They Know It’s a Baby?

Let me get this straight. You’re saying they know it’s a baby?

Surely, they have a sneaking suspicion. They just say the issue is moot. Whether it’s a baby or not, the woman alone should decide whether to bring the thing to term. The woman is a full-fledged human being with full-fledged human rights. The bloated sack of protoplasm she carries is nothing more than a quasi-human being with quasi-human rights. Full-fledged human rights trump protoplasm quasi-rights, no matter how bloated.

They may say, “Her body, her choice.” As if that clinches the matter. As if the peculiarities of the case don’t render application of the principle excruciatingly thorny. As if “her body, her choice” hasn’t proven maddeningly elusive in a wide range of applications far less thorny.

No woman has a right to shoot heroin into her own veins or snort cocaine into her own nostrils. No woman has a right to work for a healthcare provider without submitting to a dodgy injection. No woman has a right to drive a car without fastening her seatbelt. You might think that if a woman has a right to do what she chooses to her body when it comes to abortion, then a fortiori she has a right to do what she chooses to her body when it comes to drug use, vaccine refusal, or driving without a seatbelt. What does “her body, her choice” mean anyway?

Rhetoric aside, bodily autonomy is immaterial to the debate. After all, no man can do drugs, refuse a mandated vaccine, or drive without a seatbelt, either. What a man can do is walk away from a pregnancy. Even if he had a hand (as it were) in it.

That’s the trump card. Unequal treatment under the law dwarfs all other considerations. Even if basic biology drives the unequal treatment. Legal restrictions on abortion are discriminatory against women–by definition! And discrimination, as we all know, is the deadliest of the Eight Deadly Sins.

The estimable Dr. Naomi Wolf has conceded as much. “I am pro-choice,” she writes, “in the sense that in no way, hard as I have tried, can I see how women can have basic equality or self-determination in any society if they cannot choose to terminate a pregnancy with the first trimester.” Dr. Wolf makes her case even as she affirms the humanity of the fetus. Indeed, she goes so far as to criticize the pro-choice position for having “developed a lexicon of dehumanization.” “Sometimes,” she writes, “the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die.”

You have to wonder. What kind of lexicon “affirms” the humanity of a fetus while deciding it “must die”? Dehumanization would seem to inhere in the act itself. If a woman’s right to equality trumps the fetus’ right to life, the fetus may as well be a turnip.

It also opens up a Pandora’s Box all its own. What if women exercising self-determination do so in such a way that they eliminate more girl turnips than boy turnips? Does our professed feminist shrug so unseemly a state of affairs off? Right to choose means right to choose, right? Or does she find herself grappling instead with the issue of disproportionately eliminated girl turnips? Does she say, “In no way, hard as I have tried, can I see how women can have basic equality or self-determination in any society if abortion has a disparate impact on the very existence of future women”?

Talk about penumbras and emanations! Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to de-conceive!

Yes, they know it’s a baby–but it’s OK to kill a baby if you don’t discriminate against it.

Discriminatory feticide is a thing. Advancements in prenatal testing have enabled women to exercise cultural preferences for male progeny via sex-selective abortion (SSA). Aborting baby girls is sufficiently widespread that 50 million Indian women are now deemed “missing.”

India has enacted a ban against SSA, but the disparity persists. Imbalances likewise beset China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Korea. Across wide swathes of the globe, abortion on demand–the crown jewel of the women’s rights movement–has resulted in a dearth of future women.

The legal status of SSA in the West remains largely unsettled. In 2018, the U.K. Labour Party announced a policy banning the practice, with women’s equality spokesperson Naz Shah calling SSA “incredibly unethical.” Her nod to the repressive Christian patriarchy has not gone unchallenged. As University of Birmingham Lecturer in Global Ethics Jeremy Williams puts it, “[I]f you propose to deprive women of facts about their pregnancies, or interfere with choices they might make about their own bodies and future, you must do more than allege wrongdoingArticulation of a clear and compelling moral objection is required.” (Emphasis added.)

Cornell Law School professor Sital Kalantry has answered the bell. She argues that it is “appropriate to limit sex selection in countries where there is evidence that sex selection is so widespread that it is harming other women and girls. But where such negative consequences are not present, then bans serve no purpose in promoting women’s rights.”

You got that? Turnip-killing qua turnip-killing does not rise to the level where we might articulate “a clear and compelling moral objection.” Discriminatory turnip-killing may not even rise to that level. It all depends on the impact the discriminatory killing of future women has in promoting women’s rights.

Whatever those are. Let freedom, equality, and common human decency ring!

If men could board lifeboats, “Men and children first!” would be the Law of the Sea.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

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