That's My Issue: Autonomy over My Body

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New York Medicaid wants women to have access to IUDs immediately after delivering a baby, to help with long-term family planning. (mr. toaster/flickr)

As a psychiatrist, i'm particularly attuned to what makes people - including me - tick. My therapist once asked me how it came about that I feel so passionately about the importance of safe, legal and accessible abortion.

After all, I've never been pregnant myself, so it's not an issue of personal experience per se. My interest in the issue long pre-dated my becoming sexually active. There was an abortion-rights march in nearby Washington, D.C. in 1990, around the time I was 16-years-old, which coincided with my increasing interest in what was going on in the world around me. But that didn't quite explain it, either.

After some thorough self-exploration, I realized that, generally speaking, I have a fear of commitment and of being in situations which may become unpleasant and from which i cannot [or feel i cannot] extricate myself.

On some level, before I was even remotely close to contemplating being sexually active, there was a part of me that was particularly moved by the helplessness - and unpleasant commitment - involved in being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

There is truly no commitment greater than the commitment of becoming a mother, and the idea that law-makers, anti-abortion activists, so-called crisis pregnancy centers, various clergy, and others prevent or try to prevent women from having the ability to extricate themselves from THAT situation is terrifying.

-Writer Lily B. is a psychiatrist living in Rockville, MD.


More in:

Comments [7]

Shabtai Zvi from Istanboul, Turkey-land

I care little for "human life", especially when it is used to mystify the relationship between what might be an human being some day and the actual human being enclosing and serving it...or do you swerve your car madly to avoid crashing into acorns because some of them might someday be mighty oaks?

It takes a religion to make someone believe that a zygote were the equal of a woman.

Aug. 30 2012 07:47 AM
Elijah McDougal

"The viability of the fetus is irrelevant. The issue is whether the state has the authority to seize a person and force them to allow their body to be used to save the life of another. That is the central question..."

So according to you, NABNYC, if a woman carried a pregnancy nearly to term and then decided, one week before the due date, that she no longer wanted "to allow her body to be used" to "support another," she would be perfectly justified in killing it, never mind that the "other" is her own son or daughter. This is absurd. The state has a legitimate interest in promoting and protecting childbirth and the health of future generations, without which no society can survive. At a certain point -- and one can argue exactly when that is -- that legitimate social interest overrides any right of the mother to destroy her baby, particularly when it can easily be kept alive in an incubator. I don't know if you're a far left feminist or an Ayn Rand extremist but your callous reduction of the fetus -- who was brought into being only by its mother's "choice" to open up her legs -- to the status of an unwanted trespasser explains why the pro-choice position continues to lose ground in this country.

Aug. 24 2012 01:18 AM

The result in Roe vs. Wade was a reasonable one. Women can abort a pregnancy in the first 3 months with no state interference. From 3-6 months, the state can require certain health and safety safeguards. After that, the state can legally prohibit abortions (6-9 months). The theory on prohibition is that the fetus is viable at that point, theoretically could be removed from the mother's body and survive in an incubator.

The reasoning of the decision, however, is flawed. The viability of the fetus is irrelevant. The issue is whether the state has the authority to seize a person and force them to allow their body to be used to save the life of another. That is the central question, and the court avoided it. People who oppose abortion are, in essence, assuming that the state has the authority to seize a person and imprison them, or tie them down, to force them to allow their body to be used for the benefit of another, to save the life of the fetus. So let's look at that assumption.

If the state has the authority to seize a citizen and force them to use their body to save the life of another, that means the state could seize any of us and remove a kidney to be used in a transplant to save the life of another.

They could seize any citizen, tie us to a bed, and force us to give blood to be used to save the life of another. They could seize any citizen, tie us to a bed, hook another person up to us with tubes (this is theoretically possible) and allow them to "share" the one heart, to save the life of the other person whose heart has failed, and who is waiting for a transplant.

Abortion is a question of how much authority did the people of this country give to the government. The answer quite simply is that the government was never given the authority to force citizens to use their body to support another.

The question of whether life begins at conception or at a later time is irrelevant. The only question is whether the government has the authority to force a citizen to turn over their body to be used for the support of another. The government does not have that authority.

People should read our history. The citizens limited the authority of the government for good reason. When the government claims to have this level of authority over our bodies, then it is no longer simply a civil government -- it is a dictatorship.

Aug. 23 2012 01:03 PM
Yerpez from Brooklyn

"Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?" -Ayn Rand, in 'The Voice of Reason'

Aug. 23 2012 10:47 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

@Ed -

Go back and read the opinion again. The term used is 'viable human life'. I (and John Irving) can concede that human life begins at conception and STILL support a woman's right to decide to abort.

Obviously, you can't. But like many r-wingers you can't even frame an argument without remembering the facts properly.

Aug. 23 2012 09:27 AM

@Ed I totally agree that "one has the right to choose to engage in sex or not,' but in cases like rape, mental & physical birth defects, and mother's health there was no choice in the matter. In order to have safe abortion exist, it can not be treated on a case by case basis. It needs to be available and regulated to be safe.

Fetuses are not people, the person carrying the baby for 9 months is "who" should matter.

Aug. 23 2012 09:02 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Autonomy over one's body is a natural desire. One can note though that Roe v. Wade removed this as a reason for decriminalized abortion. It said 'But don't think that the law can not tell someone what to do with his or her body. It can, and it has.' Then it lists a few cases where the law has done so, for example immunizations, or sending people into war.
Roe v. Wade went on the say that 'if the society ever decides that human life begins at conception, plaintiff's case falls to the ground, because that life is protected by the Fifth Amendment'.
One does have autonomy over one's body in that one has the right to choose to engage in sex or not, but, from a pro-life point of view, once another human being is conceived, it's someone else's body one is dealing with.

Aug. 23 2012 05:52 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by