Protecting The Rights Of Preborn Children Does Not Take Away Rights From Pregnant Women

/ Commentary
  • “Abortion should not be illegal, because rights cannot be given to a fetus without rights first being withheld from a pregnant woman!”
  • “Women have the right to not be pregnant!”

Do these statements sound familiar? If so, how should pro-life people address these concerns?

Start with finding common ground.

I, too, agree women have the right to not be pregnant and the right to not forcibly become pregnant. However, I disagree with abortion-choice advocates on the basis of when said right can be applied. I believe the right to life supersedes the right to not be pregnant.

After all, without the right to life, no other rights can possibly exist. Therefore, in situations involving multiple humans’ various rights coming into apparent conflict, we must defer to the equality of the basic right to life. We must err on the side of life. The essential argument here concerns human rights and which humans have said rights. I am going to give several different lines of reasoning a pro-life person could take which addresses the human rights issue at hand.

There is an underlying assumption to all these points: human rights belong to all humans. I do not view personhood as an exclusive privilege or distinguish between human persons and human non-persons; I simply assume all humans are equal and therefore have equal human rights. My assumption is most likely the very concept most abortion-choice advocates would disagree with — and if that is the case, then I would graciously try to discuss this fundamental difference. Either way, hopefully these talking points, combined with an understanding of the basic assumption being made, prompts you and the person you are speaking with to think more deeply about women’s right to not be pregnant.

1. Both mother and fetus have the right to life.

No one, neither a man or woman, should possess the legal power to infringe upon another human’s most basic, fundamental right.

Pregnant women have the same rights as non-pregnant women. Pregnant women currently have more rights than the preborn — they have the right, under many circumstances, to legally end the life of another human. A right which only involves actively and intentionally killing an innocent human is not a right we ought to extend to anyone, including pregnant women.

Pro-lifers do not want to take away the woman’s rights. We do not want to give extra rights to a fetus. We want the equal right to life of all humans involved in the pregnancy to be recognized.

2. Reproductive rights (including the right to not be pregnant) are human rights.

Proponents of abortion as a family planning method, reproductive right, and/or health care choice like to emphasize this fact so people will take reproductive rights more seriously. The statement is not intrinsically incorrect. I do agree reproductive rights are human rights. I even agree women have the general right not to be pregnant.

However, a pregnant woman has already reproduced. Reproductive rights and the right to not be pregnant should be exercised by utilizing conception, not by ending a pregnancy via taking a human life. Abortion is not a reproductive right because no one has the right to kill an innocent human, including pregnant women .

To look at this statement slightly differently, consider the fetus is also human. He or she should also have reproductive rights. By killing it, we take away the possibility of it ever being able to exercise its reproductive rights in a meaningful manner, while the mother may or may not have already exercised her reproductive rights prior to becoming pregnant. The fundamental right to life trumps the secondary right to not be pregnant if exercising the right to not be pregnant ends the life of another human.

3. Complete, absolute bodily autonomy is not a human right that supersedes the right to life.

Absolute bodily autonomy, or the right to do whatever you please to your own body and anything contained in it, is a terrible argument. The logical implications of applying absolute bodily autonomy to pregnancy and any other part of a human’s life are overwhelmingly immoral, chaotic, harmful, and a detriment to society. But we need not even go down this hypothetical road of living out complete bodily autonomy. We only need to consider this right in contrast to the more basic right to life.

If absolute bodily autonomy is a human right, abortion infringes upon the bodily autonomy of a preborn human. Therefore, absolute bodily autonomy is either 1) not a human right, or 2) must be superseded by the right to life.

4. Some rights DO take precedence over other rights, depending on the situation.

This doesn’t sound very nice, does it? It doesn’t feel good. But it is a simple truth, a logical premise, and we see it played out in our world every day.

If you purposefully run me over with a car, stab me with a knife, hit me with a fist, or shoot me with a gun, you will get in legal trouble. Why? You have merely expressed your bodily autonomy by using your body to drive a car, hold a knife, swing your hand, and pull a trigger. In these situations, it becomes obvious my right to life supersedes your right to bodily autonomy.

I’ve already been saying this, but allow me to make it more clear: The right to life would and will always take precedence over other rights. The right to liberty, pursuit of happiness, family planning, bodily autonomy, to refuse, keep and bear arms, free speech, and plenty more exist only because humans already have the right to life.

Without the right to life, no other right has any logical or applicable foundation. How can one possibly exercise their right to be free, refuse donating an organ to another in dire need of one, or carry any firearms if they are not initially granted their inalienable reservation to live? By denying any group of humans their most basic right, we erode the value of human rights in general and we pave the way to take rights from other groups of humans as we deem appropriate.

Human rights are for all humans, regardless of their size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency. Pro-lifers advocate for the recognition of equal rights to life of mother and preborn child.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.

Petra Wallenmeyer

Petra Wallenmeyer

I love science and teaching. I am passionate about using those interests to speak for those who can't.

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Protecting The Rights Of Preborn Children Does Not Take Away Rights From Pregnant Women
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