Why the Arguments about “Bodily Autonomy” and “Forced Birth” Fail to Justify Abortion

Jun 23, 2022 by

Examining the bodily autonomy argument for abortion highlights a crucial pro-life point: abortion is wrong not only because strangers shouldn’t kill each other but also and especially because parents have special obligations to their children, and it isn’t governmental overreach to require parents to fulfill those obligations.

Some abortion supporters sense the truth of the basic pro-life argument—that the unborn child is a human being and a person with moral value, and that the state has a legitimate role in protecting the lives of all people—so they make a different case. Conceding these three points for the sake of argument, they argue that the state’s protection of innocent life cannot come at the expense of women’s bodily autonomy. That is, there are two goods—and two state interests—at play when it comes to abortion, and the state needs to balance them.

As a result, one significant set of arguments, often used by feminists, is that abortion is first and foremost a matter of female autonomy. These thinkers say that, without abortion, women cannot control their bodies and their reproductive choices. Even if the unborn child is a human being and a moral person, that doesn’t give him a right to trespass in a woman’s body. Women have authority over their own bodies and need the right to abortion in order to be free and equal. We say more about the social equality argument in our new book Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing. Here we focus on the bodily autonomy argument.

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