Monday, January 22, 2007
Why I am pro-choice
Today is the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and as part of the celebration -- and it should be a celebration -- bloggers are posting about why they are pro-choice. My reasons are simple: decisions should be made by whomever is affected by them in direct proportion to the amount they are so affected. The decision of whether or not to gestate a fetus for nine months affects a pregnant woman far more than anybody else involved, including the source of the sperm, and certainly including the state. Therefore, there is no person with such an overwhelming interest in the outcome of that decision that their opinion should have any influence on the ability and right of the woman herself to make it.
The question is not, to me, why women should have the right to do with their bodies as they please, but why shouldn't they? What argument can forced-pregnancy advocates provide that justifies stripping a person of such a right? They all amount to enacting undue control over women's private lives, with the sole exception of the argument that a fetus has rights. If a fetus has a right to life, then obviously this would conflict with a woman's right to control her body, and there would be room for a healthy debate on the matter.
There is no such room.
Rights are the tools we use as societies to protect the interests of individuals. The key word in that sentence is interests. Something must have interests before it can have them protected by a right. The minimum necessary for something to have interests is the ability to feel pain, the ability to suffer. If a being cannot suffer it cannot be harmed, as harm is the infliction of suffering. Therefore all things with the ability to suffer have an interest in not suffering. How this relates to fetuses is not a question that must be left to speculation; there is ample scientific research into the matter. Pain receptors in fetuses are not connected to the brain until roughly 30 weeks, a time frame supported by electroencephalography. More than 99% of all abortions are performed before the fetus has the ability to feel pain, making such arguments entirely moot. Even after the 30th week, the evidence suggests that fetuses are not conscious. Almost every abortion performed at this point, and they are rare, is done for medical rather than personal reasons. How many women would carry a fetus for eight months if they didn't have to? Even in the event that fetuses could suffer from these abortions, their interest must be weighed against that of the woman -- and a conscious adult with dreams and desires has far more interests to be frustrated than a fetus.
I am pro-choice because only pregnant women have a compelling claim on making choices that affect themselves more than any other person. I am pro-choice because abortion is good for a woman who wants one, and I want good for women.