Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Abortion Rights and Bodily Autonomy

Apart from being unable to keep herself from childish name calling, Jill Stanek seems to have misunderstood a point that Jill at Feministe was trying to make. Because misunderstandings like this seem to be at the root of many of the arguments between those who support abortion rights and those who wish to destroy them, it's important to clear them up when we see them. So here goes. Feministe Jill claims the following:

I am pro-choice because I believe that if we outlaw a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, there is no legal argument against forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy, or disallowing certain people from reproducing.

This is what Stanek had to say in response:

I don't know any other way to say this. Jill, frankly my dear shared name, you're crazy. You must have ventured too close at the Pro-Choice Carnival to the guy in the sideshow who sticks pins all over his body and yourself become a pinhead.

Outlawing slavery, the closest analogy, did not contradictorily give the government or anyone the right to own slaves, for heaven's sakes. Outlawing anything for that matter does not translate into forcing what was outlawed onto the public. Get real.

First, just as a matter of argumentative etiquette, being unable to understand the justification for a claim does not give you carte blanche to start hurling ad homonym attacks at the individual who made the claim. Second, as someone who has been as active in the abortion debate for as long as she has, one would think that Stanek would see right away what stood behind Feministe Jill's claim. The right to choose whether or not to have an abortion is based on the fundamental right to bodily autonomy - on the right to choose what happens or does not happen to one's body. Denial of the right to choose is denial of the right to bodily autonomy, and once you deny that right, there is no longer a legal argument to be made to prevent forced abortions, prohibitions on procreation, or even forced blood donation.

Because denial of abortion rights is a denial of the right to bodily autonomy, Stanek's "closest analogy" is not analogous at all. The abolition of slavery involved a recognition of fundamental rights, not a denial of them. And a recognition of fundamental rights will, of course, have drastically different consequences than a denial of them.


Anonymous said...

Huntress, you omitted my main argument:

But specifically, any and all plans to outlaw abortion are solely based on the fact that the entity being aborted is a human being, a legal person, eradicating the legality of a China abortion syndrome in the U.S.

You also omitted the fact I was using word play from the site I got the info from, which announced Jill's post was part of the "Pro-Choice Carnival."

Both these points would have deflated your post, which is why I suppose you omitted the info.

Jill Stanek

Artemis said...


I omitted your argument about the personhood of the fetus because it is irrelevant to any argument for abortion rights that is based on the right to bodily autonomy. Person or not, a fetus does not have the right to use a woman's body without her consent any more than you have a right to use my body without my consent.

The reason I omitted the word play about the pro-choice carnival is that, as cute as the word play is, it doesn't change the fact that you were engaging in name calling. Clever name calling is still name calling, after all.

Anonymous said...

Huntress artemis:

Do you even understand what we're talking about? It's not "any argument for abortion rights that is based on the right to bodily automony." We're talking about the law, the legality of abortion.

The Roe v. Wade decision was based on a woman's right to privacy. Chief Justice Harry Blackmun stated in the Roe decision:

The appellee ... argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the 14th Amendment ... If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.

Get it now? Your argument about bodily automony is worthless if preborn babies are considered by law to be legally protected persons.

That was the point of my post in response to Jill, the pro-choice carnival clown. You people don't even understand the foundation of legalized abortion.

Jill Stanek

Artemis said...

Now, now. There is no need to get hostile. We can have a rational argument about this without getting mean, can't we?

I do understand the rationale behind the decision in Roe v. Wade. Because of the fuzziness inherent the question of personhood, however, I don't think it is the best support for abortion rights. That doesn't mean I'm not talking about the law. In fact, the legality of abortion, as opposed to the morality of it, is my main concern. But our understanding of the law is not a static thing, and I happen to think that the best legal justification for abortion rights has its basis in the right to bodily autonomy.

The argument from bodily autonomy is not legally "worthless". It is a legal argument, based on rights. In fact, it flows from basing abortion rights on privacy rights, since other violations of the right to bodily autonomy are usually viewed as violations of the right to privacy (like taking blood, the right to birth control, etc).