Pro-Choice Argument: A Woman Should Have Control Over Her Own Body

pro-choice argument

In a fallacy that appeals to the heart, the arguer uses emotional appeals rather than logical reasons to persuade the listener. The fallacy can appeal to various emotions including pride, pity, fear, hate, vanity, or sympathy. The appeal to sympathy is actually a formal fallacy labeled ad misericordiam.

Generally, the issue is oversimplified to the advantage of the arguer. For example, in 1972, there was a widely-printed advertisement printed by the Foulke Fur Co., which was in reaction to the frequent protests against the killing of Alaskan seals for the making of fancy furs. According to the advertisement, clubbing the seals was one of the great conservation stories of our history, a mere exercise in wildlife management, because “biologists believe a healthier colony is a controlled colony.”

Have you ever run into this? For instance, take the following pro-choice argument. Is it a principle or a fallacy?

Pro-choice argument: A woman should have control over her own body.

This statement, while arguably true when applied to the individual, does not address a number of details.

First, her baby has its own body, brain, heartbeat, blood type, sex, and genes–half of which was donated by the father. Does that mean the baby is half his, legally? Or is possession truly nine-tenths of the law? This assumes we agree children are owned by their parents, of course.

Second, it neglects the controversy of whether it is a ‘fetus’ or a ‘baby’. (A popular Right to Life slogan is, “If it’s not a baby, then you’re not pregnant.”) If it is a fetus, a mere sac of blood and tissue, surely it is within a woman’s right to have it removed, the same as one would have a cancerous tumor removed. If, however, it is a baby (thereby implying that the woman is indeed pregnant and not simply experiencing a random growth or venereal disease), then one wonders what rights the unborn child is allowed to possess.

The “woman should have control over her own body” argument appeals to a liberal, human rights slant. It fuels the emotional certainty that we should all have consummate control over our bodies and what goes on inside them, while neglecting the same control for the unborn child.

In heated issues where positions are characterized by a high emotional index, it is common for antagonists to hurl fallacies at each other, but this is immature. When considering such a devisive topic as abortion, it is often difficult to separate emotions from rational debate (but not impossible.)

Pro-choice is said to follow from the widely accepted principle that individuals have a right to control their bodies. The counterargument would have to examine to what extent the principle is applicable. For example, do people have a right to kill themselves? To damage their bodies through self-destructive habits such as drinking, smoking, taking narcotics or mountain climbing? If yes, do women have that right in full when they are pregnant or do mothers have obligations to limit self-destructive habits when they are pregnant?

To the extent you weaken the premise on which the argument depends, to that extent do you weaken the conclusion for pro-choice.


  1. If I have a complete right to control my body, then I should have as much right to liposuction to remove unwatnted fat as someone would have to remove an unwanted baby. And why not? The fat was caused by poor diet (which could have been contributed to by a number of difficult to control factors) and lack of exercise (again there are differing opportunities to excercise). Sex is a lot easier to control than both of those.
    So why aren’t people demonstrating in the street for my right to liposuction? And demanding the government or insurance pay for it? They do this demonstrating when the issue is killing babies, but not for liposuction.
    Research has shown that fat cells are actively involved in the healing process (which is why people often lose weight when they are sick). Your fat cells can be donated to scientific research after they’ve been sucked out.
    Sadly, it’s only when babies are killed that someone is soooo eager to defend our bodily rights.

  2. I have always thought that bodily autonomy as an argument for abortion was thin and weak. We don’t have absolute rights over our bodies when the rights of others are involved. We’re forbidden to drink and drive. Women are forbidden to smoke or drink while pregnant; why does the law allow them to kill their babies in the name of bodily autonomy? Check it out. Sign up for updates. Thank you!

  3. A woman has a right to do with her body as she chooses. She also has a responsibility to be responsible for the action that causes a life to be brought into this world. Responsibility begins with every action we take individually, that goes for having sex out of wedlock. Also these doctors that take the Hippocratic oath are not following the oath they took……………… do no harm. In abortion someone is harmed.


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