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No, Pro-lifers Don’t Want To Force Women To Birth Babies


This week Planned Parenthood activists have been marching around the nation’s capital dressed in the costumes of sex slaves from the dystopian “Handmaid’s Tale” Hulu show. They’re objecting to Republican discussion of cutting federal funding to the nation’s largest abortion provider after evidence coming out for several years showing the organization trafficking in human body parts obtained from abortions.

Women wearing similar costumes have shown up at state legislatures to protest health and safety regulations for abortion clinics. A standard line relating attempted curbs on abortion to the handmaid garb is that, like the book, Republicans want to “force women to have babies.” It’s evidently a popular trope among abortion supporters. Recently, Federalist contributor Daniel Rendleman highlighted it as an insight he gleaned from spending a semester at Yale Law with a small group of pro-choice women in a reproductive rights seminar.

In sharing his classmates’ perspectives and stressing the need for the pro-life community to respond, Rendleman acceded to this fatal pro-choice fallacy when he professed: “We do want to make women undergo childbirth even when they do not want to.” This statement is wrong on all levels: Logically, scientifically, philosophically, and legally.

People Aren’t Making Women Give Birth, Nature Is

First, like the Left, Rendleman’s assertion presents a false equivalency. Wanting to prohibit the killing of an innocent human being in utero is not equivalent to making a woman undergo childbirth. The difference is apparent if you hypothetically drop the pregnant woman on a deserted—but bountiful in food and drink—island. Without either a pro-life advocate or an abortion doctor present to meddle, what happens a half-dozen months later, give or take? The woman “will undergo childbirth.”

No person or government agency will have “made her undergo childbirth.” Nature will have. Childbirth is the natural conclusion of a pregnancy. Abortion alters the natural order. Thus, a prohibition on abortion does not make a woman undergo child birth; abortion makes her not give birth. Really, the only way to equate laws prohibiting the destruction of an unborn human being with forced childbirth is if “we presuppose a certain kind of mythical understanding of reality.”

Yet pro-choice advocates insist “in no other case except pregnancy, do we legally compel one human to give up their bodily autonomy to sustain the life of another human.” We would never mandate organ donations, they argue:

[M]y life, right now, is not so precious that any other human being could be compelled to use their body to support mine for the next nine months (at least). No other human being is obliged to give up an organ for me, even if it would save my life. Nor bone marrow, nor blood, nor skin. People who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are being asked to do something no other people are asked to do for another person, which exposes the truth of the anti-choice position: Fetuses are valued more highly than the people who carry them.

But rather than prove the pro-choice point, this example dispels their myth of an assault on bodily autonomy. In the case of organ transplants, the law does not force you to do anything with your body. It does not mandate that you donate a kidney or a liver to another human being, even though most mothers would willingly do so for their children. However, the law does prohibit you from hiring a doctor to kill the child awaiting a transplant.

Forcing Is Not the Same as Prohibiting

In the case of transplants—as in most situations—the law distinguishes between forcing and prohibiting. The law does not force a competent patient to submit to chemotherapy but does prohibit that same patient from paying a doctor to administer a terminal dose of narcotics. The law does not make one human being rescue another in peril, but does prohibit a person from placing another in peril. The law does not require a mother or father to consent to resuscitating a newborn baby suffering from a terminal disease, but does prohibit a parent from killing the newborn.

So too in the case of abortion. Pro-life advocates do not seek laws that would require women to do anything with their bodies. Rather, they seek laws that prohibit women to hire a doctor to kill the human being awaiting birth.

Of course the forced transplant scenario is not completely analogous because pregnancy is sui generis: Pregnancy is the only situation where nature mandates that one individual—and only that one individual—can sustain the life of another human being and the only (current) way to alter nature is the direct affirmative killing of the second innocent human being.

The analogy is nonetheless informative: It illustrates the fallacy in the pro-choice bodily autonomy argument: Prohibiting bodily conduct does not equate to requiring bodily conduct. Pro-life advocates seek legislation to prohibit the killing of a human being in utero, but do not seek to require a pregnant woman to do anything, such as to inject herself with progesterone to prevent a miscarriage. If a typical pregnant woman does nothing but sustain her own life, her child will naturally come to term.

Let’s Consider the Child’s Bodily Autonomy As Well

While wrong in suggesting how to address the bodily autonomy argument, Rendleman is nonetheless correct that pro-life advocates must confront this issue. With the advance of science and technology, the pro-choice Left can no longer ignore the humanity of the unborn and thus will cling even more firmly to the altar of bodily autonomy at which they worship. The first step, then, is to expose the fallacy of the Left’s claim that the pro-life community seeks to force childbirth and compel women to render themselves human sacrifices for their unborn children.

But it is also helpful to expose the abortion industry’s waving of the false flag of bodily autonomy: Preserving a woman’s bodily autonomy is not truly the goal for many in the pro-choice community. If it were, they would embrace laws prohibiting abortion after the fetus’ viability. “Deliver. Don’t Abort,” would be the clarion call instead of “Abortion. On Demand.” But it isn’t because the abortion industrial complex doesn’t see abortion as a woman’s right to control her body. They see it as a right to a dead, dismembered, and bartered body.

It’s just rare to capture them on tape admitting as much—proving also that sometimes your opponents are even more evil than you believed them to be.