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Bodily Autonomy

Pregnancy profoundly affects a woman’s body. The fetus lives inside her body and receives critical support from her body. Bodily autonomy is the ability to govern one’s own body. Everybody deserves a right to some degree of bodily autonomy. Some people think this right extends so far that it justifies abortion — even if they agree the fetus deserves human rights. These posts help you have a meaningful conversation about how the right to bodily autonomy measures up against the right to life.

Person 1: The fetus is a trespasser. Person 2 (our hero): I think I see what you mean. I wish nobody were ever pregnant without wanting to be. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If I find a stowaway toddler on my boat, may I throw her overboard?Person 1: Fine, a fetus is a human person. But a woman may do anything to anyone in her body. Person 2 (our hero): I agree we deserve special rights regarding our own bodies. To be clear, do you think abortion is always okay, at any time, even for no reason?Person 1: It’s my body, so it’s my choice. Person 2 (our hero): I agree that we deserve special rights regarding our own bodies. I want to understand your view better. When a woman is pregnant, would you say there’s one body present or two?Person 1: People aren’t forced to donate life-saving organs, so women shouldn’t be forced to stay pregnant. Person 2 (our hero): Interesting analogy! I agree that we shouldn’t be forced to donate organs. But I think abortion has some key differences from declining to donate an organ. Can we talk about them?Person 1: A fetus is a parasite. Person 2 (our hero): I see the similarities. Help me understand. Are you saying a fetus isn’t a person, like a tapeworm isn’t a person? Or are you saying abortion is okay even if a fetus is a person, since she’s using her mom’s body?Person 1: Sure, a fetus is a person. But a woman may do anything to anyone in her body. Person 2 (our hero): I agree that we deserve special rights regarding our own bodies. But may a pregnant woman take thalidomide? It causes serious birth defects.Person 1: A fetus is a parasite. Person 2 (our hero): It’s true that the fetus is entirely dependent on another person. Many elderly adults suffer from depression because they feel guilty about being in a similar position.Person 1: Nobody, fetus or adult, may use a woman’s body without her consent. Person 2 (our hero): I sympathize with women facing unwanted pregnancies. But abortion does more than separate the fetus and mother. The fetus’s death is no accident.
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