Sunday, August 10, 2003

Women are people, too: Laci's Choice

As much of the country has, I've been watching the Laci Peterson case unfold on the news channels. It's a heartbreaking story - a beautiful young woman, perfectly in bloom with her first child, living what seemed to be a perfect life. Until someone ended it, that is. I'm not going to speculate here about who killed her - I think we'll all be convinced as the trial proceeds. What concerned me was the reaction of Feminist organizations when the prosecutor considered charging the main suspect with a double murder.

Laci's child, Connor , had not yet been born when she was killed. Pro-choice forces scream at any attempt to assign 'person' status to a child in utero at any stage of development, for fear that anti-abortion groups will use it to get a foothold toward reversing Roe V. Wade. I am a vocal proponent of abortion rights. I believe it should be available on demand, and without cost so that it is equally available under decent conditions for all women regardless of income. (Low income women often cannot afford the procedure, or have to endure it with only a local anesthetic - a barbarous practice under the best of conditions.) So how do we reconcile the inestimable loss of this child with our political needs? By emphasizing the Will of the Mother.

Women are sentient beings. How and when we choose to bear a child is the most intimate choices we ever encounter, and it is an undertaking fraught with danger. In my opinion, that danger, the impact pregnancy has on a woman's body, and the importance of Motherhood in this or any other culture, give women an inherent right to control their own bodies. Pregnancy should never be seen as a punishment - a favorite argument of the religious right- nor should it be enforced in any way. We each have an innate right to control our own person. In addition, I believe that each child has a right to be wanted. The rights of the Mother who is already a member of society naturally take precedence over the rights of an unborn entity.

Under any circumstance, I would have defended Laci's right to terminate her pregnancy, She chose to have her child, and was happily awaiting his arrival. That choice - Laci's choice - is what should determine the charges to be brought in the case against her killer. It was Laci's Will that Connor be born, to be a part of her family. His death, like her own, was not in keeping with her wishes and that is what makes this a double homicide. Left to her own devices, she'd be living happily with a six month old baby now. The loss of both lives is of import. The infringement on Laci's right to life and motherhood are violations of the most fundamental rights of humanity.

The bottom line is - when is government going to admit that women have free will; that we are naturally endowed with the right to sovereignty over our own bodies; and that our personal and medical decisions are ours alone? These issues have never been called to question where a man is concerned. They are at least as obvious for women. When we reach this basic understanding of ourselves, the arguments become moot, and our energy may be better spent caring for the children we already have. "

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