Monday, April 17, 2017

Is Bodily Autonomy Unlimited?

I would like to continue the discussion regarding the arguments from "Bodily Autonomy" by discussing another issue that needs to be addressed: If bodily autonomy is absolute, then we cannot limit it.

During his debate on the UK radio show Unbelievable, LTI president Scott Klusendorf brought the following point up in response to the argument posed to him by abortion-choice activist Mara Clarke: She phrased her objection to the pro-life view by highlighting the rights that women have in regards to their own bodily autonomy. Scott responded by pointing out that if bodily autonomy is absolute, then it cannot be limited, even when it becomes clear that allowing a woman to do so will result in harm. Scott highlighted the dangers in taking thalidomide and the severe birth defects that have resulted from pregnant mothers taking the drug to alleviate their morning sickness. Given that we think the laws restricting the use of thalidomide are perfectly just, then it must be that even the "right" to do what one wants with their body isn't unlimited.

In his video on the subject of abortion, conservative thinker Dennis Prager asks several questions that further illustrate the problems associated with an "anything goes" mentality regarding bodily autonomy.

One problem that Dennis points out is that this view means that there would be no abortion that could be considered immoral. To cite one example: would it be wrong for a mother to have an abortion if she was carrying a girl and she wanted a boy? In his book Abortion Practice, Dr. Warren Hern, one of the leading abortionists in the United States, cites an example of when a patient came to him seeking an abortion because she was pregnant with a boy instead of a girl. Even Dr. Hern, who provides second and third trimester abortions, expressed concern at the idea of abortion solely because the child is the wrong sex. He writes, "Even though I had begun by being totally opposed to abortion for this reason, she persuaded me that, in her mind, abortion was the only choice she would accept for this pregnancy for her own mental health as well as for the welfare of her family." (Hern, p. 85). Many of the people I have spoken to at pro-life outreaches on campus have felt troubled by this idea and have shown strong resentment to the idea of allowing abortion for something as trivial as what sex the child should be.

One other example that Dennis gives is a hypothetical genetic test that can determine whether a child will be born either straight or gay. Dennis asks an important question: If abortion is solely the choice of the mother (or both parents), then would abortion of a child of an undesired sexuality be wrong? At what stage of life will it suddenly become wrong to terminate the life of that child because he may possess a characteristic his parents don't want him to have? Does it really make sense to allow the bodily rights of one person to supersede the right to live of another? It seems that issues of bodily autonomy aren't entirely relevant, then, to the issue of abortion, as many would agree that there would be times when abortion should not be tolerated.

1 comment:

  1. "Is bodily autonomy unlimited?"

    It has always seemed to me that in order best to answer questions about the limits of bodily autonomy, we first need to answer the question "Why should there be bodily autonomy at all? Why should our bodies be considered private property, rather than community property?"

    There is an answer, of course, but it seems to me we need to equip ourselves with that answer in order to understand just how bodily autonomy should apply in any given situation. I have thought about these things in "Bodily Rights and a Better Idea" (can be Googled, with quote marks).


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