By Jonathon Van Maren
Abortion supporters have many arguments they utilize to defend feticide, ranging from difficult and traumatic circumstances to disproven and unscientific babble about the child in the womb being a “clump of cells” rather than a human being (something no credible scientist in the field believes). But the primary argument used to defend the destruction of pre-born human beings in the womb is that of personal autonomy: The child is totally dependent on the body of the mother, at least until viability, and thus it should be the mother’s decision as to whether the child lives or dies.
I’ve noted before in this space that I actually believe that the argument for bodily autonomy based on the dependence of the pre-born child on his or her mother makes the pro-life case rather than the pro-abortion one. After all, our society generally recognizes that the weakness, vulnerability, and youth of a human being heightens our responsibility rather than lessens it. There are entire legal frameworks that exist for the sole purpose of protecting those members of the human family classified as “dependents,” and we collectively recognize that this dependence demands specific sacrifice and protection from the rest of us. In short, the strong have a unique obligation to the weak.
The governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic around the world has provided the pro-life movement with another unique opportunity to highlight this fact. Regardless of your political opinion on the lockdowns, mandatory masks, and business shutdowns, these actions highlight a principle utterly at odds with the fundamental arguments put forward by the abortion “rights” movement: That our society should be ready to make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of the weaker and more vulnerable in order to ensure that they remain healthy and stay alive.
To reiterate: I am not saying that the lockdowns, or mask laws, or shutdowns are genuinely effective measures. The shameful death rates among nursing home residents and the discovery of the appalling conditions of many long-term care facilities are an indication that our societies are failing miserably at the principles currently being preached with great ardor. But the point stands: Our leaders, and progressive people generally, are currently urging—and in many cases, requiring—great sacrifice from the population with the justification that these measures are necessary and these sacrifices merited in order to save vulnerable people.
Suddenly, “my body, my choice” is being characterized as a selfish argument only utilized by people who care nothing for the vulnerable in society. Suddenly “bodily autonomy” is a cheap excuse to live as you please while others suffer so that you can exercise your freedom while you neglect your responsibilities to those around you. Suddenly, no price is too high to save the lives of those who cannot save themselves. Financial considerations, restrictions on bodily autonomy, personal liberty—all must be sacrificed to protect the weak. At least, those are the lines we’re being given.
I know that consistency is far too much to ask, but I still think that pro-life activists should take advantage of this shift in rhetoric to point out that we’ve been saying this sort of thing for decades. We believe that a human being’s right to life trumps the right to bodily autonomy, trumps financial considerations, and places a solemn responsibility on all of us. Children in the womb are one of us and must be treated as one of us. They are owed not only the right to life, but also the right to our defence. And yes, “my body, my choice” is not only an unscientific and rather stupid slogan, it is also an ugly and selfish defense of a horrific and violent action.
Now more than ever, as our society suddenly dispenses with arguments they have used to defend the killing of pre-born children for half a century, we should challenge our culture to live up to the principles they are currently appealing to.