Bodily Autonomy Is a Fundamental Human Right

The denial of this fundamental freedom could lead to any number of grave and life-altering consequences for a woman without rights.

Every year in America, men cause 6 million unwanted pregnancies. For half a century, the women carrying those pregnancies had the right to decide to give birth or to end the pregnancy. It is a right shared by women around most of the world, especially in high-income developed countries. It is the right to autonomy over one’s own body and one’s own life.

Now women in the United States of America lack that basic right. The Supreme Court of the United States overturned this long-standing right in a ruling that was expected since the draft was leaked earlier this year.

What the Supreme Court and right-wing politicians are saying is that women who are impregnated by men must be forced to give birth and then either raise a child for many years or go through a difficult adoption process. Many state legislatures, having been given the green light, are attempting to pass laws that would ban abortion in the first trimester, even in the case of rape or if the life of the woman carrying the pregnancy is at risk. Many women would be forced to die or suffer severe injury just because of the whims of the politically-motivated court and misogynistic legislators.

The court, ostensibly concerned about religious issues involving abortions, did not impose any responsibilities on men to limit unwanted pregnancies nor on the state to provide resources to help women raise the new children forced upon them.

Protesters march through downtown Chicago, the United States, on Jun. 25, 2022. (Photo/Xinhua)

The right to autonomy over your own body includes the right to choose whether you want to bring a pregnancy to term and give birth to a child and raise that child. The right to make choices about your own pregnancy necessarily includes the right to have an abortion if so needed or desired. This is a right that legal scholars say has been protected by the U.S. Constitution since 1953 (and reaffirmed in multiple other cases since then). But it’s not simply a legal right. It is a fundamental right of humans.

Yet Republican-run states in America and the governments of various other countries demand the right to prevent women from making the choice to remove a weeks-old embryo from their bodies.

The denial of this fundamental freedom could lead to any number of grave and life-altering consequences for a woman without rights. Being forced to raise a child costs the parent or parents a fortune that many young parents cannot afford. It disrupts the education and career of the woman forced to raise a child. It could force the woman to be stuck in an abusive or otherwise non-ideal relationship. Nearly 1,000 American women die because of childbirth every year.

Compared to other freedoms the Supreme Court has recognized as protected rights, the right to abortion access is much more critical to one’s well-being. Just one day before the abortion ruling was announced, the Supreme Court announced that carrying a concealed handgun is a guaranteed right of all Americans. A federal court this spring went so far as to rule that mask mandates are unconstitutional.

Having to wear a mask on an airplane imposes no burden greater than mild annoyance on everyone and in fact protects people from a serious virus. The court in that case ruled that individual rights were so important on this small issue that the anti-mask individuals, largely men, should be allowed to put other people’s health and life at risk, while a woman should have no right regarding a much more important issue to her own life.