there is no shortage of writing on the subject of reproductive rights of late and given my genderless status, i have a rather unusual position on many issues of mating in general and reproduction in particular. i do think, though, that in the spirit of openness that i believe we are all entitled to exercise, it is helpful if those from all positions contribute to the discussion.
let us begin then with thoughts on humanity. if you are reading this, you are a human. if you are simply staring at the page with no concept of its meaning, you may also be a human but, given literacy rates, it is quite likely that you are, in fact, a dog or cat, staring past your human oppressor’s body as they internalize these thoughts. that is rather sad as you are probably more in line with my thinking on many of these issues than most humans. what makes a human different from other animals? two things, really. we are a species. that means that we are genetically distinct in a measurable way. reproduction is possible between humans while it is impossible with other species. simple. there’s another difference, though, and this one is far more important. we have a capacity for symbolic, representative thought. this is what gives humans the possibility for language. we have conceptual understanding of the world around us, something other animals simply do not possess. and this is the defining nature of being a human — the human experience, if you prefer. the human experience of the world is self-referential and thought-oriented. it is language spoken behind our eyes and between our ears. it is communication with the self and a sensory understanding rather than direct sensory reaction — we think between input and reaction, something that is distinctly human.
when we take these starting points for a definition of humanity, it gives us some very powerful answers to the meaning of human life. but there is another piece that is missing. life begins somewhere. where does my life start? there are only two possibilities, realistically. one is that it begins as soon as there is a component of me, the other that i begins when i become capable of experiencing life through a human lens. neither of these points is either conception or birth. conception is simply a joining of several potential components of me with each other. but they already exist. so if i am to begin at a point of potentiality, this is at the time of creation of the egg and sperm from which i will eventually be born. their adhesion is irrelevant. either i begin when the entities are formed or i am not. i would propose that i did not become human when my mother was born and eggs created or my father and sperm. i would suggest that this, in fact, is a relatively silly proposition. so we move on to the performative, experiential definition of the beginning of humanity — human existence. i cannot think symbolically at birth. conceptual communication means nothing at that point. it comes rather later, with the application of language and induction into the world of human communication. it is at that point that i become a human, not simply in species but in a cultural and social reality. this is not at a specific age but it is, in many cases, months or even years after birth when not simply noise but actual bidirectional communication, not necessarily speech but usually so, begins. the same would, of course, hold for non-auditory languages including sign languages. this is not a hyperbolic argument. i would legitimately propose that these are the only two legitimate perspectives on when human life begins — either the creation of sexual elements, the birth of the parents, or the beginning of human (linguistic) experience of the world.
from this point forward, i assume that life begins at the start of the human experience. if you would prefer the other option, there are vast consequences of that viewpoint. it would suggest that masturbation is willful manslaughter or, potentially, murder. it would suggest that mensuration is approximating infanticide. these definitions, while absolutely factual, are beyond unrealistic and meaningless. i shall dismiss them as non-options. but please keep in mind that these are the alternative. remember that conception is not a sensible perspective on the beginning of life for one simple reason — the genetic material is just as potentially viable for the creation of a child before conception as after; the rest is just a matter of timing, in exactly the same manner as sex with a young person being considered statutory rape but a short period of time later may be consensual. if you argue that time is irrelevant in matters of procreation, please understand that timing, truly, is everything in this and many other examples.
with this in mind, we may proceed to the more relevant component of the issue at hand — sexual choice. while many people argue that this is a question of control, i would suggest that the larger issue at hand is opportunity and equality.
i do not have a right to do whatever i want with my body. i live in a society and i have a duty to protect it from harm. if i wish to kill myself, i am not free so to do. if i wish to harm myself, i am not free to do this. society will intervene. those who are arguing that abortion is about a freedom to choose what i do with my body are walking a very tenuous track. if i acquire an infectious disease, it is prohibited that i communicate that disease to others. if i wish to put toxic substances in my body, tobacco for example, i am not permitted to do so in a way that potentially harms others — hence restrictions on smoking. i simply do not have those freedoms, nor should i. i, as a human, have a duty of care to others. i must keep others safe to the extent possible and any failure to do so is, realistically, forfeiting my humanity and my right to continue to live freely in even a restricted manner. i accept this, as do we all, to live in a cohesive society.
however, and this is crucial, i have a right to decide my actions where those actions are not potentially harmful to other living beings. actually, in our current social context, i have a right beyond that — in fact, i have, in most parts of the world, the right to harm, kill and consume other living beings without another thought on the matter. i would strongly propose that if i act in such a way as to harm another living being (a cow or pig, for example) in any way, when i could have prevented such harm from happening (perhaps by eating a salad or vegetable soup?), i am also giving up my humanity. but this right is legally guaranteed at the moment and that is not the topic up for thought here.
so the current state of my rights is fairly clearly defined. i am free to do what i like as long as it does not infringe on the freedom of other humans (we simply don’t care enough about other lives to have guaranteed their similar freedom, something i have spoken at length on but shall resist the temptation to expand on here). i may go for a walk or not. i may choose what to eat for lunch. i may go on a date or not, as i happen to desire. these are within my rights. i may not choose to hit another person. i may not kill another person. i may not poison another person. i don’t want to do any of these things but even if i had such a desire, at this p point or any other, i would not be free so to do. this doesn’t make me feel less free. if it makes you feel less free, i would suggest this is because you are a violent, hateful person and should seriously examine your life. and you would be free to ignore me, as is your right. seriously, though, please stop wanting to hurt people. it’s bad for them — and for you.
but we accept these limitations on freedom because, and this is vital, they make the world a livable place for all humans. the limitations on my freedom make it possible for all others to live in peace and the limitations on their freedoms make it possible for me to live in peace. it is a simple give and take that comes with being social beings. this is all well and good until we stop seeing the value of others’ peace and safety as being as good as our own.
i have the right to choose, without pressure or expectation, if, when and how i mate with another human within a certain framework — the limitation on this is exactly the same as what we have already discussed. my rights are limited by those of my potential partner. if we both wish to have the same sexual contact at the same moment, we are free so to do (or, to put it another way, we are free to do each other). if there is a mismatch, no contact occurs. this is the goal, of course. anything else would be coercive coupling, otherwise known as rape. this happens constantly and has been used as a weapon (mostly by men against women, although not exclusively so) since social human contact began. sex, we must be very clear, is not a right. the right is to express sexual desire and inquire as to the status of its reciprocity and then, only then, and within very specific parameters of cohesive, partnered thought, act on those desires while another is acting on theirs.
let us, however, assume that we have already made the leap of cohesive sexual thought between consenting adults and coupling occurs. i would propose that this is far rarer than one might think and that much sexual action in the western world in particular is at least somewhat coercive but i leave that to your imagination and future thoughts. in the case where this is consensual (as in, when this is not rape), the outcome is intended to be physical pleasure and, potentially, procreation. i am not aware of a situation where sex is sought only for procreative purposes without physical pleasure being present but this is, certainly, possible in theory, at least, if not in practice. so let’s take a look at the procedure here. i have a right to say yes to sex and a right to say no. why? because neither choice is harmful to the other person — or to anyone, realistically.
the after effects, however, are quite different. if i possess a penis, the only significant negative outcome that may arise from sexual activity is physical infirmity. i may acquire a sexually-transmitted infection. this is bad. i could become unwell or die. very bad, as i said. however, if i possess a more procreativity-endowed body, the after effects may be dramatically worse. i may develop a growth, a parasite, inside myself that will last for a period of nearly a year wherein it will deprive me of energy and strip me of large portions of my health, cause increasing pain and culminate in a removal process lasting often hours within which excruciating agony is the norm and surgical assistance is frequently required. we put soft and gentle words on this (pregnancy, usually) and talk about this as natural but it is, generally speaking, a painful experience of suffering and health difficulties, leading in many cases to physical damage and death. if this appears contradictory to you, i invite you to read any report on statistics on death and long-term health effects of pregnancy and you may, indeed, be surprised to discover just how harmful pregnancy tends to be for those unlucky enough to encounter it. still, there are humans willing to undergo this situation to continue our species. i am not one of them but we must give honor and thanks to those who are prepared to suffer for our benefit. we usually call them mothers and i am certain we all have one of these to thank for this, among many other things. their sacrifice has given us life.
but in many ways it is far worse than this. typically, we pride ourselves on being above torture. i would like to think that we are all against torture, at least in principle. we may not all agree on the notion of torture as it pertains to those who commit violent crimes of hatred and terrorism. but i would certainly hope that we are all against the torture of those people who we see as innocent. but we are most certainly not acting that way. we are, as a culture, imposing on many people every day the sentence of torture, long-term suffering and significant risk of death. through the lack of available birth control to prevent the occurrence of internal contamination by parasitic infection during intercourse (pregnancy), we are sentencing huge numbers of people to months or years of severe and protracted torture. by limiting access to abortion in any way, including at any point until the beginning of human life, we are not allowing those who encounter such an experience with torture to end it. we let criminals who are showed to be innocent walk away from prison sentences and treat them as humans again — if we restrict access to abortion, we are simply saying to those who have become pregnant that we do not see them as worth having the right to walk away from physical and emotional torture, often for the rest of their lives. if i select to undergo this for the benefit of a future generation, that is a perfectly acceptable decision. being forced to be tortured is not in keeping with our ideals as humans.
why are we condoning this torture? because it is against women and it is those who have no potential to be tortured by pregnancy but every possibility of being on the other side of the equation — the torturer who uses their penis as a weapon of hatred and domination — who makes the laws.
there is another issue, of course, that comes up. we are living in an age of dramatic overpopulation. there are too many people already. anything we can do to reduce the number of people on this planet would be helpful in ensuring that our environment does not completely collapse. while killing already-living people is not a sensible proposition, limiting the number of people born is certainly something that desperately screams out for consideration as we approach at exponential rates our own destruction. if there are those who do not wish to contribute to making this problem worse by having children, we should applaud that choice and encourage more people to stop having children, reducing earth’s population in the future and ensuring our collective survival. this is not what we are doing but it is something that one must question in its lack of presence — why are we so bent on destroying ourselves through overpopulation? is it simply because we will have more people potentially to control and force into torture in the future or is there an even more sinister reason?
these, of course, are only some thoughts on the issue. but we are sentencing many innocent people to torture every day through hatred. this is not a religious issue or one of tradition. it is one of control and domination. we wish to be as free as we can be, without hurting others. let’s act like it, please.