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This Is My Body
March 7, 2013 1:06 PM   Subscribe

"This is My Body, not yours." [slyt]

"It is time for you to accept that I am fully aware, capable, and accountable for myself. I don’t need a hero or saving because I’m not in distress. I’m not defined by my need of a man or partner, but I have the right to be made happy by one, in a safe and supportive relationship. I’m not defined by my weight, hair, make up, skin color, or breast size. I do not exist to be your play toy. I won’t wait my turn nor be quiet nor heed you. I know my physical and mental strength and I do not fear you. I’m beautiful, despite what you think, with or without your approval. This is my body, not yours."
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish (81 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn straight.
posted by heyho at 1:12 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well done.
posted by PuppyCat at 1:18 PM on March 7, 2013


There's a lot packed into "my body". The paragraph OP highlighted is great and I agree with every single word of it, but that's not where the "my body" term is normally used, but rather as a prelude for "my choice". Which is something I always found funny, because yes, when it comes to reproduction, the premise is fallacious. Even from an etymology perspective, reproduction is "the act of forming again", forming what? Forming another entity just like the one doing the reproductive job. Being that humans are not oviparous, clearly at some point the statement becomes a fallacy - nope, it's not (part of) your body, it's another body that's inside of you.

TL;DR: I agree with the whole thing, yes, it's your body, yes you have a bunch of rights that are being trampled upon, but there's a point between conception and delivery where a part of your body becomes another body.
posted by gertzedek at 1:30 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sitting on a bench in front of the Texas state capital building right now, having spent the day meeting with legislators (or their smarmy staff members) on behalf of Planned Parenthood. Pretty interesting day, all in all, some positives and some negatives.

Anyhow, I'll watch this video on the bus ride home here in a bit, and I have a feeling that I'll dig it.
posted by item at 1:31 PM on March 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm tearing up right now for a pretty complicated tangle of reasons.

Because, fundamentally, this is a message I deeply believe in.

Because the delivery punched me right in the gut.

Because I can't remember the last time I watched a professionally produced video where the performers are all women, and where those women haven't all been selected to fit within an absurdly (insultingly) narrow definition of conventional attractiveness.

Because I have met and spoken with so many people over the years who would disagree with most or all of what these women said, and it breaks my heart.

Because...I don't know. A whole lot of things.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:35 PM on March 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


there's a point between conception and delivery where a part of your body, working in conjunction with a part of someone else's body, becomes another body.

It's that bit that I've added that makes the whole issue so contentious and confusing. And overwhelmingly sad.
posted by jbickers at 1:38 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Respect the independence of all mind-states and all of their independent mental or physical vectors/changes (unless such states and changes would directly effect another state (or states) in an unwanted fashion).

Putting it this way, we'll be ahead of the curve when it comes to AI/Xenos rights, though its pretty appalling that we can't even get the basic human rights down pat currently.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:41 PM on March 7, 2013


there's a point between conception and delivery where your body carries the potential to create another body

that's still not quite right, is it?
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2013


but there's a point between conception and delivery where a part of your body becomes another body.

Obviously when that point occurs has been the subject of much debate over the centuries, but there's a fair amount of precedent for it being set at delivery, when the part of your body ceases being inside your body, drawing nutrients from your body, or being in any way attached to your body. Biologically speaking, fetal development is a continuous process, but delivery is a fairly straightforward, not biologically unsound or arbitrary cut point to use. Any time prior to the point where delivery could be induced without harm to the mother/originally existing body and with reasonable chance of viability for the fetus/potential new body outside of the womb, it would not make a whole lot of sense from a biological perspective to consider the fetus as a separate organism.
posted by eviemath at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


MoxieProxy: "that's still not quite right, is it?"

Nope, that's incorrect. Your body carries the potential to create another body between your puberty and your menopause.
posted by gertzedek at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2013


Because I have met and spoken with so many people over the years who would disagree with most or all of what these women said, and it breaks my heart.

That's it. Messages like this can be powerful reminders to those of us who already agree, but to those who disagree, these messages tend to ring defiant -- they create too much of a gap for many moralists to bridge.

I tilt strongly liberal in a notoriously right wing town, and their ever-present messaging here just leaves me angry and confused. I think this video is the flipside of that. Scroll down, and you'll see one of the commenters reacting this way.
posted by mochapickle at 2:07 PM on March 7, 2013


So, this video has led to backlash against anti-smoking laws, drug laws, Mayor Bloomberg's food regulations, the Food and Drug Administration, prohibitions on prostitution, and the restrictions on human organ sales, right?

Shouldn't this theme that "this is my body" go pretty far?
posted by stan.kjar at 2:11 PM on March 7, 2013


Scroll down, and you'll see one of the commenters reacting this way.

Timmy Dolen, hella trollin'
posted by SharkParty at 2:17 PM on March 7, 2013


I was not expecting any sort of emotional reaction to this. Particularly when it started.

But then that one woman said "and it is never my fault if you rape me" and it was like I walked out of the fire and into the snow. The tears started falling and as yet haven't stopped.
posted by geek anachronism at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


For me it was the part "allowing myself to be penetrated once doesn’t assume your right to do it again on your own prerogative, for your own reasons" re: both rape victim blaming and all this vaginal ultrasound bullshit, because, I mean, to have it called out for what it is so bluntly...yeah, that.
posted by ifjuly at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


There's a Republican version of "This is my body not yours". It stars old white men.
posted by happyroach at 2:31 PM on March 7, 2013


TL;DR: I agree with the whole thing, yes, it's your body, yes you have a bunch of rights that are being trampled upon, but there's a point between conception and delivery where a part of your body becomes another body.

It's interesting that until recently, meaning the involvement of right to life groups, a fetus was a fetus for nine months and a baby was what emerged from the womb after nine months. Now I hear people referring to 'babies' a day after conception.
posted by notreally at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


gertzedek: “I agree with the whole thing, yes, it's your body, yes you have a bunch of rights that are being trampled upon, but there's a point between conception and delivery where a part of your body becomes another body.”

Why between?
posted by koeselitz at 2:39 PM on March 7, 2013


There's a Republican version of "This is my body not yours". It stars old white men.

And they're pointing at the women when they say it.
posted by aaronetc at 2:49 PM on March 7, 2013


Powerful, beautiful video. I shouldn't be surprised by the response here, but I am. Whatever a fetus is to you, it's still inside my body, which is still my body. It's still not yours. So I still get to make decisions about what my body does, including whether or not a fetus gets to stay inside of it. Because it's still my body. It's still not yours.

Also, if you watched that video and thought it was only about abortion, and not rape, sexual harassment, breast cancer screening, pre-natal care, slut-shaming, and just the little day to day bullshit women have to put up with, you need to go back and watch it again. Still my body. Still not yours.

And if you think the abortion debate is just about the supposed rights of fetuses and not all of the other ways society claims my body every single day, you need to go back and watch it again. Still my body. Still not yours.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:53 PM on March 7, 2013 [61 favorites]


As this video enumerates, bodily autonomy is about more than my reproductive organs. There is more to my body than my ability to have, or not have, a baby. My body should not have to make a political statement just by virtue of its existence. I *should* be able to access medical care, to make decisions about it, to choose what goes in it and what does not, and to generally exist in it without commentary from folks whose body it is not,
posted by ChuraChura at 3:04 PM on March 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


The immediate turn of this thread to pregnancy and negating the message just proves how much it needs to be said: all women's bodies - even pregnant women's - are their own.

A pregnant woman's fetus is HER fetus just like her leg is her leg or her spleen is her spleen. It's HER fetus, not yours.
posted by sonika at 3:49 PM on March 7, 2013 [22 favorites]


The problem with your argument, sonika, is that a leg or a spleen does not become an autonomous individual.
posted by stan.kjar at 4:02 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


It could. You could conceivably (maybe not now, but probably in a few years) cut off part of my finger and grow it into a clone. Does it thereby become a regulated issue whenever I cut my finger?
posted by koeselitz at 4:06 PM on March 7, 2013


Koeselitz, let me know when you're done with the sci-fi derail and willing to discuss in good faith.
posted by gertzedek at 4:12 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get back to us when an anti-abortion stance somehow doesn't result in rampant forced pregnancies.
posted by odinsdream at 4:14 PM on March 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


It doesn't have to be sci-fi. Where do you draw the line for "potential to become an autonomous individual," as soon as the egg is fertilized?
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 4:22 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem with your argument, sonika, is that a leg or a spleen does not become an autonomous individual.

There is no problem with my argument. While the fetus is in her womb, it's hers. Not yours.

(Why yes, I have been pregnant. The experience made me incredibly aware of my own body and more pro-choice than ever. And the fetus? While he's now two years old and "reading" to himself, two years ago he was a part of me every bit as much as my ribcage that he insisted on kicking. His autonomy didn't begin until he exited my birth canal.)
posted by sonika at 4:25 PM on March 7, 2013 [29 favorites]


gertzedek, I think the pushback you're hearing is due to the notion that you said you fully agree with the message, then you qualified it. You seem to be saying that it's her body, but only up to a point. As women, that's the reality we're trying to change.

What's the old saying? If you can't trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child?
posted by heyho at 4:44 PM on March 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


The problem with your argument, sonika, is that a leg or a spleen does not become an autonomous individual.
posted by stan.kjar at 4:02 PM on 3/7
[1 favorite +] [!]

become. As in, the future. As in, after birth. How is that relevant?.
posted by FirstMateKate at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nope, that's incorrect. Your body carries the potential to create another body between your puberty and your menopause.

What a load of poop. This isn't true for queer women or celibate women or women who have been sterilized or whose partners have been sterilized. But treating these women--all women--as nothing but vessels for potential infants can have a deleterious effect on them nevertheless. They might not be able to get birth control for medical purposes; they might have to go on birth control to have access to other drugs that they wish to take, like accutane. Their bodies belong to them, but they might not be trusted with them because . . . what, they have eggs inside them? Euch.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:48 PM on March 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


Perhaps it would be better if I quoted from my earlier link.
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system (such as animal, fungus, micro-organism, or plant). In at least some form, all types of organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole.
Here's another, perhaps clearer definition to supplement that one:
An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis.
In terms of the biological arguments being discussed so far in this thread, the definition is pretty clear: a fetus is not a separate organism when it cannot survive on its own and relies on the mother for the means of "growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole." That changes at birth, when a fetus-turned-newborn starts performing these functions for itself; not before.

Someone call in all the rah rah science-and-rationality folks from any of the GMO foods threads to keep arguing this so the rest of us can focus on something productive?
posted by eviemath at 4:53 PM on March 7, 2013


That was a fantastic and moving video. Thank you for posting it!
posted by zarq at 5:27 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Happy International Women's Day (tomorrow) everyone!
Thanks for the awesome post!!!
posted by chapps at 5:27 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love this so much! Because when I got pregnant back in 1982, I got so many mixed messages that I didn't know what to do. It was either, "you have no right to bring a child into this world" or I was a slut and a whore, or "I don't believe in abortion but you have the right to choose." How was my 19 year old self supposed to make sense of all that?

I did have my baby, because I was too afraid of parental disapproval to have an abortion. It was a hard long haul, quitting college and taking a state-sponsored secretarial course. Going to lunch with an old friend, whom I had worked with in the theater previously, only to hear him tell me that I was too fat and needed to lose weight and keep myself up better to be attractive to me (i.e., him). Being pawned off as a date on relatives' friends, men who were lechers, as I wasn't good enough to date the cream of the crop, being a fallen woman.

Being told how "brave" I was to have a baby on my own in that day and age. Being shamed by a pharmacist for asking for 2 months of birth control because I was moving to another state. Dating men who didn't mind if I had a child, but asking if I could get a babysitter whenever we saw each other. Trying to finagle a babysitter when my daughter caught chickenpox at the daycare center and yet, she couldn't go back there for a week and I had to pay them for a week off and also another sitter whose son had chickenpox, depleting my meager savings. Declaring bankruptcy over credit card bills from my car breaking down, after I went into the hospital with an infection from my boyfriend messing around on me and I had been working two jobs to support myself and my daughter, a secretary during the week and at Burger King on Saturday and Sunday. Then, months later, having that jerk send me flowers on my birthday at work, and oh, his dr had told him he had chlamydia but he hadn't thought to tell me. And when I was in the hospital, talking to my mom and telling her how tired I was of it all, how I had to contact the father of my daughter to ask for support, and she said, "oh dear, don't bother him, he might be married with a family of his own."

I don't regret it. But I fully support the right to choose for any woman. Because there just is no support for woman who get pregnant on their own. It's tough. I learned how to replace my headlight in the winter, holding a flashlight in my teeth at night. I learned how to do my spark plugs and replace the rotor on my car. So many mechanics and co-workers and bosses helped me that I can't begin to thank all of the generous people who kept me going when times were tough. And I wouldn't wish that shit on anyone, man or woman. I just think back to that guy who told me I was too fat, and I want to spit on his face and say, buster, fuck you and your whole fam damily. Because I have been through more shit than you will ever go through in your life, and by gawd, I have earned my fucking fat. It is MY body.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:27 PM on March 7, 2013 [45 favorites]


I don't think life begins at conception. But I also think saying that life begins when the baby exits the birth canal , or when the scalpel opens the abdomen in a c-section is dishonest.

If you want to take a stance that gives women ultimate prerogative over the fetus until the very moment, I think a more consisten position is Peter Singer's, who is brave enough to say what he means:
[The argument that a fetus is not alive] is a resort to a convenient fiction that turns an evidently living being into one that legally is not alive. Instead of accepting such fictions, we should recognise that the fact that a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being's life.
This is a position that is at least consistent with the reality of giving anyone complete choice over the fate of the fetus during the full nine months of pregnancy.
posted by gertzedek at 5:49 PM on March 7, 2013


Hey, so what about the other 4 minutes and 35 seconds?
posted by ChuraChura at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2013


gertzedek: “I don't think life begins at conception. But I also think saying that life begins when the baby exits the birth canal , or when the scalpel opens the abdomen in a c-section is dishonest... [Peter Singer's position] is a position that is at least consistent with the reality of giving anyone complete choice over the fate of the fetus during the full nine months of pregnancy.”

I am not sure why you think we aren't taking Peter Singer's position here.

“Koeselitz, let me know when you're done with the sci-fi derail and willing to discuss in good faith.”

Look, I was just posing a possibility. You can't really accuse me of arguing in bad faith. I'm willing to explain my position if you want, but there's no need to flat-out assume that I'm being a jerk here. I'd really like to have a decent conversation, if that's possible.

Here's what I was responding to:

stan.kjar: “The problem with your argument, sonika, is that a leg or a spleen does not become an autonomous individual.”

I introduced the possibility that, scientifically, it is probably possible to make a leg or spleen into an autonomous individual. But until it is an autonomous individual, we don't treat it as one. The same is true of a fetus. It is not intellectually dishonest or intellectual incongruous to say that life begins at birth.

Maybe to go back to what you said:

“I don't think life begins at conception. But I also think saying that life begins when the baby exits the birth canal , or when the scalpel opens the abdomen in a c-section is dishonest.”

Why do you think that's dishonest? I guess you're saying some of us are making arguments that contradict themselves – right?
posted by koeselitz at 6:02 PM on March 7, 2013


Ah, I think I see – you think that a fetus is obviously an independent living being, and that arguing otherwise is blatantly dishonest. Is that it?
posted by koeselitz at 6:04 PM on March 7, 2013


A pregnant woman is not two people. She is one. Until the fetus exits, it is only another part of her body. There is no other way to allow women to be full people instead of the property of others. This is reality. It is messy and morally upsetting and untidy. Your inability to deal with a world full of grays and fraught choices does not provide an excuse for removing autonomy from half the species. Your desire to treat pregnancy as a static state and not a process reveals your ignorance and your cowardice. Women who gestate do not have the luxury of seeing it from on high as a tidy moral choice. Instead we must balance our survival, and the lives of those who need us, with the risk of a lifelong burden and a nine-month physical reshaping unlike anything a man can experience, one that will mark us permanently, that could even kill us.

We take the risks, we build the fetus with OUR blood and OUR cells.

We choose. Not you.
posted by emjaybee at 6:06 PM on March 7, 2013 [30 favorites]


I don't take Singer's position. I don't get the impression that he understands the biology that well. The argument is not that the fetus is not alive, or not human. The argument is that the fetus is not a separate biological organism until such a point as it is born and maintaining homeostasis separate from another biological organism. Humans aren't chickens: a chicken fetus develops inside the chicken egg entirely on it's own, without any input beyond what was in the egg at the time of laying. A human fetus, on the other hand, will not develop or maintain homeostasis (stay alive) if it does not receive all sorts of continual inputs during the entire development process from the organism of which it is a part; just like any of my organs or tissues would not maintain homeostasis (stay alive) if removed from the rest of my body.

Unlike Singer, most reasonable, ethical people would look at the situation of premature infants such as St. Alia's husband and think that, even though infants born that prematurely need machines to provide oxygen, nutrition, proper temperature and environment, and wouldn't technically be able to maintain homeostasis on their own; the expectation of continued development is such that we're all pretty comfortable considering such infants as separate organisms. They aren't relying on another living organism for homeostasis, so that's, for practical purposes, good enough for me. (Also, I think it's awesome that medicine is advancing in that area and continues to be able to support infants born ever more prematurely. It gives women more choices too, which is definitely a good thing.)

(Also, it is theoretically possible with modern stem cell technology to make a leg or a spleen revert back to an undifferentiated stem cell, then develop into a fetus. As I understand it, there are quite a few technological difficulties still, but scientifically, it could happen.)

There are other bases on which one could argue abortion rights. Issues about souls, for example, though I don't believe in that myself. The biology is fairly clear though.
posted by eviemath at 6:08 PM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel very much like the woman at 2:00, and I've never had an unplanned pregnancy or an abortion. I am still so very angry about the invasive procedures that are forced on women to undergo a legal procedure.
posted by blurker at 6:09 PM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


> There is no other way to allow women to be full people instead of the property of others.

This is where I stand, personally. I'm sure some pro-lifers are appalled when I say this, but I don't care about the "alive/not alive" thing, at all. My priority lies with the fact it is not possible for women to have equal freedoms and treatment in the world without absolute reproductive freedom, the ability to reject the physical (and emotional too, granted) implications of motherhood up to the point of giving birth. Gender equality demands it, and gender equality is essential to me.
posted by ifjuly at 6:10 PM on March 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Anyone who objects to the clone-from-finger thing as too woowoo scifi should keep in mind that the reproductive technology we have now would have been scifi just a few decades ago.
posted by rtha at 6:13 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "you think that a fetus is obviously an independent living being, and that arguing otherwise is blatantly dishonest. Is that it?"

No, I think that at some point the fetus obviously becomes an independent living being, and that happens before birth.
posted by gertzedek at 6:14 PM on March 7, 2013


Any proposed legislation that is in any way based on Abrahamic "religious traditions" should be reviewed by a higher authority for review and/or hopefully VETO.

I'm 44 years old. In my life 80 to 90% of my educators have been female. In my adult working life at least 50% of my bosses have been female. Among those women are the greatest heroes and mentors of my life. Of those, and not the most influential or even my favorite, was a female Army Captain who led in combat decades before the debate about having females in combat.

To think that they or any other female has to endure the wrath of some LEGISLATED ancient Abrahamic religious-tradition bullshit is just abhorrent to me.

Stop it NOW.
posted by snsranch at 6:14 PM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Independent while it's still inside me? Occupying my spaces and using my resources? That's independent?
posted by rtha at 6:15 PM on March 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


ifjuly: "I'm sure some pro-lifers are appalled when I say this, but I don't care about the "alive/not alive" thing, at all. "

While I wholeheartedly disagree with you, I at least consider that a consistent position. "My body my choice" is handwaving.

I'll stop hogging the thread now.
posted by gertzedek at 6:21 PM on March 7, 2013


No, I think that at some point the fetus obviously becomes an independent living being, and that happens before birth.

See, this is like the "partial-birth abortion" weaseling with words. What do you mean by "independent living being"? Science has terminology - that of organisms. It's pretty clear and straightforward. And we can refer to facts and evidence, rather than subjective "obvious".

I understand that people have reasons for not thinking that abortion is ethical. I don't agree with them, but both people I've met who are opposed to abortion because they actually care about all life, and have a religious definition of that involving souls at earlier stages of the fetal development process are honest enough to state their beliefs in a non-weasely manner, without pseudoscience; and also have the decency to work together with women who may be pro-choice in other matters of womens' and childrens' health, work toward policies to alleviate poverty rather than punishing poor people, etc. I don't agree with that position, I don't want to live in a world where I would be denied reproductive choice because of it, but I greatly respect those two people's consistent moral codes and courage of their convictions.

Weasely attempts at pseudoscientific arguments, I do not respect so much.
posted by eviemath at 6:24 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


gertzedek: “No, I think that at some point the fetus obviously becomes an independent living being, and that happens before birth.”

Unfortunately, I don't think that's obvious. And the fact that I don't find it an obvious fact seems to indicate that people aren't being "dishonest" when they argue from the premise that birth is the beginning of life.

I mean – you're talking as though there's this obvious fact that clearly a fetus in a mother's belly is an independent living thing. As far as I can see, there are a number of difficulties with that – real, actual, philosophical difficulties. And I'm not saying this just because I think it obscures your position; I think these philosophical difficulties are what make the whole topic of abortion hard to sort out.

For one thing: what is an "independent living being"? For that matter, what's a "living being"? These are not easy or intuitive questions. You may feel as though it's obvious that a fetus is a living being; but until we can put that into words, explaining what a living being is and precisely why a fetus is one, I don't know that this is so obviously sorted out.

In the US, one group of people has chosen to define life as beginning at or sometime after conception. Another group of people has chosen to define life as beginning at birth. But as far as I can tell there's no simply way to demonstrate that either of those things are true. Both groups believe their position is so obvious that they believe the other side must be engaging in dishonesty in order to push an agenda. This makes this subject a difficult one to riddle out.

I believe it's possible, however. I don't think the question "what is life?" is too abstract or difficult to admit of an answer. At this point in my life, Aristotle's definition of life makes the most sense to me: he says that a thing is alive when it is born, grows to potentially-reproductive maturity, and dies. By this definition, a fetus is not alive; it has not yet taken part in the cycle which defines what is and what is not a living being. It has only taken part in the cycle of, say, a bodily organ. Birth really is a qualitative change in this respect: it is the entering into a cycle in which living things take part.

I will admit that there are things about this idea that I'm still working out for myself. But at the very least I think we can say with some clarity that this is not an obvious question, no matter how much many on both sides of the issue might want us to believe that it is. And I'll admit that a lot of my attitudes toward abortion come from practical considerations I make in light of that ongoing philosophical questioning.
posted by koeselitz at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2013


Okay, I'm going to do something I rarely do online and bare my soul, in the hopes that some well-meaning and well-educated mefite can change my mind. I am ready and willing and totally hoping to have my mind changed.

I am as liberal a person as you will ever meet. I'm the minority in my red state who wants universal health care and a better social safety net and an end to all of our stupid wars. I want Robin Hood/socialism to come in for a little while and work on that 1/99 ratio. I fit the profile, in every area except for this one.

I approach abortion from a scientific standpoint. At one point, we as a culture had the concept of spontaneous generation, which said that life could arise out of nothing, basically - a spider could be formed out of dust, or a rat from a pile of rags, or a mosquito from a mud puddle. But we now know that this isn't true, and that life doesn't begin without some sort of external stimulus. To my admittedly scientifically untrained mind, conception is the only moment of external stimulus in the whole affair.

I also approach it from an emotional standpoint, as a father of three. I've been there for all three of them, watching the ultrasounds, seeing the movements of what is clearly a human being at the very, very earliest stages of its development. As you get further down the road in the process, the doctor starts to tell you things like "The baby would be able to survive if had to be on its own right now." (And yes, they call it "the baby," not "the fetus.") There comes a time when it becomes clear that you've moved from having a tadpole in your stomach to, you've got a living human being in your stomach that, yeah, needs you, but could survive without you in the right conditions.

And then I also approach it from a pragmatic standpoint, which says it clearly makes more sense to work on reducing unplanned pregnancies than focusing on all of this. And that having access to a safe procedure is better for everyone than forcing at-risk women to seek out unsafe ones. I get that too.

But there's a cognitive dissonance that is tearing me apart. At the Quaker church that I attend, we work actively to end the death penalty. Do I believe that a 7-month-old blob of tissue is a human being, with rights that are worth defending? Do I believe that the imprisoned murderer who is about to be put down is also a human being, with rights worth defending?

At this point, I believe that they are both human beings worthy of defense. As I said above, please change my mind. Please use science, logic and human decency to change my mind.

(Finally, apologies to the OP for this thread turning into an abortion debate, when the video is clearly about much more than that, and thank you for letting me let this all out here.)
posted by jbickers at 7:34 PM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


jbickers, I don't care what you think about abortion. Think whatever you like. I can't be bothered to talk you around.

But I will pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to do whatever I can to make it so no other woman has to talk anyone around to do what she believes is right for her, whether it's terminating a pregnancy or carrying a pregnancy to term.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:44 PM on March 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


GARRRRRR!

Why are we even discussing a 7 month abortion? This is asinine!

No, I think that at some point the fetus obviously becomes an independent living being, and that happens before birth.

Factually, a fetus can live outside a woman's body independently anywhere from 7-9 months. From 5-6 months, the prognosis is iffy, but can be done with current medical procedures. The earliest birth I could find, at +/- 22 weeks*, required extreme care to survive.
*assuming the conception date was correct

Realistically, it's stupid to argue about when a fetus is independent. Women wanting abortions want them EARLY and SAFELY, preferably before there is any discussion of whether or not there is any independent life. If the morning after pill was easily and cheaply (or free) available to all women, there would be no, or very few, abortions for women who know they don't want a child. It would seldom even GET to that point if all women had complete access to birth control.

This German couple chose to keep their extremely premature WANTED fetus, hoping it would develop into a viable infant. Please note, unlike in the US, they were not forced into debt to do so. Also, from the article, please note some of the complications of premature birth:

Babies born after 34 weeks have a low risk of problems although they are sometime slower to feed.
A baby born before 33 weeks will have more serious problems such as immature lungs.
Very premature babies (born under 28 weeks) need to be delivered in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit.
Doctors have been able to improve dramatically the survival hopes for babies born as early as 22 or 23 weeks.
However, very premature babies face a huge battle at the start of life. They are at risk of serious conditions including:
* Hypothermia, due to lower levels of fat
* Low blood glucose, which can lead to brain damage
* Respiratory distress syndrome - which can cause blindness
* Brain haemorrhage
Long-term they may have cerebral palsy and have sight and hearing problems.
They are also more likely to have motor impairments and co-ordination and concentration problems.


The medical expenses attending a second trimester birth are horrendous--AND given the complications frequently attendant, continue afterward. I believe every child should be wanted. But at what cost to society, when we already have so many children needing homes? Even leaving that issue out of the discussion, by what right do people have to burden society with the cost of their desire to have a child? For the cost of care for one premie infant like this, millions of women could be given free birth control for YEARS, bettering their lives and the lives of children already born. Which is the better use of funds?

Frankly, AFAIC, if a fetus is in a woman's body, it is HER fetus. She may chose to discuss abortion or not with the father of the fetus and consider his opinion, but the final decision should be HER decision, because it's HER body.

I've been pregnant four times, had four children. Contemplated abortion for the fourth, but didn't. MY body, MY choice to have a fourth child or not.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Get the FUCK out of my uterus.

This video is about so much more than abortion or reproduction.


Some great comments here.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:44 PM on March 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


For those who haven't already read it (and even if you have), please go read this outstanding comment by mefite Anitanola about her personal experience with reproductive agency before Roe v Wade. Here.
posted by rtha at 7:51 PM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Seriously, the more I think about it the madder I get. I'm so pissed I could spit, so it's time for me to just leave this thread.

If you seriously believe that life begins at conception and is precious, and you have the conviction of your belief such that you have adopted rather than begetting your own children, and/or you give to a charity that supports homeless children, and you support legislation to help infants, children, and their mothers, and you fight like hell against legislature that punishes women for their sexuality, then fine.

But the rest of you? Screw you. What you're saying is that women can't be trusted not to kill their "babies"--not removing blobs of undifferentiated cells, but committing infanticide. One more incidence of demeaning women.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:54 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I also think saying that life begins when the baby exits the birth canal , or when the scalpel opens the abdomen in a c-section is dishonest.

I didn't say that. The fetus I had in my uterus was very much alive, with his own hiccups and everything. He was simply not autonomous.

And I also fully support the rights of women to decide whether or not they want to be pregnant. Is it ethically murky to be ok with taking life? Yeah, it is. However, it would be far worse for me to tell another woman what to do with her body.

In case you didn't know, pregnancy is HARD. Your body changes radically in ways that are unpleasant at best. To maintain a healthy pregnancy, women often need to make significant lifestyle changes. Just the morning sickness alone was enough to make me want to donate my life's savings to Planned Parenthood to ensure that only women who WANTED this had to do it. And oh, I wanted it. My son is one of the most wanted children on earth, but pregnancy and birth were the most difficult things I've ever done. (To give an idea of how hard birth was, today [Thurs] is the two year anniversary of the start of my labor. My son's birthday is Saturday.)

Having incubated, birthed, and breastfed another human I have incredible respect for my body and the bodies of all women. And absolutely this is MY body and you don't get to tell me what to do with my uterus or my vagina or my breasts or any other part of me. You don't get to tell me to lose weight or "lose the mommy pouch" or any other insult to post partum women trying to shove us back into our "pre-baby" state so we can go back to being virginal after our gestational service is complete.

Yeah, I believe a fetus is alive. Yeah, I'm ok with abortion. No, I don't give a fuck if you're ok with this and I will not "explain it" to you because YOUR understanding is it my problem.
posted by sonika at 8:09 PM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


jbickers: “I approach abortion from a scientific standpoint. At one point, we as a culture had the concept of spontaneous generation, which said that life could arise out of nothing, basically - a spider could be formed out of dust, or a rat from a pile of rags, or a mosquito from a mud puddle. But we now know that this isn't true, and that life doesn't begin without some sort of external stimulus. To my admittedly scientifically untrained mind, conception is the only moment of external stimulus in the whole affair.”

At least as far as this point is concerned, I don't think it holds up. That is: I don't think science can tell us what "a living thing" is. Science is innocent of such things. Science can tell us in detail what does happen during the process of a pregnancy and delivery, but it can't tell us what should happen. The idea of an "independent living being" is not a scientific concept, but a moral and social concept by which we accord rights and dignity to those around us. Science is not supposed to be part of that equation. Neither, for that matter, are emotional considerations; emotions are wholly valid, but only for us, and we can't expect them to apply to others.

stan.kjar: “So, this video has led to backlash against anti-smoking laws, drug laws, Mayor Bloomberg's food regulations, the Food and Drug Administration, prohibitions on prostitution, and the restrictions on human organ sales, right? Shouldn't this theme that ‘this is my body’ go pretty far?”

No – this is a misconception of the central issue as an issue of libertarianism. To tackle some of your examples: anti-smoking laws are generally designed to curb second-hand smoke, and whatever you may feel about them they are at least justified publicly by the argument that second-hand smoke constitutes an infringing of my right to live happily. (The video explicitly states that this is a standard to be followed.) The same is true, to some extent, with drug laws. There are laws designed to protect us from ourselves; but these are generally (and ought to be) limited to things that are inherently and clearly self-destructive. Having an abortion is not a self-destructive act; it is not like shooting heroin or selling your own organs. It isn't even like drinking a twenty-two ounce soda when you know it's probably bad for you; and while Bloomberg's laws are (I think rightly) derided as overly paternalistic, I don't this issue really has a relationship with that controversy at all.

Montesquieu, who may in many ways be considered the architect of the US constitution, and who was clearly a devotee of the English constitution, defined liberty as the freedom to do what we ought to choose to do without being forced to do what we shouldn't; that is, the freedom from fear of the abrogation of our rights by the liberty of other citizens. The reproductive freedom of women – and like BlueHorse I think we should note that reproductive freedom is so much more than abortion rights – is harmful to no one; it pertains solely to the bodily freedom of a human being, their freedom to access to health assistance and medicine. It has almost no impact whatsoever on the lives of others; and what little impact it has serves to enrich others, since it keeps doctors in business. Reproductive freedom is, in short, not only compatible with but demanded by our republic as it is constituted.

As regards the video, which is very good: I only have one quibble. If I were going to choose a New Order song to put over the ending, I would have chosen this one, as it somehow seems a bit more fitting.
posted by koeselitz at 8:35 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sidhedevil: jbickers, I don't care what you think about abortion. Think whatever you like. I can't be bothered to talk you around.

Then what's the point of the conversation? I'm asking questions so that I can understand. I am trying my best, and am honestly and openly trying to get some answers. You seem to be shutting down the conversation, and not responding to any of the points that I raised.

Yeah, I believe a fetus is alive. Yeah, I'm ok with abortion. No, I don't give a fuck if you're ok with this and I will not "explain it" to you because YOUR understanding is it my problem.

Grammar notwithstanding. You are willing to see to the termination of something that you yourself acknowledge is "alive." And you don't see how that could be problematic? That nobody else should be bothered by this?
posted by jbickers at 8:46 PM on March 7, 2013


You are willing to see to the termination of something that you yourself acknowledge is "alive." And you don't see how that could be problematic? That nobody else should be bothered by this?

I already acknowledged that it's problematic. And you can be bothered by it all you want. But it's not your choice to make. If don't want an abortion, don't have one. Since you don't have a uterus, this should be easy for you.
posted by sonika at 8:50 PM on March 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


jbickers, I appreciate your openness. I get the impression that the vast majority of us in this thread would concur that giving women accurate, non-shaming information and access to contraception, and preventing rape, to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place would be the best option; and that providing adequate social and welfare supports for children and parents is part of a truly "pro-life" ethic.

For those who follow an ethic to truly care about all living things, I submit that the "thing" aka organism (see the biological definitions for this in my comments above) part is of equal or greater importance than the "living" part. Something is alive if it is composed of at least one cell (in the biology sense) and isn't dead. One can stretch this definition slightly, for example some might claim that viruses are alive, but my understanding is that's a minority opinion in the biological community. Any subset of the cells of your body are living. Pick a finger, and consider the skin on just the tip of your finger. That patch of skin is living. (Those skin cells are also human cells, if that matters in your moral system.) If you accidentally sliced the tip of that finger off with a kitchen knife (please don't attempt this experiment at home), would you be committing manslaughter? Most people would say no, because the tip of your finger, though alive (prior to being sliced off) and human, is not an (individual, separate, complete) organism.

Likewise, as I explained above, a fetus pre-viability is not an (individual, separate, complete) organism, by the biological definition of "organism". It can't survive without the rest of the human body that it is a part of. The organism/non-organism distinction is the relevant scientific/biological detail differentiating how we treat babies from how we treat fetuses from how we treat non-fetus portions of human bodies, not the living/dead/nonliving distinction. (Though, as I noted, many religions bring other, non-scientific details into consideration.)
posted by eviemath at 10:03 PM on March 7, 2013


We have done abortion, well and not, so many many many times here. Jbickers or anyone, search Metafilter for the discussions you want to have, I assure they have been done, over and over. Your questions are not new or frankly at this point, interesting to those of us tired of constantly having to demand autonomy. Educate yourselves, it is not our job to do so.

Back to the video..it seems relevant to note that Democrats have quietly reintroduced the ERA, though no one expects it to go anywhere at the moment. It is hard to even dream of my country taking that step, though I refuse to give up hope.
posted by emjaybee at 10:03 PM on March 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


I’m not defined by my need of a man or partner, but I have the right to be made happy by one

I agree wholeheartedly with the entire rest of the video (and it did make me cry a little), but I find this statement a bit weird. Do women (or people in general) have a "right" to a partner?
posted by lollusc at 10:09 PM on March 7, 2013


I didn't hear it that way - more like, if I've got one, I have the right to be happy with that one. The right is to happiness, not to having one.
posted by rtha at 10:37 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The argument that something is sacred just because it has the potential to turn into an autonomous living thing is specious. So can sperm. So can eggs. They require each other--in other words, another body (just like a fetus!)--in order to do so, but the potential is there. But menstruation is not manslaughter, nor male ejaculation a massacre.

But there's no point in arguing arbitrary definitions of "obvious" life if you can't follow through with how to enable that life without severely curbing the rights of half the world's population.

Say you believe, in your heart of hearts, that life begins at conception. Great. So if there a fertilized zygote embedded in the uterine walls of a woman who does not want it, what's your solution? Can you "save" that "life" without taking over that woman's body and forcing her to undergo this painful and life-changing process for the next nine months? Can you be responsible for how pregnancy and birth impacts her body? Will you be there for the post-partum depression? Will you take up responsibility for that child's life?

Because if you cannot, if the only way to satisfy your particular morality is for a woman to give up her body to legislative control (and oftentimes, her life trajectory for child-rearing) the moment two bundles of cells happen to meet each other inside of her body, all because she engaged in an activity most adults consider a routine part of life, then a woman is by definition an inferior citizen. Her rights to control what happens inside of her body can be taken away from her without so much as a by-your-leave. The rights of a bundle of cells that depend on her body for survival, that is drawing energy and nutrition and protection from her body, then trump her rights as a grown, self-actualized, self-contained person. The woman becomes little more than an incubator, or a potential incubator, for this serendipitous biological phenomenon that has more right to her body than she does.

And that is why the murky gray area of your morality doesn't matter to me. I will not consent to sign over control of my body--mine, not yours--no matter what your religion or spiritual beliefs say.
posted by Phire at 11:01 PM on March 7, 2013 [24 favorites]


jbickers, I don't care what you think about abortion. Think whatever you like. I can't be bothered to talk you around.

But I will pledge my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor to do whatever I can to make it so no other woman has to talk anyone around to do what she believes is right for her, whether it's terminating a pregnancy or carrying a pregnancy to term.


Goddamn, I would favourite this a thousand times if I could. Thank you Sidhedevil. And, as we used to say back in the 70s: sister.
posted by jokeefe at 11:24 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


That video saddens me on so many levels, some obvious that I probably share with many, many, like-minded individuals, others in ways may that only make sense to me.

Powerful, triggering.
posted by roboton666 at 12:05 AM on March 8, 2013


Mainly saddens me in that it has to be even be said in the first place.
posted by roboton666 at 12:06 AM on March 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just to be clear, I will fight like hell for a woman's right to have complete control over her body.
posted by roboton666 at 12:08 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


As far as I am concerned the "life" debate is a red herring. I'd never tell a woman who had a miscarriage there was no baby lost, but I don't find that hard to reconcile with a woman's absolute right to control her body at any time, including (and perhaps especially during) pregnancy. I certainly hope we can all agree that the women who have died because of botched abortions also had lives with value, lives that were worth saving.

Life is messy and complicated and women are entirely capable of making decisions about our lives even in the midst of the messiness and complicated-ness. That goes far beyond abortion, as has been noted here and in the (excellent) video.
posted by chapps at 12:18 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Back to the video..it seems relevant to note that Democrats have quietly reintroduced the ERA, though no one expects it to go anywhere at the moment. It is hard to even dream of my country taking that step, though I refuse to give up hope.

After crying myself partway through the video while my almost-two-year-old daughter slept just in front of me, can I just point out how amazingly sad it is that this video isn't the very core of a political party? Because, damn, it should be. This is about way, way more than abortion.
posted by odinsdream at 5:06 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Men have controlled women for most of mankind's existence; we have been possessions, chattel, slaves, inferiors, and second class citizens. So it is not so surprising that is this new era of women deciding their own fates, men should flail around, attempting to reassert control. Sadly for them science is on our side. Modern weapons replace upper body strength, birth control allows us to choose a safe time to gestate.

However, we are not their equals, we have one tremendous advantage. At this moment in time we are the only ones who can create new human life and that must be scary for them. A wife can abort without her husband's permission, a woman can conceive without her boyfriend's knowledge. It is tremendous power and we should be cognizant of that.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:03 PM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


You Don't Own Me
posted by homunculus at 5:15 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have always been in awe of life creators, you all with that capability are nothing short of goddesses, or gods if you swing that way.
posted by roboton666 at 6:47 PM on March 8, 2013


I always imagined that when a piece of tissue had different DNA it would count as another being. I see that's pretty far from being generally accepted.
posted by sirsteven at 10:09 PM on March 9, 2013


sirsteven: I always imagined that when a piece of tissue had different DNA it would count as another being. I see that's pretty far from being generally accepted.

I now carry the DNA of my child in my veins, in my tissues. My mother carries mine, my sister's and my brother's, along with that of the pregnancies that never made it to term.

So tell me, what part can be excised? What part of me is a different being, given that I have another human's DNA floating around?

The fetish for simplicity is unhelpful here.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:58 PM on March 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


if the only way to satisfy your particular morality is for a woman to give up her body to legislative control (and oftentimes, her life trajectory for child-rearing) the moment two bundles of cells happen to meet each other inside of her body, all because she engaged in an activity most adults consider a routine part of life, then a woman is by definition an inferior citizen.

Building on this excellent point:

Do people see how invasive this all is? We are supposed to dress and paint ourselves in a way that someone else finds attractive in a manner that may make them want to reproduce with us, even if the sum total of our interaction is a passing glance, even if an actual opportunity for reproduction (or attempted reproduction) is highly unlikely. We are expected to choose food and allocate our time (to the gym!) to maintain our figures in order to please someone else for these fleeting reasons. This expectation is on pain of discrimination, in everything from getting a job to getting cut in line at the coffee shop to getting ridiculed by passing strangers for doing nothing else than existing in the same space.

But. If we succeed at performing femininity in an acceptable way there are consequences. We still get ridiculed, just this time by people asserting their masculinity who may as well be pissing on a fire hydrant; by people who feel entitled to attention from us but don't get what they want. By other women who have internalized the social norms and feel threatened. We worry about whether we're being taken seriously, if it's for the merits of what we do or just for how we look.

Sex? If you don't have it you're a prude. If you do, you're a slut. You could ask a million people and get a million different answers where to draw that line. (and should any of those opinions matter?)

If the sex that we're supposed to have, or at least look like we might want to have with any man who looks at us, results in a pregnancy? Please see the rest of this thread for that minefield. Or just deal with random people walking up to you and touching your stomach (ew).

And on top of all of this is the ever present threat of rape: of using our own femaleness to punish us for being female in some way that some other person finds unacceptable; or simply using it to reaffirm for the rapist that we have less power.

So from the time I get up in the morning, it never stops. Do I style my hair? Do I sleep in or hit the gym? Do I make eye contact with this random guy on the street who is smiling at me when I don't even know what he wants? And none of it matters what I want to do, it only matters what brand of bullshit I want to get from other people.

I shouldn't have to care. I shouldn't have such consequences imposed on me for not caring.

How is what I look like or what I do, if it doesn't unduly infringe on the liberty of anyone else, anything but my own business?

It is my fucking body and we really need all this to change.
posted by AV at 6:16 AM on March 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


I always imagined that when a piece of tissue had different DNA it would count as another being. I see that's pretty far from being generally accepted.

Said by someone with the luxury if never having to worry about the practical implications of his imaginings.
posted by sonika at 6:30 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always imagined that when a piece of tissue had different DNA it would count as another being. I see that's pretty far from being generally accepted.

On my Science! theme: there are many, many examples in nature of things that we consider single organisms having different DNA. Trees, for example, will experience some random natural mutations and can have branches whose cells have different DNA.

Given that genetic expression is as much about the proteins surrounding DNA that turn "on" and "off" different sections of the genetic code, and given small changes in DNA during cell differentiation, the cells of your different organs are genetically distinct from each other as well. Though now it's at least theoretically possible to revert differentiated cells from different parts of the body back to undifferentiated stem cells, which can then be developed into whole new organisms.

Which brings us to the other complication with your proposed definitions: clones. A clone has the same DNA (overall - there's always small random mutations in some individual cells). Yet most people wouldn't consider, say, Dolly the sheep to be the same organism/individual as her mother from which she was cloned. (See also the link on "Trees," which discusses a clonal colony where the roots of individual trees are more genetically similar than the roots versus the leaves of a single tree.)

This is why I keep harping on the biologists' definition of organism. This is a complex question, that biologists have thought carefully about over many decades and considering examples and counterexamples from the entirety of biology in order to reach their definition. As I noted before, one might consider other reasons for opposing abortion (and I might think people are wrong on those other counts and we could debate that), but the science is pretty clear on this matter.

(I suppose it's partly my fault that everyone's trying to debate when a fetus becomes a separate individual on scientific or pseudo-scientific grounds, and are kind of ignoring the rest of the message in the original post video, since that's what I keep talking about. My apologies to those of you nobly trying to steer the conversation to a broader discussion of the entirety of the original post.)
posted by eviemath at 8:28 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always imagined that when a piece of tissue had different DNA it would count as another being. I see that's pretty far from being generally accepted.

Please think this through. Many people are walking around with organs that used to belong to other people - livers, kidneys, hearts, corneas. Skin. Veins (from pigs, even). All those are genetically distinct from their hosts. Are they different beings?
posted by rtha at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I always imagined that when a piece of tissue had different DNA it would count as another being. I see that's pretty far from being generally accepted.

We're not dealing with the theoretical, here. Let's be real goddamn clear: If your position is anti-abortion, it is inseparable from pro-forced-pregnancy, and that is some fucking disturbing shit.
posted by odinsdream at 12:22 PM on March 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


The conversation surrounding pregnancy and the choices presented to us, as individuals and society, cannot move forward until we understand that anti-abortion legislation claims women's bodies, once pregnant, are no longer their own, but are government-owned incubators. We must reject that legislation and what it would entail for the rights of more than half the population, more than 75% of whom will become pregnant at some point in their lives.

There are better ways to respect life, even fetal life, than claiming women's bodies under the force of the law.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 4:44 AM on March 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


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