What comes to mind when you hear the term “pro-choice”? If it’s the number of deodorant options at your local convenience store, you must not follow the news very closely. “Choice” has become a euphemism for abortion rights specifically (along with “life” and prenatal rights), but the concept of choice is actually a fundamental precept of living in a free society.
So I want to take back the term “pro-choice.” Truly supporting choice means supporting the right of individuals to choose what they want to do with their bodies and property and with whom they want to do it as long as that choice does not clearly affect the property rights of another. Here are some questions to consider:
Let’s concede that government will fund education (of course, a liberty-minded person would argue that that is inappropriate to force citizens to pay taxes to support schools). Why should a parent have to send their child to the school in their neighborhood? If you support choice, should you deny parents a choice of educational institutions?
Food and Drugs
Some city governments have recently imposed a tax on sodas because of the unhealthy nature of the beverages. In New York City, there was even a push by Democrat politician Felix Ortiz to ban salt. Therefore, one’s choice to drink sodas or junk food is being either hindered by a higher price due to the tax.
When it comes to drugs, some conservatives want extreme government control over what individuals can put into their bodies. They sometimes argue that drug use causes negative externalities which justify government intervention, but these effects on third parties can be remedied by strict government penalties when one violates the rights of others or injures others under the influence of the drug.
Liberals, who are sympathetic to legalizing marijuana, are inconsistent when it comes to other drugs. But shouldn’t being pro-choice mean that we support an individual’s right to choose what to put in their bodies regardless of the potential internal harms they may cause? This is not to say that an individual who supports legalization is for the use of drugs. In fact, one can hate these drugs, but still hold the position that the government should not use money, human resources, and jail space fighting these drugs.
To whom does one’s head belong? There is no doubt that it belongs to the individual and nobody else. Yet, the government requires motorcycle riders to wear a helmet. If one supports choice, then one should support motorcycle riders who don’t want to wear a helmet — it’s their body and they should be able to do what they want to do with it, including not protecting their head with a helmet. Of course, a person who chooses not to wear the helmet in order to enjoy his motorcycle ride more must also be willing to deal with the consequences of that choice.
Discrimination (personal and business)
Most, if not all, individuals support an individual’s right to discriminate based on whatever criteria he or she decides when it comes to whom they will “hook up with,” date, or marry. In other words, the vast majority is pro-choice when it comes to using race, ethnic background, attractiveness, religion, sexual orientation, and age as filtering devices.
Moreover, it is legal for one to say, “I will only marry someone of this religion” or “I am only attracted to this particular look,” or “I will only marry someone who is younger than I am.” The vast majority of people, regardless of political philosophy, are pro-choice when it comes to our personal lives.
However, why does this choice or freedom of association not exist for the individual who is a business owner? What if a business owner wants to hire only employees who look like a particular Hollywood actor or actress or a famous model? The vast majority, conservative or liberal, would not support this freedom of choice. Why is it legal and considered morally acceptable to have the freedom of choice to determine who enters into his or her home based on whatever criteria, but not when it comes to a business owner who wants to discriminate?
Many, if not most, people support one’s right to give away (donate) his or her kidney or part of his or her liver. In fact, they would probably hold the donor in high esteem. So why not support the choice of an individual to sell his or her kidney to a willing buyer who is in critical condition (which is currently illegal)? If it’s my organ, should I not have the right to sell it to a willing buyer? Incidentally, I would guess that most individuals believe it should be legal to sell one’s eggs or sperm (which is legal).
Do we have a choice to sell the use of our body for money? Yes, it’s called a job. An employee is the willing seller of his or her labor, and the last I checked employees are bodies not spirits. In fact, I bet most people also believe an adult should have the right to make an income by starring in pornographic films.
They might even believe, though not necessarily, that there is nothing immoral about pornography itself. So why are so many people anti-choice when it comes to using one’s body to make money from sex? It’s interesting that porn stars earn an income by having sex, but prostitution is illegal. It is inconsistent to support choice for willing adults when it comes to careers and ways of earning income, including sex (e.g., strippers, porn stars), except when one wants to be a gigolo or prostitute.
To be clear, I am not supporting the morality of these ways of earning an income. I am pointing out the logical inconsistency.
The foundational basis of what it means to be “pro-choice” is that a person’s body belongs to himself or herself and that the government should not interfere with what one chooses to do with their own body—it’s a property rights argument. So let’s take back the term “pro-choice” and apply it consistently across all levels of human action and interaction.