I think we need to talk about what “Bodily Autonomy” means.
You see this phrase thrown around a lot, especially in the abortion debate, but I think a lot of people don’t really understand what it means.
Bodily Autonomy, sometimes called Bodily Integrity, is the idea that a person has an inviolable right to determine what happens to their physical body, and that a violation of a person’s consent in matters concerning their own body is unethical, immoral, and possibly criminal.
This does not mean “you are allowed to do whatever you want.” It isn’t comparable to property rights or taxation or laws regarding public health that impact whole communities.
What it does mean is that your body should always be under your control. You can chose or deny what things involving your physical body are at stake. Some examples:
- You can choose to donate your organs but, No one can steal your organs
- You can choose to get a haircut, but no one should chop off your hair without permission.
- You can choose to get a tattoo, but no one should hold you down and forcibly tattoo anything onto you.
- You can choose to have sex with another consenting person, but no one should sexually violate you.
- Doctors should ask permission from you (or someone you have given permission to speak on your behalf) before administering drugs or treatments
- This previous point is important in many capacities, but one very relevant on to reproductive rights is that doctors should ask and respect choice made regarding birth- whether to have a c-section, whether to have an epidural, etc.
- Infants should not undergo circumcision, as they are unable to consent. (If adults want to undergo circumcision for whatever reason, they can do so.)
- You should not be forced to give blood for any reason (including donation to save another person, OR for drug testing. These actions may be volunteered, but should not be mandatory)
- Intersex infants should not be subjected to genital surgery unless there is a pressing health need (such as a blocked urinary tract or exposed internal organs) at which point, the parents need to be consulted.
- And YES, a person should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term if they do not want to, no matter how they became pregnant in the first place.
And the list goes on. We have to start with the understanding that in matters concerning the physical body, you should be the final authority, and you should always be given the information, resources, and opportunity to make the best possible choice for yourself.