Two entries on self-ownership and “choice.”

Heretic discusses the fact that self-ownership and choice are nonsense concepts and cannot possibly have any relevance to the issue of abortion.

Self-ownership is a fallacious concept that sounds nice, but doesn’t do women any favors. In the abortion debate, this takes the form of,”Women can do whatever they want with their bodies.” Yet such a concept is not pro-abortion, instead tip-toeing around in an attempt to be a balanced view and make the issue an individualistic and not a collective one. Women need to have this policy completely decided now, either supportive of abortion or not…

Men love the choice argument, because it allows them to have a stake over a woman’s body. If conservative men influence the women to be reproductive chattel, then liberal men do so for them to be sexual chattel. Notice that married women tend to have children, while prostituted ones abortion; both in their relation to men. Women thus end up “choosing” what is expected of them anyway.

And there is a related entry from Root Veg which concerns itself with the nonsense of “free choice.” All actions we take are the result of what we are and where we are.

In a similar way to the above analogy, trying to imagine what kind of decision a person would make if there were no values upon which to base that decision makes very little sense. We can try to imagine what that decision may look like, but it ceases to even be a decision. If there is no trade-off to be made, what exactly is there to decide? If there are no determining values, is there even a behaviour to observe? As animals are given life by (and adapt to) their circumstances, so our behaviours are fundamentally necessitated by the situations we find ourselves in. Moment to moment, I do what I do and become who I am because of what is available to me, the finite set of things that are possible, where I am, and what the costs and benefits of any action are. If I sit in a locked room alone with a pizza, whether or not I eat the pizza still depends on how hungry I am, what the toppings are, how my tastes have been conditioned over my lifetime, and so on. I’m being coerced in one direction or another by every single one of these variables. Every decision and behaviour that every person makes is the outcome of whatever relevant parameters pertain to it. If these coercive factors did not exist, there would not be a decision to make.

4 thoughts on “Two entries on self-ownership and “choice.”

  1. sarineal January 11, 2015 at 06:54 Reply

    Self-ownership is absolutely relevant in discussing abortion, as an autonomous human being women should have the right to make any and all decisions regarding their body medically, regardless of the physical state of it at the time just the same as men get to do. It’s not self-ownership in terms of I’ll do whatever the hell I like, it’s self-ownership in terms of autonomy and self-determination in medical decision making. They then go on to say “Women need to have this policy completely decided now, either supportive of abortion or not.” but actually the “not” part isn’t an option, even if you could remove social reasons for terminating a pregnancy abortion would still occur and still be needed as part of care for pregnant women. Not all pregnancies are viable ones.

    Then they also claim choice is erroneous and an illusion, and limits this only to family planning, when again this is about medical decision making and having the options of contraception, sterilisation and abortion available to women. This enables women to have self-determination and choices beyond constant childbearing, and the ability to choose regarding their family size, including not to have children at all. The example is used of a christian woman that makes the choice to give up to husband/God, but at the end of the day this is still a choice, if it is not to use contraception and is still an autonomous one whether we think this wrong or right. The choice of using it, and not giving up all autonomy is still there, just not availed of. But that’s assuming women have the full medical decision making available to them. Unfortunately, it’s not just “influenced” by men though, they seek control over women’s bodies and whether they can make those choices or not. Men want don’t love choice, they want to make it *their* choice, to control women’s bodies either way regardless of the wishes of the women, medical necessity or any other circumstances. One set would have women as reproductive chattel, the other would have consequence-free access to their bodies. The solution of adoption is no better, there are few pregnant women that go for this option anyway and once again this exploits the reproductive capacity of women’s bodies and ends with them going through the risks of pregnancy only to provide a stranger with a child, being pushed to relinquish all rights. That’s before you get to that people only want the right sort of infants, not special needs or older children, or that it tends to supply wealthier people with children, leaving out other types of families. Adoption is not benign either.

    Free choice is constrained, we must choose between the options that often random circumstance may force but that’s not the same thing as having artificially limited medical options available as in the case of abortion bans. The thing is, that pizza, if no one opened the door would be eaten regardless of toppings or taste, the option being narrowed down to one. Surviving starvation would take priority. I suppose there’s a parallel there to how women will seek illegal abortions if legal ones are not available, they have to find a way somehow out of the circumstances they find themselves.

    • Francois Tremblay January 11, 2015 at 15:00 Reply

      “Self-ownership is absolutely relevant in discussing abortion, as an autonomous human being women should have the right to make any and all decisions regarding their body medically, regardless of the physical state of it at the time just the same as men get to do. It’s not self-ownership in terms of I’ll do whatever the hell I like, it’s self-ownership in terms of autonomy and self-determination in medical decision making. ”

      I’ve addressed this argument here:
      https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/do-women-have-a-right-to-make-medical-decisions-on-abortion/

      “Then they also claim choice is erroneous and an illusion, and limits this only to family planning, when again this is about medical decision making”

      I’m not sure why you think changing the venue makes the concept of “choice” any more valid.

      “The example is used of a christian woman that makes the choice to give up to husband/God, but at the end of the day this is still a choice,”

      No it’s not. Obviously there was a cause of it: in most cases it’s a religious upbringing. Either way, it doesn’t mean anything to attribute it to “choice.”

  2. sarineal January 11, 2015 at 22:58 Reply

    I’d say again, you’ve got a very confused argument there that neglects a lot when it comes to medical decision making. Like for instance you say:

    “I deny the right to make medical decisions as a whole, not just in the case of abortion, insofar as it is unjustified.”

    You might be able to engage in semantics here, but even while saying this you allow that people have the right to health, and that no one else has the right to impose medical risks on another person – in other words people have the right to make medical decisions as autonomous human beings, have the right to self-determination there as to whether they incur the risks of a medication or surgical procedure. Then you remove this with a stroke of the pen so to speak by limiting this as once another person is involved all of that goes out the window, except you don’t explain why this should be so especially in the case of pregnant women that you centre the post around as you don’t explain who this other person or persons are and it clearly doesn’t involve medicine acting as a intermediary in accessing that health care. The only way I can see out of that for women is that you are using the unstated proposition of invoking the pregnancy/foetus as the “person” involved but the problem is you don’t get a person until the end of a viable pregnancy that ends in a live birth, before that at best you have the uncertain proposition of potential person (all going well). Most legal and medical authorities use the concept of “viability” for this reason.

    “When other people are involved, consent goes out the window. For instance, we impose mandatory vaccinations. ”

    Except we don’t, there are exceptions even if it is made mandatory and you ignore that consent still applies as the underlying idea is the greater social good of preventing disease and this requires as many people as possible accept this principle for themselves both in terms of individual prevention as well as for the community and choose to opt for vaccination instead of opting out. Vaccination is not mandatory in all places either, as in my country and this requires each individual take a positive action both individually for the benefit of themselves/their child and for the society they interact with. Ditto with quarantine, this requires individuals and groups accepting that principle of the greater good and acting in a way that is socially responsible by allowing that in the case of communicable disease, there may be some restrictions on freedom of movement. Either way, consent is still inherent in this and there must be community acceptance of the relevant principles or in other words, a choice. You tacitly accept that principle when you say “**We** accept that it may be necessary for people to be isolated in order to prevent the risk of them spreading disease.” And of course we do, and choose to act accordingly in most cases.

    I can’t understand why you say “[parents] cannot justify this right or explain how it trumps the right to health of the child or other people.” when there is a strong justification in that children are not developmentally able to make solid health care decisions for themselves fully understanding the risks and benefits, so this right is generally left to the parents with the assumption is that as adults, they will make the decision in the best interests of the child. Generally, it’s accepted by the early teenage years children can make these decisions themselves. If the parents are judged to be incorrect and not taking the best interests of the child into account e.g. refuse life saving treatment, their rights can be abrogated and resolution sought another way. The fact is the parents don’t trump the right of the child to health, you have such a thing as medical neglect that means that the child takes precedence and their vulnerability to adult decisions is acknowledged.

    “To force a woman to get an abortion for health reasons is no less valid than quarantine or mandatory vaccines.”

    All the way through, you assume a lot, an artificial lack of choice and that medical decision making does not exist (except for where it does, where you allow that it’s an individual autonomous choice to incur the risks). More importantly you do not explain why contraception, sterilisation and abortion must be separated off from other medical and surgical procedures, all others being assumed to be neutral for the purposes of arguing women don’t really have all rights as an autonomous human being to make medical choices as men do, as they get to make all medical decisions about their body with no complaints that this should be abrogated and they should be forced or compelled either to stay ill with gall bladder disease or be forced to undergo cholecystectomy to use one example. Oddly while still saying this, you then complain that doctor exercising conscience clauses are wrong, but I don’t see how you can have it both ways. Either choice exists or it doesn’t, either it’s wrong for a doctor to impose his or her personal beliefs on a patient or it is not, either a woman has the right to have the full range of healthcare available to her, including for reproductive health or she doesn’t. You don’t even seem to recognise that removing those options, not allowing a woman to make those choices is causing harm of itself to an already living person, at the same time as using the example of mandatory vaccination to claim that “force(ing) a woman to get an abortion for health reasons is no less valid than quarantine or mandatory vaccines. ” just for reasons of the state of her body at the time.

    Maybe it’s time for a rethink there, including that in medicine, there is the ethical principle of informed consent and that people actually do make medical decisions even if for the purposes of argument you remove this.

    • Francois Tremblay January 12, 2015 at 02:04 Reply

      “The only way I can see out of that for women is that you are using the unstated proposition of invoking the pregnancy/foetus as the “person” involved but the problem is you don’t get a person until the end of a viable pregnancy that ends in a live birth, before that at best you have the uncertain proposition of potential person (all going well).”

      But the issue is not any “medical care,” it is abortion specifically, and the right of children to the highest possible standard of health. Do you deny that right? If so, then we have something to discuss. Otherwise, I don’t see this as a viable objection.

      “Except we don’t, there are exceptions even if it is made mandatory and you ignore that consent still applies as the underlying idea is the greater social good of preventing disease and this requires as many people as possible accept this principle for themselves both in terms of individual prevention as well as for the community and choose to opt for vaccination instead of opting out.”

      No, I deny that the concept of consent applies in this case. Using the greater good as an argument does not make that action consensual. The issue of consent does not lie in the acceptance of the vaccination or quarantine, but in the fact that other people do not consent to be exposed to the risks of illness presented by the person.

      “The fact is the parents don’t trump the right of the child to health, you have such a thing as medical neglect that means that the child takes precedence and their vulnerability to adult decisions is acknowledged.”

      And that’s the way it should be, right? I mean, your mild childism apart, we both agree that the right to health of the child trumps the right of the parents to “choose,” so I don’t see any disagreement there.

      “for the purposes of arguing women don’t really have all rights as an autonomous human being to make medical choices as men do,”

      No. I don’t believe men have more rights than women. That’s a ridiculous proposition.

      “Oddly while still saying this, you then complain that doctor exercising conscience clauses are wrong, but I don’t see how you can have it both ways. Either choice exists or it doesn’t, either it’s wrong for a doctor to impose his or her personal beliefs on a patient or it is not, either a woman has the right to have the full range of healthcare available to her, including for reproductive health or she doesn’t.”

      How am I having it both ways? I am against choice in both instances. Your error is that you believe I think men should have “choice” and women not have “choice.” The fact is that choice is an illusion. If you mean “freedom,” then again no, as far as anyone else is concerned, there can be no “freedom of medical care.”

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