Bodily Autonomy - why everyone should be pro-choice

(36 Posts)

I read this on the Feminists United page today, though they shared it from this page. I couldn't tell where the original came from.

But I think it's the best and most succinct pro-choice argument I've ever read.

"There's a concept called bodily autonomy. It's generally considered a human right. Bodily autonomy means a person has control over who or what uses their body, for what, and for how long. It's why you can't be forced to donate blood, tissue or organs. Even when you're dead. Even if you'd save or improve 20 lives. It's why someone can't touch you, have sex with you or use your body in any way without your continuous consent.

A fetus is using someone's body parts. Therefore under bodily autonomy, it is there by permission, not by right. It needs a person's continuous consent. If they deny or withdraw consent, the pregnant person has a right to remove them from that moment. A fetus is equal in this regard because if I need someone else's body parts to live, they can also legally deny me their use.

By saying a fetus has a right to use someone's body parts until it's born, despite the pregnant person's wishes, you're doing two things.

1) Granting a fetus more rights to other people's bodies than any born person.
2) Awarding a pregnant person less right's [sic] to their body than a corpse."

UnicornsPooGlitter Wed 11-Sep-13 22:03:46

I'm pro-choice.

I worry about the timing of terminations though, and the argument that you've quoted does not include any mention of time.

And, probably in the same vein, what about the bodily autonomy of the fetus? Does it not have bodily autonomy at a certain stage?

UnicornsPooGlitter Wed 11-Sep-13 22:05:29

<very tired, my two points sound like one point, and I'm not sure it even makes sense grin>

Unicorns. I agree that a foetus has bodily autonomy too, and as such, has the right to live outside a women's body if it is capable. For this reason, I don't think late-term abortions should automatically result in the death of the foetus. "Abortion" refers to the end of the pregnancy, not necessarily the life of the foetus.

There are many who disagree with me, but while I would argue that a women has absolute right to demand a foetus to be removed from her body at any time, she does not have the right to demand its death. If the foetus is capable of living independently, it should be allowed to do so, with the mother losing all rights of parenthood.

Unicorns. I agree that a foetus has bodily autonomy too, and as such, has the right to live outside a women's body if it is capable. For this reason, I don't think late-term abortions should automatically result in the death of the foetus. "Abortion" refers to the end of the pregnancy, not necessarily the life of the foetus.

There are many who disagree with me, but while I would argue that a women has absolute right to demand a foetus to be removed from her body at any time, she does not have the right to demand its death. If the foetus is capable of living independently, it should be allowed to do so, with the mother losing all rights of parenthood.

Oooh, my first double post!

UnicornsPooGlitter Wed 11-Sep-13 22:55:33

Annie, gosh, that's an interesting idea that I haven't come across before. What about when medical knowledge improves further, and the age at which a fetus could be kept alive outwith the mother decreases significantly?

The same applies. Age is irrelevant to the argument. The woman would be left in the same position as a man who relinquishes parental rights.

But then, of course, the issue of the medical costs of keeping the baby alive comes into play.

UnicornsPooGlitter Wed 11-Sep-13 23:08:18

Okay. So, who is then responsible for the baby? Would this result in more pregnancy terminations or less? I could imagine arguments in either direction.

"So, who is then responsible for the baby?"

There's always the dad?

UnicornsPooGlitter Wed 11-Sep-13 23:18:33

blush Oh yes, I forgot about the Dads.

FreyaSnow Wed 11-Sep-13 23:20:15

I don't know much about all of this, but surely there must be a lot of complex legal decision making around this. If a woman decides that she wants a c section at 38 weeks and medical advice is that she waits until 40 weeks, under Annie's explanation she would lose the baby if she insisted on the c section? What about if she is told the best option is a c section at 40 weeks and she refuses the c section and goes overdue, does she then have the baby taken from her when it is born?

Sorry if these are stupid questions and I am misunderstanding. But aren't these the kind of real life examples from the USA? Women being legally forced to have c sections as doctors decide it is in the foetuses best interest. It kind of sounds like rather than legally force women to give birth under state control, you want to replace that with threatening women with having their baby taken from them and given to the state or the child's father if the woman doesn't give birth in the way the state wants. But maybe I'm misunderstanding.

It certainly is an ethical minefield.

I was thinking purely in terms of women who want to end a pregnancy because they don't want the baby.

I would hope that women who want to keep the baby would listen to sound medical advice and do what is best for the baby's health with regards the timing of the birth. And taking a child from a woman when she has expressed that she wants to keep it just because she doesn't "do what the doctors say" is a different matter altogether.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Thu 12-Sep-13 08:11:56

I don't see how that's a possible argument, though, annie. A foetus can and might survive outside the womb at 26 or 28 weeks, but aside from the cost, an awful lot of babies so premature do sadly die, even if their mothers have taken steroids (would you require a woman in this situation to require steroids? How would that work with bodily autonomy?). Often they are in a lot of difficulty for the first weeks and months. I don't want to be upsetting. But I always understood it that those first weeks and months were, frankly, painful and a struggle (and so, so hard for medics working there). And, while some babies will recover just fine, others don't and have permanent disabilities.

I don't think it's a humane argument.

I agree that bodily autonomy is important, btw, I just don't remotely believe we have the means to be humane and to keep foetuses alive pre term.

I know it's a tiny percentage of all abortions and almost always for serious conditions in the woman or the foetus, but still.

I'm not saying it's necessarily a practical solution, LRD, and of course there's issue of who should bear the brunt of those medical costs along with the struggle of the baby to survive. The logistics, I absolutely agree, are a nightmare, and as you say, late-stage abortions are such a small percentage of abortions, and most of those due to foetal abnormality, that it's mostly a moot point.

But purely as an intellectual exercise, I don't think a women has the right to demand the death of the foetus inside her, only its removal.

However, at risk of foot-stamping and demanding that people do as I say on my thread, can we talk about the premise of the OP instead of late-stage abortion? The idea that refusing a women the right to an abortion is giving her less rights than a dead person? It's certainly a new angle for me and I absolutely agree with it.

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Thu 12-Sep-13 09:10:38

Sorry. blush

I didn't realize that wasn't part of the premise. I don't know about the corpse argument - once you die (or are at a stage where you'll die if treatment is discontinued), you're not always in control anyway. A relative could consent to donate your organs. I don't think it is the same as being forced to continue (or terminate) a pregnancy, but I don't feel it works for me as an analogy.

Sorry for what, LRD? I can't see you've posted anything that requires apology.

I don't think a relative can consent to donate your organs if you've expressly said that you do not wish to be a donor.

DadWasHere Fri 13-Sep-13 00:30:01

I am pro-choice but in terms of absolute bodily autonomy I very much doubt if any sane pro-choice person would support a notion of an overdue woman in her 41st week of pregnancy having a right to terminate both her pregnancy and the existence of the foetus/baby for no other reason than she simply decided that was what she wanted because she had an expectation of natural child birth free of being medically induced.

As you dial that time back in weeks you would have more and more pro-choice people agree with the woman’s choice as being the sole deciding factor. That opinion would also alter dependant on the health of the foetus and the health of the mother. By the time you went back to the very beginning of conception, say the morning after pill, every single pro-choice person would be in agreement that the woman had the right to choose that for herself.

FreyaSnow Fri 13-Sep-13 00:49:23

I brought up the issue of a woman going overdue. I was thinking about it from the perspective that laws in the US which were supposedly about preventing abortion have been used against women who wanted their baby but disagreed with medical professionals about the birth. One of the cases was a woman who didn't want a c section as she felt she could give birth without it, as she had other children. She did in the end get to give birth without c section. It is more about how risk to the foetus is decided and weighed up against the mother's wishes rather than women deciding they want to terminate the life of the foetus.

A lot about bodily autonomy is about birth and wanting a baby, not about wanting an abortion. I don't think the two issues can be separated.

I think the idea that women could abort up to term and the baby would then be kept alive through medical intervention is unrealistic. Doctors and parents already have to make very difficult decisions about not having various interventions or withdrawing them because the trauma to the baby of carrying them out is unethical.

Dervel Fri 13-Sep-13 04:08:45

That is certainly a novel argument to the problem Annie. However I think that is a rather detached way of approaching the subject.

There are precedents in medical ethics where bodily autonomy, and choices on how you excercise those rights can count against you. If you and I are sat on a transplant list for something important like a liver or kidney and I continue to put alcohol or illicit substances in my body, and the transplant board find out about it, and you stay clean as a whistle I will be unlikely to put forward as a candidate (assuming we are both tissue matches for a donor organ) ahead of you.

If we make bodily autonomy the trump concept in medical ethics under which all other considerations are lesser, we'll have organs donated on a pure lottery system, and the limited organ donations will not go as far.

Beachcomber Fri 13-Sep-13 18:24:04

I think the basis for the bodily autonomy feminist position is that men have bodily autonomy and women don't. And that bodily autonomy is considered a fundamental human right (just not always for women).

And, that men can always have PIV sex and retain their bodily autonomy and that women cannot always.

And that PIV is pretty much mandatory for women who are married or otherwise in a relationship with a man. And that 'compulsory heterosexuality' is pervasive and ubiquitous in male dominated society.

My position is that the issue of bodily autonomy is fundamental but that the argument begins before pregnancy. (Therefore with PIV.)

WhentheRed Fri 13-Sep-13 21:08:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

If you are a whinyarse about the 'timing' of abortion, you are not, actually, pro-choice. You still think that your feelings override another woman's right to decide what happens to her body.

This is why abortion should be available right up to the moment of birth with a foetus only becoming a 'person' when it's born.

I've blogged about this before(excuse the utter fuckup I made of the formatting).

LRDMaguliYaPomochTebeSRaboti Sat 14-Sep-13 19:00:27

Sorry, I lost this somehow. annie - glad I didn't offend you, thought I'd annoyed you by not addressing what you wanted addressing.

SGB - I dunno, I think I can be a whinyarse and still pro choice. I was a whinyarse when I had my own abortion. Because it was very sad. I'm also a whinyarse about stuff like culling badgers and squishing lily beetles in my garden (not to imply they're the same thing, etc. etc.). It's possible to feel shite and upset by something and still think it's morally right for it to be accessible.

I do feel awful at the idea of someone full term aborting a healthy baby by terminating it in the womb. I just do. But I've not been in that situation. So my feelings are just my feelings, not anything more.

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