by Sarah Terzo
The argument “My body, my choice” has long been used to support abortion. More recently, it’s been used by those who oppose vaccines and vaccine mandates. In one case, it’s used to claim the right to refuse to use one’s body to support a baby. In the other, it’s used to claim the right not to inject a vaccine into one’s body. In each case, though, the argument is for bodily autonomy.
Both arguments share the same flaw. We do have particular freedoms. In the United States, our Constitution guarantees it, and ethics demands it. But our rights end when our choices hurt others. When our freedom interferes with another person’s right to life and their safety and well-being, our freedom must be limited.
A human being’s right to life is more important than another person’s bodily autonomy. This is clear in the case of abortion. A woman does have the right to control her body. She should be allowed to make her own choices. But when she becomes pregnant, another person’s body is involved. If she has an abortion, it won’t just affect her body, but also the body of the child inside of her.
We have long known that a preborn baby’s heart is beating at three weeks after conception. One study found that a baby’s heart may start beating even earlier, at just 16 days. At six weeks, she has a brain that is giving off brainwaves. At just under seven weeks, she responds to touch.
And by eight weeks, still within the time most abortions are committed, she can have the hiccups. She is already right or left-handed.5 If she is a girl, she has ovaries of her own. Even at ten weeks, the baby has unique fingerprints. They are different from those of anyone who’s ever lived or ever will live. She can also suck her thumb.
She is a unique individual who has never existed before and will never exist again.
But the baby’s life begins even before this. His or her life began at conception, the moment the sperm cell from the father combined with the egg cell from the mother to create a new, unique individual. This is not a religious or philosophical claim. It’s a scientific one. Science teaches that life begins at conception. For example, there is this passage from embryologist Keith L. Moore’s medical textbook The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology:
Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual…A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).
An article in Live Action News presents 39 other quotes from scientists, medical journals, and medical textbooks.
A woman certainly has a right to control her body. She has a right to decide when, whether, and with whom to have sex. She has a right to decide whether to use birth control. She has a right to decide what foods she wants to eat, where she wants to work, what clothes she wants to wear, and where she wants to live. But she doesn’t have the right to decide to have an abortion, because that means the death of another person.
While abortion directly leads to the death of another human person, refusing vaccination can also lead to the death of other people. In 2020, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States. COVID-19 killed more people than suicide, stroke, other infectious diseases, accidents of all kinds, homicide, or diabetes. Only cancer and heart disease took more lives.
On top of the many deaths, many more people have been left with long-term health problems, which may lead to permanent disabilities. Furthermore, risk of death is much greater for unvaccinated people. In a singular example, one unvaccinated California couple died and left five children behind. They didn’t even get a chance to name their youngest child.
If you spread COVID-19 to another person, it has the potential to kill them. Every time you leave your home and come into contact with other people, you increase your chances of either contracting or spreading COVID-19.
The most vulnerable to the virus are also the most vulnerable to other threats in our society – among them the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill. This includes the immunocompromised, many of whom don’t get as much protection from vaccines.
The pro-life movement defends the lives of these vulnerable people when they are threatened by euthanasia or assisted suicide. But COVID-19 also puts them at risk. A person who has died of COVID-19 is just as dead as one who dies from euthanasia or assisted suicide. Pro-lifers must oppose all threats to the lives of these vulnerable people.