On August 2, Kansans will be voting on what many are considering the first major referendum on abortion rights since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as Kansas Republicans force the misleadingly-named (and worded) “Value Them Both” amendment onto the ballot in an attempt to strip Kansans of their most fundamental rights. If you live in Kansas, I hope that you vote your conscience on August 2, but if your conscience is anything other than “no” to this grotesque and inhuman amendment, I hope you take a long, hard look at why that is.
Abortion is a human right. And yet, for decades, there has been a heavily-funded, highly-organized, and often overtly violent right-wing effort to strip this fundamental right from all Americans. It has led to numerous bombings and several outright murders, not to mention the deaths caused by limiting access to vital healthcare, and the constant, targeted harassment. All culminating in a corrupt and extremely partisan Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, leading many states to ban abortions altogether, while Kansas Republicans seek the ability to do so here through this new amendment.
Whenever the question of abortion access comes up, the bad faith arguments are sure to follow. We are distracted by questions of when life begins, of whether or not a fetus has “personhood.” These questions, however, are actually immaterial. There are, of course, reasons to argue that a fetus does not have “personhood” until viability, and that life does not begin until birth. However, those arguments are distractions.
In the United States, it is illegal to take an organ from a person, even after they are dead, without their express permission. Even though those organs would directly and concretely save lives. This is the purpose of registering as an organ donor. In fact, organs donated from a single person can save as many as eight lives, while seventeen people die every day awaiting transplants. Despite this, organ donation after death is not mandatory in the United States and barely more than half of all Americans are organ donors.
What’s more, we can donate kidneys and part of our livers while we’re still alive, yet no one is (or can be, or should be) forced to do so, even when it would save a life. You can also donate blood every 8 weeks or so, and just a pint of donated blood can potentially save three lives. Yet blood donation is not mandatory, even in cases of severe shortages, like those that we experienced during the pandemic.
Most of these are things that inflict absolutely zero harm and virtually no inconvenience, having little or no impact on a person’s life or health. As opposed to pregnancy and carrying a child to term, which can and indeed inevitably do have severe impacts on both, including a maternal mortality rate in the U.S. that hovers around 20 per 100,000 live births – the highest in the so-called “developed world.” In the case of organ donation after death, the harm and inconvenience are nonexistent as you are, after all, already dead.
Despite this, the right for people to decide what happens to their bodies is recognized as eclipsing the importance of saving a life, even when those people are already dead. Corpses in the United States maintain bodily autonomy greater than that which the government seeks to grant to a pregnant individual.
Yet, while there are certainly those who work to educate the public on the value and utility of organ donation, there is no organized movement to make organ donation mandatory, even after death. Certainly, there is nothing anywhere nearly as well-funded as the anti-abortion movement has been for the past 50 years. You will never find picketers outside a funeral home, calling the families of a deceased person murderers because their loved one was not an organ donor.
This is because the anti-abortion movement has no interest in being “pro-life,” as they claim, any more than this amendment in Kansas “values” either parents or children. The anti-abortion movement may be about many things: control, misogyny, racism, keeping poor people poor, and so on. But for many of its most ardent supporters, it is really about one thing: punishing “whores.” And if you press them even a little, they will usually tell you so, in just about so many words.
So, even if you believe that abortion ends a human life, and that preventing access to abortion would save it, ask yourself why you’re so concerned only with this specific instance of saving a life. Ask yourself why you’re not, instead, working to ensure that they pass legislation to increase (or even mandate) organ donation or blood donation that would save vastly more lives while doing less harm. Ask yourself why you’re not pushing for measures to reduce maternal mortality rates in the U.S. Ask yourself why bodily autonomy applies to corpses, but not to those who are pregnant.
I don’t think you’ll come up with any very good answers.