Essay Analysis: Abortion, Intimacy, and the Duty to Gestate by Margaret Olivia Little

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In her essay “Abortion, Intimacy, and the Duty to Gestate,” Margaret Olivia Little examines whether it should be permissible for the state to force the intimacy of gestation on a woman against her consent. Little concludes that “mandating gestation against a woman’s consent is itself a harm - a liberty harm” (p. 303). She reaches this conclusion after examining the deficiencies in the current methods used to examine and evaluate the issues of abortion. Their focus on the definition of a “person” and the point in time when the fetus becomes a distinct person entitled to the benefits and protections of the law fails to capture “the subtleties and ambivalences that suffuse the issue” (p. 295). Public debate on the right to life and the right to choose has largely ignored the nature of the relationship between the mother and the fetus through the gestational period and a woman’s right to either accept or decline participation in this relationship.

Right to Life: Little argues that every person has “a fundamental right to life,” as well as a “fundamental right to privacy” (p. 297). She strongly supports the “pro choice” stand point when it comes to the discussion revolving around abortion — as opposed to the pro-life position. This debate “requires [humans] to weigh the competing rights held by fetuses and women” (p. 297). Gestation is a commitment, more specifically, a nine-month-long commitment to create a living and breathing being. It’s interesting to note that the fetus’s right to life, seems to constantly outweigh their own mother’s right to choice. In some instances “pro-life treatments fail to [even] mention that pregnancy involves women at all,” because all of their focus, for the most part, is solely on the fetus (p. 298)....

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... doing some of the things they did prior to being pregnant and as a result they are not taken seriously when to comes to their ability to work (p. 301). All in all, Little makes it very clear that she strongly apposes forcing gestation on any woman because “even in medical uncomplicated pregnancies — even when one’s ankles remain thin and one’s hair turns luxurious; even in a society in which pregnancy is not a marker for subordination, gestation mandated against consent is itself a harm” (p. 303).

Little views the intimacy of gestation as the most important factor to be considered when examining the issues of a woman’s right to determine a pregnancy. There are no other instances where the state mandates the existence of an intimate relationship agains the will of one of the participants and pregnancy should be no different.

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Margaret Olivia Little

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