Abortion and Bodily Autonomy

And what to do with the baby you have

James Gottry
Feb 10, 2017 · 4 min read

I recently read an article in which the author speculated about the motivation driving the pro-life movement. She asked (and concluded):

“Why does that thing bug them more than anything else? . . . In my opinion, it has to do with controlling women’s bodies.”

In other words, this author believes the efforts of the pro-life movement — to counsel women, to expose the corruption of Planned Parenthood and its cohorts, to march, and to pray — have been fueled by nothing more than a desire to play puppet master.


She is grievously mistaken. What “bugs” me about abortion — what cuts me and so many others to our very core — is the simple yet tragic reality that abortion always results in the death of a child.

The race to end abortion has nothing to do with encroaching on a woman’s “bodily autonomy,” and everything to do with wanting desperately to preserve the life of an unborn child; a child who is — if only temporarily — housed inside an inhospitable host.

And the “bodily autonomy” that Planned Parenthood and abortion defenders are so quick to champion? There are two lines of thought to consider.

Bodily Autonomy for Me, But Not for Thee?

Planned Parenthood has worked diligently to spread the word that “bodily autonomy” provides ample justification for a woman to end the life of an unwanted child. After all, why should she be hampered in the full and free exercise of her body?

They’ve been so effective in their message that, incredibly and tragically, the very humanity of the unborn child is deemed irrelevant — or worse, insignificant — when compared to the mother’s unilateral control of her body.

I do believe that even if fetuses were considered people, abortion would still not be murder. No person has rights over another’s body.

- Worry About Your Own Uterus

[F]orcing someone out of your body who you do not consent to being there in the first place is not murder, even though it means they die.

- A Blog About Choice

Granted, while this position is incredible and tragic, it is not suprising. Even the chosen monikers of the two groups — pro-choice versus pro-life — provide unambiguous evidence of the contrasting worldviews and their implications. Those who endorse “choice” do so even at the expense of life.

And, as it turns out, abortion defenders hold their views with such ferocity, they are even willing to turn a blind eye to science.

You see, all the talk about “bodily autonomy” ignores a pretty basic scientific facts: It isn’t her body.

But science, of course, has established that the unborn — though physically dependent on and inside of the mother — is a distinct, self-developing individual with his or her own DNA, brain, arms and legs, etc.
- Paul Stark

If Planned Parenthood and its supporters were really concerned with bodily autonomy for all, then they would start considering the bodily rights of the unborn child. Indeed, we ought to give the same consideration toward the unborn child’s bodily autonomy that we give to the mother.

The fact that the child is temporarily inside the mother doesn’t render his or her life disposable, any more than a guest that you invited into your home should be at the mercy of any murderous whim that strikes you. Even abortion apologist Mary Anne Warren has acknowledged as much:

The Exercise of Bodily Autonomy Already Occurred

I’m a bit embarrassed to be making this second point, but it seems to have escaped the conscious knowledge of many an abortion defender:

Pregnancy is not a spontaneous phenomenon.

Let’s see if I can make this more clear: absent egregious circumstances, the unborn child is not in the womb without consent. Rather, the child in the womb is a natural consequence of the exercise of bodily autonomy. That ship has left the harbor…and there’s a passenger on board.

As J. Budziszewski has observed, in such an instance, the question is never: “Do I want a baby?” Rather, the question is always: “What am I going to do with the baby I already have?”

James Gottry

Written by

Attorney and vice president of public policy for the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. Alum of Alliance Defending Freedom. Posts reflect my personal views.

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