Quick Response #4: My Body, My Choice—A Woman’s Body Is Her Sovereign Zone

Emily Albrecht responds to the pro-choice slogan “My Body, My Choice.” Is a woman’s body really her sovereign zone? Can she do anything she wants with anything inside her body?

Watch all the videos in ERI’s Quick Response series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsN8Ay8poS-It-dWSmblq1ZufOH-MVj1L

Related Links:

2019 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll:

Script Text

“My body, my choice.” It’s one of the biggest rallying cries of pro-choice protestors, the ultimate soundbite used to justify abortion. You won’t be able to show why “my body, my choice” doesn’t work quite as quickly as they can say the soundbite, but in just a few minutes I can show why that slogan isn’t a good argument for most pro-choice people.

(intro sequence)

“My body, my choice” as a slogan represents something Trent Horn calls the Sovereign Zone view. In the Sovereign Zone view, a woman’s body is her sovereign zone, an area over which she has total control. She can do anything she wants to or within her body, because it’s hers and hers alone.

Abortion, by this argument, is something that happens within and to the woman’s body. It doesn’t matter whether or not the fetus is a person, because he’s within the woman’s body, and she has total control over her body, so she has the right to decide what happens.

The problem for this pro-choice view is that it claims too much—WAY too much. If it were true, yes, it would justify abortion, but not the kind of stance on abortion held by most pro-choice people. While a 2019 NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll showed that the majority of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned, the majority of Americans also want abortion access to be restricted in some way. 72 percent of self-identifying pro-choice respondants said there should be a restriction on when abortion is allowed during pregnacy, some saying only in the first three or six months and others saying only for capses or rape, incest, or life of the mother. Let me say that again; 72 PERCENT OF PRO-CHOICE PEOPLE IN THIS STUDY WANT RESTRICTIONS ON ABORTION! But the Sovereign Zone view doesn’t leave room for ANY restrictions on abortion for ANY reason. After all, in any case when you’d want to restrict or regulate abortion, the woman would still have the right to do whatever she wanted with her body, so that limitation would be a violation of her rights.

That means NO RESTRICTIONS on third-trimester abortions when the fetus can generally survive outside the womb, NO RESTRICTIONS on abortions targeting a fetus based on her sex, NO RESTRICTIONS on abortions targeting an unborn human with disabilities, NO RESTRICTIONS WHATSOEVER. It also means that ANY health regulations on abortion facilities, including that only a licensed physician can legally perform the abortion or prescribe RU-486, can be construed as interfering with a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. According to the Sovereign Zone View, the government can’t regulate the safety of abortion procedures AT ALL. The vast majority of pro-choice people support at least SOME of these restrictions and health regulations, but the Sovereign Zone position doesn’t allow for them.

It also can’t give an account for why it would be okay to prohibit other clearly immoral actions  like intentionally disabling your fetus before giving birth or torturing an unborn human capable of feeling pain. While I don’t think there are women seeking to do those wrongful actions, the fact that the Sovereign Zone view thinks that it would be a woman’s right to do them JUST BECAUSE the fetus is inside her body is a good reason alone to reject the Sovereign Zone view.

The Sovereign Zone view is incompatible with the kind of pro-choice view which most pro-choice people hold. It requires radical, extremist positions on abortion and fetal torture. If someone makes this kind of claim to you, show them why their argument necessitates extremism and allows for no health regulations or exceptions to abortion access for all nine months of pregnancy. If there is literally ANY SINGLE THING that we should regulate about abortion or restrict about abortion, then the Sovereign Zone view breaks down.

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