Once, Mother Teresa and Hilary Clinton sat together at a White House lunch. Clinton asked casually, “Why do you think we haven’t had a woman as president yet?” Mother Teresa responded coolly, “Because she has probably been aborted.” This dialogue happened years ago, but abortion is still legally permissible in the United States of America with millions of babies aborted since then. However, there is currently a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court which may have tremendous implications for the future of abortion jurisprudence in America. The current case from Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has garnered plenty of attention as supporters, coalitions, lobbyists, and activists for both sides have submitted a multitude of amicus briefs to supplement the arguments presented. One of the briefs in particular had a particularly egregious argument, which I think is important to dissect, especially as derivatives of this argument are prevalent in society.
One amicus brief filed on behalf of more than 500 female athletes and groups argued that the Supreme Court should protect and uphold Roe v. Wade for the sake of female athletics. The brief represented 26 Olympians, 73 current professional athletes, and a multitude of groups and athlete associations – all female. This list included prominent individuals, such as Olympic water polo gold-winner Ashleigh Johnson, basketball players Diana Taurasi, and Sue Bird, and USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe.
According to an ESPN article, the brief argued that “without the right to terminate a pregnancy, ‘the physical tolls of forced pregnancy and childbirth would undermine athletes’ ability to actualize their full human potential,’”. Furthermore, Megan Rapinoe commented, “As women athletes and people in sports, we must have the power to make important decisions about our own bodies and exert control over our reproductive lives.” She also called the idea of abolishing abortion “infuriating and un-American.” Now, at first, the argument seems to make a credible point. If female athletes were pregnant, it would obstruct their ability to perform their athletic skills at the professional level. They would be forced to take maternity leave, like any other mother in the workforce, and come back when physically, mentally, and emotionally able. The brief argues that abortion is the means by which female athletes can ascend to their highest potential, achieve their greatest selves, and potentially clinch their highest successes. In fact, the brief states something similar, as it argues that without abortion, women would be “deprived of the multitude of collateral benefits that result from athletic participation, including greater educational success, career advancement, enhanced self-esteem, and improved health.” Yet this Machiavellian idea communicated by the brief uses one simple rhetorical tool to make a shocking, and evil, claim sound nice.
Interestingly enough, the brief utilizes a very common tactic as it pertains to abortion. It constantly dehumanizes the child and makes abortion merely another surgical act. By using a sort of redefinition, the brief refuses to acknowledge the reality that the preborn are human beings. The funny thing is: if the language was changed, and the argument restated, no one would agree with the claim. For example, what if the brief said this: “Without the right to murder a child, the physical tolls of forced pregnancy and childbirth would undermine the ability of women to actualize their full human potential.” Of course, that is not true! Murder is not the prerequisite to achieve human potential. But by undermining human life, the brief makes a horrific claim sound pleasing to the ears. Furthermore, the brief targets an emotional appeal by focusing completely on women, and the effects that this ruling would have on women’s sports. The problem however is that the unborn are completely neglected. In fact, every benefit that abortion brings to women in the brief requires taking that benefit away from the preborn. For example, the brief highlights “educational success, career advancement, self-esteem, and improved health,” all of which are ripped away from the unborn. The very protections, privileges, and benefits which they desire for female athletes come at the cost of taking those away from unborn children.
Another erroneous argument regarding abortion asserted throughout the amicus brief, and by the athletes as well as by many abortion proponents is the cliché: “My Body, My Choice.” The amicus brief utilizes a very similar argument to repeatedly make the claim that no other person should have a say over a woman’s body except that woman herself. Although pro-life advocates would assert a counter argument that there are moral laws that restrict all the things we might do with our bodies, this is actually not the point of contention. Of course, individuals have the right to choose what they do with their bodies, and this is especially true with health decisions. Yet, when it pertains to pregnancy, there is more than one human being involved. The baby in the mother’s womb is an entirely separate human being, with their own unique fingerprint, genetic code, and personality. Now of course the baby is entirely dependent on the mother, especially for oxygen and nutrients, but this does not justify murder in any way. The mother’s claim to be making a choice regarding her body impacts, and in fact, terminates the life of the baby. Because there is more than the woman’s body involved in the conversation, the argument of “My Body, My Choice” cannot be applied to abortion.
This brief about female athletes and supporting abortion is critical, as it represents many of the popular ideas surrounding abortion in the broader cultural sphere. Yet many of the arguments they use to support abortion simply dehumanize the unborn, removing them from the conversation entirely. When you acknowledge the reality that the preborn are human, it makes the ideas presented in this brief fall apart.