Pro-Choice is Pro-Life

Pro-Choice is not the antithesis of Pro-Life.

You can’t take a woman’s right away, or so went the thesis I used in an essay I had written in an Ethics and Society seminar in philosophy when I was an undergraduate. A person may be denied access to her rights by law, but the right remains intact. Human rights are only violated, never taken away. We must understand the distinction; this is not incidental. A woman has an unalienable right to life, liberty, and sole proprietorship over body. This is true in spite of what the law says; this remains true whether I say it or not. But repeating it does have its effect. A Jew did not cease to have human rights because he was in a concentration camp; the Armenians were not less than human because the Ottaman Turks decided on Genocide, African-Americans were not less than human because Jim Crow said so. Slavery anywhere throughout history never succeeded in absenting a slave’s humanity; that remained integral. In all efforts to dehumanize a human-being, we must understand that the effort is not the effect; the physical effects are not in themselves metaphysical. Humanity cannot be erased by another’s desire or acts to dehumanize. However, belief is everything in this. Do we have the will to believe?

It seems reasonable that a universal humanity should be defended, and that that defense should be well articulated. Woman has been prime for the defense for a long time. Hers is a humanity less than deservedly respected, even now when we think we are honoring and respecting women, socially, politically, institutionally, ethically, interpersonally, however else you might imagine, are we in fact articulating a metaphysics of Woman that is resilient in its efforts to defend her humanity.

“Sole proprietorship” is a rational position based on an inherited legacy of human rights. She is the only one who can determine what should happen to her and for her. The should here is important to note; she is often not the sole investor in her bodily gains or losses.

 

A woman is not determined by her biology; this was the position held by most of us traditionally; this has become one of many cliches we accept in our arsenal of received ideas about women. We have to put the human woman that she is above the homo-sapiens breeder her physiology might determine otherwise if we allow. A woman is not defined by vagina or uterus or the actual breeding she does when she gives birth. we are, though, like the man who wears the cloak of non-violence and peace to cover his powerlessness. We are virtually hopeless, and will remain so as long as we wear cloaks of respect without actually respecting.

Women are not serfs to men, bound by societal and hierarchically drawn obligations to be their breeders. This seems simple enough to say, but to mean it is something else. There cannot be a hierarchy of humans where liberty and equality are honored and respected. Her getting pregnant does not leave her subject to a man’s will, even if she did give her troth to honor and respect the man, her spouse. We no longer maintain “obey” in our marriage vows. But all of this is in support of the right to choose an abortion. Choice is essential. Pro-choice is pro-freedom. The former reinforces the latter for all.

Abortion is not, though, all of a woman’s right to choose; the right of choice is also a man’s where his life is concerned. A woman’s right to choose must extend to birth as well, otherwise we are equally talking about pro-freedom or pro-serfdom if her right to choose to have her baby is not also respected.  She must be at liberty to choose to have the baby or have an abortion and to do so as she sees fit. Abortion and birth are the terminal points of this right to choose because a woman’s right to choose extends beyond her being pregnant.

Pro-choice is pro-freedom; it is a human right.  Pro-choice in this context then, again, has two sides; the one is abortion, and the other is birth. Without the choice to give birth even in the absence of a father, then we are not protecting a woman’s human right to choose. Forced to give birth or forced to have an abortion; both of them are assaults on a woman’s freedom.


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