But What About Bodily Autonomy?


The most common pro-choice argument for bodily autonomy is that of Thomson’s Violinist (A Defense of Abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson, 1971). This argument states that you woke up one day attached by tubes and wires to a world famous violinist. You have been put here because he is dying and your kidneys were needed to filter his blood for 9 months to save his life. In this situation, would you have a moral obligation to remain attached to him for 9 months allowing your body to be used to save his?

This does not deny that this man is a valuable human being, but does this scenario require you plug your body up to his? Pro-lifers and Pro-choicers would both agree that you would have no ethical obligation to remain plugged up to him. However, is this really a fair comparison to abortion?

Deconstructing Thomson’s Violinist.

1) Unplugging yourself from the violinist is not the same thing as abortion. Abortion, is purposefully killing another person. It is one thing to unplug yourself from the man, it would be another to take a gun and shoot him. If you unplug yourself, the man may die. But it is a passive result not and active one.

2) The man is in an unnatural environment. He is attached through tubes and wires and is there as a result of disease. The child in the womb, on the other hand, is in its natural environment. The man, if left alone, would die. The child, if left alone, would continue to grow and thrive.

3) There are two different relationships represented here. The Mother/Child relationship is not the same as that of two strangers. The child in the womb is not some stranger or assailant. A mother has a different responsibility to her child than she does to a complete stranger.

4) The child in the womb was put there because two consenting adults (except in the case of rape) engaged in an act which since the beginning of the human race has led to procreation. The child is not an invader, they are the natural product of their parents’ action. The child did not consent to being conceived and should not be punished for his/her existence.

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