An Ambivalent Outlook on the Right To Bodily Autonomy

I tried to compose a twitter post expressing a thought that I have had chasing around in my mind, but the brevity required in twitter simply did not do it justice.  Therefore, this will be a short post on that single thought.

My thought started with this: in pro-choice arguments, the right of the pregnant woman to bodily autonomy is considered of higher importance than the right of the unborn child to his or her bodily autonomy (also their right not to be arbitrarily killed, but a straight comparison serves my purposes better).

Nowadays, most pro-choicers will concede to the humanity of the unborn child.  My somewhat uncharitable thought is that this is a reluctant concession based on the undeniability of advances in modern medicine, such as ultrasound and the survival of very premature infants.

I’ve previously made the argument that human rights are granted on the virtue of our humanity; hence the unborn child is as deserving of these rights as their pregnant mother (read more about the Equal Rights argument here).

Yet.the pro-choicer might agree that the unborn is human (and thereby intrinsically deserving of rights), but still argue that the pregnant woman is justified in killing it.  So we have the situation that I described above, where there are two human beings with competing rights, and the rights of one human being is seen to supersede the rights of the other human being.

(Here is a point where I could potentially diverge into an in-depth discussion on why I think the unborn child’s rights supersede almost any justification for abortion.  But I have discussed such things before (e.g. here), and so I’ll move on.)

To lay it out simply:
Right of pregnant woman > right of unborn child

Let’s follow this pregnant woman back a bit.  Back a while, actually.  Let’s follow her right  back to before she was born, when she was residing in the uterus of her mother. If we accept that her humanity remains unchanged, then it follows that her rights also remain unchanged.  But the pro-choice argument is that the rights of her mother now outweigh her own;

Right of pregnant woman’s mother > right of pregnant woman > right of unborn child

So the right that is in the present time considered sacred enough to justify killing another human being, was previously considered insignificant enough that it could be over-ridden at the expense of the holder’s very life. The importance of the same right held by the same person has changed so extremely over time that it could once be violated on a whim, but now they can kill their own child on the basis of it.

Yes, the way our rights are considered can be altered according to the situation.  But this is such a marked alteration in how we might perceive the importance of the right to bodily autonomy that I feel there is a significant disconnect in thinking here.

The only way that I can see to resolve this ambivalent outlook on the right of bodily autonomy is to argue that the unborn child meets some definition of human being that excludes it from being deserving of rights.  But tread carefully! for such a definition must specifically exclude the unborn child whilst being sure to include every other living human being.

Is this a discussion you want to pursue?  Email me at my contact page.

Why No Comments?

Why No Comments?

The observant will notice that I disallow comments on my posts, although this has not always been the case.  The reason for this arises from my past experience with comment sections as forums for discussion.  I have found them neither productive nor helpful, and much prefer to communicate with those who wish to discuss aspects of my position in a one-on-one format, such as email.  Hence I have a contact page as part of my blog, for those who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity.

Thank you to all those who are readers of this blog, both regular and otherwise.  I value your readership greatly.


Abortion as Self-Defence Part III: General Thoughts

Abortion as Self-Defence, Part III

General Thoughts

Unwanted Pregnancy & Self-Defence: Part I

Unwanted Pregnancy & Self-Defence: Part II

The Punitive Nature of Self-Defence

The South Australian law on self-defence has an interesting section under ‘Reasonable Proportionality’:

“A requirement under this Division that the defendant’s conduct be (objectively) reasonably proportionate to the threat that the defendant genuinely believed to exist does not imply that the force used by the defendant cannot exceed the force used against him or her.”
(Emphasis mine)

To come back to the example of lethal self-defence against rape, rape is usually considered a lesser crime than murder. However, it is acceptable to kill someone to defend one’s self from rape. One way this can be deemed to be acceptable is due to the concept of punishment and just consequences that is intertwined with the concept of self-defence. In short, we are able to accept the injury caused to an offender through self-defence because ‘they deserved it’. Their injuries were a just consequence of their actions. In an ideal situation of self-defence, the antagonist will always be at least somewhat deserving of the response they receive from the defender. Obviously this cannot always be the case; most clearly in a situation where the defender has mistaken the nature of someone else’s actions and responds with force to protect themself from a non-existent threat. But this can hardly be said to be the case in pregnancy, as the unborn child does not possess any intent and the physiological processes of pregnancy are well-known.

So what force is used in an abortion? Needless, to say, it results in the death of the unborn child and is therefore significant. Early abortions can be medical or surgical; medical involves the detachment of the unborn child from the uterine wall and its expulsion from the uterus; surgical involves the removal of the unborn child from the uterus through a suction tube. In later pregnancy, the unborn child may be removed through the cervix piece by piece using surgical instruments. In intact dilation and extraction – a procedure illegal in the U.S.A, but not Australia – the infant is delivered in breech position and the base of the skull is punctured with a sharp instrument while the head remains in the birth canal. Induction abortions involve the delivery of a whole infant; it is difficult to discover how commonly foeticidal injections (such as digoxin and potassium chloride) are used prior to induction abortions, but the injections themselves are problematic, due to the potential for pain (for comparison, condemned criminals are anaesthetised prior to the lethal injection, and the American Veterinary Medical Association considers the use of potassium chloride for euthanasia “unacceptable and condemned” on non-anaesthetised animals).

In abortion, the unborn child is subjected to forces sufficient to cause its death, often in a violent and potentially painful manner. In the vast majority of cases, this exceeds any potential injury that the unborn child is likely to cause the pregnant woman. This excess cannot be found acceptable on the grounds of punishment because the unborn child lacks any culpability for its actions, and so other excuses must be found to justify such processes.


“It will be a partial defence to murder, reducing the offence to manslaughter, if, despite the defendant believing his or her actions were necessary, the conduct was not reasonably proportionate to the threat that the defendant believed existed.”
South Australian Law on self-defence

It is true that no means exist to end a pregnancy – prior to foetal ex-utero viability – that do not entail the death of the unborn child. It is then necessary to consider the concept of proportionality. Are the actions (and consequences thereof) of the unborn child sufficient to justify its life being ended in order to cease them.

This is truly a matter of personal perspective, as what one person will consider reasonably proportionate will differ from what another person believes is reasonably proportionate. However, it is important to remember that there can be imagined inescapable and yet time-limited situations in which lethal self-defence would be entirely inappropriate. For example, being gently prodded by someone with the knowledge that this will continue for nine months if the person is not killed (to further the example, imagine the person doing the prodding has no choice in the matter, or even that they are a small child). This is not to compare pregnancy to gentle prodding, but rather to point that that the inescapability of a situation does not automatically justify the use of any force necessary to end it. The important question to consider is whether or not the circumstances of pregnancy justifies the death of a child in order to end it.

The Importance of the Defender’s Perspective

I’m going to come back to the criteria for self-defence, as outlined in the South Australian Criminal Consolidation Act 1935 and summarised by the Legal Services Commission of South Australia:

“A person is entitled to use such conduct as he or she genuinely believes is necessary for a ‘defensive purpose’ (that is, in self-defence or in defence of another, or to prevent or end an unlawful imprisonment) under s 15 Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. This will be a complete defence to an offence, including murder, as long as the force used was, in the circumstances as the defendant genuinely believed them to be, reasonably proportionate to the threat the defendant genuinely believed to exist
(Emphasis mine)

There is both a subjective and an objective component to self-defence. The subjective perspective is that of the defender, who must genuinely believe there to be a threat against which they must defend themselves. The objective component, in the case of murder, is that the conduct of the defender must be proportionate to the threat that they believed existed. The proportionality of the conduct is not determined by the defender, but by the criminal justice system.

So the nature of the threat that was believed to exist is important. The Guttmacher Institute reports on the most common reasons why women have abortions (here and here). They are listed (in no specific order) below:

  • Felt too young to have a child
  • Felt they had finished having children
  • Unable to afford a child
  • To avoid disruption of employment or education
  • Concern over impact upon care of already born children
  • Lack of partner support
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Desire not to be a single mother

Take these reasons, and consider if they constitute valid grounds for lethal self-defence. It is interesting to note that these reasons, for the most part, relate to circumstances once the child is already born. So if these reasons might be considered to be justifiable ground for lethal self-defence against the unborn child, is it not logical to likewise consider them justifiable grounds for lethal self-defence against the born child- who is, after all, having a much greater impact upon these circumstances than the unborn child? And if we cannot accept these reasons as justifying lethal self-defence against the born child, it follows that the only way to justify them being applicable to the unborn child is by considering the unborn child as less human than the born child (see The Embryo as a Living Human Person).

(In Australia, at least, a pregnant woman is protected in her employment or education by anti-discrimination laws , and medical care is free.)

One might argue that the circumstance of the pregnancy, i.e. the particular use of the woman’s body by the unborn child, constitutes grounds for self-defence regardless of whether or not this is what the pregnant woman is basing her decision to have abortion upon. However, the legitimacy of self-defence rests on the belief of the defender. An (somewhat frivolous) analogy might be that a Porsche driver shoots someone in a pick-up truck in order to prevent them pulling in next to their car and scratching it. Unbeknownst to them, the pick-up driver had a handgun in the glove compartment and was planning to shoot them after they had parked. However, this was not what the Porsche driver was defending against; it was not the threat they perceived. Ergo, I would argue, the nature of the act is changed and it cannot considered legal self-defence. Likewise, a woman who has an abortion because she believes that a child will damage her career prospects does not have legitimate grounds for self-defence, because she is defending her career rather than her body.

My conclusion would be that lethal self-defence cannot be justified by the reasons that the majority of women give for having an abortion. The exception would be the situation where the mother is unable to survive if her pregnancy continues; but this defence of life – which does not always necessitate the death of the unborn child – is a far cry from defending an economic, social or educational situation. The argument for self-defence is also rendered inapplicable in the case of an unborn child who is aborted because they have a disability.

Next post will sum up the topic of Pregnancy & Self-Defence, and will pose a challenge to the reader that I will hope will stimulate some serious thought on the topic.

Abortion as Self-Defence Part II: The Rape Comparison (Continued)

Abortion as Self-Defence, Part II

The Rape Comparison (continued)

Unwanted Pregnancy & Self-Defence: Part I

Content warning: I extensively discuss aspects of rape in the following post. It may cause distress to some people. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can find a listing of Australian services here.

Comparison 3: The Strong Versus The Weak

  • In rape, a stronger individual enforces their will over a (physically) weaker individual by means of strength.
  • In unwanted pregnancy, the unborn child is the weaker individual, and acts involuntarily by means of biology – not strength; an act which is reciprocated by the women’s biology.

Circumstances under which we accept that it is good and moral for a stronger individual to enforce their will over that of a weaker individual are those in which the weaker individual is benefited. For example, I doubt my children would choose to have a vaccination if they were consulted. Should their will be the deciding factor, they would no doubt go without vaccinations. I enforce my will over theirs because the ultimate benefit of vaccination far outweighs the deprivation of their decision-making abilities. In rape, there is no benefit for the victim. The enforcement of will by means of strength cannot be justified by these means.

The unborn child, on the other hand, is one of the weakest elements of our society. They are unable to defend themselves in any fashion or form. Their ability to implant in the uterus and develop rests wholly in their biology and the biology of the man and woman who conceived them – or the ability of the scientist who manipulates them. They have no will to enforce and no strength to ensure their survival. They cannot be considered in the same light as a rapist, ergo the pregnancy cannot be considered in the same light as a rape.

Comparison 4: Desire Versus Rights

  • In rape, the rapist seeks to fulfil their desire – for sexual release, control, power etc. – resulting in the violation of another’s rights.
  • In unwanted pregnancy, the unborn child is fulfilling a biological imperative resulting – it could be argued – in the violation of the mother’s rights.

Rape violates the victim’s right to security of person, bodily autonomy and their right not to be subjected to ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’. There is no question in the mind of a reasonable person that the benefit that the rapist gains from the act of rape – the fulfillment of their desire – is not sufficient to justify the violation visited upon the victim. Any claims that the rapist is exercising their right to use their body as they please can be summarily dismissed by pointing out the incredibly detrimental effect that such an application of rights has upon the rape victim.

In an unwanted pregnancy, the embryo first implants into the lining of the woman’s uterus, in what might be considered in technical terms to be a physical invasion. The growing embryo, and then foetus, subsists upon nutrients and oxygen drawn from the woman’s circulation, while depositing their waste products of carbon dioxide and other metabolites back into this circulation. This use of the woman’s body can be considered a violation of her bodily autonomy, just as we would consider it to be in some other circumstance where one’s body is non-consensually used to sustain another.

The difference between the violation of rights committed by the unborn child and that committed by the rapist is that, (a) the unborn commits such a violation completely involuntarily; indeed they are compelled by physiological processes and are as much at the mercy of their biology as is the woman, and (b) the unborn child commits the violation for the continuance of their survival – the ending of which constitutes a violation of their right not to be arbitrarily killed, assuming you are willing to ascribe human rights to the unborn. So rather than a desire versus rights situation (rape), where it should be abundantly clear that the desires of one individual do not outweigh the rights of another individual, unwanted pregnancy is a matter of a rights versus rights situation, where the conclusion is not so clear-cut (for a discussion of balancing conflicting human rights, see my earlier post here).

In Unwanted Pregnancy & Self-Defence: Part III, I will be discussing some general thoughts regarding self-defence, and how these relate to unwanted pregnancy.

Abortion as Self-Defence Part I: The Rape Comparison

Abortion as Self-Defence, Part I

The Rape Comparison

Content warning: I extensively discuss aspects of rape in the following post. It may cause distress to some people. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can find a listing of Australian services here.

The Argument:

Unwanted pregnancy is the non-consensual of someone’s body which can only be ceased through lethal force towards the unborn child. This can be considered self-defence, just as lethal force towards the perpetrator of a rape is self-defence against non-consensual use of someone’s body (and is considered justifiable).


Self-defence is generally taken to be defending oneself, one’s property or another person from injury. The criteria for self-defence is outlined in the South Australian Criminal Consolidation Act 1935, and summarised by the Legal Services Commission of South Australia:

“A person is entitled to use such conduct as he or she genuinely believes is necessary for a ‘defensive purpose’ (that is, in self-defence or in defence of another, or to prevent or end an unlawful imprisonment) under s 15 Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. This will be a complete defence to an offence, including murder, as long as the force used was, in the circumstances as the defendant genuinely believed them to be, reasonably proportionate to the threat the defendant genuinely believed to exist (for example, see Zecevic v DPP (1987) 162 CLR 645).

It will be a partial defence to murder, reducing the offence to manslaughter, if, despite the defendant believing his or her actions were necessary, the conduct was not reasonably proportionate to the threat that the defendant believed existed.”
[Emphasis mine]

The question to ask, therefore, is whether or not abortion – the killing of the unborn child – is a reasonably proportionate response to the ‘threat’ of pregnancy. To advance the concept that it is, unwanted pregnancy is often compared to rape, where self-defence using lethal force is considered by many to be justifiable.

The concept of reasonable proportionately can be explored from many angles, but given the above, I have chosen to look at it be comparing and contrasting unwanted pregnancy to rape, and therefore hopefully showing that they are not analogous and an argument for lethal self-defence in the case of one cannot be equally applied to the other.

Comparison 1: Basic Premise of Non-Consensual Use

  • Rape involves non-consensual use of someone’s body (by the rapist).
  • Unwanted pregnancy involves non-consensual use of someone’s body (by the unborn child).

This is a fair comparison, although it is worth having a look at the issue of consent and unwanted pregnancy, which I explored in an earlier post. What is not a given, however, is that non-consensual use of someone’s body is sufficient grounds for lethal self-defence. It is not difficult to think of instances where non-consensual use of someone’s body does not provide sufficient grounds. For example, if a child seizes my hand on a train platform, and cannot be persuaded or forced to relinquish their grip unless I push them into the path of an oncoming train, this is yet unacceptable – at least, I hope you find it so – even though it falls into the category of lethal self-defence in response to non-consensual use of my body. If a stranger on a balcony trips and grabs my arm in order to prevent a fall to their death, and cannot be persuaded or forced to let go (and plummet to their death) unless I kill or severely injure them, this is yet unacceptable – again, I hope you find it so – even with the lesser concept of non-lethal self-defence.

Thus we cannot consider the basic premise of non-consensual use of someone’s body as sufficient ground for lethal self-defence in and of itself. Hence there must be other nuances present that enable us to judge the reasonableness of the response.

Comparison 2: Legal Definition

  • To be legally rape, the action of the perpetrator must fulfil the conditions of mens rea and voluntariness.
  • In unwanted pregnancy, the unborn child exhibits neither mens rea nor voluntariness.

Mens rea is Latin for ‘guilty mind’ and refers to the intentions of the perpetrator. According to South Australian law:

“(1) A person (the offender) is guilty of the offence of rape if he or she engages, or continues to engage, in sexual intercourse with another person who—
(a) does not consent to engaging in the sexual intercourse; or
(b) has withdrawn consent to the sexual intercourse,
and the offender knows, or is recklessly indifferent to, the fact that the other person does not so consent or has so withdrawn consent (as the case may be).”
[Emphasis mine]

The South Australian law is expanded upon by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, an Australian government research body, which says that:

“The defendant intended to do the physical act, and the defendant was aware that the victim was not consenting, or was reckless towards whether or not the victim was consenting. It is not enough for the complainant to know in themselves that they do not consent – the defendant must have knowledge of this non-consent to be considered legally guilty.”
[Emphasis mine]

It should be abundantly clear, should it not have been already, that the unborn child is incapable of mens rea and therefore unable to be considered guilty of illegal action in implanting within the uterus.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies states the following regarding voluntariness:

The defendant’s actions cannot have been involuntary. Involuntary actions may include: reflex actions; sleep walking; or being in a state of altered consciousness.”
[Emphasis mine]

Again, it should be very clear that the unborn is not causing the unwanted pregnancy voluntarily, and therefore this differs again from what would legally be considered rape.

Self-defence is judged on “the threat the defendant genuinely believed to exist”, and therefore cases of rape that would not necessarily fit the legal definition may still be sufficient grounds for lethal self-defence. However, there can be no mistaking the involuntary and unintentional nature of the actions of the unborn child. In other words, given our knowledge of the prenatal development, and also the process that a woman needs to go through in order to obtain an abortion, there is no ‘heat of moment’ excuse in which she could claim that she misunderstood the intent and purpose of the unborn child. Unlike rape, unwanted pregnancy would need to be justified as a ‘threat’ apart from criminal grounds.

In the next post, I will be looking at further comparisons that will highlight the differences between unwanted pregnancy and rape, and exploring the implications for self-defence.


It’s been many months since I last looked at this blog.  It was not a planned absence; in fact, I have two unfinished blog posts waiting in my document files for me to return to them.  But without being able to pinpoint when it happened, two things occurred.

The first was that I started to experience the feeling of an emotional overload when it came to abortion.  The reality of its existence and what is condoned in the name of choice became overwhelming for me, and I felt the need for space from personal engagement with the issue.

The second was that I became incredibly busy and physically worn-out.  In October last year, my husband and I announced the upcoming birth of our fourth child.  And at the beginning of this year, I started the third year of my medical degree.  This year was the first clinical year, with 8:00am starts every day for ward rounds and an intense program of clinics, study, lectures and tutorial.  Time for things in my life other than university and my family decreased dramatically, as did my mental and emotional energy.

Five weeks ago our fourth daughter was born, and – with some time off from medical school – I feel like I’m finally able to return to my blog writing and finishing off some of the posts that have been waiting for me.

One thing I will be changing will be to disable comments on my blog posts.  I strongly feel that open online discussion forums are not particularly conducive to productive conversation, and that private messages are a much more appropriate way to discuss an issue as emotionally charged as abortion.  In light of this, I have added a contact option, where I can be reached by email for anyone who is interested in opening up a conversation about something they have read in my posts.

Thank you for your interest in my thoughts and writing, and I hope to have a new post out soon.

Abortion & Forced Organ Donation

Forced Organ Donation & Abortion

Why I don’t need to agree with forced organ donation in order to believe that abortion is wrong.

The Argument

Forcing a woman to remain pregnant by denying her an abortion is like forcing her to donate all her bodily organs to sustaining another life. Unless you also believe that it’s okay in general to force people to donate their organs to sustain the lives of others, you hold a hypocritical and illogical position and your opinion can be dismissed. If you don’t believe that it’s okay in general to force people to donate their organs to sustain the lives of others, then you have no grounds for then thinking that it’s okay to force the pregnant woman to donate hers to sustain the life of the embryo/foetus.

The Problems with this Argument

1. Firstly, I’m going to take issue with pregnancy being described as organ or tissue donation, when it is nothing of the kind.

  • The pregnant woman does not donate her uterus to her unborn child. The uterus is designed to house the unborn child, and to say that this means that it is donated to the unborn child is akin to saying that a women’s vagina is donated to a man during sexual intercourse, or that a nursing mother’s breasts are donated to her breastfeeding child. An organ used as it was intended to be used by another human being does not constitute a donation.
  • Similar to the above, the pregnant woman does not make a tissue donation of her endometrial lining (which would otherwise be discarded during menstruation) to the unborn child, as this is the intended use of the endometrium.
  • The pregnant woman does not donate her blood to the unborn child. Unlike an actual donation of blood, where the blood is removed from the donor and placed into the recipient, no blood is removed from the mother and no blood is placed into the embryo. Bear with me, because it does get somewhat technical in order to demonstrate this;- Until three weeks after conception, the embryo receives oxygen and nutrients via the trophoblast, which is the precursor to the placenta and forms the outer layer around the embryo. Picture the trophoblast as an eggshell, and and the embryo as the egg yolk. The trophoblast is in contact with lacunae, which are cavities within the endometrium that are filled with maternal blood. Material diffuses from the lacunae through the trophoblast and to the embryo.

    – At two weeks after conception, the embryonic circulatory system begins to form. By three weeks after conception, embryonic blood is moving through capillaries (very small blood vessels) within the chorionic villi, which can be pictured as stalks sprouting from the layers surrounding the embryo. These villi project into the lacunae, and material diffuses from the blood in the lacunae into the embryonic blood vessels, where it is circulated via the embryonic cardiovascular system, which – by the end of the third week – includes a beating heart.

    – The pregnant woman does not donate her body to the unborn child. Her body systems do work together to provide nutrition and shelter for the unborn child, but to claim that this is akin to organ or tissue donation makes no more sense than claiming that my use of my body to provide nutrition and shelter to my three born children is akin to organ or tissue donation.

2. It doesn’t take into account the relative rights at stake. By this I am saying that it fails to recognise the difference between not acting to save a life (non-organ donation) and acting to end a life (abortion). It is important to realise here that my stance on abortion is based primarily on the concept that the unborn child, as a human being, deserves the same human rights as the rest of us.

The key right here is the right not to be arbitrarily killed. Other rights of the unborn child are also violated by abortion, but this one is the most outstanding. However, refusing to donate an organ does not result in the arbitrary killing of the ill individual. We have a right not to be killed; we do not have a right not to die. The most relevant right for the individual requiring an organ transplant is the right to health, but this only covers a right to ethical treatment, and so does not cover forcing another person to undergo a intervention in order to acquire treatment.  Therefore no rights of the would-be organ recipient are violated by a refusal to donate.

3. It minimises and trivialises the bodily autonomy of the unborn child while elevating the bodily autonomy of born human beings, including the pregnant women. Let me illustrate what I mean;

  • A person dying of kidney disease MAY NOT violate the bodily autonomy of another in order to save their own life, even though death may considered one of the most drastic of consequences.
  • A pregnant woman MAY violate the bodily autonomy of her unborn child in the most extreme manner in order to avoid the continuation of her state of pregnancy.

So, on one hand we say that bodily autonomy is so important that we may not violate it even to save our own lives. On other hand, we say that bodily autonomy is so unimportant that we can violate it drastically in order to not be pregnant. The only way to escape this illogical conclusion is to argue that the unborn child does not deserve human rights – and I’ve yet to see one convincing argument on this presented to me.

4. It fails to mirror the state of pregnancy in its analogy of forced organ donation. Even if we were to ignore that pregnancy is not organ/tissue donation (see point 1) and pretend instead that it is in some way, it still does not resemble the organ/tissue donation that takes place between born human beings. For example, if I am pregnant, than the embryo or foetus is already using my uterus; the ‘donation’ has already taken place. The only way to stop the foetus using my uterus is to forcibly remove them, at the cost of their life. Likewise, after a kidney donation has taken place, the only to stop a donor recipient from using my kidney is to force them to undergo a surgical procedure and reclaim my kidney from their body. Regardless of how my kidney ended up in their body to begin with – forced, voluntary or as a foreseeable consequence of my own actions – most people would see that this remedy for reclaiming my bodily autonomy is not sufficiently justifiable.

5. It fails to recognise that that granting a right does not grant every remedy to that right. I have a right to bodily autonomy, but I may not pursue any avenue that I feel is appropriate to exercise that right. To give an example, if I overheard a plan to kidnap me and forcibly remove my kidney in order to give it to the child of the main conspirator, and I know that the only way to stop this from taking place was to kill the unknowing and essentially innocent child, am I justified in doing so? I am not, even if this is the only remedy available that will uphold my right to bodily autonomy.

6. It doesn’t differentiate between an active violation and a denial of intervention (e.g. operation to remove donor organ versus denial of abortion procedure). A doctor needs to meet a high bar to treat a patient without consent (example here), but a much lower bar to refuse to treat a patient (example here). An example in my own personal experience has been an elderly and demented female patient with a cancerous lesion in her gastrointestinal system. Should the surgical team discover spread of the cancer or other complications, they are well within their rights to refuse to perform surgery on this lady. However, they cannot decide of their own accord to perform surgery on her; not without the consent of the relevant family members.

The Challenge of this Argument

It was put to me that it is immoral to refuse to save a life when it is within your power to do so. I am inclined to agree somewhat with this, so how can I then defend myself from being called hypocritical when I fail to advocate for forced organ donation, but advocate for so-called forced pregnancy?

The answer is that it doesn’t matter if I think refusing to donate an organ is immoral. For the above reasons listed, this argument is as relevant to pregnancy as suggesting that because I think lying is immoral, but don’t advocate for legislation banning it, I don’t have a right to advocate for the banning of abortion.


Consideration of the unique situation of pregnancy, awareness of the affected rights of all individuals involved in both pregnancy and organ donation and recognition of the very significant differences between organ donation and pregnancy have led me to the conclusion that this argument, although seemingly relevant and powerful on the surface, can be refuted when it is thoroughly explored

I found the following links useful:

Debunking the Pro-Choice Argument, Part VI

Standford Students for Life: the Kidney Donation Argument

Information on embryological development came from ‘The Developing Human: Clinically Orientated Embryology, 9th Edition’ Moore et al. 2013