It Is Wrong to Make People Worse Off: Bodily Autonomy, Abortion, and Forced Organ Donation

It’s a dark and stormy night when your plane touches down in Analogyland. You, a pro-life apologist, have been invited to give a speech about bodily autonomy and abortion at a local convention center. You get into your rental car and begin to drive to your hotel. The storm worsens. A local violinist named Hector clutches his bright yellow raincoat tightly around him while he takes his dog out for a bathroom break. Out of nowhere, a drunk driver speeds towards you, out of control. He first careens into Hector and then veers into you, sending your car flying into a telephone pole.

You wake up in a hospital bed with minor damage. The doctor informs you that the drunk driver died on impact, and both of Hector’s kidneys were destroyed in the car accident. Fortunately, you and Hector just happen to have the same rare blood type such that you can save Hector’s life. So, the doctor plans to remove one of your kidneys and give it to Hector, restoring him to health.

You begin to protest: Hector has no right to one of your kidneys! You weren’t even the one who hit him! The doctor informs you that, here in Analogyland, the law guarantees the right to life. But, they can keep Hector alive on dialysis temporarily to let you appeal your case to the high court. You think about your anti-abortion speech and arguments about bodily autonomy, aware that your conviction that a right to bodily autonomy cannot ground a right to an abortion and your assertion that Hector has no right to your kidney seem inconsistent. When your day in court comes, what will you say to convince the judge that you should not have to give Hector one of your kidneys but also doesn’t even seem to imply that abortion is permissible because you have a right to refuse to use your body to help another person?

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

“Reproductive Freedom”: Another Pro-Choice Non-Argument

Recently, some pro-choice people and organizations have moved away from focusing on bodily autonomy as grounding a right to an abortion and instead frame the issue as one of “reproductive freedom.” This might sound like a rhetorically powerful move—who could be against freedom? However, it is a self-defeating strategy that comes at the cost of the pro-choice movement’s best slogan: “my body, my choice.” 

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Quick Response #29: The Burning Fertility Clinic Thought Experiment

“There’s a burning fertility clinic, and you see a briefcase with 1000 frozen embryos and a toddler; you can only save one.” Yep, it’s the burning IVF lab thought experiment, intended as a mic-drop to prove that pro-life people don’t really believe the embryo is an equal human being. In this Quick Response video, Emily Albrecht explains why this thought experiment isn’t the “gotcha” many pro-choice people believe it to be, even if the pro-lifer would choose to save the toddler.

Selective Reduction: Abortion by Another Name

Newborn twins with mother on table
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Recently, we’ve gotten comments asking us to address whether or not “selective reduction” is an ethical practice (or perhaps more to the point, to explain why it is not). On one hand, this makes sense; we don’t have material specifically addressing selective reduction or assisted reproductive technologies, and it’s worth talking about those things in detail. On the other hand, I’m a bit surprised, because selective reduction is just an abortion being performed in a specific context that still fails to provide a justification for killing.

Quick Response #28: An Acorn Is Not an Oak Tree, So a Fetus Is Not a Child

Judith Jarvis Thomson is famous for the Violinist argument from her paper “In Defense of Abortion,” but she actually begins it with another well-known analogy: since an acorn isn’t an oak tree, a fetus shouldn’t be considered a child. Emily Albrecht explains why Thomson’s acorn analogy, while popular, is a fallacious argument that isn’t a problem for the pro-life position.