Are we free to do what we want with our bodies?

Summing up, women and men should be free to do what they want with their bodies within reasonable limits.

Image Credit: The Daily Beast

One of the major arguments for women in connection with abortion is that they own their own bodies and are therefore free to make choices about them.  I agree with this. But I think it worthwhile to discuss the argument.

    Men might ask: are we free to do what we want with our bodies?  For example, are we free to have any kind of plastic surgery? Are we free to take opium?  Are we free to take any sort of risk, like jumping off a bridge?

    I would argue that plastic surgery is not a natural use of the body.  For instance, you could not have plastic surgery out in the wild, or before civilization began.  Opium is an additive to the body which detracts from it. Such uses are not natural, and they have an impact on society as well, and therefore we are not free to do them.  One could make the same argument about taking wild risks. In other words, society (meaning other people) have a right to say something about what we are doing with ourselves.

    On the other hand, having children or not having children is central to a woman’s life, and she should be permitted to make choices.  She should be allowed to decide that she will not have children in the same way as she decides to have them. Similarly, men should be permitted to have a vasectomy if they so choose.

    The only difference between having a vasectomy (or sterilization for a woman) and an abortion is that the abortion prevents the fetus from achieving life.  One could argue, of course, that a man’s masturbation also prevents his sperm from achieving life by creating pregnancy. But we must recognize that sperm is just an ingredient to life that might be reached.  In the same way, aborting a fetus before it reaches a living stage is not killing a human being. In this sense, the determination by the Supreme Court that aborting a fetus that is not living is no more immoral than having a vasectomy.

    The most difficult moral decisions involve what to do about a fetus which could live on its own.  Can the pregnant woman alone make a decision about the fetus? And what are those decisions?

    If the woman is free to do what she wants, she could decide that she wants to abort the fetus, or she could decide that she wants to have the fetus naturally.  And she can decide that she will care for the child, or that she will give it away.

    The only choices that society has is to prevent or allow the abortion, or if the abortion is not allowed, to require the woman to care for the child, or allow it to be put up for adoption.

    In some situations, the woman has been made pregnant by accident, or through rape.  In such situations, she should be free to abort at least until the fetus can live on its own.  If she does not want the child, and society feels it necessary to protect its life, the society should be permitted to care for the child and put it up for adoption or societal care.  The woman may not like the idea of having a child that she does not want go out into society, but unless there is a strong reason why she could not have an abortion before the child achieves life, she should not be able to choose death for the fetus.  And once the fetus is born, her only choice should be to care for the child or deliver it up to the society.

    Should the society be permitted to require the woman to care for the child if she wanted an abortion?  I do not think so. No one should ever be forced to care for another. But under certain circumstances she should have to pay money to the society if she refuses to care for the child, but certainly not if the child was the product of rape or accident.

    So at the end of the day, if the child can live on its own, the mother does not want it, and the society does not want to allow the mother to have an abortion, then the society should pay the mother to care the child to term, pay for the birth, and pay the costs of caring for the child.  There should be Medicare for All, and therefore the society should pay the costs of abortion as well.

    Summing up, women and men should be free to do what they want with their bodies within reasonable limits.  Society should pay for medical treatment, which includes abortion, vasectomy, and childbirth. Women should be free to decide the fate of their fetus at least until the fetus can exist as a separate being.  If, at that time, the society wants to deny a further right to abortion, it should pay for carrying the fetus to term and then take care of the child as its own unless and until someone volunteers to adopt it.  It should be up to society to decide whether abortion in the third trimester is moral or immoral. Society should bear the costs of its decision that abortion in the third trimester shall not be permitted.


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