Women’s rights and abortion are in the news every day again. Women have fought hard to gain equal rights and authority over their bodies without being restricted by unreasonable laws–laws that have been made by legislators who are predominately male.
The line between government responsibilities and individual rights will be argued over as long as their are people on this earth. It is a VERY important subject with almost infinite complexities and consequences. Let the heated debates continue; but let’s not argue from unsustainable assumptions.
As you might have seen, President Trump (are you used to that yet?) signed an executive order – known as the global gag rule – which takes US foreign aid policy a large step away from any association with resourcing abortions, prohibiting organisations that receive US family planning assistance from using non-US funding to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals.
The government of the Netherlands moved immediately to neutralize the impact of the new US policy. Lilianne Ploumen, a Dutch minister, said it would set up “a well-financed fund” to allow other governments, businesses and charities to donate. The Netherlands would do everything in its power to help women “remain in control of their own bodies”, she said.
Absolutely! We should all have the right to be in control of our own bodies. Sometimes, though what we decide to do with our bodies endangers others. We have laws against driving while under the influence of alcohol because when we use our authority over own bodies to drink and then drive, we threaten the well being of others. So, the DUI laws have to be there to protect others from our poor judgment.
If the contents of a woman’s womb is just tissue, then there should be no laws pertaining to abortion. On the other hand, if the “tissue” is actually a person, then the law should protect that person from the choices of another person. One of the main aims of good law and law enforcement is the protection of the weak from the choices of the more powerful.
So, let’s stop debating whether or not a woman should have control over her own body. Rather, let’s think more deeply about whether or not she is carrying another person who could have their lives destroyed when they are at their most vulnerable.
Is it a person in the womb when he or she could theoretically survive outside the womb? If so, when is that? With advances in the care of premature babies, that number keeps dropping. So does that mean they used to be a person at 30 or 32 weeks after fertilization and now they are a person at 20 or 21 weeks?
But isn’t that test of “viability” just random? We know enough of what goes on during the period of gestation to understand that he or she responds to stimuli and can feel pain much earlier than 20 weeks. So, where do we draw the line and say that the product of fertilization is a person?
Geneticists are now clear that all the DNA of the “person to come” is in place within hours of a sperm piercing an egg. Height, color of hair, structure of intellect, major factors of personality are all there. So is it not true that a person comes into being very shortly after fertilization? Is it not true that if we attempt to identify any other point, is will just be arbitrary? Laws based upon arbitrary decisions are not good laws.
Some speakers at the women’s gathering in DC recently referred to very touching stories of women whose lives were at risk if they carried their baby to full term. These cases occur, but they are rare. Surely laws, blunt as they are, can be drawn up in such a way that they do not requires a woman to sacrifice her own life to bring a baby into the world–though some do. Law cannot dictate that kind of sacrifice, but neither can law be based upon unusual exceptions, rather it has to be constructed so that it makes room for the exceptions but does not permit the strong to destroy the weak for the sake of economics or convenience or emotional grounds.
It used to be widely accepted that the tissue in the womb was a person. The facts continue to support that perception. But rapid cultural values shifts have taken place and we have begun to believe, against the mounting evidence, that the only person with any rights in this matter is the woman and that she is just hosting impersonal tissue.
So let’s quit debating this subject on unsupportable assumptions. If we want to eliminate another person for the sake of the more powerful person, let’s just say that. Then let’s see if we can live with it.