Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Right to Abortion, Not Others' Wallets

Like so many other Roe v. Wade supporters, Ann Ormsby, the former senior vice president at the United Way of New York City, marked the 1/22/13 40th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the first trimester by conflating two separate concepts of rights; a right to abortion and an alleged "right" to "access" to abortion.  In a key passage, Ormsby writes:

A just and free society gives women the tools they need to plan how many children they have and when to have them. Legislatures and governors should be spending their time helping women with the children they have instead of insisting they give birth to unwanted children that they cannot support emotionally or financially or both. Only the woman knows her private circumstances.

The "help" Ormsby undoubtedly implies is some kind of financial subsidy; she specifically mentions state subsidies for birth control, categorized under the umbrella term "family planning." We can only guess at which other types of family planning services would be included, but the list would likely include things like "free" day care and pre-school.

A common theme of Roe v. Wade supporters is that not only should women have the right to choose abortion, but a "right" to family planning, including abortion services, paid for and provided by others, through government funding. 

This is a fundamentally contradictory position. Government subsidies certainly don't jive with Ormsby's statement that "a woman has the right to plan her family on her own terms and in her own time and it is solely her business." What about, with her own money? If other people must be forced to subsidize her, then it is not "solely her business," is it? If her bills are also other people's business, then why not her body also?

A recent Star-Ledger letter writer, Catherine Broer (A Question of Power, 1/24/13), rightly noted that "each woman [must have] sovereignty over her own body." But, so should she have sovereignty over her own life and wallet. And, so should everyone else.

All rights are linked by certain common principles; namely, to think and act according to one's own rational judgement, in pursuit of one's own goals, values, and happiness, so long as they don't alienate--i.e., violate--the same rights of others. Rights, properly understood, are sanctions to freedom of action, not a claim on products or services that must be provided by others.

The "wisdom of Roe," to use Ormsby's term, does not guarantee "access." It removes certain legal roadblocks. "A just and free society" does not force some people to fund unearned benefits for others. In "a just and free society," legislatures and governors neither "spend their time helping women with the children" with money forcibly confiscated from other citizens nor "insisting women give birth to unwanted children." In "a just and free society," government officials simply protect all people's rights to act upon their own judgments in regard to their own bodies and money, and to voluntarily associate and trade with each other. It respects the "private circumstances" of each and every woman, man, and child?

As long as Roe supporters insist on violating the rights of others to spend their own money as they judge best, and to act in accordance with their own conscience and values, they have no business demanding that women do with their own bodies as they judge best. To defend reproductive rights, one must respect and uphold all rights of everyone.

Related Reading:

Karen Cherins’s Confused Understanding of Reproductive Rights Threatens Reproductive Freedom

The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

Abortion Rights are Pro-Life, by Leonard Piekoff

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