Shouldn’t Women Be Able to Control Their Own Bodies?
The battle captured by the slogan “my body, my choice!” is not new; it has been raging over a century. A cartoon in the May 1919 issue of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review shows a woman being crushed by a giant roll of paper labeled “Laws Controlling Women’s Bodies.” Other offensive but equally common slogans pro-abortionists use are variations are the indignant demand “What makes you religious fanatics think you can tell me what to do with my uterus?,” and the tiresome chant “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!”
Interestingly, the first person to make the “woman’s body, woman’s choice” argument for abortion was the libertine and reprobate Marquis de Sade. His sexual writings actually inspired the word “sadism,” and he was, not surprisingly, guilty of blasphemy against the Catholic Church. In 1797, he wrote:
The penalty against child-murdering mothers is an unexampled atrocity. Who then has a greater right to dispose of the fruit than she who carries it in her womb? … To interfere with the usage a woman chooses to make of it is stupidity carried beyond any conceivable extreme.1
Let’s examine the science that disproves these claims.
What Should Be Our Pro-Life Response?
To begin with, it is impossible to reply directly to this slogan unless we have the user clarify what he or she means by it. We need to do is ask, “Why do you consider the unborn child to be a part of the woman’s body?”
The usual response is momentary hesitation, followed by one of three possible answers;
- The fetus (unborn child) relies on the mother completely for its existence;
- The fetus is inside her body, therefore it is part of her body; or
- The fetus is a parasite.
You can give concise and effective answers to each of these.
(1) The unborn child relies on the mother
When asked to clarify, most pro-abortionists will argue that the unborn baby is totally dependent upon the mother. They are implying that this allows the mother the “right” to dispose of her baby.
These are separate arguments and should be treated as such. Certainly a newborn baby is just as dependent upon its parents for all of its needs as one not yet born, and will quickly die if not cared for. Does this mean that the newborn baby can be neglected or killed outright? As we see today in the infanticide debate regarding failed abortions where the child is born alive, the inevitable conclusion to draw if one is pro-abortion is affirmative. Some “intellectuals” have been arguing for decades that it is perfectly permissible to allow handicapped children to die, calling this “fourth-trimester abortion” or “post-natal abortion.” Moving the goal post means more and more killing is inevitable.
For example, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of DNA, actually claimed that “no newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment, and that if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live.”2 Hastings Center ethicist Joseph Fletcher has said, “It is ridiculous to give ethical approval to the positive ending of sub‑human life in utero, as we do in therapeutic abortions, but refuse to approve of positively ending a sub‑human life in extremis [after birth].”3
The pro-life answer is simple rebuttal. Every child who is born healthy is already entitled to care under the pain of prosecution for murder. And that baby, too, is completely dependent, so the argument is a non sequitur.
(2) The unborn child is inside the mother
The second assertion is that the unborn child is inside his or her mother, and is therefore part of her body.
Sometimes a pro-abortionist will also claim that the unborn child is inside the mother, depends on her completely, and is therefore part of her body. We can reply by describing an analogous situation involving astronauts in space. They are totally dependent upon their vessel for everything — their air, water, food, and all other needs. If they should exit the vehicle unprotected, they would be nonviable, and would die in minutes. This also holds true for a nonviable unborn baby. Yet no thinking person would argue that the astronauts are part of a space station!
Even the staff of Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion President in our nation’s history, recognized the unborn child as a separate human being. Pregnant women entering the White House must formally register their unborn children as separate visitors, with “Baby” as the first name, expected birth date, sex if known, and even “000-00-0000” as a Social Security number!
This silly policy demonstrates the totally illogical and schizophrenic nature of pro-abortion “thinking.”
(3) The unborn child as parasite
Pro-abortionists have a pressing need to dehumanize the unborn child in order to salve the guilt they feel when they support the practice of abortion or actually have one. Sometimes they will resort to the “fetus as parasite” argument, going beyond dehumanization to paint the unborn child as some sort of disgusting wormlike abomination draining the blood and life force from its “host.”
Third-trimester abortionist Warren Hern insists in his book Abortion Practice, “The relationship between the gravid female and the feto-placental unit can be understood best as one of host and parasite.”4
When pro-abortionists insist that the unborn child is a parasite, they are acknowledging its separate nature, because parasites are never part of their host’s body. They are biologically separate and distinct organisms. Anyone denying this fact is simply being anti-scientific.
One way to clarify your point is to ask the pro-abortionist a question. If they went to some underdeveloped part of the world and picked up a tapeworm because they ate some insufficiently cooked food, would they consider that parasite to be a part of their body?
Woman and Child: Separate Bodies, Separate People
If an unborn baby were part of its mother’s body, it would share all of her biological characteristics. Yet the baby even has its own distinct DNA.
In order to highlight the fact that the baby is a separate being, consider these facts, which not even the most ignorant pro-abortionist can deny:
- All mothers are obviously female. About half of their children are male. How can a human being be both male and female?
- The mother and baby frequently have different blood types.
- The baby can be a different race from the mother.
- Every cell in the mother’s body has a set of chromosomal characteristics that is entirely distinct from every cell in the baby’s body.
- When the unborn child anchors to the uterine wall, there is a concerted attack by white blood cells to defeat him, and he must defend himself. The mother’s immune system recognizes it as “non-self.” Therefore, it is not part of her body.
- The baby can die without the mother dying. The mother can die without the baby dying (the baby can be rescued if he is viable).
- The unborn baby initiates a process that culminates in its leaving the mother’s body. Challenge a pro-abortionist to name any other body organ that does this.
Pro-lifers agree that a woman does indeed have the right to manage her own health. However, maintaining that right does not allow the mother to destroy her child’s body. When she conceived, she had already passed the right to life on to that new life.
- Products that Use Aborted Fetuses
- Fetal Pain Is a Reason to End Abortion
- When Does a Fetus Develop a Heartbeat?
- Of Acorns, Eggs, and Captive Violinists: When Does Human Life Begin?
 The Marquis de Sade, quoted in “Yet another Effort, Frenchmen.” Juliette [New York City: Grove Paperbacks, Inc., 1968], pages 336, 782 and 783. It is interesting to note that de Sade’s novels were replete with several recurring themes, one of the strongest of which was the pleasure which certain disturbed individuals derive from killing both pregnant women and unborn children. In one of his grisly and deranged novels, he describes with great relish the skewering of a pregnant woman with a red hot iron rod driven through both her and her unborn baby, as described in Dr. Kenneth M. Mitzner. “The Abortion Culture.” Triumph, March 1973, pages 20 to 24.
 Nobel Prize winner Dr. Francis Crick. Pacific News Service, January 1978.
 Hastings Center ethicist Joseph Fletcher. “Four Indicators of Humanhood?: The Enquiry Matures.” Hastings Center Report, December 1974.
 Abortionist Warren Hern. Abortion Practice. B. Lippincott Company, 1984.
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Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.