These anti-abortion bills are horrific. But I don’t understand the argument for exempting pregnancies on the grounds of rape. If abortion is wrong because it unjustly takes the life of a person, then why would the fact that the fetus’s father is a rapist – or anything else – change anything? We are not punished for the crimes of our fathers. We don’t kill the children of rapists. The rape is not their fault. 

The bills are horrific because they violate the personal sovereignty and bodily integrity of women. The parentage of the fetus is irrelevant. The life and liberty of the mother are the only relevant factors.

For more in-depth argumentation around this issue see my July 2, 2008 essay The Fetus is a Person. Now what? There I argue that “[t]he demand for the state to control the reproduction of women is an authoritarian one, one that is entirely incompatible with the principles of liberty underlying the legal and moral order necessary for a free society.” I reference Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous analogy in that essay, so readers will want to check that out if they are not familiar with Thompson’s argument.

See also my April 2, 2013 piece Abortion is Really About Freedom. In that essay I write, “The question of the permissibility of abortion is not about the status fetus but the right of a woman (or any person) to determine what purposes her body is used for, presuming she is not a slave (and if she it, she must be liberated).” And this: “Personal autonomy is the first right – every person must be free from oppression. Life can be and often is sacrificed to preserve this right. If a woman cannot determine how her body is used, she is not free.”

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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