Monday, February 11, 2013

Defending Reproductive Rights Depends Upon Upholding All Rights

This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the 1/16/13 NJ Star-Ledger:

Roe v. Wade   As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, we must remember that complacency is the enemy of this epic reproductive rights victory. The truth is our hard-fought reproductive rights are at risk.    
State legislatures continue to threaten and chip away at the core rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade. Barriers — including fewer providers, increased regulations and restrictions on insurance carriers — have been enacted to steadily erode the integrity of the law. Our organization has long been committed to protecting every woman’s right to access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion care.    
In 2010, New Jersey completely eliminated the state budget line that allocated $7.5 million for basic reproductive health care services, leaving our state ranked a shameful 42nd of 50 states in family planning funding. Nearly one-quarter of New Jersey counties have no abortion provider at all. The bottom line is restrictions on access to abortion are unjust and dangerous. They endanger women’s health, restrict women’s rights and diminish religious freedom.    
I implore fellow New Jersey residents to resist falling into a false sense of security when it comes to Roe v. Wade. Now is the time for action, not complacency, to ensure our loved ones will have the benefits of Roe v. Wade for years to come. 
Karen Cherins, president, National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section

Notice that Karen Cherins describes her organization's mission as "protecting every woman’s right to access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion care," thus turning Roe v. Wade on its head. Roe affirmed the constitutional existence of no such "rights."

The third paragraph highlights Cherins's moral inversion. Ending that $7.5 million funding does nothing to "endanger women’s health [or] restrict women’s rights," since the only people who have a right to that money in the first place are the people who earned it, not the women who need it. It's a blow for, not against, religious freedom because--in a significant though small way--people who morally oppose abortion are no longer forced to fund it against their religious (or non-religious) convictions.

The right to abortion does not mean a right to access to abortion services. If it does, then it means that doctors and taxpayers are any pregnant woman's slave, should she decide to have an abortion. It means that doctors are to be forced to provide her with an abortion, and/or taxpayers forced to pay for it.

By disregarding other people's rights to their earnings and freedom of choice and conscience, Cherins demolishes her own case. On what grounds does she condemn legislatures' that "continue to threaten and chip away at the core rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade," if she  simultaneously demands that the NJ Legislature threaten and chip away other rights? Roe affirmed a woman's "the constitutional right to privacy and a woman’s right to choose abortion," in Planned Parenthood's own words, not a right to have an abortion provided to her at others' expense. 

Rights are guarantees to freedom of action, such as freedom of speech, assembly, earning and disposing of property, acting upon one's own judgement, and pursuing abortion services by voluntary contractual agreement with a doctor. Rights are not an automatic claim on products or services that must be provided by others. 

I laud the National Council of Jewish Women's goal of defending reproductive rights. But there is a grave danger in narrowly defending a particular right, while disregarding other rights. Cherins's utter ignorance on individual rights is paving the way for anti-abortion forces, who are cashing in on the erroneous idea that embryos have rights. Only those of us who defend the moral principle of individual rights completely and consistently have the intellectual firepower to uphold a woman's right to reproductive freedom, and hold off the forces seeking to undermine Roe v. Wade. One cannot defend any right, without understanding and vigorously defending all rights.

Related Reading:

Individual Rights -- by The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

Abortion and Individual Rights, Parts 12, and 3

Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society, by Craig Biddle

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