Are We Obligated to Preserve Some Cells' "Right to Life" over a Woman's?
The overturning of Roe v. Wade leaves women without legal protection, a tremendous step back in achieving gender equality.
July 11, 2022
The ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which safeguards a woman's right to choose whether or not to have a pregnancy terminated, was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 24, 2022. This ruling supports the belief that women have the moral obligation to undergo a psychologically and physically detrimental nine months of pregnancy; even in situations where they took precautions against or they had not consented to sexual relations. Philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson explored the logic of this argument and in response, came up with an analogy that asks you to picture yourself waking up with a famous violinist attached to your body. When you wake, the violinist's management team informs you that you were kidnapped and they performed a medical procedure that resulted in the attachment of the violinist. In order to survive, the violinist leeches off your organs and makes you weaker; in other words, if you choose to detach the violinist, the violinist will die. If you haven't already realized, this analogy is about rape, where the choice of pregnancy is taken away completely and consent is violated. Thomson argues that you do not have a moral obligation to keep the violinist attached, since this decision was enforced onto you without your consent. The removal of the violinist can be argued to be indecent, but there is no obligation for him to stay. As many pro-lifers suggest, a newly fertilized ovum, a clump of cells, has a right to life. In this situation, just because the violinist has a "right to life," he doesn't have permission to use your body to sustain that life. The violinist's right to life can be superseded by your right to bodily integrity. Therefore, the removal of that violinist (representing a fetus) is morally permissible, and keeping him attached is not morally obligatory.
Furthermore, abortions are sometimes needed to save mothers' lives. For example, carrying out the termination of the fetus in the case of a miscarriage will be criminalized, as policies that restrict abortion outlaw certain medical procedures used during the process. With ¼ of pregnancies ending in miscarriages, 25% of pregnancies can potentially be fatal with abortion bans. Taking this into consideration, it is easy to recognize that with the inevitability of miscarriages, women will turn to unsafe medical alternatives to save their lives, which in turn only puts their lives even more at risk. That is why banning abortions won't stop them from getting one and instead will only result in unsafe ones and consequently more deaths.
The overturning of Roe is not only a restriction of a woman's power but a diminishment of the voices of American people. As two-thirds of the American population support abortions, the overturning of Roe v. Wade isn't a reflection of what the American people want and therefore this decision stands as a direct opposition to the American ideals of a democratic society. Additionally, as abolishing the right to abortion limits women's right to make decisions, it also opens up a gateway to overrule other inclusive court rulings, further eliminating any non-discriminatory progression. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has publicly announced that "after overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated." This would include the cases that were concluded with the legalization of same-sex marriage (Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015). Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. also voices a similar opinion, posing the possibility of a necessary reconsideration of Brown v. Board of education, which stated that the separation of individuals based on their race was unconstitutional.
The abolition of the constitutional protection right to abortion violates the rights of women by limiting their ability to make choices about their own bodies by enforcing an invalid obligation to undergo a taxing process of pregnancy. This traumatic experience in which a woman has to carry and deliver a baby they do not want heavily violates their bodily integrity.
About the Author
Hi! I'm Michelle and I'm a rising Junior from Hong Kong. Recently opening my eyes about inequality through current events, social media, and my most recent school year, I've realized a big part of gaining a global consciousness is recognizing gender imbalance. I'm now passionate about working against it, starting with writing for The F Word.
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