By Stuart Clayton Lee
The expression “my body my rights” has been used mainly by people on the left or progressives when discussing the issue of abortion. This phrase is not only used for abortion but also for issues like sexual assault and rape which libertarians also show opposition to and can use the “my body my rights” argument as well. The question then is, how far do progressives take the “my body my rights” statement? Do they hold true to it and defend it under all costs to stay consistent with their principles or is it really just a catchy slogan that’s being used? While a progressive won’t be consistent with this principle, as I will explain, a libertarian must stay consistent with this principle as it is the foundation for libertarian philosophy.
When someone asks you to explain libertarianism, what does one say? Libertarianism is self-ownership. The idea that you own your body and are able to own the actions of your body is the soil in which the ideas of libertarianism grow out of. This right to own your body and be free from coercive activities of others isn’t granted by a government or a collective, it’s granted by nature. The ownership of one’s self is as natural as gravity. To say otherwise would only prove my point. If you disagree with me you are in essence using the ownership of your body and your actions to disagree. Through the ownership of your body comes the right to be free from aggression being defined as “the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else.” (Rothbard 1973) Thus libertarian philosophy is not only compatible with “my body my rights”, the acceptance of this statement is a prerequisite.
We now turn to the progressive movement which appears to have championed this slogan, however, this is all but a curtain that seems to hide nothing behind it. Libertarians find themselves split on the issue of abortion due to the question of whether or not the fetus should be considered a person with natural rights or rather property of the woman who too has natural rights. While libertarians may be in debate on this issue there is a consensus that government should not be using coercive measures to finance Planned Parenthood. I should acknowledge that federal funding can not be used for abortions done by Planned Parenthood, however, how the money is spent is not the main concern for libertarians. The real issue lies within the fact that Planned Parenthood is being funded through coercive measures in which the concept of consent is thrown out the window.
Suppose an individual doesn’t want to fund PP, do they have a choice? Do they have the option of not giving consent? Unfortunately not, if the individual does not pay his taxes, people with guns will come to his house and force him to with the threat of prison or worse. Therefore, the individual is forced, without their consent, to finance Planned Parenthood. One might say that this is not in violation of this individual’s natural rights because it’s simply a threat, however, does a mugger not pulling the trigger make their robbery any less illegitimate? This individual’s ownership of their body and the actions of their body are therefore trampled along with their rights.
Ironically, the progressives who chant “my body my rights” will end their belief in this slogan once the issue of financing begins. It’s their body and their rights until someone else wishes to non-violently distance themselves from the situation. This can be linked to not only the issue of financing Planned Parenthood but many other progressive social programs as well. Behind every government social program is a gun pointed towards people. This is not to say things can’t be funded either. After the election of Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood received 82,000 donations through a campaign that wanted to put “Mike Pence” as the name for the donation. There are peaceful ways of financing things, but this does not stop progressives who will one day claim “my body my rights” and then the next claim “my body your rights”.
“My body my rights” is a great slogan and while libertarians are still discussing the issue of abortion, we’re glad to support it when progressives use it to approach issues like rape and sexual assault. I must ask though, why stop there? Why not take self ownership to the fullest and make consent a requirement in most if not all interactions? Why can’t we apply “my body my rights” to every political issue? These questions lie within a simple explanation, progressives don’t legitimize the “my body my rights” argument. Ask a libertarian and the natural rights explanation comes up, ask a progressive and it’ll probably be a much different conversation. Why does the ownership of your body equal rights? Libertarians have the answer.
Rothbard, Murray N., and Llewellyn H. Jr. Rockwell. For a new liberty: the libertarian manifesto. Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Inst., 2006. Print.