In col­lege, I read an essay that sealed my opin­ion on abor­tion. In the hypo­thet­i­cal sce­nario pro­posed, an immense­ly tal­ent­ed and well-loved vio­lin­ist was ill, and the only way he could be saved was to be attached by IV to a woman’s body, and her nutri­ents and blood would keep him alive. Did she have an oblig­a­tion to sus­tain him? Without her, he would die. Was it mur­der for her not to be his lifeblood donor?

Sharing is won­der­ful. But what’s won­der­ful about it is that it is not oblig­a­tory. Whether we are male or female, we are not oblig­at­ed to donate blood or kid­neys or skin grafts or bone mar­row. We can give these life essen­tials for love or gen­eros­i­ty or altru­ism, but we are not pros­e­cut­ed for fail­ing to do so.  When we do not, peo­ple die — ful­ly grown peo­ple and chil­dren, rich and poor, saints and sin­ners. We do not have to share our bod­ies with others.

Pregnancy, at its best, is when a woman choos­es to give one of the ulti­mate gifts — her nutri­ents and air and ener­gy and space and body — to bring a child into the world.  Hopefully, that child is brought forth with love, sup­port, and resources upon birth. But before birth, it is sim­ply her body that the grow­ing embryo, fetus, or baby needs (for this dis­cus­sion, it’s irrel­e­vant which of these the preg­nan­cy protects).

People born with tes­ti­cles nev­er have the option or risk of car­ry­ing a preg­nan­cy. They can­not and do not have to, whether they are raped, whether they are healthy or sick, whether they are 13 or 45. People born with tes­ti­cles can­not be forced to car­ry a pregnancy.

I real­ize that some peo­ple do not believe women should have fun­da­men­tal­ly equal rights with men. I don’t even know how to argue with those peo­ple, though Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Pauli Murray were two peo­ple who did know how to argue this, and much of our remain­ing civ­il rights law hinges on argu­ments they made.

But for those of us who believe women should be able to vote and hold jobs, have edu­ca­tions, and dri­ve cars, we have to accept their bod­i­ly auton­o­my as a basic right.  If women can wake up and take med­i­cine for their own headaches, if they can say no to unwant­ed sex, if they can feed them­selves and stretch and exer­cise, we have to accept that women have a right to decline to car­ry a preg­nan­cy to term. Regardless of whether the uterus con­tains an embryo or a baby, the per­son whose uterus is occu­pied has a right to decide if she can con­tin­ue to donate her organs, her blood, her oxy­gen, and her space to that occupant.

And by the way, Jesus had absolute­ly noth­ing to say about abor­tion, mis­car­riage, or even the man­ner of birth.  Instead, Jesus’ actions and words show Him respect­ing women, heal­ing them, and sup­port­ing their pre­rog­a­tive to choose how they gave their gifts — time, coins, oils, and ener­gy. I don’t think Jesus’ teach­ings or exam­ple should be any sort of direct influ­ence on our laws — any more than Abraham or Mohammed should. But even if they did, abor­tion foes have no scrip­tur­al basis for label­ing abor­tion as mur­der to a human who had nev­er tak­en the first breath of life.

The Supreme Court is wrong.

  • Nancy Gift, a mem­ber of Better Together, Winchester, orig­i­nal­ly from Lexington, is a pro­fes­sor of Sustainability and Environmental Studies at Berea College, and spouse of Father Jim Trimble. She and Jim have three col­lege-age chil­dren and a menagerie of pets.