Anti-choicers have a small list of arguments that they pick from, and if you’ve heard it once, you’ll probably hear it a dozen more times. As you might guess, their arguments aren’t based on logic, although they wrap themselves in a thin veneer of respectability.
Here are four arguments that you can use to tear away that veneer of respectability and reveal their arguments for what they actually are — empty and harmful appeals to emotions directed at sexually active women — and hopefully break the barrier for some of them, letting them see the light.
Potentiality doesn’t equal actuality, and actuality is more important
Anti-choicers lose a key distinction with their arguments: there is a difference between the potential and the actual. Just because you have the potential to be something doesn’t mean you are actually going to be that thing.
Consider what you actually are as you sit here and read this, and then take a moment to consider what you have or had the potential to be. Considering potentiality is almost meaningless since there are so many variables at play any assumption you make could be undermined.
Now, you are an actual human (presumably). To use a semi-metaphor, you are similar to a fetus in the way that a caterpillar is similar to a butterfly. And just because a caterpillar has the potential to become a butterfly, it doesn’t mean it will. It might just become a snack. And just like a fetus has the potential to become a human, that doesn’t mean it will — in fact, it has an 80% chance of becoming a miscarriage, instead.
When we order things in the world, we don’t order them by what they might become. Their identity is assigned by what they are. That’s why a butterfly isn’t a generic term for both butterflies and caterpillars, and why living creatures aren’t called corpses.
After all, we have no idea if they will achieve that potentiality or not. In that sense, why sacrifice the autonomy and rights of an actual person for something that only has the potential to be a person?
Do you agree that you have control over your body — that you can get tattoos, piercings, loose weight, gain weight, dye your hair, and do other alterations without anyone’s advice? That nobody can force you to get an amputation or alter your body in any significant way without your permission or consent?
If you accept that, that means you accept nobody has a right to your body except you. So just because we have the same donor type, this doesn’t mean I can demand you give me the use of your kidneys until I can get a life-saving donation. McFall v. Shrimp already ruled that.
If you accept that but believe that a woman should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, you’re also a hypocrite. There’s no magical or special relationship between a woman and a fetus she may be carrying; for all intents and purposes, that fetus is a complete stranger to her.
Some people might challenge that you’re violating the fetus’ bodily autonomy, but critically analyzing the argument shows you’re not. The fetus retains full autonomy — and just like you denying me access your kidneys until I can get a life-saving donation doesn’t infringe upon my bodily autonomy, booting the embryo out of the womb doesn’t infringe on its autonomy.
Consent to sex does not mean consent to pregnancy
Sometimes, usually sooner rather than later, you get the person who claims that if the woman didn’t want to get pregnant, she shouldn’t have opened her legs.
Now, this is basically the admission by “pro-lifers” that it’s all about controlling women’s sexuality and punishing women for being sexual. But there is something of an argument here that I’ve seen employed before — the idea that consenting to sex means consenting to pregnancy because sex is reproduction.
Let’s look at that: over the course of a sexual encounter, anyone of any gender regardless of plumbing can revoke consent, ending the sexual encounter right there on the spot. It might irritate your partner, but if your partner is irritated by your wants and needs too many times, maybe it’s time for a new partner.
If you can revoke the consent to sex at any time — because consenting to sex also means consenting to pregnancy — you can revoke the consent to pregnancy at any time, too. It’s just that at any other point in the past, we haven’t been able to revoke that consent safely.
But we can now.
Of course, the element of consent isn’t the only place this argument breaks down.
Sex does not mean reproduction
At some point, you’ll probably get the response along the lines of “sex is reproduction.” The arrogance of this statement is staggering, especially considering it usually come from beings that will never be pregnant and can have sex without worrying about it.
It’s also staggeringly wrong.
Consider somatic cell nuclear transfer — also called somatic cell cloning. A somatic cell is any cell that’s not a gamete or company, so that includes skin cells. The basic idea is to replace the nucleus of a somatic cell with an egg cell and allowing the structure to grow and reproduce from there.
While cloning humans is unpredictable, that’s because we’re still learning. As we learn, it’ll become less and less dangerous. And while it’s not practical, I can buy the idea that somatic cell nuclear transfer will be a mechanism to clone a human being at some point in the future.
You don’t need sex for that, but it’s producing a human. And that’s without getting into technologies like artificial wombs and such.
Of course, you don’t have to reach for futuristic technologies to show that sex and reproduction are severed; you can look in the present with things like birth control. Birth control has almost fully split sex from reproduction. In the future, I would not be surprised to see sex and reproduction completely severed.
Now, some might argue that such technologies are “unnatural.” I’d argue that the term “unnatural” applies only to things that can’t exist in nature, like faster than light travel and communication. I’d argue that using “unnatural” as an application to anything humans do is a value judgment, not a statement of objective truth since humans are not separate from nature and we have to act within the confines nature gave us. Just because we can argue the ethics of a particular situation doesn’t make it “unnatural.” Nature is just fine with it — if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to do it.
That includes birth control and abortion.
Feature image via Kate Ausburn/Flickr