Abortion as Self-Defence, Part II
The Rape Comparison (continued)
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.