In the increasingly heated debates over abortion, the following meme has been making its way around the inter-webs.
“Men shouldn’t be making laws about women’s bodies.”
In so many cases, I agree.
I have no desire to tell anyone (not least women) what to do with their bodies—so long as their bodily-choice does not involve depriving other “bodies” of their basic human rights.
THE TROUBLE WITH MEMES
But, of course, even this most basic of caveats cannot survive what I will now dub: “The meme-ing of the American mind” (i.e., the reduction of all ethical and political issues to a snappy bumper sticker that carries emotional freight but almost zero argumentative rigor [on another example, see here]).
To be clear, I would love to see the percentage of women increase in all branches of government, including courts and legislatures. And I have written forcefully about what I take to be the misogyny and sexism of certain evangelical “darlings.” The problem is real.
But the idea that laws are only valid if passed by someone who shares your “body-type” is just absurd. By that logic, only roosters could outlaw cock-fighting; only pit bulls could decide the fate of Michael Vick; and only female fetuses could have legal opinions on abortion.
ALL LAWS REGULATE A “BODY”
A second faulty assumption in the meme is the implication that one can do whatever one wants with their own flesh and blood.
This too is nonsense.
Speed limits constrain what you can do with your body while driving an automobile.
Rape prohibitions regulate what you can do with your body when it comes to sexual consent.
And libel rulings say what you can legally publish with your body if it turns out to be knowingly false, defamatory, and damaging to others.
To repeat, every law in existence is designed to tell humans what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Every. Single. One.
And that includes the ruling known as “Roe v. Wade”—a judicial fiat handed down by an all-male court. By the logic of the meme, “Roe v. Wade” would also be invalid, since it involved a bunch of old men issuing a decree that involved the “bodies” of both born and unborn women!
How many fetuses served on that judicial bench?
Should we then amend the viral claim as follows: “Non-fetuses shouldn’t be making laws about fetuses”?
The primary concern for any law is simple: Is it just for all parties?
And the bar of justice ought to mean that my bodily right to swing my fist ends where my neighbor’s nose begins. Hence the crucial question on abortion is precisely that once asked of Christ: “Who is my neighbor?”
Does that human category include those not yet born?
Whatever one decides on that final question (see my view here), it would better if both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates chose to have this debate in a way that acknowledges (1) the real issues at stake, and (2) the real value of both the unborn and the pregnant women placed in difficult situations.
We can do both.
That will mean support for pregnant moms, improved adoption processes, a willingness to listen, and grace for those who have already had abortions (a group often overlooked).
All that is possible, but it will require something more than memes and blog posts* to accomplish it.
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