My mother was always a socially progressive person. She never shied away from sharing her views on stereotypically stigmatized subjects and she scoffed at anyone who dared to suggest that my sister and I were too young to comprehend contentious topics. Because of this, by the time we were ten, my sister and I had a comprehensive understanding of human anatomy, sexuality, pregnancy and abortion. What my mother never did, however, was force her opinions on us. So while my mother was unabashedly Pro-Choice throughout her entire life, I made the decision to become a Pro-life vegetarian in my later teens.
I was initially compelled by compassion. I didn’t eat animals because I couldn’t stand the thought of them being harmed so how could I abide the obvious horror embryos and fetuses endured during an abortion procedure? While my decision to become Pro-Life was instantaneous, I found that my progression to the Pro-Choice position was a slower journey. As I interacted with more Pro-Life people and did more research, I found that it was impossible to refute the Pro-Choice argument in regards to the right to bodily autonomy.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Many Anti-Choice people have tried and their efforts to deny people with uteri the right to bodily autonomy have been virulent but nevertheless fruitless. There are several memorable instances that dog-eared my Pro-Choice transition but I knew I was Pro-Choice when I was able to use the bodily autonomy argument to not only refute Anti-Choice posturing but to desecrate it.
I’ve wanted to write this entry for quite a while now because while my contributions to the Pro-Choice community are often limited to online activism and donations, I feel that we need some clarity without sloganeering.
And I think I can help.
In this blog entry, I’ve outlined the most commonly used Anti-Choice arguments, the logic behind them and how to refute them using only ONE position: The Right to Bodily Autonomy. There’s no need to discuss personhood, blobs of cells, rape, etc. It’s streamlined, consistent and bullet proof.
Anti-Choice Position 1: Embryos are babies therefore they have the right to life.
This is really three separate positions (Life Begins at Conception therefore Embryos are Babies and deserve rights/protections) but they’re heavily intertwined with each other so I included them together. The first position that “Embryos are babies” is intended to incite an emotional response from the Pro-choicer. It’s intended to challenge your perception of the word baby which is a colloquial term and can be used to describe anything from a newborn, a car or a significant other.
Anti-choice logic: If embryos are babies and babies are people then embryos are people and have all the rights that people have!
But the right to life doesn’t include the right to use another person’s body to survive.
Pro-Choice Response: Even if embryos were babies and had the right to life, they don’t have the right to life at the expense of the pregnant person’s body. No one has the right to use another person’s body to survive. The government doesn’t force healthy people to donate blood, marrow or organs to people who would otherwise die without these things, nor does the government compel parents to donate these items to their children. In fact, a parent can decide to sever all parental obligations (financial, emotional & otherwise) by placing their child up for adoption.
A parental bond doesn’t magically create an obligation to share one’s body as parenthood doesn’t eradicate personhood and bodily autonomy is a fundamental human right.
It’s important to recognize that we’re debating the use of governmental FORCE here. We’re not talking about moral obligations or social obligations which can vary. Anti-choicers advocate for PUNISHING people who abort because in their eyes, people who abort are murderers. It’s imperative that we make that distinction.
It has been empirically demonstrated within the guidelines set by civilized societies that the government should never be in a position to force people to share their bodies with others. Pregnancy is no different.
Note: While you CAN assert that embryos aren’t babies, I’ve found this avenue of discussion to be rather fruitless. No PERSON has the right to use another person’s body. Anti-abortion advocates wish to extend a “right” to embryos that no other person possesses.
Anti-Choice Position 2: Abortion is like Slavery/Abortion is like the Holocaust.
Anti-abortion advocates love exploiting the pain of others so this position – while genuinely offensive – should come as no surprise. Again, the initial intent of this argument is to incite an emotional response from the Pro-Choicer. Anti-abortion advocates use this shit to challenge your understanding of historical events and if you’re relatively educated this argument WILL piss you off.
Anti-choice logic: Black people weren’t treated like people. Jewish people weren’t treated like people. Embryos aren’t treated like people. Since we were wrong about Black people and Jewish people, we’re wrong about embryo people!
Pro-Choice Response: Embryo people? Right. While one of these things is CLEARLY not like the others, white people in particular need to remain on point. If you’re black and you want to take these clowns to task for analogizing UNLIKE things, I’m gonna stand in the cheering section holding balloons with your name on them but WHITE folks, stay on point. The Jewish people never violated the bodily autonomy of the Nazis and they never caused detriment to their bodies by just existing. Slaves never violated slavers’ rights by just existing, either. And more importantly, both groups of people were DENIED their right to bodily autonomy.
Embryos are incapable of having the right to bodily autonomy because without a uterus or being frozen, they die. And if Anti-abortion advocates – who have the audacity to compare themselves to abolitionists – were being intellectually honest, they’d be fighting for an embryo’s right to be REMOVED from the oppression of the uterus, not to be contained within it.
Anti-Choice Position 3: Gendercide: OMG U HATE GIRLS!!@!!
The latest propaganda in Anti-choice doublethink has certainly found traction amid some of the fence sitters. I mean, having an abortion because you don’t want a girl? Geez! This should be the bane of feminists everywhere! Except…No.
Anti-Choice Logic: Feminists support abortion because they claim its necessary for equal rights but how can they support the elimination of their own sex? Hypocrites!
Pro-Choice Response: There’s nothing hypocritical in supporting a person’s right to abort regardless of the reason. This is something Anti-Abortion advocates often do; they intentionally conflate a person’s RIGHT to obtain an abortion with a person’s REASON for aborting. When we look at the issue of gendercide, we see the inevitable result of what happens when you constantly devalue people without penises. When a penis dictates what type of opportunities you’ll be awarded, why is it shocking when people decide that they too, want a child with a penis?
People with uteri have the right to bodily autonomy which entails the right to abortion. Their reasoning may be personal or conditional but that doesn’t change the fact that they have the RIGHT.
Anti-Choice Position 4: Abortion is detrimental to the health of pregnant people.
This has become a “go-to” position for many Anti-abortion activists. It includes just the right combination of fear, stigmatization, shame and martyrdom that they love. They cling to antiquated studies (NOTE: that have been debunked by respectable medical associations) in hope of either scaring people away from needed health care or shaming them into recruitment for their “I regret my abortion” campaign.
Anti-Choice Logic: If Abortion is detrimental to a pregnant person’s health, then pregnancy MUST be healthy!
Pro-Choice Response: Pregnancy is a medical condition that can cause lifelong disabilities, illnesses and yes, even death. Listed below are the complications associated with Pregnancy.
Normal, frequent or expectable temporary side effects of pregnancy:
- exhaustion (weariness common from first weeks)
- altered appetite and senses of taste and smell
- nausea and vomiting (50% of women, first trimester)
- heartburn and indigestion
- weight gain
- dizziness and light-headedness
- bloating, swelling, fluid retention
- abdominal cramps
- yeast infections
- congested, bloody nose
- acne and mild skin disorders
- skin discoloration (chloasma, face and abdomen)
- mild to severe backache and strain
- increased headaches
- difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sleeping
- increased urination and incontinence
- bleeding gums
- breast pain and discharge
- swelling of joints, leg cramps, joint pain
- difficulty sitting, standing in later pregnancy
- inability to take regular medications
- shortness of breath
- higher blood pressure
- hair loss
- tendency to anemia
- curtailment of ability to participate in some sports and activities
- infection including from serious and potentially fatal disease
(pregnant women are immune suppressed compared with non-pregnant women, and are more susceptible to fungal and certain other diseases)
- extreme pain on delivery
- hormonal mood changes, including normal post-partum depression
- continued post-partum exhaustion and recovery period (exacerbated if a c-section — major surgery — is required, sometimes taking up to a full year to fully recover)
Normal, expectable, or frequent PERMANENT side effects of pregnancy:
- stretch marks (worse in younger women)
- loose skin
- permanent weight gain or redistribution
- abdominal and vaginal muscle weakness
- pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life — aka prolapsed utuerus, the malady sometimes badly fixed by the transvaginal mesh)
- changes to breasts
- varicose veins
- scarring from episiotomy or c-section
- other permanent aesthetic changes to the body (all of these are downplayed by women, because the culture values youth and beauty)
- increased proclivity for hemmorhoids
- loss of dental and bone calcium (cavities and osteoporosis)
- higher lifetime risk of developing Altzheimer’s
- newer research indicates microchimeric cells, other bi-directional exchanges of DNA, chromosomes, and other bodily material between fetus and mother (including with “unrelated” gestational surrogates)
Occasional complications and side effects:
- complications of episiotomy
- spousal/partner abuse
- hyperemesis gravidarum
- temporary and permanent injury to back
- severe scarring requiring later surgery
(especially after additional pregnancies)
- dropped (prolapsed) uterus (especially after additional pregnancies, and other pelvic floor weaknesses — 11% of women, including cystocele, rectocele, and enterocele)
- pre-eclampsia (edema and hypertension, the most common complication of pregnancy, associated with eclampsia, and affecting 7 – 10% of pregnancies)
- eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death)
- gestational diabetes
- placenta previa
- anemia (which can be life-threatening)
- thrombocytopenic purpura
- severe cramping
- embolism (blood clots)
- medical disability requiring full bed rest (frequently ordered during part of many pregnancies varying from days to months for health of either mother or baby)
- diastasis recti, also torn abdominal muscles
- mitral valve stenosis (most common cardiac complication)
- serious infection and disease (e.g. increased risk of tuberculosis)
- hormonal imbalance
- ectopic pregnancy (risk of death)
- broken bones (ribcage, “tail bone”)
- hemorrhage and
- numerous other complications of delivery
- refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease
- aggravation of pre-pregnancy diseases and conditions (e.g. epilepsy is present in .5% of pregnant women, and the pregnancy alters drug metabolism and treatment prospects all the while it increases the number and frequency of seizures)
- severe post-partum depression and psychosis
- research now indicates a possible link between ovarian cancer and female fertility treatments, including “egg harvesting” from infertile women and donors
- research also now indicates correlations between lower breast cancer survival rates and proximity in time to onset of cancer of last pregnancy
- research also indicates a correlation between having six or more pregnancies and a risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease
Less common (but serious) complications:
- peripartum cardiomyopathy
- cardiopulmonary arrest
- magnesium toxicity
- severe hypoxemia/acidosis
- massive embolism
- increased intracranial pressure, brainstem infarction
- molar pregnancy, gestational trophoblastic disease
(like a pregnancy-induced cancer)
- malignant arrhythmia
- circulatory collapse
- placental abruption
- obstetric fistula
More permanent side effects:
- future infertility
- permanent disability
People with uteri have the right to make medical decisions concerning their bodies, which includes the decision to either continue or terminate a pregnancy. If someone decides to terminate their pregnancy because they don’t wish to endure the risks associated with it, that’s their right. And if someone wants to risk their life to continue a dangerous pregnancy, that’s their right. The right to bodily autonomy includes the decision to risk one’s health and life just as it includes the decision to mitigate those situations.
As a woman with a uterus, I find it increasingly frustrating that people view the Pro-Choice/Anti-Choice debate as something to philosophize over. That’s not what this blog entry is about. We need to be prepared to defend our rights from people who would happily take them from us. We need to be prepared to make an informative, intellectually sound and honest argument when our opponents rely so heavily upon fallacious appeals to emotion and religious hubris to make their case.
I hope this entry helps you, as a pro-choice advocate, to avoid the pitfalls of manipulative Anti-choice propaganda and eliminates any lingering self-doubt that you are anything but a person worthy of fundamental human rights.