Published December 2, 2021
For quite some time, one of the most common defenses of abortion has been that the unborn child — fetus, a clump of cells, whatever euphemism you prefer — resides inside the mother and thus is something akin to her property. The pro-abortion slogan “my body, my choice” and similar women’s autonomy arguments for abortion are based on this premise.
It’s a fairly easy argument to refute. The unborn child’s existence inside his mother doesn’t make him part of the mother in any significant way. Morally speaking, his body does not belong to her in a way that gives her license to end his life. He is an entirely unique, distinct organism with his own functions. And his reliance on his mother while still in the womb isn’t all that different from his dependence on her after birth. A neglected infant will soon die, just as an unborn child will die if separated from his mother.
The unborn child’s location, then, is not a good enough reason to kill him. But as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, considering Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion, supporters of abortion rights turned to another defense: the “forced birth” smear.
Julie Rikelman, the attorney for Jackson Women’s Health, alluded to it in her opening statement: “For a state to take control of a woman’s body and demand that she go through pregnancy and childbirth, with all the physical risks and life-altering consequences that brings, is a fundamental deprivation of her liberty.”
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center