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Time, Place, and Manner

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The Abortion Debate's Big Lie

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Feminism has lied to you about the abortion debate.

…And, there goes our female readership.


The classic pro-abortion rights argument is the bodily integrity argument. It’s a woman’s body to do with as she wants, and the state (and daddy) doesn’t have any right to tell her what she can and cannot do with her body.

Fair enough. Bodily integrity is a pretty important right. If you want to stuff your face full of transfats, cigarettes, alcohol, and piercings, go right ahead. Heck, you can have your gender changed if you want to. Hooray freedom, this is America.

Get your laws out of, off of, and far away from my body!

So, you wouldn’t complain if you were raped, right?

…Seriously, there goes our female readership.


Of course you’d complain if you were raped. You’d probably complain to a law enforcement officer and expect him and the rest of the state to bring the pain of the criminal justice system down on your rapist. As well you should.

But, now imagine your rapist offers this response: Rape laws tell me where I can and cannot put my penis. That’s a part of my body. Get your laws off of my body!

That defense doesn’t even pass the laugh test. Have fun in prison, sicko.

There are all sorts of laws that regulate what you can do with your body. You can’t put your finger in other people’s eyes. You can’t waggle your naughty bits at children. You can’t put your hand into someone’s chest, no matter how convincingly you should “Kali ma!”

The reason for this is quite simple. Your right to do what you want with your body ends when you try to infringe on someone else’s right to do what they want with their body. This is human rights 101.

So, with abortion, the question is whether the morals of other people should be able to infringe on the rights of women, right?

No. Well, not entirely. That’s just one of many important questions that needs to be answered.


What we’ve seen in Mississippi, with the attempt to define a fertilized egg as a human being, gets at a much more fundamental issue, one that feminism tends to hide: When do you become a person?

You see, the whole “woman’s right to control her body” argument falls apart if the entity inside her is a person. (We say entity because there is in fact a difference between a zygote and a fetus.)

If that entity is a person, then the woman’s right to do what she wants with her body is infringing on the entity’s right to do what it wants with its body. Of course, it doesn’t actually have any desires (and that may be an important fact), but we can assume that if it were capable of desire, it would want to not be destroyed.

The entity also appears to be infringing on the woman’s right to control her body. And so, we have a conundrum.

This is where feminism has lied to you. Feminism pretends that the issue is a woman’s right to control her body. It’s not. If there was no other person’s interests at play, no decent human being would want to deny her that right. The dispute with the anti-abortion camp is not about the right to control your body, but whether the unborn entity is a person.

If you believe it is a person, in the relevant moral sense, then the right to control your body argument doesn’t go very far. You have to weigh the two evils, infringing on the woman’s right to control her body for the next several months, or the right of the entity to exist at all. While the infringement against the mother is quite severe, the infringement against the entity is far greater. It’s hard to see how abortion rights can stand up if you answer Yes on the personhood question.


If you answer No on the personhood question, you have another very important question to answer: When does personhood attach?

Mainstream feminism will say at birth, but it is without a good reason why. The only difference between a viable fetus and a newborn baby is location. Birth provides a very bright line, but bright lines are just a matter of convenience, and that’s not a very good argument for a question so important as personhood.

There are three points in life that do make sense for attaching personhood. The first is fertilization. At that point you are a biological human. If you buy that anything biologically human is a person, this point should have some appeal.

The second is the age of accountability, the point at which you are capable of understanding the concepts of right and wrong and acting with moral agency. This point makes a lot of sense. What makes people People and animals Mere Animals isn’t our number of chromosomes, but our moral agency. The issue of recognizing when someone is of that age aside (courts already do make these decisions, and we could err on the side of caution just to be safe), taking the agency point of view of personhood would seem to allow infanticide; an infant is clearly not a moral agent.

Of course, we could still punish infanticide, but the same way we punish killing other non-person animals. The offense would be conceptually similar to animal cruelty, but with a much harsher punishment, though still somewhat lesser than a murder rap.

The third and final point that makes sense is the age of majority. This is the point at which the law recognizes that you have rights. This is when the law begins to treat you as a person, so it would at least be internally consistent to say this is when you become a person. We still have the infanticide problem, but now you can kill your 16 year old, too. Same fix though by just criminalizing teenicide (tweenicide would be legal though).

The best argument feminism has for making birth the point at which personhood and a right to life attaches is that it protects abortion rights. But, that's ridiculous. The definition of personhood should follow the rights some people want to have; quite the contrary, your rights should follow a definition of personhood based on neutral principles.

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