Pro-lifers tend to be in agreement that forced use of organs is immoral: they just make an exception for using the uterus (using the organs of a pregnant woman) without her consent. As the essay The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion has already demonstrated, the anti-choicers are themselves unwilling for their own bodies to be used against their will: men can’t get pregnant,and pro-life women have abortions as often as pro-choice women.
“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
Many more eggs are fertilsed than there are babies born. For a baby to be created from a fertilised egg, a woman must be willing to use her body – not only her uterus, but her heart (which must beat for two); her liver, her kidneys, her guts – all of her bodily resources are used in the process of making a baby.
As I noted in a comment on Catherine Palmer’s blog Ethika Politika (the blog of the Center for Morality in Public Life) the pro-life argument against medically-required abortions is that women have no right to life or health if their bodies are being used by a fetus: explicitly, that fetuses are more valuable than women. (That the only way to keep a fetus alive, safe, and supported through pregnancy is to ensure that the health and life of pregnant women is made a priority, is something that does not appear to have occurred to pro-lifers.)
The pro-life argument against elective abortions, is that a fetus has the right to make use of a woman’s body against her will, because a fetus is a “person”. But that’s not a workable argument if a woman is a person: because then she has an inalienable right to decide for herself not to use her body to bring a fetus to term.
To rephrase the very basic statement of morality made by a member of the pro-life community against forced organ use: The [pro-life] community has tempted some to seek a weakening of the strict ethical rules which prevent patients—no matter how sick or catastrophically disabled—from ever being treated as a mere organ system rather than an equal member of the moral community.
The key rule is: Organs will be taken only if consent is freely given—either by the patient or by family members (if the patient is catastrophically disabled or otherwise unable to consent). That informed and freely given consent is both a legal and an ethical principle. Arguments that the use of an organ is for the “common good”, that saving life justifies taking the use of an organ against that person’s will, are profoundly immoral: A woman must never be treated as a mere organ system to be “submitted to the common good”. Not for the use of her heart, her liver, her kidneys – or her uterus.
Again, going back to the article about disrobing pro-life euphemisms:
This ideology is, broadly speaking, the pro-life ideology. This doctrine insists, sans sound premise, that certain human beings ought to be labeled non-persons and thus be denied rights. It insists further that it is fundamental to society that no woman who decides against pregnancy ought to be allowed her choice: that human rights for women ought not to be regarded as protected by the US Constitution or by any other human rights laws.
As Catherine Palmer herself notes: The ramifications of this mentality are unspeakable, but not unprecedented. Anytime unpopular human beings are reduced to something disposable, we see horrific effects. We saw it in our segregated nation under Jim Crow laws in the 1950’s, when African-Americans were lynched by the thousands because they were dark-skinned; and we see it in [Latin America] today with denial of medically-required abortions where pregnant women are allowed to die of preventable complications as a human sacrifice to a religious Law without humanity. (For horrid examples of pro-life Americans celebrating the ideal of human sacrifice to the Law, see the comments thread here.)
Like Catherine, I would like to think (and generally do think) that the propagators of these killings would never commit them were they to see them for what they really are.
But the pro-life movement is guilty of murder, terrorism, and other violence towards health service workers, and has recently and very openly made clear that where the choice lies between saving a pregnant woman’s life by performing an abortion, and letting the pregnant woman die even though the fetus dies too, they argue for the latter: they prefer two deaths to one.
Like Catherine, I say the first initiative is educational in nature. We have a responsibility both to educate people who have been deceived by pro-life lies about fetuses, pregnancy, and abortion, and to educate people in valuing women as human beings. The abortion question ultimately comes down to the moral status of pregnant women, but pro-lifers like to argue that it’s all about “saving fetuses” – and then tell further, complicated lies both about the nature of fetuses/fetal development and about abortion. Both contradicting the pro-life lies and affirming the equal humanity of women are required to correct the inimical pro-life mindset. Pro-lifers need intellectual confusion to make their case: the service of truth corrects their lies.
Like Catherine, I say the second initiative is active in nature. The pro-lifers have political and religious power and money on their side: she argues that “we see that the Civil Rights Movement required authors and activists, professors and preachers, to bare segregation for the world to see”. I agree with her that the Pro-Life Movement will likely prove no different: it is not enough for them to expose themselves as indifferent to women’s lives and opposing human rights for women, it is essential that they should be exposed for what they are.
The pro-life ideology is an inhuman ideology “parading in dress-up clothes and pretending to be human”. Catherine quotes a Narnian in one of C.S.Lewis’s novels saying “But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that’s going to be human and isn’t yet, or used to be human once and isn’t now, or ought to be human and isn’t, keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet”. While a pro-lifer would naturally think in terms of violent action, which I oppose as I oppose all pro-life ideology – I agree with the recommendation to be wary of inhumanity.
The belief that other people exist to be used against their will is one of the most pernicious and deadly that humanity is rife with: and it is the pro-life belief in a nutshell. Pro-life euphemisms, be gone!
I should admit: I plagiarised large chunks of Catherine’s post with satiritic intent. The best satires were teaching rants. Catherine’s post presumes that if only those of us who believe that women are human and so support a woman’s right to choose, could understand the humanity of the cute li’l fetuses, we would somehow change our minds about the humanity of women. We do need to convince pro-lifers who have a sincere concern for humanity, that their concern is severely misdirected when they argue that because human fetuses are fully human, that must mean women ought to be treated as slaves, animals, or incubators. A fetus can have all the human rights that every human is born to: that does not mean that a fetus (or a pro-lifer claiming to act for a fetus) can force a woman to use her body as an incubator against her will. As humans we have the right to choose if, when, and how many children we will have: pro-lifer arguments that pregnancy is a “common good” for which women can be used against their will are straightforward arguments for enslavement and dehumanisation of women.