outside world. It's such a shame, she seems very misguided , not even considering adoption. This is where I got the quote. I was trying to check on the cut of dates for abortions for another post and this is what popped up in my Google seach. Scary that it's coming from a pregnancy website.

Chaoticblu said...

This is pretty much how I see it, though I'm still not sure how far a parent should go for their child ethically, but that's just my personality. I feel like I would donate a kidney out of my own morale but I think I agree I wouldn't expect to be forced too. But I see abortion as not even giving the child a chance to experience life outside the womb, whatever pains and pleasures might lie ahead. We can't always control how our life will go -I almost died on the operating table myself- but we should be able to at least experience life until it is our 'time' to go. Not because it was ended willingly by someone else.

PS- I like the super glue example too. I'm pretty sure the law would agree you cannot kill your child in that situation, considering you normally can't kill your child period.

Chaoticblu said...

Good point! I'm never heard anyone discuss 'pulling out'; that to me would be a reasonable compromise to those that do not want to use condoms, or still want to have sex with bc (could be used in conjunction with condoms) but still do not want to be responsible for a rare unplanned pregnancy. In conjunction with condoms would be best, unless you truly know and have consistent fertile times, as there can still be sperm in the per cum.

I think if pro choice women were that concerned with upsetting men, they wouldn't ignore their part in the baby making process. -_- They say things like the government and religious groups should stay out of their womb, but a man's sperm was IN their womb and helped create that child so they certainly should be involved in the fate of their child. (Though we hope it's to choose life for them and that's honestly all I support)

Chaoticblu said...

This are defintly real concerns when facing an unplanned or even planned pregancly. I feel you are correct that women who chose to abort may indeed be looking for the 'quick fix' instead of wanting to take the time to explore all the resources available to her. I think it's imperative then that she have a strong support group- hopefully parents or a significant other or friends that are willing to help her do the research and find the closest pregnancy help centers, apply for medicaid, help her find a job..whatever she needs. The resources are out there I know this myself, it's just a matter of actually utilizing them.