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Abortion and Individual Sovereignty

by Jeremy Sapienza

I have finally decided on the philosophy that I will go with in regard to abortion. You’re probably all sick of hearing about it, I know, and nobody wants to wrap this up as much as I do. So let’s make this short and painless, okay? That means no more probing questions and hypotheticals. I’m just talking about a mother’s responsibility, not the father’s, not the rapist, or abortionist, or anyone else. This is a narrow philosophical point I’m trying to make, and I don’t want to elaborate or extrapolate until my fingers bleed. Why just the woman? Not, as one reader suggested, because I think that women should be held more responsible for their acts than men. I understand that a man must be involved (again, in the most common case), but it complicates what I’m trying to say. The woman is the one who physically holds the baby in her body, so she is the object of my arguments. That’s it.

Another of my readers, a very clear-headed man named Bob Lallier, from Lodi, California, sent me a masterpiece of an email. I will quote freely, because the man is a genius, to me. He let me know that he felt the same as I do about abortion, and he understood my confusion, especially in my "conclusion," where I wrote some muddle-headed garbage about how I can’t explain what I feel on the issue. He tried to help me out with this:

"The concept you are looking for, which allows righteous indignation against the practice of abortion, while not espousing that the practice be defined as a crime, is individual sovereignty. A woman may kill her unborn child, and it is a killing of a human being and deserving of opprobrium, but our government may have no jurisdiction within the skin of an individual without each of us suffering dire unintended consequences in the long run. A woman literally holds the power of life and death within the bounds of her flesh, because she is sovereign there."

Brilliant. I have never heard this argument before. We have as much moral right to regulate the inside of another person’s body as we do sending our government around the world "keeping peace." One correspondent told me that around 90% of women have abortions out of convenience. They are hags deserving of our scorn, but not our blows. Yes, I understand that there are others involved, and in many cases the women are conned, bribed, or threatened to have an abortion, but I’m not talking about these women. I’m talking about the 35-year-old executive who can’t be bothered with the person growing inside her because it may ruin her career, and has it ripped out, or the woman who kills her unborn child so she can look good in her new bathing suit.

Let’s let Bob finish up here:

"To violate this right of individual sovereignty opens many fearsome Pandora’s boxes. For one example, if abortion is homicide then innocent women who have suffered miscarriages can be hunted down by the state and hustled off to gynecologists and investigated as possible crime scenes...A state that can define its jurisdiction so as to include the insides of our very bodies will leave absolutely no room left for any individual humanity at all. Such a state will not be above dictating the genetic engineering of people to make them more ‘fetus friendly’ in the interest of protecting "our" little "proto-citizens." Believe me, even Catholics do not want to go there..."

April 25, 2001

Jeremy organizes the Worldwide Capitalism Web and the new free email service for anarchists, anarchomail.com.


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