Bodily Rights and a Better Idea

 

A positive review of “Bodily Rights and a Better Idea” has appeared in Life Matters Journal Volume 5 Issue 1 — April 2016, written by LMJ Deputy Editor C.J. Williams.

 

For a reasonable number of readers, I can provide a Word version of the essay. The Word version contains bookmarks and hyperlinks to make cross-referencing different parts of the essay easy. Email me using the address on my About page.

 

George McFall clearly needed some of David Shimp’s bone marrow more than Shimp needed it. When Shimp – McFall’s first cousin – refused to give it, McFall took him to court.

The judge’s gavel came down. He wasn’t enthralled with Shimp as a person, but every speck of the bone marrow in Shimp’s body was, in the eyes of society, private property – Shimp’s private property. McFall’s eyes closed on the world, for the last time, before his 25th birthday.

A caring society views both such persons as equally valuable. Such a society has an interest in seeing both thrive and not come to harm. It would seem completely logical for society to have instructed Shimp to hand over some bone marrow, and if he did not do so peacefully, to have taken it forcibly. Why doesn’t society do that? Is society wrong not to do that?

Society sometimes grants to its citizens surprisingly strong body-related rights – body-related rights that are out of proportion to what a rational fairness would seem to demand. I don’t think that that is necessarily wrong. People are psychologically constructed with a strong sense of ownership of their bodies. [Edit: Ownership of any kind has no foundation in science, and a strong principle of individual body ownership would be very debatable philosophically, but the psychological sense is a reality. And due to sharing that sense, which is to say, due to belief in the validity of that sense – or due at least to a pragmatic recognition of the strength of that sense – society sometimes grants to its citizens surprising rights such as those of Shimp that we have just seen. A belief in the validity of that sense could also be termed a moral intuition (whether or not it is a correct moral intuition) that near-inviolable body ownership ought to be respected.]

I basically support such rights, at least in this part of this century. Perhaps Shimp should have been sentenced to a lot of community service for refusing to help McFall. But I say that I basically support such rights because I do not think he should have been tied down and his bone marrow removed forcibly.

It is important that the laws and conventions of society should give that psychological sense of ownership, and the actual ownership that society tends to think underlies it, its due. But is the current concept of bodily rights the most logical and coherent way to accomplish that?

The bodily-rights argument for legal abortion is usually advanced through thought experiments that create analogies with pregnancy – analogies in which our sympathies will be on the side of a right to refuse to let one’s body be used. And those arguments are usually contested by showing the disanalogies between the situations of the thought experiments, and the situation of actual pregnancy. In this essay, however, the approach will be to analyze the concept of bodily rights, rather than to deal with thought experiments that elicit our intuitions about bodily rights.

SYNOPSIS

I wrote, “People are psychologically constructed with a strong sense of ownership of their bodies. . . . And . . . due to belief in the validity of that sense, society sometimes grants to its citizens surprising rights . . .” I will first try to show that the current concept of bodily rights reflects some awareness of that psychological reality, but (among other problems with the concept) the awareness it reflects is an unclear one. The concept misleadingly suggests that some defined degree of trespass of bodily boundaries will always do a defined degree of psychological harm; that is, that any trespass of bodily boundaries will harm and that deeper trespass will harm more. This off-target concept of bodily rights in turn easily lends itself to a kind of absolutism about infringements on bodily boundaries, which is then used particularly by advocates of abortion rights to argue for their cause.

Bodily-rights arguments against abortion restrictions show us that denial of abortion is a degree of trespass on one’s bodily boundaries similar to the degree of trespass involved in other situations (such as the forcible appropriation of a body part) which nearly everyone’s moral intuitions agree are wrong. Bone marrow or a kidney is located deep within the body, and the uterus is located deep within the body. The arguments thus tend to persuade us that denial of abortion is also wrong. But as I will show, it is only the offense to one’s psychological sense of body ownership that is a real harm (a real mental harm) caused by trespass per se, and the degree of that offense is only partially and unpredictably related to the degree of trespass. Real mental harm is somewhat independent of the degree of trespass.

The moral intuition that body ownership ought to be respected seems to stem, as mentioned earlier, from the wish to spare our fellow human beings the mental harm of offense to their strong psychological sense of body ownership (which sense is an undeniable reality). So to answer the question whether there should be a right to refuse the use of one’s uterus – a right comparable in strength to the right to refuse to donate one’s bone marrow – we have to answer the question whether the mental harm to a woman when abortion is denied is really comparable to the mental harm that would occur if one’s bone marrow or kidney were taken forcibly. Since I think I can show that real mental harm is somewhat independent of the degree of trespass of one’s bodily boundaries, it is not enough to show that the uterus is deep within one’s body, just as bone marrow and one’s kidneys are deep within the body. Rather, the degree of real mental harm when abortion is denied could be approximately determined only by psychological study focusing on the psychological phenomenon of harm in that specific situation, not by possible biological similarities with other situations.

In the present undeveloped state of psychology and neuroscience, we have to rely on our empathy and intuition about the degree of that harm, and then rely on our moral intuitions, to decide whether the degree of that harm for a pregnant woman, as we estimate it to be (taken together with all the other physical and mental harms of the denial of a particular abortion), is so great as to outweigh the harm of death for the child, with the consequence that we would feel it right to let that child die rather than to so greatly offend the sense of body ownership of the woman. To understand it in this way is to liberate our minds from the misleading features of various analogies, as we seek our most correct moral intuitions about abortion.

The moral intuitions of nearly everyone agree that the harm of offending Shimp’s sense of body ownership by forcibly taking his bone marrow (when added on to the modicum of physical harm to him) would have been greater than the harm of death for McFall, but as mentioned, what counts is “the psychological phenomenon of harm in [a] specific situation,” not “biological similarities with other situations.” And the moral intuitions of many, many people (though I won’t say of everyone or nearly everyone) do NOT agree that in the specific situation of a typical proposed abortion, the harm of offending the pregnant woman’s sense of body ownership (taken together with all the other physical and mental harms of the denial of a particular abortion), is so great as to outweigh the harm of death for the child.

In this essay I will not prove that abortion should be illegal, but I think I will at least show that if the virtues and defects of the bodily-rights concept are correctly understood, there is no strong bodily-rights argument against making many abortions illegal.

(The entire argument of my essay can be outlined in eleven points – see below. The foregoing three paragraphs can be broken down into points 1-9 of the outline.)

Moreover, if society holds and sustains a “right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally,” and the idea of “harm” incorporates an understanding of the psychology of ownership, including body ownership, that will serve all purposes, and society can dispense with the off-target and therefore sometimes misleading idea of bodily rights. (This sentence can be broken down into points 10 and 11, i.e., the last points, of my outline.)

I would like to proceed now according to the following outline:

1. Rights are only meaningful and useful in terms of protection against wrongs, that is, against unjust harm, so the concept of bodily rights can be meaningful and useful only if and as there is a potential for unjust harm to be done that is defined solely by trespass of one’s bodily boundaries.

2. Harm can be only harm to the body or harm to the mind.

3. In terms of a right to freedom from bodily harm, the concept of bodily rights doesn’t add anything to more obvious ethical notions. So though the current concept of bodily rights aims to protect against both physical and mental harm caused by trespass of bodily boundaries, in relation to bodily harm, the concept is not particularly useful.

4. In terms of a right to freedom from mental harm, the concept of bodily rights could be meaningful as one possible way of framing that right. (Even if it is not the best way.) People have a sense of ownership of their bodies, such that trespass on their bodily boundaries can be a source of mental harm, and “bodily rights” would be one way to protect from that mental harm. But it is the degree of that psychological harm (which is only partially and unpredictably related to the degree of trespass on the body), taken together with the degree of more obvious harms, that become the real yardstick of a right to refuse the use of one’s body.

5. Because of the sense of body ownership (and the actual ownership assumed to underlie it), in a situation of opposing interests between two innocent people that involves one person needing to use the body of the other, society does not make a simple decision in favor of the person who is likely to suffer the greater harm of obvious kinds — that is, of kinds other than offense to the sense of ownership. It counts that kind of mental harm as harm, which weights its decision in the direction of the person whose body stands to be used by the other.

6. Society weights its decision in this way so strongly, that in many cases it decrees that a particular offense against one person’s sense of body ownership is not justified even if the other person will die.

7. Although the concept of bodily rights is often expressed as a very simple absolute principle, when people actually apply it to different real-life situations, we see a patchwork of different attitudes, depending on each situation. This renders the concept vague and confusing as a yardstick in any situation that has not yet been resolved, such as a proposal to abort. It turns out that the degree of mental harm caused by offense to one’s sense of ownership, which society believes to be morally meaningful, is inconsistently related to the degree of trespass on the body – which is morally meaningless apart from harm. Since it is inconsistently related to the degree of trespass, the degree of that harm when abortion is denied could be approximately determined only by psychological study focusing on the psychological phenomenon of harm in that specific situation – not simply by knowing the degree of trespass.

8. Proponents of the bodily-rights argument for abortion rights claim that because society decrees in many cases that a particular offense against one person’s sense of body ownership is not justified even if the other person will die, there must therefore be a universal principle to that effect, i.e., society must so decree in all such cases – or claim at least that the situation of unwanted pregnancy should not be an exception. This claim does not hold up.

9. Some actions that trespass a person’s bodily boundaries without the person’s consent are countenanced or supported by society in general (meaning that society in general does not take very seriously any offense to the sense of ownership in such cases). In my personal view, still more such actions should be countenanced or supported.

10. What matters, in terms of the rights that society should choose to sustain in this area of law and ethics, is that those rights should reflect a recognition of the sense of body ownership and its nuances – and of the possibilities of mental harm based on that sense of ownership and its nuances.

11. If society holds and sustains a “right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally,”
and the idea of “harm” incorporates an understanding of the psychology of ownership, including body ownership, that will serve all purposes, and society can dispense with the idea of bodily rights.

The argument as outlined will be followed by a short section Moral Intuitions and a short section Special-Rights Pleading.

1. Rights are only meaningful and useful in terms of protection against wrongs, that is, against unjust harm, so the concept of bodily rights can be meaningful only if and as there is a potential for unjust harm to be done that is defined solely by trespass of one’s bodily boundaries.

Bodily integrity, or bodily rights, according to one definition, “emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy and the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies.” I think having self-determination over one’s body would appeal to everyone. But its obvious appeal does not automatically make it a right. To see whether it should be a right, let’s first ask, what would a person lose if they did not have such a right?

In any society, I think that the development of concepts of rights must start with a sense of wrong being done to someone, or of a threat of wrong being done to someone. We interpret such a wrong or threat in terms of that someone having a certain right, and the wrong being a violation of that right. Thus it should be possible to gauge the meaningfulness of any right by gauging the meaningfulness of a violation of the right. We notice in the discourse around us that “bodily rights” usually comes up in the context of violations thereof. The concept of bodily rights can be meaningful only if and as there is a potential for harm to be done that is defined solely by trespass of one’s bodily boundaries. (A question which we will discuss under 3 and 4 below.)

(I mentioned above that “bodily rights” usually comes up in the context of violations thereof. We might notice also, by the way, that it almost always comes up in the context of the abortion debate. This latter point should immediately make us suspicious. If bodily rights applies importantly to a category of offenses, why, in discourse about current events, don’t we hear bodily rights brought up as an issue in relation to other items – besides abortion – within the category? We do often hear that rape is a violation of bodily rights, but we don’t hear that when actual rape cases come up – does it perhaps seem unnecessary to bring up at such times? Rather we hear it when attempts are made to use rape as an analogy for restrictions on abortion: “Restrictions on abortion are a violation of bodily rights, and rape is a violation of bodily rights, therefore restrictions on abortion are equivalent to rape.”)

2. Harm can be only harm to the body or harm to the mind.

“Violation” implies harm. All that humans are or have that can be harmed is their bodies and minds. (If there is a soul, and the soul can be harmed, let’s leave that out of the discussion.) Most kinds of harm involve harm to one’s body which is consequently harm to one’s mind also.

However, there are kinds of harm that relate to the mind only. A Shakespeare character said:

Who steals my purse steals trash. ’Tis something, nothing:
’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

This character’s concern is about reputation (“good name”). The loss of reputation is an example of harm to the mind only. Another example of harm to the mind only would be the theft of objects not needed for one’s bodily comfort.

“All that humans are or have that can be harmed is their bodies and minds.” A violation cannot be harmless, so a violation of bodily rights must constitute either:

a. a violation of bodily rights that harms the body

b. a violation of bodily rights that harms the mind

or

c. a violation that harms both.

3. In terms of a right to freedom from bodily harm, the concept of bodily rights doesn’t add anything to more obvious ethical notions. So though the current concept of bodily rights aims to protect against both physical and mental harm caused by trespass of bodily boundaries, in relation to bodily harm, the concept is not particularly useful.

Regarding a. above: Long before we in the human community started talking about bodily rights, it was sensed that any kind of harm to a person’s body would be disagreeable to that person, and therefore that to inflict such harm without justification would be wrong. To put it conversely, we had a right to freedom from bodily harm. Now, the concept of bodily rights “emphasizes . . . the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies;” and as we have seen, that emphasis must be in relation to some possible wrong, some possible harm, which can only be to the body or the mind or both. As regards harm to the body, if the concept of bodily rights is to add anything new to the understanding “to inflict bodily harm without justification would be wrong” or “we have a right to freedom from bodily harm,” it would have to demonstrate a dichotomy between unjustified forms of bodily harm inflicted via trespass on someone’s physical boundaries, and unjustified forms of bodily harm inflicted without trespass on someone’s physical boundaries. Can it demonstrate that dichotomy in a meaningful way?

I have heard the following actions, most if not all of which involve bodily harm, all named as violations of bodily rights: assault, kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and medical experimentation without informed consent; as well as the forcible use of one’s body parts and being forced to carry a child that one has conceived (assuming that that causes at least a little harm). But then what is left? What form of bodily harm does not involve a violation of bodily rights?

An unborn child is inside the mother, and consumes some of the nutrients in its mother’s body. If the child is unwanted, this is a clear violation of bodily rights, we might say. Whereas when an enemy army surrounds a city and cuts off its food supply, it deprives the inhabitants of nutrients without touching their bodies. So we might say that here we have discovered at least one “form of bodily harm that is not a violation of bodily rights.” But how useful is this distinction? It’s not. Every instance of bodily harm is automatically a violation of bodily rights, if we are not to split hairs. So it seems to me that in terms of a right to freedom from bodily harm, the concept of bodily rights doesn’t add anything to more obvious ethical notions; i.e., it is not useful.

Instead of saying “You should not violate my bodily rights in a way that physically harms me,” why not just say “You should not physically harm me” – ? Instead of “You committed a nose-breaking violation of my bodily rights!,” why not simply “You broke my nose!” – ? We clearly have a right not to be harmed without sufficient cause, and assault, for instance, is clearly harm, without talking about bodily rights.

The current concept of bodily rights aims to protect against both physical and mental harm caused by trespass of bodily boundaries, and that is well and good, but in relation to bodily harm, the concept is redundant. Even before the relatively new idea of bodily rights was defined, it was recognized that we had a right not to be harmed in terms of all the forms of bodily harm that eventually came to be called violations of bodily rights.

One more way to put it: In terms of harm to the body, a violation of bodily rights would be a trespass on one’s physical boundaries that results in bodily (as opposed to mental) harm. But if there are no forms of bodily harm that are not, meaningfully understood, a trespass on one’s physical boundaries, then there is no justification for considering bodily rights as a right distinguishable from a right to freedom from bodily harm.

Meanwhile, the unborn, if they are persons, which bodily-rights arguments normally grant that they are, have, like every person, a right to freedom from bodily harm. So in terms of bodily harm, unwanted pregnancy should not be framed as the bodily rights of one person versus the right to life of the other, but framed primarily as the right to freedom from bodily harm of each – so that if an abortion is proposed, the first thing, at least, that we have to ask is simply who is likely to suffer the greater bodily harm.

4. In terms of a right to freedom from mental harm, the concept of bodily rights could be meaningful as one possible way of framing that right. (Even if it is not the best way.) People have a sense of ownership of their bodies, such that trespass on their bodily boundaries can be a source of mental harm, and “bodily rights” would be one way to protect from that mental harm. But it is the degree of that psychological harm (which is only partially and unpredictably related to the degree of trespass on the body), taken together with the degree of more obvious harms, that become the real yardstick of a right to refuse the use of one’s body.

Regarding b. above: Now let’s look at harm to the mind. It seems to me that there are two possible kinds of harm to the mind resulting from trespasses on bodily boundaries, one more tangible and one less tangible.

i. Enslavement is one kind of trespass on bodily boundaries, and clearly enslavement is likely to result in mental harm, if only in that a slave will be deprived of a free choice of entertainments and likely of opportunities for learning. These tangible deprivations, these harms, occur because the slave’s body is restrained. And yet the same harms could be effected without restraining anyone’s body, for instance by closing the doors of places of entertainment and education to girls, such as occurs in some cultures. So just as the concept of bodily rights fails to demonstrate a dichotomy between unjustified forms of bodily harm inflicted via trespass on someone’s physical boundaries, and unjustified forms of bodily harm inflicted without trespass on someone’s physical boundaries, so, I think, it fails to demonstrate a dichotomy between unjustified forms of tangible mental harm inflicted via trespass on someone’s physical boundaries, and unjustified forms of tangible mental harm inflicted without trespass on someone’s physical boundaries.

ii. But now let’s look at less tangible forms of mental harm. Suppose you are in a foreign country and someone you have just met reaches out with a thumb and forefinger and feels a few strands of your hair, because he has never seen hair like yours before. Though to you he is violating the “self-determination of human beings over their own bodies” (in fact, by the way, we find that where the relevant boundary lines are drawn varies significantly from one part of the world to another), you are not harmed at all physically, nor harmed mentally tangibly – i.e., not harmed mentally apart from the bodily trespass – but you are harmed a little mentally by the mere sense of trespass. You are harmed because you have a sense of ownership, a sense that your hair is “all yours” (even if you had planned to cut off that part of your hair later that day). And society believes in that ownership, or at least pragmatically recognizes the strength of that sense of ownership, and that sense is being offended.

So now we are finally talking about real harm caused by a violation of bodily rights as presently conceived, without having to bring in forms of physical or mental suffering that may be related to, but can easily be understood without conceptualizing, trespasses on bodily boundaries. Such a violation of “bodily rights” genuinely is mental harm. But how much suffering is involved? In the above hair example, not much – the nature of the offense is a violation of “bodily rights,” but the suffering is of low degree. That violation, lasting a few seconds, would hardly justify killing. Or suppose a stranger grabs your hand and shakes it, though he looks a bit unkempt, or gives you a quick hug, an unwanted hug, saying, “Welcome to Krakozia (or wherever).”

The point is that merely because the nature of the offense is offense to the sense of body ownership does not mean that it is always wrong to commit such an offense when it has to be weighed against other offenses. It does not mean that such an offense should be given more moral weight than other offenses, particularly the taking of life. Society should expect anyone to tolerate an offense whose nature is a violation of “bodily rights,” if the offense is low in degree, before taking innocent life.

A recent internet comment said, “‘I do not want to be pregnant’ is sufficient reason to abort.” Such expressions are common from bodily-rights advocates. But does such an expression express purely the importance that should be accorded to the sense of body ownership? Suppose the reproductive function of the human race evolves. The uterus as we know it has become extinct. A sperm introduced into a woman’s body meets an egg somewhere, and the resultant organism travels and implants among the skin cells behind the woman’s shoulderblade. After ten days, the skin loosens and the embryo falls out. Placed in a bucket of milk, it will grow till it is fully viable, and then it can be removed from the milk and its breathing started. This is the process by which we all got here. No woman has ever been known to suffer any physical harm or discomfort from the ten-day gestation process, but removing the growing organism during that period would involve killing it.

Among pro-choicers who concede the personhood of the unborn (at least for the sake of argument), I have not yet known anyone to say clearly, “The woman cannot be legally prevented from killing that unborn child lodged harmlessly for a brief time behind her shoulderblade.” This shows that there is no bodily boundary-defined right to refuse the uninvited use of one’s body. To everyone’s genuine intuitions, the degree of harm, and ultimately the cumulative degree of harm – the physical harm of pregnancy and delivery, tangible mental harm if any, and mental harm in the form of offense to one’s sense of ownership – is the real issue. It is the real yardstick of the justifiability or unjustifiability of refusing to let one’s body be used by someone who needs it – not boundary-defined “bodily rights.”

As regards the harm in the form of offense, we will see under 7 below that each specific kind of trespass of bodily boundaries is likely to carry a sense of offense of a unique degree, that cannot always be predicted by comparing with the offense felt in the cases of other trespasses. And of course the strength of the sense of body ownership itself must vary from person to person and from culture to culture. A society’s laws and customs must reflect its perception of a kind of average strength for that society.

Above I gave some examples in which the offense to the sense of body ownership is low in degree. But there are certainly examples of violations of “bodily rights” that, even without causing significant physical suffering, cause mental suffering, of that kind, of high degree. Think of some of the Abu Ghraib images. Rape may sometimes be painless and physically non-injurious, and yet it is considered worse than any painful slap, because of that sense of ownership.

The only right that the current concept of bodily rights meaningfully provides would best be termed a “right to freedom from the mental harm caused by offense to our mental sense of body ownership.”

5. Because of the sense of body ownership (and the actual ownership assumed to underlie it), in a situation of opposing interests between two innocent people that involves one person needing to use the body of the other, society does not make a simple decision in favor of the person who is likely to suffer the greater harm of obvious kinds — that is, of kinds other than offense to the sense of ownership. It counts that kind of mental harm as harm, which weights its decision in the direction of the person whose body stands to be used by the other.

And this, I think, is what justifies the existence of bodily rights as a meaningful concept in human society, to the limited extent that I think it is justified. People have a sense of ownership of their bodies, or rather feel possessive about their bodies. This is hardly a new observation, but it needs to be spelled out here. And due to sharing that sense, which is to say, due to belief in the validity of that sense – or due at least to a pragmatic recognition of the strength of that sense – society sometimes grants to its citizens body-related rights that are out of proportion to what a rational fairness would seem to demand – even allowing people to refuse to let their body parts be used by their living fellows after the people are dead.

Of course, as mentioned under 4 above, the strength of that sense must vary from person to person. Society’s laws and customs must reflect its perception of a kind of average strength.

Our sense of others’ bodily ownership rights often tips what should perhaps logically be a simple balancing of obvious competing needs – seeing who is likely to suffer greater overall physical and mental harm of obvious kinds – in favor of the owner of the body whose use is being demanded (e.g., David Shimp). That intuitive sense that we have of people’s bodily ownership rights is the whole basis of any meaningful concept of bodily rights and thus of the bodily-rights argument. We seem to sense that particular kinds of trespass on someone’s bodily boundaries may cause mental harm to that person not only in addition to, but sometimes disproportionate to, any bodily harm or tangible mental harm – because of that person’s sense of ownership.

Regarding 2 c. above: I had said, “. . . so a violation of bodily rights must constitute either a) a violation of bodily rights that harms the body or b) a violation of bodily rights that harms the mind or c) a violation that harms both.” Now I’ve discussed the meaningfulness, such as it is, of a and b, and perhaps c will be clear enough without discussion.

Before closing here we should mention that mental suffering of high degree can also result in physical (psychosomatic) suffering, and that if that mental suffering results from offense to the sense of ownership, such suffering would bring meaning which bodily suffering or tangible mental suffering alone would not, to a consideration of violations of bodily rights.

 

As a conclusion to my discussion above about bodily rights in relation to harm to the body (a), I said, “. . . unwanted pregnancy should not be framed as the bodily rights of one person versus the right to life of the other, but as the right to freedom from bodily harm of each – so that if an abortion is proposed, the first thing, at least, that we have to ask is simply who is likely to suffer the greater bodily harm.”

Obviously the unborn is likely to suffer greater bodily harm than its mother, and obviously I meant to suggest that therefore abortion should normally not be permitted, but . . .

6. Society weights its decision in this way so strongly, that in many cases it decrees that a particular offense against one person’s sense of body ownership is not justified even if the other person will die.

Having now covered the topic of the mental harm as well as the bodily harm involved in violations of bodily rights, and having seen that the mental harm can sometimes be disproportionately great due to the sense of ownership of one’s body, while I would still say that the first thing that we have to ask is simply who is likely to suffer the greater bodily harm, it is clear that that is not the only thing that we have to ask. Bodily-rights advocates and their logic and their thought experiments keep reminding us of that.

Here is a thought experiment that appeared in a (negative) comment under Kristine Kruszelnicki’s March 11, 2014 guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog:

They [both mother and unborn child] are entitled to their own bodily rights. So exactly how does a fetus have the right to co-opt another person’s body without consent?

Let’s say for example medical science has progressed to the point of being able to transplant a fetus into another human being. In an accident a pregnant woman is injured to the point of immanent [sic] death, does that fetus have the *right* to be implanted into the next viable candidate without consent?

The commenter was arguing, in other words, “A woman who is a candidate to be made pregnant in that futuristic way would have a right to refuse to let her body be so used – everyone would agree. Therefore, why should a woman who has become pregnant in a more usual way not also have a right to refuse to continue the pregnancy?”

Although an unborn whose mother has just died in an accident is likely to suffer greater bodily harm, if not implanted into some unrelated woman (in a future where that might be possible), than the unrelated woman is likely to suffer from having to carry the pregnancy, our moral intuitions do not presently support forcible implantation. And although a kidney patient is likely to suffer greater bodily harm, if they do not receive a kidney donation, than a potential donor is likely to suffer from donating a kidney, our moral intuitions do not presently support forcible kidney transplants. Therefore the reflexive pro-life rejoinder “But the right to life outweighs bodily rights” fails to address the brutal fact that often, in our society, it does nothing of the kind. Similarly with the rejoinder “But the unborn also has its bodily rights.” No, bodily rights, as usually conceived, pertain to the person whose body is proposed to be used and who may use lethal force if necessary to protect his or her body.

7. Although the concept of bodily rights is often expressed as a very simple absolute principle, when people actually apply it to different real-life situations, we see a patchwork of different attitudes, depending on each situation. This renders the concept vague and confusing as a yardstick in any situation that has not yet been resolved, such as a proposal to abort. It turns out that the degree of mental harm caused by offense to one’s sense of ownership, which society believes to be morally meaningful, is inconsistently related to the degree of trespass on the body – which is morally meaningless apart from harm. Since it is inconsistently related to the degree of trespass, the degree of that harm when abortion is denied could be approximately determined only by psychological study focusing on the psychological phenomenon of harm in that specific situation – not simply by knowing the degree of trespass.

In our sense of ownership of our bodies, discussed in 4 above, we finally found some meaning and usefulness in the concept of bodily rights, that is, we found “potential for harm to be done that is defined solely by trespass of one’s bodily boundaries.” But as mentioned earlier, “the current concept of bodily rights. . . . misleadingly suggests that some defined degree of trespass of bodily boundaries will always do a defined degree of psychological harm; that is, that any trespass of bodily boundaries will harm and that deeper trespass will harm more” – harm more in terms of offense to one’s sense of body ownership. The deeper in the body that the trespass goes, or the more vital the organ that is affected, the greater that harm should be. That this is one aspect of the concept becomes clear when we observe that pro-choicers who use the bodily-rights argument will point out regularly that while parents may legally be required to make strenuous efforts with their extremities (their arms and legs) for their born children, they are never required to give blood to their born children.

This aspect of the concept is misleading – and thus the concept is vague and confusing – [Edit: first because degrees of trespass are hard to define, but more so because even insofar as we may feel confident in defining them, the degree of psychological harm] that people seem actually to experience seems inconsistently related to the degree of trespass. (We will soon give some examples.) Given how difficult it is to predict the degree of mental distress resulting from one kind of trespass of one’s bodily boundaries, by looking at the degree of such distress resulting from another kind of trespass or from a particular degree of trespass, we can see, pregnancy being such a unique situation, how trying to calculate the distress caused by unwanted pregnancy, by looking at other situations, would fail.

The term and therefore the concept “bodily rights” suggests that a right should be granted even if there is no potential for wrong, for harm, even intangible mental harm. This would be a philosophy of the dog in the manger, as if I should have a right to refuse to let someone sit in the shade of my body on a hot day. The psychology of body ownership is the wellspring of all possible mental harm deriving specifically from trespass of bodily boundaries, so that psychology should be studied, and rights should ideally be granted according to research-based measurement of just how much mental distress can be caused by different trespasses. (To the extent that the relevant science is undeveloped, we have to rely on our empathy and intuition about the degree of that harm.)

Now let’s see some examples of the inconsistency between degree of trespass into the body (depth of trespass) and degree of offense to one’s psychological sense of body ownership.

We sometimes hear that a woman has been drugged – or plied, unknown to her, with an extra-strong drink – and then sexually assaulted. Society seems to react with more shock about the sexual assault, even if it is something less than rape, than about the drugging. Yet the drugging was an unlicensed use of the woman’s brain, which would seem logically to be the true sanctum sanctorum of the body.

There may be some parts of the body for which we have more sense of ownership than others, for which we have an intense sense of private property – “our privates.” There may be no clear logic in these matters. A victim of male homosexual rape, or even of some lesser homosexual assault, may often be less forgiving of his assailant than if the man had punched him in the jaw causing a concussion to his brain. The offense to his sense of body ownership is greater (independent, I would think, of any culturally-originating shame involved).

We often find it amusing when one person scares another. Parents sometimes deliberately scare their children, or take them to scary movies. Perhaps this is even growthful. Yet fear affects the heart and adrenal glands. If pro-lifers are forced-birthers, then such parents are forced-heart-palpitators. The heart is a deeply-located and vital organ of the body, yet society deems that little if any offense has been committed to the child’s sense of body ownership. Whereas if the school bully lands a punch on their child’s exterior, which may not particularly have scared him, parents who think in terms of bodily rights would call that a violation of those rights, an offense to the child’s sense of body ownership (in addition to the possibility of its being a source of mental injury of other kinds, and physical injury).

Vaccines work deep within the body, yet whether people oppose or support compulsory vaccinations – or would support them if they were sure to work as intended, without side effects – I think that a significant offense to a child’s sense of body ownership is rarely the issue.

As first suggested under 4 above, each kind of trespass of bodily boundaries is likely to carry a sense of offense of a unique degree, that cannot always be predicted by comparing with the offense felt in the cases of other trespasses. Neither can it be predicted by trying to equate the degree of that mental harm with some measure of how greatly it has trespassed bodily boundaries and how deeply it has operated within the body.

[Edit: Above I called for research. Specifically in relation to abortion, here is what should be researched -- to whatever extent is possible, and controlling to eliminate the influence of pro-choice and pro-life hyperbole and skewed sociological frameworks on the woman’s mind – On average, when a woman is prevented from getting an abortion, is her sense of body ownership really as offended as that of a woman in whom an embryo is forcibly implanted, or who is forced to give up a kidney, presumably would be? Is she as offended by people who defend her baby as by people who try to take her body part?]

(Again, to the extent that the relevant science is undeveloped, we have to rely on our empathy and intuition about the degree of that particular kind of harm.)

In 3 and 4 above I made the point that “bodily rights” only adds something to more obvious ethical notions when it relates to mental harm in the form of an offense to the sense of body ownership: the mere fact that an action (such as touching one’s hair) trespasses one’s bodily boundaries and therefore violates one’s “bodily rights” does not tell us whether the action is physically harmful to one or not, or mentally harmful in tangible terms. But here in this section, the point is that even the degree of harm in the form of an offense is inconsistently related to how deeply an action has trespassed bodily boundaries.

Let me try now for a systematic overview of the defects in the concept of bodily rights:

a. In the synopsis I mentioned: “the awareness [reflected by the current concept of bodily rights] is an unclear one focusing on bodily boundaries rather than on the psychological reality (the term “bodily rights” itself invites confusion, when it is a psychological reality that we are really addressing). The very phrasing “bodily rights”:

i. gives the wrong impression that conceptualizing the body and its boundaries and its rules is necessary to understand how harm is done when the body is injured. (Instead of saying “You should not violate my bodily rights in a way that physically harms me,” why not just say “You should not physically harm me”?) Therefore we get the wrong impression that the concept adds something, which it does not, to the idea of a right to freedom from unjust bodily harm, obscuring the fact that the real issue underlying “bodily rights” is psychological.

ii. “misleadingly suggests that some defined degree of trespass of bodily boundaries will always do a defined degree of harm” (to quote again from the synopsis). The concept suggests that it is bodily boundaries themselves that are ethically relevant, whereas it is the psychological sense of body ownership that is ethically relevant; and, as explained just above, that psychological sense operates with little consistency and much nuance in relation to different kinds of trespass of bodily boundaries. The unitary-sounding concept of “bodily rights” obscures those nuances, making it more difficult to study and understand them and apply that understanding to our ethics.

b. the concept, if correctly understood, is not as important as it might seem; for it provides less than it might seem to in terms of warranted protections not already provided by still more obvious ethical notions (see under 3 and 4 above).

c. certain sensational thought experiments have tarred a highly justified and relatively non-injurious trespass of bodily boundaries (prevention of abortion) with the brush of dystopian and repugnant trespasses of bodily boundaries

d. abuses of logic have worked similarly to lump justified and unjustified trespasses of bodily boundaries all together (see under 8 below).

Under 11 below, I will propose replacing the whole concept of bodily rights with something more serviceable.

“Abuses of logic have worked to lump justified and unjustified trespasses of bodily boundaries all together”:

8. Proponents of the bodily-rights argument for abortion rights claim that because society decrees in many cases that a particular offense against one person’s sense of body ownership is not justified even if the other person will die, there must therefore be a universal principle to that effect, i.e., society must so decree in all such cases – or claim at least that the situation of unwanted pregnancy should not be an exception. This claim does not hold up.

a. We often hear from pro-choice people that bodily rights invariably override, or “trump,” another person’s right to life, or simply that a right to life does not extend to a right to use someone else’s body. I think that some pro-choicers play a kind of sleight of hand, consciously or unconsciously, involving an explicit or implicit sequence of logic something like this:

i. In the (above) forcible-implantation thought experiment, society uses the body of an unrelated woman without her consent, and everyone intuits that that is wrong.

ii. In the violinist thought experiment, the violinist uses the body of the kidnap victim without his/her consent, and everyone intuits that that is wrong.

iii. A forcible kidney donation uses the body of the victim without his/her consent, and everyone intuits that that is wrong.

iv. Therefore (inductively-derived principle) using another’s body without their consent is always wrong.

v. In an unwanted pregnancy, the unborn uses the woman’s body without her consent, so that is wrong.

However, let’s try an exactly-parallel logical process:

i. Rabbits are mammals and have fur.

ii. Raccoons are mammals and have fur.

iii. Beavers are mammals and have fur.

iv. Therefore all mammals have fur.

v. A rhinoceros is a mammal, so it has fur.

We can see the problem here: we may have been too hasty in coming to our inductively-derived principles (step iv). In the first sequence of logic, the principle we came to in step iv was “Using another’s body without their consent is always wrong.” A creature’s status as a mammal does not necessarily mean that it has fur, and all bodily trespasses that are similar in degree do not necessarily offend the sense of body ownership to the same degree (hence are not equally likely to be wrong). Not only is “Using another’s body without their consent is always wrong” illogically represented as a universal principle, but in our society that principle has become represented by some as near-sacred – I think undeservedly so.

b. Pro-choicers usually try to support their claim that bodily rights always override another person’s right to life (or that a right to life simply does not extend to a right to use someone else’s body) either through thought experiments, as in a. above, or by appeal to legal precedent: in most legal precedent, one is not allowed to use part of someone else’s body, without permission, even after the person is dead. We could challenge the importance of legal precedent by pointing to the abundance of unjust laws in history; we could think about how human psychology might evolve in future in the direction of greater altruism than has existed in the past; but let us suppose, again for the sake of argument, that such laws actually reflect some deep moral intuitions, which I would then consider moral absolutes (as absolute as morality can be), and which will not soon change.

The first thing to notice is that laws protecting a woman’s right to refuse the use of her uterus to her unborn have not been nearly as consistent as the McFall v. Shimp kind of ruling protecting one’s right to deny transfer of other body tissues. If legal precedent were to be our standard, why look at legal precedents of merely-analogous situations (analogies always being imperfect), when there are many legal precedents regarding abortion itself? And we find that that collection of legal precedents regarding abortion represents a lot of inconsistency.

9. Some actions that trespass a person’s bodily boundaries without the person’s consent are countenanced or supported by society in general (meaning that society in general does not take very seriously any offense to the sense of ownership in such cases). In my personal view, still more such actions should be countenanced or supported.

Unlike what bodily-rights advocates would have us believe, our intuitive sense of others’ right to freedom from bodily trespass only extends so far. It is far from completely true that in no situation other than in pregnancy is any person allowed to use the body of another person against their wishes. Let’s point out that we are also off and on comfortable with the idea of compulsory vaccinations, and that whatever is ingested or injected in a vaccination may travel and operate all throughout the body. People suffering certain diseases may be forcibly quarantined. In some countries military service is compulsory, and in a peaceful country beset by aggressors, I would be supportive of such compulsory service; think what the soldiers may have to give of their body organs. When a person is conscripted into an army, he or she risks all his body organs being blown to bits. (Different cultures vary greatly in their acceptance of military conscription, by the way.) Almost all of us support compulsory education, and we support jury duty.

I would support a law requiring people to give blood in certain circumstances, and would also support harvesting the organs of the dead without their consent, if that could save any of the living. (There should be a little ceremony honoring the memory of the dead person.) If population pressures anywhere in the world seem bound to create tremendous misery, then compulsory sterilization, though a violation of bodily rights, would be a more humane and just solution than the might-makes-right approach of abortion.

Of all the pundits who argue that bodily rights mean abortion rights, some of those same pundits defend embryonic stem-cell research – which is the ultimate compulsory body-part donation. Strictly speaking there is no inconsistency in this position unless the pundit also recognizes the early human being as a person. But the contrasts of the position are worth noting: on the one hand a woman has a right to kill her unborn even if her health is in no way threatened – it is enough that she doesn’t want the early human being using her body – while on the other hand it is okay to use the body of the early human being, without its consent, to the extent of exterminating it.

So, unlike what bodily-rights advocates would have us believe, the intuitive sense of bodily ownership rights only extends so far. The strength of that sense must of course vary in the first place from person to person. (Society’s laws and customs must reflect its perception of a kind of average strength.) And in relation to abortion specifically, many, many people do not intuit that that sense does give a woman a right to abort an unborn child. They intuit something like “A woman whose risk of grave loss of physical or mental well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child.”

Therefore let’s not try to impose on society a principle, or use sleight of hand to pretend that society already holds a principle, “Using another’s body without their consent is always wrong.”

(See the section Moral Intuitions near the end.)

10. What matters, in terms of the rights that society should choose to sustain in this area of law and ethics, is that those rights should reflect a recognition of the sense of body ownership and its nuances – and of the possibilities of mental harm based on that sense of ownership and its nuances.

Any right is a kind of concept sustained to one degree or other by social convention. Some such concepts may be enshrined into law, that is, may become legal rights. Society needs some such concepts and some such laws. Society is free, through conscious or unconscious decision-making processes, to select which such concepts it will sustain and which it will not sustain, and which it will enshrine into law. Of course it behooves society to select the most useful concepts. Many pro-choicers want “bodily rights” to be one of society’s selected concepts, and want the term to be defined so as to mean “Using another’s body without their consent is always wrong, and a victim of such use is free to take any steps necessary to put an end to such use;” or at least they want it to be defined such that if there are any exceptions, an unborn child’s use of a woman’s body is not one of them.

Any validity that the current concept of bodily rights may have is derivative. It derives from recognizing the importance to each of us of our mental sense of ownership of our bodies. What it contains of value, and all that it contains of value, is the understanding that society should select rights so as to reflect that recognition. As we have seen in 8-9 above, the fact “that because society decrees in many cases that a particular offense against one person’s sense of body ownership is not justified even if the other person will die” does not mean that “society must so decree in all such cases.”

11. If society holds and sustains a “right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally,” and the idea of “harm” incorporates an understanding of the psychology of ownership, including body ownership, that will serve all purposes, and society can dispense with the idea of bodily rights.

Bodily rights defined to mean “society must so decree in all such cases” has an obvious utility for the pro-choice side, but, many people feel, negative utility for society overall. When the current concept of bodily rights is demystified, the only meaningful right that it provides would best be termed (as mentioned under 4 above) a “right to freedom from the mental harm caused by offense to our mental sense of body ownership.” That is, physical harm and mental harm are both real and are both negative quantities, but “bodily rights” can contribute to the discussion only in terms of mental harm, and can contribute only to the extent of pointing imprecisely and inexplicitly toward the psychology of body ownership. If society deepens its understanding of the psychology of ownership, including body ownership, then the present idea of bodily rights, confusing because it is so loosely and arbitrarily anchored on actual harm of any kind, can be dispensed with.

I would propose that in terms of a utility for society overall, a “right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally” (incorporating in the idea of “harm” an understanding of the psychology of ownership, including body ownership) would be a simpler, cleaner, more universal and more serviceable concept. Let society adopt this as a sort of master right and default right where other rights are not specified. An unjust harm would normally be a harm not outweighed by the good for other parties, keeping in mind always that offense to the sense of ownership is a form of genuine mental harm.

(Whether any other specific rights presently supported by society could usefully be phased out as well once this master right is adopted, is a question I have not thought through. I only know now that I would certainly propose it in the case of “bodily rights.”)

As we saw in 3-4 above, “bodily rights” aims to protect against harm to the mind that is related to trespasses of bodily boundaries, and also (redundantly, I feel) against harms to the body that are related to trespasses of bodily boundaries. A right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally would protect against all harms of that kind that are unjust, while protecting against all other kinds of harm that are unjust also.

I think that a thoughtful definition of a right not to be unjustly harmed would be informed by all the useful insights of a recognition of people’s sense of ownership of their bodies, and informed by all of society’s empathy with that sense, without being informed by wrong conclusions derived from the flawed idea “using another’s body without their consent is always wrong.”

Society already more or less does hold the concept of a “right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally;” what may perhaps be lacking is to see clearly how the truth that is genuinely present in the bodily-rights concept – our intuitive sense of people’s bodily ownership rights, based on our understanding that every human has, in turn, a more or less acute sense of ownership of their own body – should be incorporated into that simpler concept. We need to recognize clearly that when we say “One has a right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally,” there are in fact acute kinds of mental harm based on people’s acute sense of ownership of their own body. Recognizing this, “One has a right not to be unjustly harmed” will, for instance, protect against forcible kidney donations – it will take into account the sense of ownership and go beyond “simply asking who is likely to suffer the greater bodily harm.” (And yet a mental harm that is acute because it is caused by a “bodily-rights” violation is still just one kind of harm, and, in a context of conflicting rights between two parties, does not deserve to be weighted more, under the principle “One has a right not to be unjustly harmed,” than an equally-acute harm whose acuteness was caused in some other way.)

Moral Intuitions

What we do not need to do is to assume that because the harm that we intuit to arise from a trespass of one’s bodily boundaries appears to outweigh the harm involved in loss of life in some situations (as in the forcible-implantation thought experiment or a forcible-kidney-donation thought experiment), that must necessarily be true in all situations where one’s bodily boundaries are trespassed (i.e., where one’s body is used without consent). How do we know in the first place that forcible implantation or a forcible kidney donation is wrong? Ultimately, it is only because our moral intuitions tell us so. This shows the primacy, in moral investigations, of moral intuition. Our direct moral intuitions about the violinist situation tell us that a person should be free to disconnect; we do not need to be told a story about a trombone player to find our intuitions about the violinist.

As mentioned earlier, it seems suspicious that the concept of bodily rights arises only in relation to abortion and proposals for the prevention thereof; or rather gets invoked only to argue against such prevention. People seem capable of understanding that disconnection from the violinist should not be prevented, and forcible implantation should not be supported, and slavery should not be permitted, without needing to conceptualize those things as violations of bodily rights.

I wrote under 9 above, “in relation to abortion specifically, many, many people do not intuit that that sense [of body ownership] does give a woman a right to abort an unborn child. They intuit something like “A woman whose risk of grave loss of physical or mental well-being is small should not be allowed to kill her unborn child.” This intuition in favor of a kind of trespass on bodily boundaries in one situation, while our intuitions oppose such trespass in other cases, is probably due to some of the disanalogies that exist between pregnancy and other situations. (See “Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument” and search for the bold heading Disanalogies.)

I think that logical arguments and thought experiments can be useful in finding our moral intuitions. But what ultimately validates any moral principle is our direct moral intuition about a specific action, whether or not we can understand the logical factors that the intuition may be based on.

In referring to “many, many people,” I do not propose a democratization of moral authority. I think that those with the most correct moral intuitions are those with least ego and most altruism, who may be very few. But I think that everyone has the potential to develop in that way, and sometimes otherwise also to find correct moral intuitions within them.

The purpose of this essay has been to liberate people’s minds, as they go about searching for correct moral intuitions, from the misleading features of the current bodily-rights concept. For more on moral intuitions, see “Moral Intuition, Logic, and the Abortion Debate” in Life Matters Journal Vol. 4 Issue 1 or on this blog.

We could restate the foregoing proposal for a default right, in terms of intuition, in this way: The default right “One has a right not to be unjustly harmed physically or mentally” would incorporate our intuitive perception that people have a strong sense of body ownership (usually accompanied by the moral intuition that that ownership should be considered a reality) in situations where that perception is indeed intuitive, without incorporating it where it is not intuitive. The mischief that the pro-choice concept of bodily rights causes could be eliminated, while our understanding that every human has an acute sense of ownership of their own body would remain and would provide all necessary explanatory power within the “One has a right not to be unjustly harmed” framework. (That is, it would explain the severity of some mental harms, which should be given their due.)

Special-Rights Pleading

[Edit: The charge is sometimes made in support of bodily-rights arguments, “In no situation other than in pregnancy would any person be allowed to use the body of another person against their wishes, so to allow the unborn to do so would be special-rights pleading.” This is a corollary to the appeals to legal precedent mentioned under 8 b. above.

First of all, an important message I have tried to convey is that we don’t need to confine ourselves to the analogies-and-disanalogies, comparison-with-other-situations approach. It is only under that approach that the idea of special-rights pleading is even meaningful. If we accept my analysis as to why society grants bodily rights in the first place (because of the psychological sense of body ownership and the intuition that such ownership is legitimate), then it follows that the ideal way to determine whether the bodily rights of a pregnant woman extend to killing her unborn child would be “research-based measurement of just how much mental distress can be caused by” denial of an abortion, not by comparing with other situations.

However, some answers could be given within the analogies-and-disanalogies framework. An approach that is also within the legal context that “special-rights pleading” refers to would be to adduce the broader spirit of parental-responsibility laws, etc., accepted in society. ] But I think a deeper answer would be: rather than “special-rights pleading,” it would be more accurate to say that the truest defense of a pro-life position rests simply on the intuition that the developing child in the womb deserves a certain degree of protection, and that any hypothetical innocent person in the womb, causing no more harm than a developing child in a normal pregnancy, would deserve the same degree of protection. There will never actually be any other innocent person in that position, but because a developing child happens to be the only one who actually is, does not mean that the child is being given special treatment. It is simply a unique situation.

Moreover, if pro-choicers think that pro-lifers are willing to give special legal rights to the unborn, how can they plausibly account for that willingness? They must attribute it to religious belief, or to some psychological imbalance – or, if the pro-lifer holds no such religious tenet, and the psychological theory doesn’t withstand scrutiny – to an intuition that values the unborn over the born. But many, probably most, of their own number intuit a special valuelessness for the unborn. How can they think that pro-lifers’ intuitions are so different from theirs? It would be strange to find such polar opposites. In fact we find many pro-lifers who intuitively give some degree of greater value to a third-trimester child than to a first-trimester child – so if special rights are backed by intuitions of specialness, then those who theorize about special rights would now have to adjust their theory such that the value assessments of some pro-lifers go, in descending order, late-term unborn → early-term unborn → born.

Looking at my own moral intuition about pregnancy (which says that the woman does not normally have the right to refuse shelter to the unborn already in her), that intuition has little if anything to do with the stage of development. It does have to do with helplessness and innocence, but really applies to the whole situation. My intuition would be the same about an equally helpless and innocent thirty-year-old – if a thirty-year-old could be in any such situation.

I would also say that if the best moral intuitions of the human race were to grant the unborn special rights, then I think they should have such rights, and that there would not be any philosophical flaw in that. Ultimately, all moral intuitions, including the correct moral intuitions most of us think to exist, come out of our unconsciouses in some way we cannot understand. So if the pro-life intuition is correct, possibly some particular appreciation for the unborn, calling for special rights for it, was one element in the unconscious computations. Such rights might make sense.

© 2016

 

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Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

8 thoughts on “Bodily Rights and a Better Idea

  1. At the outset I wrote, “A caring society views both such persons [McFall and Shimp] as equally valuable.” Some might question whether caring really should be society’s main purpose or even a main purpose. Thomas Jefferson said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”

  2. Another discussion with some criticisms of “Bodily Rights and a Better Idea,” which were then answered, started here in March 2017.

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