The “it’s a woman’s right” is not a good argument for abortion

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abortion women's rights

Tomi Lahren was recently on The View where she revealed that she is pro-choice on abortion, saying, “You know what?  I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.”  Julie Borowski provided a good rebuttal explaining why it is not hypocritical for a limited government advocate to be in favor of anti-abortion laws.

I don’t feel anything more needs to be said on those specific points, but while everyone seems to be interested in talking about abortion again, it presents an opportunity to discuss one of the most popular arguments defending abortion.

Pro-choice advocates say that abortion is permissible because a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body.

A woman does have the prima facie right to choose for herself what she does with her body.  But while the fetus does reside in the woman’s body during her pregnancy, it does seem incomplete to ignore the role of the father.  We all know that one of the outcomes of sex is the procreation of a fetus.  The procreation cannot happen without both a man and a woman.

Why does the father have no say in whether the child should be born or not?  Surely he is expected to help raise the child once he or she is born.  If he does not, then he is compelled to pay child support.  After all, he holds joint responsibility for procreating the child with the mother, so it is perfectly reasonable to expect some sort of accountability.

Holding aside whether abortion is actually ethically permissible, the only way that the woman alone is the sole authority of whether the fetus is carried to birth is if the father explicitly abandons his authority.  This could come in the form of agreeing to have the abortion or if he tells the woman prior to engaging in sex that he will have no part of the child if she conceives (you might want to reconsider whom you’re with if you ever hear that).  The woman could also explicitly inform him before sex that he would have no authority over the child if pregnancy occurred.

Imagine Bob and Mary are friends and they decide to buy some sort of exotic and expensive plant together.  They each pay a share of the plant, so they have joint ownership of it.  They agree that Mary will keep the plant at her house as maybe Bob has to travel for business for awhile and is not available to take care of the plant in his home.  Mary is the one, therefore, who must make sure the plant gets adequate sunlight, water it, and add fertilizer to the soil.

One day, Mary decides that she no longer wants the plant and disposes of it.  When Bob returns from his trip to discover this, Mary says, “The plant was in my house and I used my own resources to keep it alive, so it was my right to decide what to do with it.”

This is a clear violation of Bob’s rights because he was the joint owner of the plant even if Mary kept it in her house and kept it alive.  Had she called him up and said, “Hey, I’m tired of taking care of this plant, so I want to get rid of it,” and Bob said that he was okay with that, then it would have been permissible.  If she had told him prior to their purchase of the plant that she would retain the ultimate authority over its fate and Bob agreed, then it also would have been permissible.  And of course it would have been permissible if Bob told her that once they purchased the plant he would have nothing to do with it.

If Mary does not have the right to dispose of the plant without Bob’s explicit permission, then surely a mother does not have the right to abort a fetus without the explicit consent of the father (again, this setting aside the obvious ethical aspects of abortion for the sake of the argument).  What makes it even more critical that the mother obtains permission is that unlike the case of the plant there is no clear way to make restitution to the father.  If Mary violated Bob’s rights by throwing away their plant, the obvious outcome is that Mary must pay Bob what he had spent on the plant (and possibly more depending on the situation).  It is much more complicated in the case of abortion.

When people engage in certain transactions or activities, there are often implicit agreements that are made.  When I sit down at a restaurant and am served food, I am implicitly agreeing to pay for the food afterwards.  Only explicit dissent would override implicit consent.  Since pregnancy is a known outcome of sex, then it is implied that both parents would be responsible for raising the child.

I don’t mean to suggest in any way that it would be okay to abort a fetus if both parents agree to it.  I find abortion to be ethically impermissible but even if that aspect of abortion is suspended, to say that it is the woman’s right to decide what she does with her body holds no water.  In reality that view is nothing more than a distraction from the two points that should be discussed to determine if abortion is permissible: 1) when does life begin and 2) when it is justified to kill another human?