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Doesn't a woman have the right to control her own body?


Photo copyrighted. Courtesy of Films for Christ.Photo copyrighted. Courtesy of Films for Christ.

An extremely popular argument asserts that because a woman has a right to control her own body, she therefore has a right to undergo an abortion for any reason she deems fit. Although it is not obvious that either the law or sound ethical reasoning supports such a strong view of personal autonomy (e.g., laws against prostitution and suicide), this pro-choice argument still logically fails even if we hypothetically grant that its strong view of personal autonomy is correct.

The unborn entity within the pregnant woman's body is not part of her body. The conceptus is a genetically distinct entity with its own unique and individual gender, blood type, bone-structure, and genetic code. Although the unborn entity is attached to its mother, it is not part of her.

To say that the unborn entity is part of its mother is to claim that the mother possesses four legs, two heads, two noses, and—with the case of a male conceptus—a penis and two testicles. Furthermore, since scientists have been able to achieve conception in a petri dish in the case of the “test-tube” baby, and this conceptus if it has white parents can be transferred to the body of a black woman and be born white, we know conclusively that the unborn is not part of the pregnant woman's body.

Certainly a woman has a right to control her own body, but the unborn entity, though for a time living inside her body, is not part of her body.

Hence, abortion is not justified, since no one's right to personal autonomy is so strong that it permits the arbitrary execution of others. In this respect this argument also begs the question, because it assumes that the unborn are not fully human.


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Author: Francis J. Beckwith, adapted from a series in Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991. Provided with permission by Summit Ministries and the author.

Copyright © 1995, 1998, Christian Research Institute, 1991, 1998, All Rights Reserved - except as noted on attached “Usage and Copyright” page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools.

Go to Summit Ministries

For further reading on abortion issues

  • Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993).
  • Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 2000).
  • Stephen Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Loyola University Press, 1990).
  • Randy Alcorn, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 2000).

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