You’re too big. Too small. Too young. Too old. Too rich. Too poor. Too dumb. Too smart…How often do you hear why you can’t do what you want to do? Everybody wants to stand up for themselves and live out their lives in the way they want to, but I think Americans are especially ready to fight for their rights. After all, it’s written in our Declaration of Independence: “LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Perhaps the right that we value most is the one about our life. It’s something that belongs to us.
In that vein, we want to choose what we want to do with our life. Whether it is education, career, marriage, living arrangements, and religious beliefs,we want to make the final decision on what we do with and to ourselves. But perhaps the most debated choice is what we purpose to do with our bodies, even if that choice is destructive. The arena of a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body is where it gets especially heated. For some reason we all agree that people should have control over their own bodies, as long as it doesn’t harm another individual. You can drink all you want as long as you don’t get into a car and run someone over. You can smoke all you want as long as you don’t do it where I have to inhale your second-hand smoke. You can skydive all you want as long as you don’t take me with you, or expect me to care for you when you are paralyzed. Thus, when a woman’s decision about her body affects another person it becomes a matter of legal, and moral, significance.
Perhaps we need to preface our discussion with the definition of personhood. According to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary,
1. A living human.
2. The composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality; the self.
3. The living body of a human.
4. Physique and general appearance.