Sunday, February 28, 2016

Responding to Anti-Choicers #2: Counter-Arguments and Responses For Common Challenges to the Bodily Rights Argument

Now that I've discussed how to respond to some of the weaker anti-choice arguments out there, let's break down some of the more common arguments against the proverbial "trump card" for abortion rights: Arguments against bodily autonomy. (If you haven't read my entire post on bodily autonomy, please read it here.)

Many anti-choice people out there try to claim that the bodily autonomy argument is extremely faulty and easy to take down, which usually results in half-assed and very weak rebuttals to the argument. It seems as though they think that if they pretend there is no weight to bodily rights, they don't really have to argue it very well. If anti-choice people are honest with themselves and everyone else, however, they admit that the argument for a woman's bodily autonomy is strong, and work within that premise to take it down. These rebuttals tend to be much stronger than the former.

Still, I have yet to hear a single rebuttal to the bodily rights argument that is not, at its core, deficient. Some of them misunderstand what bodily autonomy means, while others make huge assumptions regarding a woman's right to autonomy. This post will be dedicated to unpacking each one of these arguments and showing why, at the end of the day, there isn't an anti-choice argument out there that sufficiently comes out as stronger than the bodily rights argument.

Below, I've outlined the most popular responses to the bodily autonomy argument. If you discuss abortion with someone who is anti-choice, you are likely to hear at least one of them (especially if you've geared the conversation toward bodily rights to begin with).

1) It's not your body! There is another body at stake and it's completely separate from yours.

This is a common argument that anti-choicers respond with when a woman says, "My body, my choice."

They say, "Nope, not your body -- it's someone else's body and you have to leave it alone!"

This is a misunderstanding of the argument. Nobody is saying that the fetus is a part of a woman's body, and she should therefore get to do whatever she wants with it. What she is saying is that because the fetus is housed inside of her body, she gets to decide whether or not it stays. Terminating the pregnancy and removing the fetus from her body is the point -- getting to either allow or not allow a fetus to remain inside of her body. That's what women mean when they say, "My body, my choice."

With that understanding, it's interesting to look at the above graphic because it completely admits that the body surrounding the fetus is the woman's body. What they fail to understand here is that because that body is hers, she doesn't have to allow the body that isn't hers access to it.

2) You made your choice when you had sex. We know where babies come from. If you consent to sex, then you need to be responsible for a possible pregnancy.

This is probably the most common anti-choice response to the bodily rights argument. As soon as you bring up bodily autonomy, I can almost guarantee that, most of the time, the next thing out of an anti-choicers mouth will be some rendition of, "Women put themselves in the position of having a dependent fetus in her body. She already made a choice by having sex."

The problem here is that, as Matt Dillahunty once pointed out in an abortion debate, consenting to sex does not mean one has consented to pregnancy, and even consenting to pregnancy does not mean one has consented to remain pregnant. Women have a right to consent to sex without consenting to pregnancy, and women also have a right to revoke consent to their bodies at any time (just as anyone else does).

Being stripped of ownership over one's body is not a just consequence for consenting to sex, and there is absolutely no comparable application of law in this country (the United States). In other words, there is no other instance in which the government can force someone to donate their body to someone else simply because they caused them to need their body. Understanding a risk does not mean that someone should then have to suffer extreme consequences, such as losing their bodily rights.

As Tracie Harris put it, "The idea that understanding risk means that you must suffer through any result that occurs with regard to anything you do, without remedy or without capacity to mitigate those risks, is ludicrous. ... Simply pointing out a person understands a risk of an activity is not an argument for saying they must suffer through any consequences, including bodily injury and death, without access to help if the risk event occurs and they end up in a dangerous situation. And pregnancy *IS* a dangerous situation. ... We don't get to force someone to take on risk of ... harm and death simply because 'you had sex' or even 'you know sex can cause pregnancy.' When someone engages in perfectly legal activities--like sex--they absolutely do not lose any rights, nor is there any reason they should lose the ability to seek help to protect themselves from further harm if that is the course they choose."

Consider a father driving his daughter to a birthday party. He's not paying attention and causes an accident, through which his daughter then needs a blood transfusion from him in order to survive. Would the man likely donate his blood? Probably, but that's not the point. Can the doctors strap him down and force him to donate blood, just because the girl is his daughter and he caused her to need his body for survival? Absolutely not, because that would be a violation of his own bodily autonomy. It doesn't matter that he knew having a child might cause his daughter to one day need his body, and it doesn't matter that he knew driving a car with her inside posed a risk to her.

Do we really want to live in a world where, if you somehow cause someone to need body parts -- even if that wasn't your intent -- you're then legally required to donate them?

In short, it is extreme to suggest that every time a woman has sex she must also consent to give up ownership of her body to someone else who might need it. Such laws simply do not exist in our country for any other situation, and this one in particular would negate equal and fair treatment of all women (the notion that women's bodies belong to other people as soon as they consent to sex requires women to take on roles of second-class citizens).

Further, the "you shouldn't have sex unless you're ready for a child" argument is hypocritical at its core, and this becomes clear when discussing the ever-popular rape exception. Here's why:

If an anti-choicer does believe in rape exceptions, then their "pro-life" advocacy has nothing to do with babies and everything to do with controlling women's sexual freedom. Babies conceived through rape are still babies. If someone wants to outlaw abortion, but has a soft spot for women who have been raped, what they're really saying is that they think women who consent to sex should be punished by being stripped of their bodily rights, but if women didn't actually choose sex, then they can certainly have their rights recognized. This stance is all about punishing sexually active women (which is crystal clear when people use phrases such as, "keep your legs closed").

If an anti-choicer does not believe in rape exceptions, then I wonder why they would use the "don't have sex" argument to begin with, since they clearly don't actually care whether a woman consented to sex or not. They're advocating for women to be tied to their biology no matter how a pregnancy happened. They're advocating that women are, first and foremost, incubators that should be available to any developing fetus that is conceived, no matter how it's conceived. They don't care whether a woman was raped, so why are they arguing for women to not have sex in the first place?

In short, our laws do not require people to give up their bodily rights to anyone for any reason -- we don't even require body donation from violent criminals in prison or dead people who don't need their bodies anymore -- so requiring women to do so just because they chose to have sex isn't at all justifiable. Many women have sex for other reasons than procreation, and they shouldn't be required to fully endure a pregnancy just for choosing to engage.

3) Bodily autonomy is not absolute. You can't go outside naked, have sex in public, or do lots of other things with your body. You therefore can't do whatever you want with your body!

This argument comes from a complete misunderstanding of bodily autonomy. It also relies on the notion that women who seek abortions are using their bodies in an exercise of force on another body, rather than acting in defense of their own bodies.

Bodily autonomy is claiming ownership over one's body. It means that no one else owns you, and no one else can use your body for their own sake. This concept is why slavery and rape are illegal -- you cannot own, or claim ownership over, any other human being.

The government can still create laws for societies. Saying that I cannot be naked or have sex in public is not claiming ownership over me; rather, it's setting up a blanket rule for what's allowed in public places (and I can, mind you, be naked and have sex in private places). Everyone must abide by these laws, and, again, they have nothing to do with stripping me of rights to myself.

Telling me, however, that I must allow a parasitic relationship to complete itself inside of my body when I don't want that to happen would be violating my personal bodily rights. Forcing me to have sex would be violating my bodily rights, and forcing me to donate blood or organs would also be violating those rights. There is a big difference between having to abide by societal rules while in public and being forced to allow someone else access to your body.

It's important to understand that difference, and to understand what bodily autonomy truly entails.

4) Bodily autonomy is not absolute. Look at the case of conjoined twins -- both twins have to share their bodies, and the dominant twin cannot simply order the other one to be killed because they don't want to share their body anymore.

When arguing this point, anti-choicers will often discuss the true story of Mary and Jodie, a set of conjoined twins from Britain who created a controversial case when a court ordered the twins separated even though that separation caused Mary to die. You can click the link to read the whole story.

Anti-choice advocates argue the ethics of these decisions and compare them to abortion and the claim of bodily rights. They think that the murky waters of conjoined twin cases presents a clear-cut case that bodily rights are not absolute, and therefore a weak argument for abortion rights. But here's the thing -- the two are not at all comparable (and this is true no matter what decision is made in terms of the life or death of a conjoined twin).

The major difference is that conjoined twins that are dependent on each other are not born with bodies of their own; rather, they are born sharing their bodies with someone else, which makes the bodily rights claim debatable in these instances. A pregnant woman's body, however, did not originally have a fetus inside of it. She was not born sharing her body, and the fetus is therefore much more of an invading presence than a conjoined twin.

I am not arguing here for or against the ethics of separating conjoined twins. What I am pointing out is that it is an entirely separate issue from abortion, and not comparable. In the case of conjoined twins, it can be debatable whether they are entitled to each other's bodies because they were born sharing one body that didn't fully split. Both twins arguably have rights to the body in question, because that body is, quite literally, theirs. But a fetus is never entitled to use a body that does not belong to it. A pregnant woman was born with a body of her own that she then chooses to share with a fetus at some point in her life (or not). Because she's had full ownership over her body from the time she was born, she has every right to deny anyone access to it.

The comparison, then, between twins who have always shared one body and a woman who finds herself pregnant is extremely faulty.

5) You can't call abortion "self defense" because abortion involves the deliberate killing of a baby. Unplugging from a violinist (per Jarvis' original argument) is very different than actively killing someone.

When you point out that everyone has bodily rights, and that no one is forced to donate their bodies for the sake of others, anti-choicers are usually quick to argue that allowing someone to die by denying them blood or organs is natural, but abortion is an active act of killing someone, which makes it different.

As I pointed out in Part 1, anti-choicers have been very successful in painting abortion as the deliberate killing of a baby -- they frame it as a murder rather than the act of ending a pregnancy. Their mental images, however, of cut-up babies doesn't at all reflect the reality of what abortion entails. Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy -- the removal of an embryo or fetus from a woman's body -- but said embryo or fetus can't survive without the woman's body, so it usually dies. A viable fetus close to full-term can be delivered and survive, but a non-viable embryo or fetus cannot. Thus, it's fair to point out that removing a fetus from a woman's body, knowing that said fetus will then die, is not all that different from denying someone a body part knowing that they will die without it.

This is all about understanding that, once again, abortion is simply the termination of a pregnant state, after which a fetus usually cannot survive.

6) Pregnant women have a special obligation to their unborn children. The relationship between a pregnant woman and the baby is significant.

In response to bodily rights, anti-choicers will sometimes claim that a woman has an obligation to carry a pregnancy because the life that hangs in the balance is her child. They argue that it's a completely different situation from Jarvis' violinist scenario because that "special" relationship doesn't exist like it does with a mother and baby, and parents have obligations to keep their children alive and healthy (whereas they do not have an obligation to keep strangers alive and healthy).

The first thing to point out is that many women do not have a special bond with an embryo growing inside of them, and it's not anyone else's business to decide that such a relationship -- or obligation -- needs to exist. I don't consider the 6-week-old embryo that I removed from my body to have been "my child," even if other people do.

The other problem with this assumption is that it does not extend to babies who are already born. Anti-choicers claim that women have a special obligation to offer their bodies up to growing fetuses ... but, once that baby is born, any bodily obligation of parents mysteriously disappears. If women have an obligation to allow a fetus to gestate, why don't they (and the men involved) have an obligation to donate blood or body parts to their born children? Why aren't they required to put their bodies at medical risk in order to save the lives of their children? The fact that the "parental obligation" argument is not applied once the baby is born (at least not in terms of having to give up bodily rights) is highly suspicious, and clearly a sign that people who argue from this perspective actually want to burden pregnant women with obligations not required of other parents, and grant rights to fetuses not enjoyed by children who have been born.

7) If you weigh losing nine months of bodily autonomy against dying, it's clear that the baby's right to life should outweigh only nine months of bodily autonomy.

This is a hugely dangerous precedent. If we follow through with this line of thinking, and apply it across the board (not just to pregnant women), what's to stop the government from mandating bodily donation in a variety of instances?

You have blood type O, the universal blood type? Well, hospitals need more of that, so you have to donate -- a needle, fatigue, and a small amount of your personal time are not relevant when weighed against other people dying. It doesn't matter if you don't want to donate -- it's the law, because other lives hang in the balance.

Or how about the fact that we all have two kidneys? We can donate one of those, since there are so many people who need one. Oh, and after you die, you must donate your organs to those who need them. Any medical procedure, or cutting up your body after you're dead, are not relevant when weighed against someone else's life. So, by law, you must agree to this.

It's scary to think about what the world would look life if your bodily autonomy was weighed against other people's lives, if you apply the concept across the board. And if you wouldn't apply it across the board, then why would you subject pregnant women to this mentality (particularly when pregnancy is neither short, nor easy, nor risk-free)?

8) A developing baby is in its natural state in the womb. It is, therefore, entitled to stay there for as long as it needs. It's the natural order of things.

This premise assumes that the woman's body doesn't fully belong to her. It assumes that, each time she's pregnant, her uterus and nutrients "naturally" belong to a growing fetus. It's the fetus' body, first and foremost, if the woman is pregnant. Can you see how dehumanizing that thought process is?

If you've ever taken a course in logic, you're probably aware of the Naturalistic Fallacy, the premise of which assumes, "X is true, according to nature; therefore, X is morally right." This is a logical fallacy that presupposes that just because we think something is "natural," that thing ought to be the norm, or the way we approach something.

There are lots of "natural" things in this world that we alleviate through "unnatural" means. Eyeglasses are an unnatural response to the natural state of eyesight deficiency. Cancer treatments are also unnatural, whereas cancer is a completely natural occurrence. The idea that something is good simply because it's natural or biological isn't a logical stance to take.

Once again, this logical fallacy used in this particular argument assumes that the woman's body doesn't fully belong to her -- it assumes, rather, that there are times when parts of her body belong to developing fetuses instead. It's important to remember that a woman's body belongs to her at all times.

9) Men have to pay child support. Everyone has to take care of their children once they're born. It's okay to expect, then, that women must also provide support before children are born.

As I pointed out in Part 1, it's important to remember the difference between property rights and bodily rights, and it's also important to remember that financial support is not a "man" or "father" thing, but required of all parents.

Men have to provide financially for their children, but so do women. Men have to provide food, clothing, and shelter for their children, but so do women. Men have to keep their children safe from harm, but so do women. If men have custody of their children (which, despite common claims to the contrary, they often obtain if they pursue) then women have to pay them child support. Child support, or financial support of any kind, is not limited to men -- that's a parental thing.

But bodily support is never required of parents. Once children are born, both men and women are free to deny bodily support (think blood or organ donations), even if their children cannot survive without it. This is a clear demonstration that there is a huge difference between property rights (meaning, rights to finances and other forms of property) and bodily rights (meaning, a parent's right to their own bodies).

Therefore, again, requiring pregnant women to donate their bodies is not on the same level as financial support (again, required of men and women) for children, especially when such support is not required of parents after a baby is born.

10) A woman has a right to control her own body only until she's harming someone else. Her right to "swing her arm" ends when she harms the fetus inside of her.

Actually, this isn't true. Self-defense laws insist that a person can harm another if the are defending themselves. This argument is akin to saying that someone must allow a rapist to rape them if stopping the rape would mean harming the rapist. Your right to swing a defensive "arm" never ends just because that arm might hurt someone else.

But this, again, assumes that the body in question belongs to the fetus. It doesn't. It belongs to the woman.

The phrase above, then, is better stated as, a fetus' right to exist (or, as Matt Dillahunty once put it, "swing its umbilical cord") ends when a woman decides she doesn't want it in her body.

If a woman has rights to her body, she has a right to evict an unwanted tenant. If that right ends before she's allowed to do that, then she does not have ownership over her own body.

11) If this is about bodily rights, then how could you restrict any aspect of abortion or disapprove of abortion at any stage of pregnancy? Obviously, this idea is not consistently applied.

But it is consistently applied -- many people simply don't pay attention to that fact.

From a bodily autonomy perspective, women should be allowed to end a pregnancy at any time. Sometimes that results in the death of an embryo or fetus. But if the fetus is viable, it can result in a live delivery. In such a way, it's easy to see how abortion can certainly be consistently applied at any stage of pregnancy.

The problem, which I've mentioned quite a few times now, is that anti-choicers don't see that abortion is ending the state of being pregnant -- it is, quite literally, aborting a pregnancy. They see it as murdering a child, with the desired outcome being the death of a baby. So, to them, the idea of abortion is married to the idea of killing babies. If they understood that aborting a pregnancy when a fetus is viable can result in a live birth, they'd likely see things much differently.

For example, my own labor was induced nearly three weeks before my due date because of severe health problems. This was an abortion -- my doctors and I aborted my pregnancy before it was "naturally" ready to be done. The result, however, was the live birth of my son.

Anti-choicers are fond of discussing bans on late-term abortion, but if they understood the nature of abortions (and applied their logic consistently), they would be more interested in banning early abortions because early abortions always result in the death of an embryo or fetus. Late term abortions can result in the same thing, but don't always. Anti-choicers need to be reminded that their mental images of cutting up eight-month-old fetuses for the sheer pleasure of it are not based in reality.

(As a side note, late-term abortions are nearly always done because of health issues in either the woman or the fetus, or, sometimes, because women have not been able to access an abortion earlier due to strict anti-choice laws in her area. Women honestly don't wake up one morning eight or nine months pregnant, have breakfast, and decide out of the blue to go have an abortion. It really doesn't work that way. So bans on late term abortions almost always affect people who are already going through extreme amounts of grief. People's medical issues are between them and their doctors -- as a spectator, it's really the most ethical thing to stay out of it.)

12) Who said you had a right to bodily autonomy, anyway? You need to prove why this right exists, and then why this right should be applied within the context of pregnancy, before you can use it to keep abortion legal.

Actually, the reverse is true.

As Matt Dillahunty once said, in a debate with secular anti-choicer Kristine Kruszelnicki, "When it comes to determining what sort of rights we're going to grant people, there are two primary methods. The first is that we begin with no rights, and are free only to exercise the rights that we specifically enumerate. The second is that we begin with all rights, except for those that we specifically limit. The first option is patently absurd -- where did you get the right to begin defining rights in the first place? The second requires that we focus our attention on how and why we're going to restrict certain rights. Which rights take priority, and what do we do when rights come in conflict? The right to bodily autonomy is one of the most foundational principles that has guided this process. When a proposed restriction would violate this right, there is a very heavy burden to overcome before that violation could be justified."

In expanding on this, I'll repeat that our society recognizes a foundational right to bodily autonomy -- it is the foundation of individual freedom. If you do not own yourself, then by necessity, someone else does (in the case of criminalizing abortion, a fetus would be grated legal access to a woman's body without her consent, and the government would, in part, also claim ownership over a pregnant woman's body in order to enforce the law). You simply cannot claim freedom without ownership of yourself.

It's actually, then, the anti-choicer's job to justify why denying bodily rights to pregnant women alone should be permissible. Again, we already recognize bodily autonomy in every other instance, so the burden of proof falls on those who think that this right should be limited in this one circumstance -- why a woman should legally lose control of her body when she's pregnant. A right to bodily autonomy is vital to freedom, which is highly valued in our society, so this burden of proof -- as to why a woman's personal freedom should be severely limited when she becomes pregnant -- requires high levels of justification. Denying women this basic right is making women slaves to their biology.

13) Your body isn't yours. It belongs to God. Or, by way of biology, it belongs to fetuses sometimes. It's just the hand you were naturally dealt.

Interestingly, anti-choicers don't often apply this logic to other people -- they don't actively argue that people's bodies don't belong to them. This idea seems to be limited, exclusively, to pregnant women.

The one exception is when religious people argue that we all "belong" to god(s), and we therefore must submit ourselves to whatever happens to us through said power(s). People are free to believe this, but because we live in a secular nation, they cannot cement it in law. I don't believe in any gods, and cannot be forced to act like I belong to a deity that doesn't exist. So while people may argue over the morality of abortion because they "belong" to a god, that argument cannot and should not impose on my life in any legal manifestation.

In short, claiming that women simply shouldn't have bodily autonomy because of biology or shared bodily ownership is blatantly sexist and antithetical to freedom and equality under the law. Women should not have to give up personal rights simply because, through biology, we have the capacity to become pregnant. Either we recognize the rights of women as individuals, or we don't -- and to limit a woman's right to bodily autonomy suggests that we don't. And I would question anyone's loyalty to "freedom" if they think biological slavery is acceptable to half the population.

14) I have never heard anything so selfish in my entire life.

Maybe arguing for one's consistent rights to their own bodies is selfish. Maybe it isn't. Maybe said selfishness is a bad thing. Maybe it isn't. It doesn't really matter, nor should one's own definition of "selfish" be the basis through which we legislate people's rights.

The bottom line is that if you've come this far in the argument, and an anti-choicer is accusing you of selfishness (or trying to invalidate your argument simply because they think it's selfish), you've won. They have run out of arguments to use to try and justify denying women legal bodily autonomy, so they're instead turning to personal attacks. Congratulations.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Responding to Anti-Choicers #1: Arguing for Bodily Autonomy

I decided to make a few blog posts about how to respond to anti-choice arguments. The reasons why I'm dividing these responses into different blog posts is because 1) there are many arguments to address, and 2) I want to categorize them. Essentially, I think the only way anyone should be arguing from a pro-choice viewpoint is through the bodily autonomy argument (which I'll explain in a moment). This blog post will be to discuss bodily autonomy, and all anti-choice arguments that don't pertain to it. My next post, Part 2, addresses anti-choice arguments against bodily autonomy, specifically.

I've posted before why bodily autonomy is the single strongest argument in support of abortion rights (you can read that prior post here), but I'll begin by explaining it briefly. The bodily autonomy argument was originally made famous by Judith Jarvis Thomson's In Defense of Abortion, in which she presented the vital question of whether anyone should be required to allow someone else to live off of their bodies if that person will otherwise die. She compared the abortion scenario to someone being manually hooked up to a famous violin player who needed to stay connected for ten months in order to live. Should a person be required to stay hooked up because saving the violinist's life is important, or should the person have a choice to stay hooked up or not? (I think the violinist scenario is a bit outdated, and there are other, more relevant comparisons that can, and probably should, be used, but I will detail all of that in the next post.)

The bodily autonomy argument, then, recognizes pregnancy as a zero sum game, in which either a pregnant woman's rights to her body are recognized or else a developing fetus's right to life is recognized. The key here is understanding that, because the pregnant woman and the developing fetus must share a body, both sets of rights cannot be simultaneously recognized by law -- either the woman or the fetus must cede their rights to the other.

The argument for bodily autonomy stands with the woman. The argument says that the woman, alone, owns her body, and she therefore gets to decide whether or not an embryo or fetus gets to stay inside and live off of it. The implication is that denying a pregnant woman bodily autonomy is denying her ownership of herself, and reduces her to, first and foremost, life support for someone else. Further, there is no recognized "right" to use someone else's body against their will in this nation, and therefore a fetus's right to life does not include the right to live inside of and off of a woman's body if she doesn't want it there.

There are plenty of anti-choice responses to this argument, but, again, those are addressed in Part 2. Also, please be aware that many of the anti-choice rebuttals to my arguments here are also addressed in Part 2.

As for this post ... Plenty of people haven't heard of the bodily rights argument and argue about abortion from other, weaker positions. As I see it, arguments about abortion should always boil down to a woman's ownership of herself ... but that's not always how it goes. The following, then, is a list of anti-choice arguments that don't take bodily autonomy into consideration, and how to respond to them.

1) Abortion is immoral.

I would say that, under most circumstances, you want to be on the same page about arguing for the legality of abortion, not the morality of it. You could probably argue all day over whether abortion is moral or immoral in various circumstances, but it's usually a huge waste of time. What we really want to talk about is legality (whether abortion should remain legal). People can believe that abortion is immoral, but that doesn't have to affect others. What does affect others are attempts to criminalize abortion or make it inaccessible. Because that's actually happening all over the nation, it's what we want to address. So make sure your discussion isn't centered around morality -- be clear that it's about legality, and be sure the anti-choicer addresses whether or not they want abortion to remain legal.

The legality of something can not -- and should never -- be based on someone's interpretation of morality. (And if anyone tries to tell you that laws are, in fact, based on morality, remind them that rights are, most of the time, based on the best ways to protect everyone's rights simultaneously; for example, some people find grilling beef to be offensive and immoral because of their personal religious beliefs, but that doesn't mean that we should then make it illegal for anyone to exercise their right to barbecue in their backyards. Rather, we make sure that people who think it's immoral to eat beef have a right not to, while, at the same time, people who do want to eat beef have the right to do that, too.)

If someone says that they want abortion to be legal, but just want to argue why they don't agree with it personally, I'd say to not waste your time (unless that's a conversation you want to engage in). If they admit that they want abortion to be illegal, proceed with that and ask them why.

2) Abortion shouldn't be legal because it goes against what God wants.

The United States is a secular nation, so anyone arguing about the legality of abortion in terms of their personal religious views should be reminded of that. There are many, many different religions in this country that believe many, many different things. Many people, too, do not believe in any god or holy book at all. Further, the United States Constitution forbids creating laws based on one set of religious beliefs, and this is to preserve religious freedom (if I have to follow a law based on your religion, then my own freedom of religion is being violated; the same would be true if you had to follow a law based on someone else's religion).

Every citizen is free to follow whatever religious rules they want to. But they cannot force those rules onto other people, and they therefore need a better reason for making abortion illegal.

Pertaining to this argument, I would avoid getting into debates about what the Bible (or Koran, or any religious book) says on the matter of abortion. You'll likely go back and forth all day, and because these books are so easily interpreted in any way one wants, not to mention the fact that they contradict themselves quite often, you'll likely get nowhere. Stick to the fact that a person's religious beliefs should have no effect on the rights of others, and this, therefore, is not a justifiable reason to criminalize abortion.

3) Abortion shouldn't be legal because it's murder. We don't allow the murder of other people, so why should we allow the murder of babies in the womb?

The problem here is that anti-choicers have successfully painted abortion as "murder," making the issue entirely about taking the life of a baby and not at all about a woman choosing to end the state of being pregnant. Abortion, when viewed from another perspective, is a form of self-defense that usually results in the death of an embryo or fetus.

From the perspective of bodily autonomy, abortion is easily recognizable as, simply, the termination of a pregnancy. In this situation, there is a condition happening inside the body of a pregnant woman that she does not want to happen, and so she terminates that condition, that pregnant state. The natural consequence of that is usually the death of the embryo or fetus because it cannot survive without the woman's body. She removes it, and it subsequently dies.

Because, though, anti-choicers have been so successful at framing abortion as "murder," people think of abortion as violently ending the life of a baby, and they don't see it as any different than killing a newborn. They think about pictures of dead babies. They think about women gruesomely and vindictively killing their children and can't understand why the procedure is legal. But when you understand that it's not about killing a baby, but about ending a pregnancy (which does happen to result in a death), it's easier to see that abortion is more comparable to self-defense than it is to murder.

In short, remind this anti-choicer about the huge differences between murder and self-defense, and the difference between maliciously killing someone and allowing the death of an embryo or fetus (again, a natural consequence of abortion) because a woman has chosen to remove it from her body. Also, it's important to remember that bodily autonomy must be respected even when another life hangs in the balance. Women do have a constitutional right to remove a pregnancy from their bodies -- and to say that they shouldn't suggests that their bodies don't really belong to them, but rather to a developing fetus or to the state (who would enforce such a law).

4) Abortion shouldn't be legal because the unborn are human beings who have a right to life.

Anti-choicers love to talk about the Constitution, inalienable rights, and every person's right to life. What they forget (or otherwise don't think about) is that such a right to life isn't guaranteed at the expense of someone else. I have a right to life, but I cannot demand that someone else donate a kidney or blood or any other part of their bodies to me, even if I need it to survive.

We cannot demand bodily support from our parents when we are adults, when we're children, or when we're babies. A fetus in the womb, similarly, cannot demand bodily support, even if it cannot otherwise survive. Therefore, suggesting that a fetus has a right to a woman's body isn't promoting human rights for a fetus, but rather special rights that no other human being has.

When dealing with this question, again, stick to bodily autonomy and a woman's legal right to deny the use of her body to anyone -- even growing fetuses. I recommend avoiding getting caught up in whether the fetus is human or a person, or whether it's the proverbial "blob of cells." The main point is that, even if we categorize a fetus as a human deserving of human rights, it still doesn't have a right to force someone into bodily servitude for the sake of its survival.

No one has that "right."

(Sometimes, an anti-choicer will respond by claiming that women have a special obligation to keep the fetus alive, or that fetuses have a special right to use a woman's body because they're in their "natural" state. These claims are addressed in Part 2.)

5) Abortion shouldn't be legal because science says that life begins at conception.

First of all ... scientific evidence is murky, at best, in terms of trying to define when life begins. But if you're arguing this from a bodily autonomy perspective, it doesn't even matter. Any living, human person still doesn't have a right to use someone's body for survival against their will.

6) Abortion should be illegal because I was almost aborted, and I'm glad I'm alive.

A good place to start with this one is to remind this person that if they'd been aborted, they would not exist and wouldn't even be aware of the debate, but be cautious with this (especially if the person is religious and doesn't believe in simple nonexistence for people). It can be really difficult for some people to think about their own nonexistence.

But the point, however, is that it doesn't matter how thankful someone is for their life, or even how much they desire life for themselves and others. These feelings don't give them the right to strip other people of bodily autonomy. These anti-choicers may feel glad that their mother decided not to have an abortion, but the fact of the matter is that they were never entitled to their mother's body. She made a choice, and it happened to be a choice they are now happy about, but that does not invalidate the fact that it was still a choice that she was entitled to.

Feeling upset about almost having been aborted does not justify legally barring other women from their rights to their bodies.

7) Abortion should be illegal because I know someone who survived abortion and it's horrific to think that they may not be alive right now.

I saw a video not to long ago that featured a woman addressing a room full of anti-choice activists. She presented to them a story about how her mother tried to abort her, but she wound up surviving the incident. Many people found this to be a very powerful story in support of criminalizing abortion, because they felt it put a name and a face on the idea of an aborted baby. Since then, I've heard people argue about others who survived an abortion experience, as though these stories are useful evidence in why abortion should be illegal.

The response, however, is very similar to arguing with someone who was almost aborted -- that is, one's feelings about an abortion that happened or almost happened to themselves or someone else doesn't invalidate a woman's ownership of her body, and doesn't negate that she still has a choice in whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

Being upset that your mother decided to not carry you to term isn't a valid excuse to legally remove bodily autonomy from women across the nation.

8) Abortion shouldn't be legal because women will regret it.

People regret lots of things. Sometimes we're happy with our personal decisions, and sometimes we aren't. The answer is not for the government to interfere with said personal choices and make our decisions for us. Support for such a view is patronizing, and feeds into the notion that politicians -- particularly male politicians -- know what's best for women better than women themselves do. It's rhetoric that supports the notion that women can't be trusted to make their own decisions because the outcome could be bad (we don't do that with men's decisions).

Further, the "regret" rhetoric ignores the very real fact that most women do not actually regret their abortions. You can read more about that here, or read about my own, personal abortion experience that I certainly did not regret here.

It's true that some women regret having abortions, but I do want to point out that much of the time, these women were coerced into having an abortion -- the decision wasn't really theirs. Being pro-choice is all about supporting choice in whether women continue pregnancies. Women shouldn't be coerced in either direction, and when they are, regret and remorse are likely outcomes. But even though there do exist women who make a decision that they wind up regretting is definitely not a good enough excuse to bar all women from making that decision (especially when, again, most women experience more relief after an abortion than regret).

9) Abortion shouldn't be legal because it's unsafe.

There is so much misinformation about abortion, but surely one of the most prevalent untruths is that abortion is an unsafe procedure that often leaves women broken and sterile, puts them at higher risk for certain cancers, and generally carries a huge mountain of risks that outweigh any benefits. If you are arguing with an anti-choice person who claims to be on the side of women (or, as has become recently popular, claims that making abortion illegal would be better for women than allowing them to access abortions), you will most certainly hear these assumptions come up.

The fact is that abortion is a common, safe procedure that can usually be completed through outpatient visits. Most women don't even need to take time off of work after having an abortion. It's rather easy to hide from the world the fact that a woman had an abortion because, generally speaking, there is usually no hospitalization, no severe recovery time, and no lasting complications. Like all medical procedures, abortion carries some risk, but studies show that said risk of complication is extremely low.

But even though abortion -- as, again, do all medical procedures -- carries a small amount of risk, do you know what carries significantly more risk to a woman? Completing a pregnancy. It is well documented that pregnancy carries more risk than abortion, with complications ranging from pretty insignificant to very severe (my own pregnancy left me with two incurable physical illnesses, and during pregnancy my body began to literally shut down -- my abortion, on the other hand, left me feeling healthy and energetic the day after the procedure, and I have had no lasting consequences).

Again, all medical procedures and conditions -- including abortion and pregnancy -- involve some risk. It's our job as individuals to weigh those risks and decide what's right for us. So, once again, (mostly untrue) claims that abortion is unsafe are not a legitimate reason to make abortion illegal.

10) Abortion shouldn't be legal because too many women use it as a form of birth control.

Going back to the bodily rights argument, women get to make the decision to end a pregnancy for whatever reason they want -- the body in question belongs to them, and they don't have to justify why they're choosing to not allow a full-length pregnancy to occur inside of it. The reasons why a woman gets an abortion are nobody else's business, and choosing abortion for "convenience" (a key term for anti-choicers) isn't an invalid reason. It's not up to anyone else to decide that it is, either. Abortion is a woman's constitutional right, so someone deciding they don't like some women's reasons for obtaining one is not a legitimate reason to make it illegal.

But let's dig deeper on this one. What is the definition of birth control? Really, it's taking control so as to prevent giving birth. In this way, all abortions, regardless of why women seek them, are a form of birth control. All forms of birth control involve women taking their reproductive lives into their own hands because they don't want to be pregnant, and this can include abortion. So let's not accuse some women of using abortion as birth control and treat that as a negative thing, because, at their core, all abortions are truly a form of birth control.

With this argument, then, try to not get caught up in differentiating between women who have "legitimate" reasons for getting an abortion and those who don't. At the end of the day, it's the woman's business why she has an abortion and no one else's. People don't get to pass judgment on someone else's personal medical choices and then say said judgment is a good reason for banning those choices.

11) Abortion shouldn't be legal because the men involved often don't get a say in the life or death of their own children.

I've heard anti-choicers speak up about men who don't get a say in abortion as though that, in and of itself, is a good reason to make the procedure illegal. I've heard about men who wanted the baby and were devastated by abortion, as well as men who feel cheated because the woman chose not to abort and then he wound up financially supporting a child he didn't consent to.

These arguments, in reality, come from men who feel out of control of a situation and desperately want that control. But let me explain why they can't have it, through the bodily rights argument.

If men could carry a pregnancy in their own bodies, and take on the physical risks and complications for themselves, then they would be welcome to do that. However, they cannot, which means that the woman must take on these bodily risks by herself -- and, therefore, the decision of whether to abort is also hers to decide by herself (support and input from others is sometimes welcome, but should never be required). No person should be allowed to force a woman to use her body for life support for a baby. Similarly, no one can force a woman to abort a pregnancy happening in her body. Either choice would be a huge violation of personal autonomy. Biology has placed women with a great amount of power over life and death when it comes to pregnancy, and men cannot claim ownership of women's bodies just so they can have some of that power.

Also, it's faulty to equate financial support with bodily support. Financial support -- which is what child support is -- is something that both men and women have to take responsibility for once a child enters the world. That's not strictly a "man" thing. Bodily support, however, isn't required of any parent. Nobody can force a mother or a father to donate blood, a kidney, or any part of their bodies for their dying child. The reason why this is the case -- why parents can be forced to feed, clothe, and shelter their children but cannot be forced to give up their bodies -- is because of a recognized difference between property rights and personal, bodily rights. Because we all have bodily autonomy, it's never expected that we share our bodies with anyone -- even our children.

Anti-choicers often respond to this argument -- that men have no control over women's bodies, and therefore cannot control abortion -- by claiming that women already handed that control over when they chose to have sex. (This "don't have sex" argument is very common, and will be fully addressed in Part 2.) It's interesting, though, how that rhetoric is never turned around -- if you can tell a woman that she loses her rights to her own body just because she consented to sex, why would you not, also, tell a man that he loses his rights to not financially support a possible child just because he consented to sex? Some men get very bent out of shape when they become financially responsible for a baby they didn't want -- they think he should have a choice in that matter. Still, on the other hand, they also get bent out of shape when a woman wants to exercise bodily rights -- not property rights, bodily rights -- without a man's consent. They think she shouldn't have a choice in that matter.

It smells like a double standard. Honestly, if "you lose your rights once you have sex" is good enough to take away women's personal bodily rights, it's definitely good enough to take away (some of) men's property rights. But you won't hear that from these men.

12) Abortion should be illegal because we could be allowing the next Einstein or the next Mozart or the next great world leader to be aborted.

The first point to make here is that, even though some aborted embryos and fetuses may, in fact, could have grown up to be wonderful, talented human beings who greatly contributed to the world ... they also may have grown up to be horrible people who inflicted great suffering on the world. We don't know, nor can we ever know, the life paths that a now-nonexistent person would have taken, so I don't see the point in bringing it up; still, any chance there was of a positive outcome could be countered with the chance of a negative one. So it's really a moot point.

Again, though, arguing from the bodily rights argument means that it doesn't matter who the fetus would have become, it's still a woman's choice whether to allow it to gestate inside of her body or not. Arguments like this one, that center around the baby and completely forget about the woman involved, should be brought back to that point.

13) Abortion shouldn't be legal because that allows people to have sex without consequences.

Not everyone agrees that sex without consequences is a bad thing. Why does sex need to be accompanied by consequences?

The mentality here is based on the idea that people who have lots of sex (particularly, women who have lots of sex) are immoral. It's based on the idea that sex should serve only certain purposes (usually, people with this mentality think that the main purpose of sex should be reproduction, and therefore all sex should be "open to life," as they say). It's based on the idea that sexual activity should be strictly controlled and confined to monogamous relationships (even though people in monogamous relationships often have consequence-free sex and abortions, too -- they forget this fact), and that sex outside of these confines should carry a "consequence," or be punished in some way. This is why these people want abortion to be illegal, and also why they want to outlaw sexual acts such as sodomy.

Interestingly, the idea that sex should have consequences rose, in part, from techniques that world religions used to gain control over populations. These religions were able to take something that was such a natural human desire that they knew most people could not or would not stay away from it for long -- sex -- and demonize it. If they could convince the general population that sex was sinful, but then offer a solution to that through religious "forgiveness," they'd certainly have a never ending supply of "customers." Through demonizing sex, these religions were able to, as they say, "break your leg so they could sell you a crutch." (This is a very generalized version of humans' complicated relationship with sex throughout history, but you get the idea.)

This mentality also stems from the fact that modern societies were formed on the foundation of inheritance by birthright -- that is, people tended to rule societies, as well as gain and keep wealth, through familial lineage. People tended to become kings because their fathers before them were also kings. People tended to own property and wealth because their fathers before them owned that property and wealth. And when new power was acquired, it was passed on to sons (and sometimes daughters, if there were no sons and they were lucky enough to still inherit and not be overthrown). Therefore, it became imperative for men (men with power and wealth, especially), to control women's sexuality. It's really easy to know whether a woman mothered a child -- she carries it in her body for nearly a year, after all. Before DNA testing, however, it was much more difficult to know whether a man fathered a child -- unless, of course, the sexual activity of the woman he was with was closely monitored and controlled. The idea of owning women and their bodies became important in terms of maintaining societies that relied on birthright inheritance.

We are still seeing the resulting mentality in today's societies and cultures. Some men feel entitled to exclusive access to women's bodies, and feel very out of control when women have free sex with whomever they please (especially when a woman's chosen sex partners do not include them). Such men may have a desire to see abortion criminalized today because that would reign in a woman's sexual freedom (if she cannot access reproductive health care such as contraception and, if needed, abortion, enjoying a free sex life becomes very risky for a woman, and she's more inclined to adhere to the patriarchal tradition of finding one man and having sex with only him, out of necessity).

But I digress.

The key thing to remember, as I mentioned above, is that laws are not based on a personal interpretation of morality. Just because some people think that sex should have consequences does not mean that sex necessarily should have consequences, or that, by extension, abortion should be outlawed.

The above list is not exhaustive -- there are certainly many more anti-choice arguments you'll come across -- but this does cover the most common ones. Many others that you'll encounter are closely related to the ones above, too, so if you understand the arguments I listed above, and how to respond to them, you'll be fine in a debate with an anti-choicer.

The main thing to remember is that you want to keep the conversation focused on legality and bodily rights, and make sure the anti-choice person is in the position of answering why they think that a legal ban on women's bodily rights is justified.

Many times, once you've successfully done this, you will hear anti-choice arguments that attempt to take down the bodily rights argument. I've detailed responses to those in Part 2.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I Had an Abortion Without Grief

(Note: This post originally appeared on a different blog of mine.)

Yes, I had an abortion. I had it exactly one week ago (as of writing this piece), at roughly 5 weeks along. I never questioned my desire to obtain an abortion, and have since felt absolutely no regret, remorse, or shame regarding it. Rather, I am relieved, happy, and healthy. And I want to talk about that.

There is plenty of rhetoric, you see, about abortion being a source of pain and grief, or an otherwise dirty, shameful secret for women who choose to terminate pregnancies. And for some women, these things are true. The point of this piece, though, is to illuminate the reality that many other women don't experience negative emotions after an abortion, and the "argument from regret," therefore, does not speak for all women. I am writing this to give voice and legitimacy to women -- such as myself -- who experience great relief after an abortion without any accompanying negative emotions.

This is a rather different type of piece for me, as it's based mostly on a personal experience. I write, discuss, and debate abortion quite often, usually through the lens of bodily autonomy (the trump card regarding abortion rights), but that isn't what this piece of writing is about. If you're unfamiliar with the bodily rights argument (or have read otherwise weak objections to it), or wish to read my refutations to arguments regarding "just don't have sex," "personal responsibility," "fetal rights," or a "special responsibility" regarding deprivation of bodily rights to pregnant women alone, then please read my most recent piece on these very issues here. Otherwise, please understand that this piece is to specifically address my personal experience.

I realize that I may lose friends over my choice to be vocal about my abortion, and that people may be turned off that I am not expressing the socially requisite shame and guilt over a "selfish" (as some will see it, I am sure) decision, but that is precisely the reason why I feel the need to be vocal. We need to lift the veil of social stigma surrounding this very common and very safe medical procedure, and I intend to play a part in doing just that.

I'll preface my story by saying that I terminated what would have been my third pregnancy. My first pregnancy was successful and resulted in a live birth (my son is a happy, healthy GATE student whom I love very much). My second pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage at roughly 8 weeks. So when I found out I was pregnant again over Memorial Day weekend, I had plenty of experience to draw upon when considering what enduring another pregnancy was likely to be like. Neither of my first two pregnancies were easy (I'm a Type 1 diabetic which adds complications, I gained lots of weight, retained lots of water, and experienced high blood pressure and extreme fatigue and nausea, among other things). This isn't the point, though -- regardless of my reasoning, which included physical, mental, and personal reasons regarding my body and my life, I decided right away to not try and complete this third pregnancy.

I not only didn't want more children (a decision I made years ago), but I didn't want to be pregnant, either.

After a day of pondering my situation on my own, I told my partner about the pregnancy and that I wouldn't be completing it (I cared about his input, but had already been vocal about the fact that if I were to ever become pregnant again, I would likely have an abortion, so this wasn't shocking for him). He was 100% supportive of me and my decision (as I knew, luckily, he would be), so I got to experience the privilege of being close to loved ones who, instead of judging me, supported me.

And that is important to note -- this decision was all my own. I made my decision before involving anyone else. Shame-and-guilt-free abortions are also coercion-free abortions, which is a huge aspect of pro-choice mentality. Reproductive choice means that empowerment comes from a person's ability to make their own decisions. Such an empowering decision can mean keeping a pregnancy or it can mean terminating a pregnancy, but this decision, about whether to donate one's body for nearly a year (which is what makes it the woman's decision and not a joint one), must rest with the woman alone. Therefore, part of what made my own decision empowering and positive was that it was mine. I specifically wanted my decision to be free of others' input, which is why, with the exception of a very few family members and friends, I remained silent about my decision until now.

I scheduled the abortion for the following weekend. I was going to need to be out of commission, so to speak, for an entire day, and as school was still in session (I'm a teacher), a Saturday appointment made the most sense. In the interim time, I thought about the varying options the nurse on the phone had given me: Would I want to abort using oral medication, or would I want a surgical termination? Would I use sedation or try to endure what was supposedly a mild procedure without it? I hadn't made any actual decisions regarding these choices when I entered the clinic that Saturday.

This day, though, is when I experienced the only pain and grief that I associate with this process, and it had nothing to do with any of those choices. When obtaining a legal abortion, the first step is to usually receive an ultrasound so that doctors can date the pregnancy. (Interesting aside -- for all of the debate surrounding "mandatory ultrasounds," people should know that, regardless of state laws regarding ultrasounds, most medical professionals will not perform an abortion without one. This is due to the fact that, not only do they need to date a pregnancy, but they also need to physically see the pregnancy so that they know what to look for in follow up ultrasounds to ensure that the abortion was complete. They also need to make sure that any pregnancy is not ectopic, hence another reason for needing to see it in the uterus. But the "ultrasound debate" should be about what a doctor is forced to show or say -- not the ultrasound itself, which is pretty much mandatory everywhere.)

Anyway, the nurse doing my ultrasound could not find the pregnancy, either topically or vaginally. She did blood work to confirm the pregnancy (and I'd already done two urine tests), so she told me that either the pregnancy was ectopic or it was simply too early to see the embryo that had embedded in my uterus. Only time would tell which it was. And either way, I would not be receiving an abortion on that day. I'd have to play the waiting game. She told me to make another appointment for a week out so we could try again.

I, however, was not in the mindset to make any future appointment. All I knew was that I was pregnant, I didn't want to be, and yet I would be forced to remain pregnant for another week until the embryo grew some more (or I started showing signs of an ectopic pregnancy). I felt completely out of control of my body and, by extension, my life. There is much discussion among pro-choice people about mandatory waiting periods (some states have enforced 24-hour, 48-hour, or, in extreme cases, 72-hour waiting periods before a woman can access an abortion so that she can "think about it"), and how much distress and undue burden this can put on some women. I was basically being put on a week-long waiting period (due to medical reasons, granted, rather than a desire to make me "think about" my decision), which, although rooted in legitimate medical science, caused me deep emotional distress. I left the clinic in tears, intent to take matters into my own hands.

My partner did his best to be supportive and keep me logical, but I was anything but logical throughout the rest of the weekend. I remember feeling numb and in a deep state of panic. I called every other abortion provider in my area, only to find out that, indeed, everyone requires positive evidence of a pregnancy through an ultrasound. I contacted some pro-choice Facebook friends to see if they knew ways around this, or else knew of providers who would perform abortions without the ultrasound. I even considered doing my own abortion through illegal means. I contacted my father (who lives in Canada) and asked him if there was any way he could obtain abortion pills and mail them to me (and he was very gentle and loving as he explained to me how much, of course, that would implicate him as well, and how dangerous that could be for me). I read online about herbs that were supposed to induce miscarriages. I thought about driving down to Mexico to get abortion pills over-the-counter. I even came close to ordering abortion pills online.

This, however, is when my partner really demanded that I start looking at things logically. I could, he explained, try something illegal and dangerous (and he wasn't going to challenge me or try to control my choices), which could mean potentially becoming ill, dying, or winding up jailed ... or I could just wait a week and still end my pregnancy safely and legally. As out-of-control and desperate as I was feeling, I'm usually pretty good at making myself see things from a logical perspective eventually, and I chose the latter. Thankfully.

I actually rescheduled the abortion for nearly two weeks later, as I had plans with a long-time friend from Utah, whom I hadn't seen in over a year, the following weekend. So I trudged my way through the final week of school, and through my getaway with my friend, feeling very ... pregnant. The extent of my fatigue made everyday activities, including carrying a conversation, acts of conscious will. I could barely keep food and drink down. I didn't feel like myself, and I know I certainly didn't act like myself around others.

But, finally, that following Thursday I returned to the clinic for my abortion (12 days after my initial attempt), feeling mildly concerned that there still might be an issue finding the pregnancy through an ultrasound. There were no such issues, though. The pregnancy was observable with a topical ultrasound, and the kind staff immediately set me up with an IV in my hand to await my procedure. And the overwhelming feeling that dominated my emotional state was relief that I was not being sent away again.

I'll add here that I decided that morning to have a surgical abortion rather than a medical one. This is because, after hearing my options, I learned that medical abortions don't always work (though they do the majority of the time), and they require follow-up appointments to be sure that everything was expelled. They can also, due to the fact that they induce a miscarriage, result in a long and painful abortion (though this isn't the case for every woman). The surgical procedure, I was told, could be confirmed as complete that very day, and I'd likely be on my feet and back to normal life by the following day. It sounded like the best option for me. I also chose to be sedated because, as the nurse told me, why be potentially uncomfortable during a procedure when you can make yourself more comfortable? (No, in case you haven't guessed this about me, I don't think that women should punish themselves, or be punished, with a painful abortion because of the nature of the process. The very idea is asinine.) I was told the procedure would feel like very, very intense menstrual cramps for about 5-10 minutes, which I thought I could handle well, but opted for sedation due to simple comfort.

The doctor gave me the sedation medication through the IV in my hand (once I was ready for the abortion), and I felt it immediately. I remember thinking about how strong it was, and then ... I was waking up. I actually fell asleep (which the nurse told me was a possible side effect of the sedation), and therefore remember nothing about the actual abortion procedure. I woke up, and everything was finished. The nurses helped me up and took me to a recovery room. The sedation did leave me feeling horribly nauseous (I threw up into a bag a few times, and twice again once I arrived home, even though I hadn't had anything to eat or drink that morning), but other than that the procedure and its aftermath were incredibly smooth and complication-free.

My partner drove me home, and I rested for most of the afternoon. Once I woke up again, though, I felt a hundred times better than I had in weeks. Even though the pregnancy hormone that likely causes fatigue and nausea probably remained in my body for a some time after the abortion, I felt physically like a new person. I had more energy, could hold conversations, had a desire to do things with friends and family, and actually wanted to eat. I continued to feel better as the day progressed, and as more days passed. My partner commented daily about how noticeable the change in me was. Physically, I was happy, healthy, and relieved.

My health, my body, and my life were no longer being interrupted by a parasitic relationship that I had no desire to maintain. My feelings about that were only positive -- again, I was happy and relieved. Not once did I cry over my abortion, nor did I feel a need to. Not once did I regret my decision. Not once did I think about what "might have been." The only grief I felt during the entire process, again, was being told I had to wait. Perhaps (as some will say) these are selfish feelings, but, lest we forget that this is my body and my life in question here (and, no, the embryo had no "right" to reside in and use my body if I didn't want it to), I don't think that "selfish" feelings and actions are always unjustified. After all, this is my life to live, my choices to make, and the aftermaths of those choices are mine to own in whatever ways I happen to own them.

No, this process was not fun (most medical procedures aren't), and I am therefore certainly not chomping at the bit to have another abortion. I have always been, and still am, an advocate of safe sex and preventative birth control. But the need for abortion will always exist, and it's important to remember that many women, every day, choose it without regret or remorse.

I am one of those women, and proud to be a voice of legitimacy for our shared experiences.

Why Abortion is Not Up for Debate (Even Though I Debate Abortion)

(Note: This post originally appeared on a different blog of mine.)

I feel so fortunate to have so many friends and family members with diverse worldviews and opinions. We all make the world go 'round, and together come up with answers and solutions to make this world we call home a better place. My circles include fellow atheists, but also Christians, Muslims, New Agers, and Hindus; fellow Democrats but also Republicans and libertarians; fellow liberals, but also conservatives. I hang with vegans, hipsters, vagabonds, homeschoolers, and others who may or may not agree with my own personal opinions and worldviews. And I love sharing ideas with everyone, and hearing ideas in return -- it's the only way we come to honest understandings of the world around us and, most importantly, of ourselves and why we live the lives we do. I love debating, and passionately so, sharing the knowledge I've acquired through the years and, again, coming to new understandings about others in the process.

There is one issue, however, that is hotly debated and highly controversial in our current society, which I deem to be not debatable. Abortion is one of the hottest "hot button" topics in modern political discourse. The anti-choice stance (or "pro-life," if you prefer), though, is one that I do not simply disagree with -- I find it to be one of the most offensive I've ever encountered, and I do not believe that the legality of abortion is a topic that should be up for debate. Let me explain why.

I know that, at first, this might seem like a really strange stance to take. After all, what is so offensive and distasteful about wanting to save babies' lives, right? This is how many people view the issue -- as one of life versus death -- and it's created a rhetoric in our country involving a "culture of life" versus a "culture of death." Who wouldn't want to align themselves with a "culture of life," right? It's not that I don't understand these views. I have many friends and family who consider themselves to be pro-life, and are vehemently against the idea of abortion. Some of them have had an abortion themselves, and sincerely regret it. Others cannot stand the thought of "innocent" life, as it's been prescribed, being snuffed out before it's had a chance to really begin. I've heard these arguments over and over again, but the issue goes much deeper.

Let me first say that this issue, for me, is all about legality. I think that we could likely argue for and against the morality and ethics of abortion all day long, but that's not what this is about -- it's about legality, and the reason it's about legality is because there are very aggressive movements in our country that are actively working to either make abortion illegal, or else completely unattainable. That is what matters to me. That is what I'm concerned about. And it's what I want those who call themselves pro-life to truly consider.

We do not make laws in our country based on one set of morals. Morality should never be the deciding factor in whether something is legal or illegal. The legality of something should based on the ways in which we can best protect individual freedoms while still existing within the same society. It's illegal to murder, for example, not because it's immoral, but because that act infringes on a person's individual freedom and autonomy. It's illegal to steal, as another example, not because it's immoral, but because that act infringes on the seller's rights to her or his own property. When something poses a threat to society or others within it marks the time when it should become illegal. That's not to say that there aren't some laws pushed through that are based on someone's moral stances, but that isn't how it should be in a free society. Such laws infringe on the rights of others who don't agree with said stances.

That being said, the right to abortion is about a woman's right to own, and claim to her own, body. It's about her right to allow or not allow someone else to live inside of it and grow. It's about her right to deny an embryo or fetus the use of her bodily resources.

It's about her right to evict an unwanted tenant within her body. And any argument that claims she does not have these rights rests on the assumption that her body does not fully belong to her, but rather to the state (or to a developing fetus), and that the state has a right to allow other people full access to her body whether she wants that to happen or not. Let me restate that: anti-choice arguments rest on the notion that women's bodies do not belong to them, and can be commandeered for the sake of others.

This is why I find these arguments so offensive. They assume that I am not fully deserving of complete human rights. (I know you have objections and questions. I will get to them -- I promise.)

I cannot place enough emphasis on just how much individual freedom is dependent on each individual's right to bodily autonomy. Let me make clear that bodily autonomy doesn't refer to a right to do whatever we want, at any time, with our bodies -- it simply refers to the right to be the sole owners of our bodies and prevent others from using them. Bodily autonomy is the reason why we are not forced into blood donation, even though an increase in such donations would save many lives. It's why we're not forced to donate organs, even though a great many men, women, and children will die without them -- and even though these organs will otherwise rot in the ground and serve no other purpose after we die. It's because of the underlying understanding that our bodies belong to us and no one else, even when other lives hang in the balance. We do not even force prisoners, and others removed from society, to donate their bodies to science. Our appreciation for bodily autonomy and its necessity for full freedom, prevents it.

To say that a woman, by law, must allow an embryo or fetus to use her body against her will is stripping her of her bodily autonomy.

I know that some people will object to this by stating that a woman placed herself in this situation by having sex, as though consensual sex somehow equates to actively giving up her rights to her body. This argument states that a woman chose to have sex, and therefore must "take responsibility" for whatever consequence might come of it. Let me state, though, that consent to sex does not equal consent to pregnancy, and a woman should never be required to forfeit her rights to autonomy simply for choosing sex. Women's rights to their bodies should never be questioned because they chose to have sex. There is no other comparable application of law in which we strip someone of their bodily rights simply because they made a choice that placed someone else in the situation of needing their bodies. We don't say that because someone did something that left another person needing their body, they must therefore be required by law to give it. Honestly, are we as a society willing to commit to the idea that being the cause of someone else's need for our bodies should be the deciding factor in whether we are forced to allow said people to legally commandeer and use them?

The no-sex argument, too, relies on the notion that all sex should be centered around procreation. "Oh, it's simple," some people will say. "If you don't want to be pregnant, or don't want kids, then don't have sex. It's not like we don't know where babies come from." I've heard this so many times I've lost count of the exact tally. But, again, it assumes that all sex should be about, or at least "open to," procreation. Understand that this is a very naive and inexperienced view of sex. We have evolved to use sex for many purposes, procreation being only one of them.

As humans, we use sex to bond with those we love. We use it as an expression of love, and a way in which to give ourselves to those we love. It is an expression of trust, of affection, and is one of the closest ways in which we develop connections with our significant others. To say that all sex should be about procreation means that many couples -- including those who don't want kids, can't have kids, or have health issues that bar them from healthy pregnancies -- should never consummate their marriages, and never experience the intense bonding described above. They should simply abstain for life, I suppose. Birth control is a wonderful solution for many couples, but is not foolproof (and, unfortunately, somewhat difficult to obtain for some couples because of active attempts to make it unattainable by, you guessed it, the anti-choice crowd).

And, yes, sex feels good. But to claim that sex for pleasure's sake is immoral is like claiming that eating for pleasure is immoral. Sex certainly has a biological drive and purpose, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use it for other purposes. The drive behind, and purpose of, eating is to nourish our bodies. But that doesn't stop us from eating, even if we're not hungry, a piece of cake, a cookie, or something else with absolutely no nutritional value. It doesn't stop us from bonding with others over meals, or using food to appreciate and understand culture. And if we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of becoming ill because of these pleasures, we as a society certainly don't say, "Well, too bad -- you knew the consequences when you ate, and now need to stay ill as penance." There are viable medical options to assist people in recovering from eating-induced illness. And the same should be true of pregnancy. (And if you're arguing in your head about "another life" hanging in the balance with pregnancy, remember that, first and foremost, we're speaking here about people's rights to treat their own bodies if and when they need to.)

Further, the "just don't have sex" argument assumes that all women who become pregnant choose sex. There are, however, many who are raped and did not consent to the sexual encounter that left them pregnant. In this situation, a woman did not "know what she was doing" in the act of becoming pregnant. However, where the argument goes from here on out becomes very interesting, and I'll tell you why. If your argument is "just don't have sex," but you agree that women who are raped should be able to access an abortion, then your argument has nothing to do with being "pro-life" or "pro-baby." An embryo or fetus that results from rape is no less human, and no less of a potential baby, than one that results from consensual sex. That's just how biology works. The argument, then, has become a crystal clear advocacy campaign for punishing sexually active women by stripping them of bodily rights. If you honestly believe that a woman who chooses sex should be banned from an abortion, but a woman who was raped should be allowed an abortion, your argument is simply anti-sex. It's not pro-baby. Please understand that.

If, however, your argument is that abortion should always be illegal, regardless of if the woman was raped or not, then recognize that your argument isn't really about "personal responsibility," and I really question why the "just don't have sex" argument would be used at all. Further, believing that all abortions should be illegal (usually because one doesn't believe in "punishing the baby" for a crime it didn't commit) is advocating that women should be slaves to their biology for, again, the sake of another. Regardless of her dreams, her goals, her life, and the world she has created for and within herself, if you believe that her body should always be, first and foremost, available to a fetus if it needs it, then you are arguing that women's bodies aren't fully theirs. You are arguing that women's bodies are government property. One rape can change the course of a young woman's entire life if she is forced to keep the resulting pregnancy.

If you don't agree with either of the above scenarios, then please reconsider using the "just don't have sex" argument.

Perhaps, though, you consider pregnancy to be a minor inconvenience that women should have to endure for the sake of another life. Perhaps you believe that abortion should be available, but only if the mother's life is in danger. I've heard many people say that saving both lives is the best option, but if both are going to die, then an abortion to save the mother is acceptable. Maybe you are someone who agrees. The problem, however, with this line of reasoning is health is such a spectrum of gray areas that nobody is truly qualified to decide when a woman's life is truly in enough danger to justify an abortion. I'm sure many of you remember Savita Halappanavar, who, while visiting the anti-choice country of Ireland during a wanted pregnancy, died because the doctors were not sure if her life was really in danger, and feared legal repercussions of performing an abortion if it was not. She is dead now, despite the fact that she asked for an abortion to save her own life when her pregnancy went wrong.

Aside from this, I want to point out that it is dehumanizing to suggest that the only thing of value about a woman that is worth saving is her very life. In a recent debate about abortion between Matt Dillahunty and Clinton Wilcox, the latter claimed that a woman should have to carry a pregnancy even if she would be harmed to the point of having to be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. In his opinion, life -- physical existence -- is the single most important thing, and the only thing worth considering when determining if a woman should be allowed access to abortion. Everything else -- her love of exercise, perhaps, or hot fudge sundaes; her busy life full of travel and business meetings that require good health; her dreams of becoming a world-class gymnast, or musical theater performer, or her ambition to swim the English channel, or to simply live a long, fulfilling life doing what she loves -- all becomes secondary and not worth anything. To suggest that all of it is worth sacrificing in order to protect the life inside of her is, again, dehumanizing. It suggests that women are not people with real experiences, dreams, and lives outside of the capacity to become and remain pregnant.

I want to point out, too, that pregnancy is not a mere "inconvenience." It is a life-changing, body-altering commitment. I know, as I happen to have endured and completed a pregnancy. Some women have fantastic pregnancies, and that's great for them -- but the fact is that many women do not, and the state of pregnancy is life-threatening for all women. Some people don't honestly understand what happens within a woman's body when she becomes pregnant, but, in short, the fertilized egg commandeers her body and resources, at her expense, and creates a parasitic relationship (I know that's tough for some to think about, but it's true). The biological process literally becomes a fight for resources. It sometimes results (as it did with me) in serious medical complications and illnesses, some of which are irreversible. These things should be a woman's choice to endure, or not.

A woman's rights rest on her right to bodily autonomy. But what, you may ask, about the baby's rights? Some people are pushing for personhood rights to be granted to all fetuses, and, in some cases, even to fertilized eggs. But honestly, precisely because of the bodily rights that we respect in most cases, no person has a "right" to use someone else's body in order to sustain their own survival. This is not a real human right. I cannot force my own parents to donate a body part, even if I will otherwise die. You cannot do this, either. Nobody can. So to grant fetuses this right is to give them not personhood rights, but special rights not granted to other humans. And this special right is at the expense of another living, breathing human being. In what way is this justifiable?

As a hypothetical, let's pretend that you're driving your toddler to a birthday party. You have taken all necessary precautions, including wearing seat belts and following the posted speed limits. But something goes wrong and, despite your good intentions, you wind up in a severe car accident. You black out, but when you wake up you find that you have been manually connected to your toddler. You did not consent to this, but he needs you to remain connected to access your blood and resources, otherwise he will die. As his parent, and as someone who knew the possible consequences of driving a car with a child -- and also knew the possible consequences of having a child that might need your body -- should you have the legal right to disconnect? I'm not asking whether you would or wouldn't, or whether it would be moral for you to disconnect ... I'm only asking whether you should be legally allowed to. Honestly try to picture the scenario for just a moment. Maybe you have a big, life-changing job interview coming up. Maybe you had a lucrative performance scheduled. But your own feelings, happiness, health, and experience are not a factor here. There are hoards of people who are actively and aggressively trying to make sure that you do not have a right to disconnect. Because the other life that hangs in the balance means more. Because you drove a car, knowing in advance what could possibly happen. Your life and your body are no longer your own.

Imagine the feeling of the government deciding for you what happens to your body, and you have no say.

Really put yourself in that situation. And honestly tell me that the notion that your legal right to disconnect wouldn't mean something to you. Tell me that you would not feel dehumanized, and tell me that others noses in your personal medical business would not offend you.

As parents, would we be required to seek out all medical care available for our injured children? Of course we would. This might involve lots of time and money, and this is required of all parents (men and women alike). But what we're never required to do is offer up any part of our bodies in order to save our children's lives. The difference between the requirement to provide medical care through time and money and the requirement to provide medical care through our very bodies is the differentiation between property rights and bodily rights. They are very different things. Every parent is required to care for their children, but I challenge you to find one (except for pregnant women) who have been required by law to donate their bodies in order to save their child's life (or, I can save you time right now by telling you that you won't find it). Again, our understanding of property rights and bodily rights differs very much, and are therefore not comparable.

The above example (regarding the child in the car) is an updated example of Judith Jarvis Thompson's violinist analogy (which I highly recommend to anyone who is unfamiliar with modern pro-choice arguments, or unfamiliar with the bodily rights argument). I've updated it to be more applicable to the abortion question -- changing the violinist, for example, to a child, and the "hooked up" person to a parent. The reason I did this is because I think it addresses a fundamental question: If we, as women, are bodily responsible for our offspring because we chose to have sex, then why aren't all people bodily responsible for their offspring after pregnancy ends? If we "knew what we were doing" when we had sex and got pregnant, surely we also "knew what we were doing" when we "created" a child that might need our bodies somewhere down the line. If a fetus has a "right" to use its mother's body to survive pregnancy, then why does it lose this "right" upon birth? Why aren't all parents required to be bodily responsible for children who will otherwise die?

I've heard people respond to this using the naturalistic fallacy, claiming that pregnancy is a "natural" state (natural meaning "good," I suppose), and abortion is the deliberate act of stopping it. Not saving an already-born child, they argue, is different because allowing that child to die is also "natural," not a deliberate act of taking a life. This, however, is honestly a battle of semantics -- whether we choose to view abortion as "murder" or as the simple termination of a pregnancy ... which naturally, mind you, results in the death of the fetus. Abortion, see, is the removal of a pregnancy from a woman's body. It's unfortunate that the fetuses (or embryos) in question cannot survive after being removed, but the removal itself is the termination of the pregnant state, not "active murder." Knowing that the fetus will die due to this event isn't all that different from knowing that your child will die without that blood transfusion that you may or may not want to give (and whether or not you would isn't the question here -- it's your legal right to say yes or no when faced with the situation).

Being pro-choice isn't about hating pregnancy, babies, or about loving death. Honestly, listening to some in the anti-choice crowd, you'd think we were chomping at the bit to see more and more babies aborted. It's not about that. We celebrate pregnancies and births, and love that men and women can create happy families through babies that they love. We enjoy these things as much as anyone else. But we believe that pregnancy needs to be a woman's choice, lest she be deprived of her human rights to her own body.

This is about consent. Consent to carry a pregnancy is everything, and a game changer. But to say that a woman should have no consent whatsoever in what happens within her own body is one of the most dehumanizing and degrading notions that modern women face.

I am a woman. My body is my own. My uterus belongs to me. And your body belongs to you. And this understanding is foundational to personal freedom. If you are a person who values freedom, particularly freedom from government intrusion, but do not believe that a woman's body fully belongs to her, then I challenge you to ask yourself why. Everybody should enjoy the same freedoms, and nobody should be forced to be a slave to their own biology.

Where do your objections come from? Is it about babies? Is it about sex? Is it about women? Morality and ethics aside, what justifiable reason do you have as to why other women should be legally barred from full bodily autonomy? Regardless of your own views on what constitutes a selfish act and what is probably good for you, personally, why is it justifiable to deny bodily rights to every woman in the country?

As you ponder these things, be careful with your answers. Remember that the implications are not only the innocent babies you've been hearing about, but also real women who should have the same rights to their bodies as everyone else. It really isn't too much to ask.

This is why I don't believe abortion is truly debatable. My human, bodily rights are not up for debate.

My Response to the Gospel Coalition

(Note: This post originally appeared on another blog of mine in 2012. It has been edited to update my thoughts on some of these issues)

The Gospel Coalition, a popular Christian ministry, recently posted a blog titled 10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate is Never Asked by the Media. They posted this because The Gospel Coalition believes that the media tends to ask pro-life candidates tough questions relating to their abortion stances, but fails to do the same for pro-choice candidates. In their opinion, pro-life candidates are grilled, so to speak, for being pro-life, but pro-choice candidates are given a pass. So they posted a list of 10 questions that they'd like to see answered by pro-choice politicians. I'm not a politician, but do have a few things to say in regard to these questions. So let's get started, shall we?

1) You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraception. Are there any restrictions you would approve of?

In short, no. I do not support restricting a woman's right to her own body.

The underlying assumption of this question is that everyone out there would want to restrict abortion in some way -- usually, the picture that comes to mind is a woman nine months pregnant with a healthy baby deciding willy-nilly to get an abortion -- and then, the pro-life questioners think, once they can back a pro-choice person into the corner of admitting they'd accept some restrictions, they begin questioning why a baby's life matters at some points throughout pregnancy and not in others. Then, when things go the pro-life questioner's way, things get murky and sticky for the pro-choice person.

That's what this question is all about.

But we need to erase the assumptions and clear up some ill definitions. First of all, abortion isn't about killing babies (as anti-choice rhetoric would have you believe). It's about ending pregnancies. Women have many, many reasons for ending pregnancies. For the record, the image of that woman in her ninth month of pregnancy just deciding to get an abortion doesn't reflect reality -- women who choose abortion when they're that far along (if they even can -- most of the time, state laws prohibit it) do so in a heart-wrenching decision that was made due to her health or the baby's health. So there's that.

So, with the understanding that abortion is about aborting a pregnancy (the death of a fetus is a natural consequence of the fact that it can't survive outside of a woman's body), my stance is that if a woman wishes to end a pregnancy after viability (which is what this question targets), for whatever reason, perhaps there would be an option to try and save the baby's life after the pregnant state has been terminated. Perhaps not. That really depends on the situation, and why the woman is choosing to terminate (which is none of anyone else's business).

But I would not support a restriction on any woman's right to end the state of being pregnant.

2) In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female?

I believe that aborting based on the biological sex of the baby is an awful reality that our world faces. But I also believe that it's a woman's right to abort for whatever reason she wants or needs, and we should not be in the business of questioning the motives of women who abort.

That being said, let me point out that sex-selective abortions are not an issue because of abortion being legal. They are an issue because of deep cultural and systemic sexism. In order to address sex-selective abortions, we first need to address the underlying cause, which is cultural sexism that leads potential parents to believe that sons are more valuable than daughters, and that daughters are, therefore, expendable. We fight this not by eliminating the right to abortion, but by working to eliminate sexism, and creating a world in which daughters are valued and loved just as much as sons. That is not currently the world we live in.

Outlawing abortion because of sex-selective abortions would create one of two scenarios: 1) the woman in question would get an illegal and dangerous abortion anyway, or 2) the woman would give birth to a daughter she (and everyone else) did not want, and the girl would grow up likely abused and mistreated. Forcing the birth of an unwanted girl does nothing to eliminate the sexism inherent in sex-selective abortions. Wouldn't it be better if people were relieved of the cultural notions that boys are "better than" girls?

I am very much against the notion of interrogating women as to why they're having abortions. Who gets to decide what's an acceptable reason? And who gets to decide if a woman is lying about her intent? Women deserve trust and respect, and in terms of this particular reason for aborting, women need to live in societies where their value is on par with that of men. That's what will solve this problem.

3) In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?

To begin with, no, I do not support parental notification or a parent's "right" to force a daughter to complete a pregnancy (nor do I support a parent's "right" to force a daughter to have an abortion). The autonomy of teenage girls should be respected, and decisions regarding their bodies and futures should be their decisions.

The reason that teenagers are denied aspirin from schools without parental consent is because the schools themselves must avoid potential lawsuits and monitor drug use on campus. Schools therefore have a right to regulate (and, again, monitor) drug use on campus. And that has nothing to do with whether anyone -- schools, doctors, legislators, or even parents -- should be able to commandeer a teenager's body and force her to carry a pregnancy. To suggest that anyone should be able to do so is to suggest that a teenager's body does not belong to her (that they are not individuals worthy of autonomy).

Let's look at the implications here -- without her aspirin, a girl might have to experience cramping, or a headache, or some other form of pain (the same goes for teenage boys in high school when they're denied an aspirin). Without an abortion, however, she'd be forced to carry a ten-month pregnancy, give birth, and face the potential of teen motherhood (all of which have significant effects on physical and mental health). In other words, should adults have the right to monitor a teenager's drug use (or other behaviors)? Yes, within reason. But should they be allowed to deny a teenager bodily autonomy? Absolutely not.

I do think it would be ideal if parents played a supportive role in their children's major life decisions, regarding their health and otherwise. But parents do not own their children, and should never have the right to limit a child's personal rights. In an ideal world, a young woman would be able to approach her parents about this issue and have a conversation about it, but we don't live in an ideal world. There are certainly reasons (especially in our culture) why a young woman would want to avoid that conversation with her parents, and I support her right to access reproductive health care without consent.

In short, taking aspirin is not a constitutional right. Aborting a pregnancy is.

4) If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?

To begin, human life is a spectrum. There is no point in which life magically begins.

That being said, when life begins -- or, even, when a child should have human rights -- is absolutely beside the point. No one has a right to use another person's body for their own survival against that other person's will. I don't have that right, you don't have that right, and an unborn child doesn't have that right. Any "right" to another person's body does not exist, and has never been considered a human right. So why should it be considered one in the case of pregnancy? To grant the unborn such a "right" would be to grant them special rights that no one else possesses.

So, to ask whether unborn babies should be granted human rights has nothing to do with abortion, because the use of someone else's body is not a human right.

5) Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?

In the eugenics movement, adult people were being forced into sterilization -- in other words, their own autonomy and bodily rights were being violated. That is not analogous to a woman choosing to not give birth to a child who she knows will experience hardship throughout life. The situations might be analogous if the government started forcing women to abort Down Syndrome babies, but that isn't currently the case. As always, the choice to abort (and the reasons why) rests with the woman and her own reasons for making decisions that affect her and her future.

6) Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her religious conscience by providing access to abortifacient drugs and contraception to employees?

Let's be clear about one thing -- insurance premiums are part of a comprehensive compensation package that an employee earns. Let me repeat that. Employees earn their compensation. Pay and benefits are not gifts that employers hand out, out of the goodness of their hearts. As such, an employer has no right to say what an employee does with that compensation.

A friend of mine had an employer once who had a religious objection to the Disney company (it had something to do with gay rights, but I don't know the ins and outs of it). Does that mean that this employer had a right to tell my friend that he couldn't use his paycheck, or perhaps paid time off, to visit Disneyland or watch a Disney movie? The money he earned came directly from this employer, so does said employer have a right to say what I do with it?

If your employer believes only in faith healing, should he have a right to dictate that such healings are the only thing that can be included in your premium? If your employer is a Jehovah's Witness, can she dictate that blood transfusions not be included in your premium? Should an employer have a right to force you to not use your compensation on something just because they don't want "their" money being used for those purposes? No, because that money is no longer theirs. It belongs to the employee, who earned it.

Most people understand the basics of this within the context of most situations. What you do with your own compensation is none of your employer's business. Therefore, if you want contraception or abortion included in your insurance premium, that choice is yours alone to make. No one has a right to dictate the lives of others through the guise of "religious freedom."

The point of religious freedom (and you can honestly do research on this subject to see for yourself) is to make sure that nobody is forced to join or leave any one religion -- in other words, a person must always be free to worship (or not) as he or she pleases. If you live in a country where you can be executed for following the "wrong" religion, you are experiencing religious persecution. This is a far cry from being asked to follow the law while conducting business in a country that embraces religious freedom. Everyone is free to follow whatever religion they'd like to, and to worship however they'd like to, and attend whatever service they'd like to -- but that freedom does not include any right to discriminate against others or control others while you are participating in the open market where not everyone shares your views.

7) Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to the charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas with large numbers of minorities?

My answer to this question is very similar to my answer to the question regarding sex-selective abortions.

The fact that minority communities have more abortions than white communities is indicative of a larger problem -- that is, that there are more minority communities living in poverty and struggling financially, and, as an extension of that, are less likely to have access to comprehensive sex education and birth control. This is a result of a long period of oppression against minority communities. But when people have little access to money, food, shelter, and education (you know, about their bodies and how to protect themselves against pregnancy), guess what? Abortion rates will go up.

Making abortion illegal and forcing minority women to carry pregnancies they don't want and/or can't afford (and will likely further perpetuate the cycle of poverty) isn't going to solve this problem. What will help solve this problem is making sure that women have access to education and contraception, and that our society is taking proactive steps to lift people out of poverty and create a more equitable society.

I want to bring up here that the countries with the lowest abortion rates are in western Europe, where atheism, liberalism, contraception, and sex education are abundant. In these countries, abortion is legal, but the numbers are low. Countries such as ours, which make concerted efforts to shame sex and keep people uneducated about any method of contraception other than abstinence, tend to have very high abortion rates (and this is true in countries where abortion is illegal, too). Criminalizing abortion doesn't reduce -- or end -- abortion. But progressive social policies do. So if the end-goal is really about ending abortion (among minorities and elsewhere) rather than punishing sex, why do so many in the pro-life crowd consistently oppose the measures that have been shown to actually reduce it?

So minority communities seeking abortion more than white communities is not evidence that abortion is a tool used by racists to further perpetuate racism. Many minority women choose abortion for themselves, which makes it a rather empowering thing. In all honesty, further perpetuating racism and poverty among minorities would be easier done by blocking women from accessing abortion and other reproductive rights.

8) You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?

Not everyone considers abortion to be a "tragic choice." Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.

On the surface, the idea of abortion can also be considered tragic because women seek abortions when they are faced with unwanted pregnancy. No one gets pregnant on purpose just so they can dish out hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars and undergo a procedure. This is tragic in the same way that a transplant surgery is tragic, in that nobody wants to undergo that procedure or deal with the lifetime consequences of that, but sometimes they need to and so they do. And, along with the tragedy of having to go through that, there is also usually great thankfulness and relief that they were able to. The same is true of abortion.

But let's dig deeper. Abortion can be a tragic choice when it's a choice that a woman must make, but doesn't want to. There are times when a woman might want a baby, or be connected to the idea of having a baby, or has become quite attached to her developing pregnancy, but must make the decision to abort anyway (for whatever reason). That is tragic. There are times when a woman is joyfully carrying a pregnancy, but discovers that she must abort due to an abnormality in the fetus or for the sake of her own health. That is tragic, and it's tragic because it involves a medical procedure that the woman doesn't want. The same would be the case for any necessary medical procedure that the person doesn't want to, but must, have. Such procedures cause grief, and that is tragic.

In short, there are many medical procedures that encompass both tragic and non-tragic elements. Framing abortion as entirely tragic while other procedures are entirely non-tragic is disingenuous, and not looking at the bigger picture of what medical procedures can and do entail.

9) Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?

Yes. Abortion should be legal even when the fetus is viable. Again, as I already pointed out above, this is because abortion should not be defined as "killing babies," but rather as terminating a pregnancy. Just because embryos and early fetuses cannot survive outside of a woman's body does not mean that abortion is about killing babies. It's still about ending the state of being pregnant. If this is done before a fetus is viable, then it will die; if it's done after a fetus is viable, then there's a chance it will live.

My position is that a woman should never be forced by law to serve as life support to someone else. So if she decides she doesn't want to be pregnant, or realizes she cannot, then she should always be able to request the other person be removed from her body. Again, as I've also mentioned before, what that means for a viable fetus is another question -- if we weren't talking about termination, but a woman inducing labor and then walking away from the born fetus, does that change things for the anti-choice crowd? Because, really, that's how this question needs to be framed.

10) If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence?

No.

But let's flip this around. Do you believe that if a pregnant woman is raped, and the fetus she's carrying dies but she does not, the perpetrator should face murder charges? What if this rape happens when she's still in the first trimester, not showing, and she miscarries right after being raped? Should the rapist be charged with rape, murder, or both?

Should a pregnant women be able to claim an unborn child on her taxes? If I'm pregnant, can I drive in the carpool lane? There are plenty of instances in which an unborn child is not considered a sentient being apart from the woman.

But here's the point, once again: this is about women making decisions for themselves. A woman has a right to make decisions about her body, including who can and cannot use it for survival, but that doesn't give anyone else the right to murder or harm either she or the fetus she's carrying. A woman's right to abort doesn't extend to others' "rights" to abort for her. This is about her choice, remember, since it is her body in question.

Anti-choice rhetoric tends to make abortion an issue about babies or the men involved and, in the meantime, completely erase the pregnant women from the picture. But the natural state of pregnancy leaves women with tremendous power over life and death that doesn't extend to others. As we continually see, though, people having tremendous power in this world -- especially when it's a woman -- is at the root of the abortion issue. There are too many people afraid of this power that women hold over life and death, and are determined to take it away and claim that power as their own.

Those associated with the Gospel Coalition -- and others -- there you go. Answers to your questions which, quite honestly, did not strike me as the "tough" questions you apparently hoped they'd be. As always, I welcome feedback and reply.