Do You Have the Right to Access Someone Else’s Body?
It’s been such a long time since any of us have had a good night out… can you even remember how you used to get ready? Maybe you take showers that steam up the bathroom, meet societally-imposed shaving expectations on all sections of your body. Wear a brand new outfit. Slick back your hair. As you’re getting ready you imagine life is better, happier—even for just a few moments, a few hours laced together.
Right before you walk out the door—to avoid sweating too much in your new shirt—you throw on the final piece, button it carefully, shake your pant legs, and give it all another once-over before heading out to meet your equally coiffed friends.
The night is always magic. Non-stop fun, laughter, lightness. Plenty of drinks. So. Many. Drinks. You had a turkey sandwich for lunch, but that was 11 hours ago. Food, what? Your thoughts come and go like the cars on an overpass. Collectively, we’ve had a million nights like this.
Now imagine, after an amazing night, you head home. And maybe you cause a car accident. Your thoughts, coming and going like speeding cars, cloud your judgment, your reaction time, your ability to control the train of events that follow…
There’s a wrecked car… You were just out having a good time…. this cannot be happening. You were just laughing. The faces of your friends, the laughter, the jokes, snippets of the songs, and the bartender's voice... Your heart is racing, your head is pounding, your limbs are shaking. Please turn back the clock.
Please don’t take control of my life away from me.
Your Choices, Your Responsibility
The victim of the other vehicle can recover fully but they will need a liver transplant and dialysis for 12 months thereafter. You are an exact match for the victim. They may need to go on a waiting list for a liver transplant. They may die.
You can save their life, all they need is your body.
The dialysis, it’s only for 12 months. Yes, your liver will need to regenerate and recover. But the risks associated are so, so low. Yes, there will be impacted hormones and chemicals within your body, it will be physically taxing on you, it could affect your career, your family, your relationships, it could have a negative impact on your overall health and quality of life for years to come, the compounded impact is, frankly, unknowable… but this person could die without your body. If they don’t get access to your liver and your blood, they could die.
They have a right to live.
We all have a right to live. The victim is innocent. You are not. They weren’t drinking. You were. They did not choose the car accident, they did not even get to participate in any of the choices that lead up to it.
And I know you didn’t… you didn’t participate in the choice to have a car accident happen. If you had the choice, you would have chosen to not have a car accident happen. You’d have chosen to make it home safely, fall drunkenly onto your bed, fully clothed. You would have chosen to wake up the next morning with a jackhammer of a headache and 13 texts from your ex about why you left that shitty voicemail at 1 am. Because you chose the night out, but you didn’t choose the car accident.
You opened the door though… you knew a night out could lead to drinking and drinking could lead to driving drunk and driving drunk could lead to an accident. Everybody knows that. You got to participate in the choices that lead to the car accident, it doesn’t matter if you did choose the car accident or if you would have chosen it. It happened.
So here they are. The person who didn’t make the choices, the victim. Needing your body. To live.
Do you get to choose if they can use your body now or do they? Can they sue you for access? Should we have a hierarchy of rights—meaning some people are entitled to more rights than others? Rights to their body and rights to yours, if needed. Can someone else have equal say—as equal as you—in accessing your body?
If you participate in that liver donation, you may not be able to attend your sister's destination wedding in Jamaica this summer. You won’t have access to your body in order to attend, so you’ll have to be there in mind and spirit only. It’s just a wedding though…
If your nephew happens to need a kidney transplant 2 months after you’ve given the liver transplant, you won’t be able to participate in helping. You won’t have access to your body in order to offer a kidney to your nephew, even if you’re the perfect match. Access to your body was granted—already, and without your consent—to the victim of the accident you caused. It doesn’t matter if, in your mind, your family’s life takes priority over theirs. You were sued for access to your body, to preserve a life, so you can’t have a say, right now, about what your priorities are.
Exceptions to Access
Should these exceptions, to our access to our own bodies, exist? If our bodies cause an event, does that give the people around us the right to then communalize a decision about how our body should be used in response to the event?
Is it right and just for a legal precedent to be set allowing remedy in the form of ordering the catalyst of said event—or the person who participated in actions leading up to the event—to use their body without their consent? Is that an invasion of our autonomy? Even if another person might die, does that give others—the government, a group of people—the right to compel action?
The pro-life position fundamentally lacks compassion and rights-protection for the pregnant person, and for all people. Pro-life governance places body autonomy within a hierarchy, implying that your body is only your own, as long as someone else doesn’t need it in accordance with the communally-set priorities of the immediate aftermath of an event caused in effect by the actions of your body. Context doesn’t matter. The compassion of the pro-life position is hyper-focused toward the fetus. The rights of life, autonomy, and access to our own bodies are centrally placed in the fetus and simultaneously wholly removed from the pregnant person.
The death of a fetus is not a justification to facilitate the unauthorized use of another person’s body. The life of the fetus should not be weighed differently than the self-governance and bodily access of the pregnant person.
It is indeed sad and tragic that a life is terminated, but insisting that a pregnant person not have autonomy, not have self-governance, not have a choice in how their body is used in each and every way, because there is a sad outcome, is holding them emotionally hostage to communal priorities and removing their rights.
Forcing a pregnant person to continue an unwanted pregnancy is taking the position that if they do not satisfy expressed emotional needs, rights to their body will be removed. If they do not make the choice, themselves, to let another person use their body, it will be forced upon them to allow another person to use their body.
Self-governance is not about abortion, that’s simply one clear demonstration of how we do not have implicit rights to another person’s body, Bar. None.
We have a fundamental right to govern our bodies and regardless of the result of declined consent to our body—a car accident victim dying without a transplant, the life of a fetus terminated during an abortion—we can not legislate the reduction of rights to our body. Once the precedent is set, that rights can be removed under certain circumstances, then rights to your body can be removed.
Rights to your body as a man, woman, child, unidentified sex or gender, otherwise-identified sex or gender, or anyone I have left out, Can. Be. Removed. if we make self-governance about abortions and nothing else.
Exceptions to our autonomy, such that it can be revoked if exercising self-governance will result in a death, or in a death specifically caused by you—drunk driving or failed sex protection—is a loss of full governance over ourselves. Ownership of our body becomes communal under certain circumstances. In a world without legal abortions, there is a hierarchy of rights “Your rights don’t matter as much if this precipitous event—communally prioritized—occurs as a result.”
What About the Fetus's Rights?
Does the fetus’s right to life matter? — Yes. Of course, it does. Exercising a right to life does not imply the right to use another person's body. Exercising self-governance is not an implicit denial of another person’s right to live.
It is not within the inherent rights of the fetus, as a person, to say—or have it be said for them—that another person’s body is needed to exercise their rights, therefore the owner of another body is compelled to facilitate their rights and surrender self-governance.
Exercising self-governance and abortion are not one and the same. Abortion is a medical procedure. The termination of the fetus is not performed by the person exercising self-governance. The person who chooses to not have their body used is not committing any actions against another, they’re exercising their inherent rights to their body.
The procedure of abortion is a matter of medical ethics and not due to a lack of legislation over self-governance.
Let’s put the matter back on the medical community to study how to remove or transplant a fetus rather than terminate it. It’s their oath to first do no harm, why set the precedent of removing self-governance through laws rather than encouraging and funding the medical community to further study pregnancies and the preservation of an unwanted fetus?
But that, of course, presents another pressing question—if a fetus can be transplanted or relocated, either to another person or incubation setting—are the originators of the fetus still financially responsible for the life that comes to be?
I don’t think so…
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