Turn the music down!
There was some discussion yesterday about whether support for the right to abortion entails having to support a right to fertility treatment. In particular the question was ‘[if you] see abortion as a woman’s right to control the reproductive functions of her own body’ then how is fertility treatment different?
My answer is that I don’t see abortion that way, not exactly. A right to abortion clearly can be described that way, but it doesn’t follow that therefore if one supports a right to abortion one also has to support a right to anything and everything else that can be described that way, and that’s why I don’t exactly see abortion that way. I don’t generally talk about a woman’s right to control the reproductive functions of her own body, and I think the reason I don’t is because I’m generally wary of talking about things in such broad terms, precisely because I’m not sure I do want to commit to supporting all the possible examples such broad terms could throw up. I do think women should have a right to abortion, and one reason I think that is that pregnancy takes place inside one woman’s body and that means abortion is much more her business than it is anyone else’s. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think everything that takes place inside one woman’s body is more her business than it is anyone else’s. I don’t think that about intentional (aimed at the usual outcome) pregnancy, for instance. Deciding to have a baby does in fact mean one has to, or ought to, cede some rights to the future baby. (That, incidentally, is one reason the right to abortion is important. If one isn’t prepared to cede some rights to the future baby, it’s probably better to stop the pregnancy than it is to go ahead with it.) I’ve never really agreed with the view that telling or urging pregnant women not (say) to do drugs is a violation of their rights, because I’ve always seen those rights as in tension with the rights of the future baby.
That’s certainly not to say that I think the future baby’s rights trump all of the mother’s rights – but I think it probably trumps (should trump) some. A future baby has a much bigger interest in not being addicted to cocaine in utero than its mother has in continuing to use cocaine. So…in short, it’s not just a matter of absolute rights. It’s more complicated than that.
I think (though I’m not sure) one reason fertility specialists don’t treat people who already have children is because the treatment is so labor-intensive and expensive; I think that rule (if it is a rule) is a form of triage. That seems reasonable to me, in a world of limited resources. People who have children don’t really need fertility treatment so, other things being equal, they should go to the back of the line.