A Call about Women’s Rights


The story on Fargo’s Valley News Live begins this way: Many women in North Dakota are left wondering what their rights really are when it comes to their bodies. As I processed the statement I could not help but think of an article on Salon.com about which I wrote on my blog a couple of months ago. Below is the post. Read it and see if you think North Dakotans really want Mary Elizabeth Williams’ perspective to exemplify “what their rights really are.” And when you are done reading it, please call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple and tell him you would like for him to sign the bills the North Dakota legislature has forwarded to him that would greatly restrict abortion in the state of North Dakota. His number is 701.328.2200. [UPDATE: Gov. Dalrymple signed these bills into law on March 26, 2013; please call him and thank him for doing so!] Call as soon as you are done reading.

Mary Elizabeth Williams has laid it out plain and simple. The staff writer for Salon and author of Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream, has stated in a recent article on Salon.com what intellectually honest people have been saying forever: the fetus is indeed a life. But at the moment that we might loudly applaud this great news from this supposedly popular columnist, we abruptly stop, for what she then says next snuffs out any hope that she and others have seen the light.

What is it she writes next?

That the fetus, which is “indeed a life,” is, in fact, “A life worth sacrificing.”

A life worth sacrificing? Evidently, if it gets in the way of “the boss.” Williams continues:

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

So, to hear the logic, the rights of the mother always trump the rights of the unborn because the mother is autonomous and the unborn child does not yet have autonomy. The mother’s interest always trump the interest of the “non-autonomous” child “inside of her.”

The dictionary describes “autonomous” as “self-governing, independent, able to choose, able to make decisions and act on them as a free and independent moral agent.” So the logic goes like this: if the four-month old girl is suddenly in the way because the mother’s circumstances have changed and the girl is now inconvenient, then she should be sacrificed.

Or consider this logical conclusion: if the sixteen-year old boy is in a terrible accident, now incapable of self-sufficiency and independent thinking, no longer autonomous in that he no longer has the capacity to self-decide, then he should be sacrificed. His life should be ended; particularly if it inconveniences his mother. After all, as Williams’ writes, the mother’s rights “automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity. . . . Always.”

Or consider this logical conclusion: should the seventy-one year old mother, who now has Alzheimer’s Disease and cannot make any independent or even moral decisions for herself, inconvenience her forty-eight year old daughter, then mom is toast. She should be sacrificed. Her life should be snuffed out because she is, I suppose, no longer the boss. That baton has passed to the daughter who finds caring for mom to be utterly inconvenient. And we wouldn’t want to inconvenience the poor 40-something woman, now would we?

Williams certainly would not. Consider her reflection on her own 40-something world:

And I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your ass I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion.

I am deeply thankful that she is a mom who “loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks.” I just hope that when she is no longer convenient for her kids to associate with she does not find herself the recipient of her own sick conviction, sacrificed by her offspring because she somehow got in their way. I guess if she had a glimmer of awareness within her as they suffocate her in the night with a pillow she will be applauding their actions even as she writhes for her last breath.



  1. Anne says:

    Adult children do have to make decisions about their elderly parents, but there is a big difference between that and an abortion (and the difference is not age). If a person is taking care of their elderly parent, but then decides they should not have agreed to take care of them or the parent is too much of a burden, can they have the parent euthanized? Certainly not. They can send the parent to a nursing home and visit occasionaly (an option that could be likened to adoption), but murder is not an option. Doctors have gone to jail for “mercy killings” of willing terminally ill patients. And so if an already dying patient cannot make the decision to end their own life how can we say a woman has the right to end her child’s life?

  2. Barbur says:

    “And we wouldn’t want to inconvenience the poor 40-something woman, now would we?”

    No, you wouldn’t. Of course, as a 40-something, pregnancy would be rather more than a mere “inconvenience.” At any rate, I’ll just forward any further health concerns I have for you to review. I’m sure you’re a much better judge of what health care decisions I should make than I am, what with your being a pastor and all.

  3. Carolyn says:

    The point, which you’re deliberately missing, is that the mother of a 16-year-old boy would have the right to choose whether her son’s quality of life was so poor that it was the right decision. And adult children have to make choices about their elderly parents every day. But – and here’s the important part – if they decide to turn off the ventilator or abide by a Do Not Resuscitate order, *it’s not illegal*. It’s perfectly within their rights to make that choice. We don’t judge them, or make assumptions about their reasoning, and we certainly don’t pass laws to force them into behavior that we might personally disagree with.

    See how that works?

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