Part II of a Series
I want to ask you a question: How important is your body…to you?
How important is it to you that you’re healthy? If you go to the doctor because you are in pain, and she does some tests, and you’re not sure what the diagnosis will be, well… Maybe there’s nothing wrong with you, but maybe something is really wrong. Do you worry? Having a healthy body is pretty important to you, isn’t it? You don’t even have to think about it to answer.
Do you care about your body? Even in the best circumstances, when everyone and everything in one’s presence is trusted and safe, each of us has a basic concern about what happens to his or her body. But when our bodies are in the presence of something which feels unsafe or someone we don’t trust, we are especially aware of our bodies and our concern for them.
What about laws and the government? How important is it to you that the government and laws “stay away” from your body? Do you want the government to refrain from putting unnecessary limitations or restrictions on your body? Do you want to be protected from the government putting you in prison without justification or restricting your basic rights? We all care deeply about our ability to move around, to assemble with others, and to speak freely.
Still, I think most people believe in a few reasonable restrictions on peoples’ bodies. As one person in Oklahoma said to me, “My rights end where your rights begin. There’s a civil rights bubble around each of us.” I think a lot of people believe that, but even still, most of us don’t want the government putting a lot of unjustified restrictions on our bodies. We definitely don’t want the government forcing us to do things with our bodies that we don’t want to do.
In light of this, consider these defenses of legal abortion: “It’s her body,” “She can do what she wants with her body,” “The unborn is a part of her body,” “The unborn is in her body,” and “The unborn is dependent on her body.” What word pair is common to all of these? Her body. And the most common abortion defense of all only makes this emphasis more personal: “My body, my choice.”
What’s the common word in all of these statements? Body. Her body. My body.
In future posts in this series, I’m going to outline JFA’s approach to these bodily rights statements, including seeking to clarify what the person means by her argument and sharing analogies that help point out the truth about the limits to a woman’s bodily rights. But this intellectual approach is only part of the puzzle, and as important as philosophy surely is, I am now realizing that as we make our arguments we must continue to express great sympathy and understanding for the woman’s concern for her body.
I suggest that regularly in the midst of the discussion, we pause to reflect: Remember how important your body is to you.
Then, remember that this dear person to whom we are speaking, if she’s a woman, has one of those bodies we’re discussing. She can’t disassociate herself from her concern about her own body, at least not without purposeful effort. But all of us can understand that right? Even a man can understand the feeling of caring about one’s own body.
See www.jfaweb.org/blog/bodily-rights to read more posts in this series.