Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Not About Control Over Your Own Body

A Volokh post reminds me that most abortion advocates are not generally for abortion because of a woman right to control her own body:

If they really articulate abortion rights as simply a woman's nearly absolute right to control her own body (as some pro-choice advocates) do, then they should also take the same view as to potentially dangerous surgical procedures.

But the strongest pro-choice arguments -- and, I think, the true views of most pro-choice advocates -- aren't just that a woman has a right to control her own body. Rather, they also focus on the magnitude of the burden that an unwanted pregnancy, and the creation of an unwanted child, imposes on the woman. That's why many pro-choice people aren't also pro-drug-legalization: Snorting cocaine also relates to what you do with your own body, but unwanted abstinence from cocaine is generally seen as a much lesser burden than unwanted pregnancy. Likewise, that one thinks women have a right to avoid an unwanted pregnancy doesn't mean that they have a right to seriously risk their own health for merely cosmetic purposes. (The matter is more complex when the issue isn't just increasing the breast size of healthy but small breasts, but reconstructing breasts after a mastectomy, but I set that aside for now.)

I think that people should be able to completely control their own body, but those of you who are confronted with a pro-abortion person's argument that it is about control over the woman's body, you should ask them how they feel about silocone breast implants or crack cocaine. If they are for any restriction on drugs, you should explain to them that their real argument is that babies are inconvenient.


Anonymous said...

One possible distinction between abortion on the one hand, and cocaine or silicone breast implants on the other, is the question of safety. Abortion, done by a physician in a properly equipped clinic, is at least as safe as childbirth; legalizing abortion poses no additional health risks to the mother. The same is not true of cocaine or silicone breast implants.

The libertarian argument in favor of legalizing breast implants or cocaine rests on the premise that people should be able to make choices for themselves. This argument has force.

But at least as to silicone breast implants, it's not clear that even physicians, much less laypeople, would be well-equipped to evaluate the safety of pharmaceuticals and medical devices if such things were not regulated. Having an assurance that every device or drug that can be procured through ordinary legal channels meets a baseline level of safety is valuable to individuals and health care workers alike who often have to make decisions about what to use quickly and at times of stress.

Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of drug leaglization and freedom to have breast implants. Does that mean I can be pro-choice?