The ‘Forced Birth’ Falsehood

Published May 5, 2022

National Review Online

Abortion supporters have a new favorite talking point: Restrictions on abortion “force women to give birth.”

Pro-abortion attorneys wielded this Orwellian turn of phrase at the Supreme Court in oral arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization: “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,” said Julie Rikelman, attorney for Jackson Women’s Health. (I refuted this argument at the time.)

Now that Roe appears to be on the chopping block for real, the phrase is back with a vengeance.

But of course, the state hasn’t “taken control” of women’s bodies, and no pro-lifer is proposing that it do so. Other than in cases of rape, which are quite rare, women don’t become pregnant absent a free choice to engage in sex, which often naturally results in the conception of new life. To hear abortion supporters describe it, countless women suddenly wake up, find themselves pregnant at random, and are left to muddle through the consequences. Far from compelling women to become pregnant, pro-lifers are suggesting that, once a woman has become pregnant as a result of her choice to engage in sex, she is responsible for that human life and cannot enact lethal violence against it in order to escape pregnancy.

The argument that pro-life laws “force women to give birth” betrays the mistaken premise undergirding the pro-abortion case: They believe sex without any consequences is a fundamental right, bolstered ultimately by an adjacent right to kill any child who may come into being solely as the result of freely chosen sexual activity. Children, in other words, must face lethal consequences in order to enable adults to have sex without taking responsibility.

In a very literal sense, unless a pregnant woman miscarries or has an abortion, pregnancy will naturally end in giving birth. But it’s illogical and deceptive to claim that abortion restrictions therefore “force birth.” Abortion restrictions don’t require women to give birth; they require pregnant women not to prevent birth by killing their unborn child.

Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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