Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Woman's Right to Her Own Body

If a woman has a right to her own body, which of the actions below does a woman have a right to do? Is it legal (in your country)? Does it only affect the woman herself or does it harm others?

- use heroin?

- not use a seatbelt when driving?

- wear a hijab?

- abort her baby?

Using heroin is destructive to your body but does it hurt anyone else? It can be harmful to others if you encourage others to use heroin or sell it to others, you steal to support the habit or you drive when you are high and kill someone. But most of all you hurt yourself. However, in most countries, using heroin is illegal and rightly so.

Not wearing a seatbelt when you are driving is also illegal in many countries. It is illegal in Canada to drive a car and not have your seatbelt on. But if you are in an accident and you aren't wearing a seatbelt and you get hurt or are killed - you only did damage to yourself. No one else (except those who love you) was hurt by you not wearing a seatbelt. And yet it is illegal to do so and rightly so.

What about wearing a hijab or scarf? It seems many people get very upset about women wearing a hijab even though it harms no one. If a woman covers her face and cannot be seen it could be argued that this is a security risk - she could not be identified after a crime, for example. The argument that a weapon could be hidden while wearing a hijab does not hold water because you could hide a weapon under a cap or hat more easily than a light scarf. And non-Muslim women wear scarves that are not the hjiab. Covering one's head is something that both women and men do in cold weather and there is no uproar about it. Some argue that women may not want to wear a hijab and are forced to do so by their father or husband. They should be free not to wear a hijab but we would have to admit that there are women who do want to wear it and are not forced to do so. There are also women who are forced to do other culturally based actions by other people that they may not choose to do on their own. If women can wear a hijab it should follow that women, for whom this is not part of their faith, should be free of not having to cover their heads - even in countries where they are a minority.

What about having an abortion? It is true that women should be free to do what they want with their own bodies. However a baby in utero is not part of a woman's body. The baby is dependent on the mother's body but it is not part of the mother's body. The baby may have a different blood type than the mother and the baby has a unique DNA. Having an abortion is, in many countries, legal. Of all these examples it is the only one that does harm to another. And yet it is legal.

Strange, isn't it?

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