Why A Botched Abortion Case Should, and Does, Inspire Outrage
Sherry F. Colb
For both pro-choice and pro-life advocates, the facts of this case are unsettling and even shocking.
An important feature of the facts that distinguishes what occurred here from abortion more generally is that if the narrative alleged by the prosecution and by Sycloria Williams is accurate, then Belkis Gonzalez – the woman who is said to have placed a live fetus into a biohazard bag – did something that goes well beyond what can be called "terminating a pregnancy."
Indeed, Gonzalez apparently had nothing to do with the termination itself: She did not dilate Williams's cervix or induce labor or otherwise play any role in removing the fetus from Williams's body. It was only after Williams had given birth to her fetus that Gonzalez cut the umbilical cord and deposited the allegedly live, writhing, breathing infant into a biohazard bag, along with gauze and other garbage.
One might argue, as some pro-life advocates have, that there is no meaningful difference between what Gonzalez did and what an abortion provider does, because in both cases, a fetus is killed. This argument, however, ignores one of the main premises of the right to abortion – the bodily-integrity interest of the pregnant woman. Particularly at the later stages of pregnancy, the right to abortion does not protect an interest in killing a fetus as such. What it protects instead is the woman's interest in not being physically, internally occupied by another creature against her will, the same interest that explains the right to use deadly force, if necessary, to stop a rapist. Though the fetus is innocent of any intentional wrongdoing and the rapist is not, the woman's interest in repelling an unwanted physical intrusion is quite similar.
Once the fetus is no longer inside the woman's body, though, killing it is not necessary to preserving the woman's bodily integrity. If Gonzalez had, instead of suffocating the infant in a garbage bag, placed it into an incubator with a respirator, for example, Williams would not have been any more pregnant than she was in the circumstances that actually unfolded. And once Williams was no longer pregnant, and thus no longer occupied by an unwelcome intruder, she had no more right to procure the death of her fetus than did anyone else, including Belkis Gonzalez [. . .]
Commenting on his own post, Chris Johnson notes: "The metaphor proposed is the stupidest ever offered about any subject. To equate an unborn baby with a rapist doesn’t even begin to work. A rapist has a choice of whom he rapes. A fertilized egg cannot declare, 'Oh, hey, I think I’ll park myself in that woman over there whether she wants me to or not.'"
H/T: Chris Johnson, MCJ