The Right to Choose; a given or a taken?

The Right to Choose; a given or a taken?

Personally, I believe a woman should have a right to choose whether she wants to take the embryo in her womb to birth or not.

Hypothetically, if I were a woman who was joining with a mate but had no thoughts or intentions of having a baby and became pregnant what would I do–?

[1] Ask your Doctor to end the pregnancy

[2] Try to end the pregnancy by inserting something up into the womb to kill/stop the embryo

[3] have the baby knowing you did not want it

[4] take your own life

[5] ___________________ ?? you fill in here

What an odd way of putting it.

Myself, I don’t know what I would do, not being in the situation right now. But what I would do doesn’t matter. I do know that the process of turning a cell into a baby human is not instantaneous and that there is no moral hazard if you abort the fetus early ‘enough’. And I also know that doctors aren’t murderous and if they endorse a late-term abortion, there’s almost certainly a medical reason.

Which is to say that I hold a position on this that almost nobody will fully agree with, until they hear that I think the determination for whether it should happen should be between the doctor and the woman, with no further input from the government at all.

Some Things
Just need repeating
until heard

In the future, option 5 may involve an artificial womb and/or in vivo embryo transfer. Won’t that be cool?


Are you interested in seeing a debate on the legal and moral questions raised here,

or would you rather we stick to the opinion poll?


Me too. I think that’s part of what it means to be female. You’re naturally going to avail yourself of methods of making your body behave in certain ways that you deem necessary, if those methods are known to you and available to you. Anyone thinking you shouldn’t ought to have that authority has to create a complex social structure of licensing and observation and policing and intimidation and indoctrination in order to create a society where you don’t have that option. Meanwhile, out of all the possible people who might regard a miscarriage as a misfortune or tragedy, it’s the pregnant woman whom we all agree has the most intense reason to care, generally speaking. It’s her tragedy first and foremost. So it’s also her tragedy first and foremost if she’s pregnant at a time or under a circumstance where being pregnant is tragic. And if there’s a conflict of opinions — the village elders think she shouldn’t abort but her perspective on it is that being pregnant right now would ruin her life; or her husband or mom considers it a bad idea that she’s pregnant but she wants to keep it — it needs to be her authority that outranks everyone else.

I’m not sure if the OP means this as an opinion poll, but hypothetically, if I were such a woman, I guess I would very reluctantly carry the pregnancy to term.

We have actually had opportunity to observe what happens when women are denied control of their bodies. From a practical point of view having it safe and legal is better for everyone.

And I have said before and continue to say, when you sacrifice pragmatism in the name of morality, it becomes morality in name only.

Great, we then have test-tub babies with gene swapping & chromosomes implantation for the desired result-
the new world
of life
right before
your eyes
note: please refrain from blinking if you want to truly see
just a suggestion

& a bad one at that (:-

I think the fundamental problem is that for any rights you ascribe to a fetus, you must take away rights from the woman carrying it. It really is a zero sum game when it comes to abortion, and we should protect the rights of the adult human female over the rights of a proto-formed, not - even - conscious fetus. To do otherwise would be an egregious violation of women’s bodily autonomy.

I’ve never heard any argument against abortion that wasn’t grounded in someone’s religious belief. I don’t think someone else’s religion should be able to dictate what I do with my own body.

To answer your hypothetical, I would probably carry to term. I’m answering as a woman with one child who doesn’t want any more. I’d consider any future pregnancies unwanted but if I got pregnant right now, I would probably have the kid and try to make it work. I don’t personally think abortion is for me - unless there were some genetic abnormality that would cause unbearable suffering and then death to my offspring. I wouldn’t abort a healthy child. That’s just me.

Repetition is not clarification. Is this thread supposed to be a debate, a poll, or just a statement?

You have obviously not been listening to Republicans, who steadfastly repeat stuff until it becomes truthy.

Which is why I always say that a fetus should have exactly the rights that the mother chooses to extend to it.

I’ve seen people try, but it always comes back to some sort of moral system that just is, as though brought down from on high, even though they do their damnedest to try to avoid invoking a religious belief in the process.


Full disclosure up front …

My general attitude is pro-abortion on demand, paid for by insurance / the state, and also pro-suicide on demand. You want it, you get it. Grownups can handle their lives how they see fit. Be that wisely or foolishly.

As k9b almost says, that’s a very pithy summary of the core issue. Nicely done. And one with which I agree about 99.999%

Why the quibble? What of the father’s interest (assuming the sex itself was consensual)? IMO he has no right to violate her bodily autonomy (or lifestyle autonomy) before the pregnancy occurs. And none after the baby is delivered. There’s just no rational basis for him having any such rights. So far so easy.

Does he maybe, just maybe, have some say during the intervening 9 months? He certainly has an interest; I doubt anyone sensible would debate that. Whether that interest rises to a veto is the question. Said another way, that pithy summary needs to be extended slightly:

I think the fundamental problem is that for any rights you ascribe to a the fetus or to the father, you must take away rights from the woman carrying it for the 9 months involved.

It’s said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Is an abortion over the father’s objection an equally permanent solution to a temporary problem?

Perhaps the father gets a veto subject to the condition that the woman agrees to give up all parental rights. e.g. if she doesn’t want the child, she’s free to jettison her responsibility for the post-birth child. But not her biologically-imposed responsibility for their shared pre-birth proto-child.

I’m not JAQing here. I honestly don’t know.

But I see an asymmetry here beyond that imposed by biology. Mother wants to birth the fetus → Father has no say and gets to care and pay for it for 20 years (or at least be pursued with varying effectiveness by the woman and the state to care and pay for it). Or Mother doesn’t want to birth the fetus → Father has no say and loses their proto-child.

Clearly these problems are avoided if all pregnancies and all sex-without-conception events are unanimous decisions. But once we have a split decision we’re in an ugly and asymmetrical decision space. With a ticking clock / timebomb.

If we posit artificial wombs and that extracting an intact embryo has no different hazard than performing an abortion the situation changes. We could allow the abortion to proceed if unanimous, or transfer the embryo to an artificial womb while the mother gives up future responsibility (and rights). That would be a way to eliminate the asymmetry imposed by biology and arrive at an equal solution.

At least on the surface. There’s probably a lot more involved in the psychological / hormonal aspects of pregnancy, motherhood, and fatherhood. Separate is perhaps inherently unequal and the best we can hope to do is shrink the inequality.

I know I don’t know. I do believe that today, given the practical realities, a lot more harm would come to everyone (but most especially the mothers) if we gave fathers an absolute veto over abortions. That’s a bad solution. The question I’m curious about is whether we can craft a less bad one given enough tech and money.

  1. We have had “test-tube babies” for longer than I have been alive. The CDC estimated that “[a]pproximately 1.7% of all infants born in the United States every year are conceived using ART”. The method currently used is to fertilize the egg in vitro and then transfer the embryo from the lab into a living woman. I suggested that near-future technology will allow for an embryo, fertilized in vivo (the traditional manner), to be removed from the pregnant woman and implanted either in an artificial womb or (if the embryo is very young) a recipient woman. Scientists developed an artificial womb for sheep in 2015. This was a significant step towards a potential artificial womb for humans. In fact, it turns out that woman-to-woman embryo transfer is already possible, and successfully produced a live birth in 1984.
  2. I didn’t suggest messing with genes, but that’s already been done, too. Perhaps you didn’t hear about the CRISPR baby scandal. Lulu and Nana should be almost two years old by now.


I always thought interfering with a fetus without the woman’s consent should be treated like “mayhem,” which is a euphemism for a crime that involves maiming or dismembering a living person.

It’s legal to alter a person’s body with their consent, and a crime to do so without. A doctor can remove a diseased or supernumerary limb, but no one can remove a normal body part from someone under kidnap or duress.

If you think of a fetus as a part of a woman’s body that she may or may not want (like a sixth finger), that may or may not be diseased, that for whatever reason, she may or may not consider normal to her, it’s a lot clearer to me that no, a fetus doesn’t have rights, but a woman has rights over it that are special.

A woman has a right to choose whether or not to try to keep or amputate a limb or breast when some kind of disease is present-- her parents can’t step in and claim that they have a genetic relationship to the limb, and have a right to participate in the decision, the same goes for people with a genetic relationship to a fetus.

So, it’s perfectly viable legally to say that it’s a crime to harm a pregnant woman in such a way that ends her pregnancy when that was undesirable to her, even while saying that abortion on demand should be legal. There’s no contradiction anymore than there’s a contradiction in saying that I can have my ears surgically altered to have elf tips if I want, but just because that is legal, you don’t have the right to attack me and cut a piece off of my ear.

Thanks. That’s another very clean way of explaining about 99.999% of the situation. I like it overall.

There are two differences between, e.g., a diseased limb and a fetus.

The first:
The diseased limb will always be either a) a biologically dependent component of the woman, or b) dead. A fetus has, eventually, a third outcome: biologically independent life as a separate organism.

Does that difference rise to the level that it matters? I’m not prepared to argue either way. I’m not big on fetus’s “rights” in general, but I think it’s evident the difference I point out is a real difference. IOW, your analogy is good, but it isn’t perfect; there are still details to be parsed out. Perhaps de minimis details, perhaps devilish details.

The second:
In the analogy of the diseased limb, the parents don’t have a right to vote yeah/nay on removing it despite their genetic connection. They also are not facing a requirement to support the limb for the next 20 years in one of the two possible outcomes. Their interest is pretty consequence-free regardless of the woman’s choice. So it makes sense she’s free to ignore their preferences since neither of her choices imposes a meaningfully different burden on the parents.

In the case of a fetus I can (almost) accept the idea that the father’s genetic interest in the fetus is no greater than the parents’ in the limb. But then there’s the financial and time-and-effort interest applied by modern law. As in my earlier post, if the father is empowered by law to say “I vote abortion; if the mother chooses otherwise, as is totally her right, she accepts that my parental rights & responsibilities end in perpetuity when she makes that decision.”, then the woman’s decision doesn’t amount to an unwanted uncompensated burden being placed unilaterally on him over his objections. If he lacks the right to renounce, then there’s a problem.

Here's another completely unrelated way to look at the father's & mother's biologically imposed differing rights, responsibilities, and interests. Which argues against what I just said.

Try this on for size.

As a biological matter the mother is stuck dealing with the pregnancy or its termination. That’s the sex, the conception, the early pregnancy, the abortion or not, the late pregnancy or not, and the birth or not. In exchange for that large burden, she gets to choose the no-kid = abortion route up until fairly late in the pregnancy, perhaps even unto the day before birth. Said another way, the woman gets (up to) 9 months of “do-over” on the fact of her conception.

As a biological matter the father has a much lighter burden. As such his last opportunity for a do-over isn’t really a do-over at all. His last say in the matter is just before conception occurs. After that he’s along for the ride.

He didn’t earn the right to have a vote in the subsequent path of the pregnancy because he isn’t bearing the burden of being pregnant.

The two gendered situations are not equivalent. They are not equal. But they do each have some balance of burden vs benefit. The side bearing the greater burden receives a greater benefit; the net balance for each isn’t hugely unequal. Or at least the socially-imposed burden/benefit ratio doesn’t make the biologically-imposed burden/benefit worse than it inherently must be.

There may not be equality, but there is rough and ready equity. Which may be the best we can ask for given that biology wasn’t designed by humans to support human moral / ethical / practical preferences. It’s just the way it is and we have to deal with it as it is.

Does that make sense to anyone? I just made it up, although I have no doubt lots of other folks have advanced the same arguments. I admit I’m not well-read on the overall ethical / practical history of thought on abortion.

In a world with an adequate social safety net, I would agree that a father should be able to abandon a child that he fathered if he wants nothing to do with their life.

In this world, he needs to take responsibility. And the fact that whether or not the woman chooses to carry the child to term is out of his hands is one of the very few things that men have to accept that they are not in control over.

The father has the right to voice his opinion, but that’s as far as it goes, IMHO.

(I also have my thoughts on how poorly child support is implemented, but that’s also a discussion for another thread.)

I would not support that right in general. Or at least not unless it was equally available to mothers and to fathers and, as you say, there was sufficient state support to avoid unduly burdening the remaining parent.

In my first view renunciation would be available only if the woman chooses to carry the fetus to term over the father’s objection.

And that’s my second perspective. Dad lost his say in the matter when conception occurred. Too late after that. Live with the consequences, including being a positive contributor to the child’s first 20 years if one results.

Ditto. In a sound bite, the current setup is a disgrace to society and a tremendous disservice to single parents everywhere, the vast majority of whom are women. We can, should, and must do better.