Steven Wise, lawyer and former President of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and current President of the Nonhuman Rights Project, visited my health psychology class recently at the College of William & Mary. His mission is to acquire rights for animals such as the chimpanzee, which he argues are subject to unfair treatment and exploited against their will. A central concept to this mission is the application of the legal concept of “bodily integrity” to these animals. Our discussion with Wise prompted me to wonder, at what point will the concept of bodily integrity apply to persons in the womb?

Bodily integrity is defined as the “inviolability of the physical body and emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy and the self-determination of human beings over their own bodies. It considers the violation of bodily integrity as an unethical infringement, intrusive, and possibly criminal.”


ben sharpie abortion

If a fetus has a beating heart at just 16 days after conception, which it does, according to recent research conducted by the British Heart Foundation at the University of Oxford, then abortion is violating the bodily integrity of that person, seeing as they already have functioning organs. In addition, the act of  abortion takes away the autonomy and self-determination of the fetus, given that they are killed before they are able to make any decisions about their own lives.  Pro-choice advocates will probably counter, “But the fetus is not a person!” To them, I say, come on. If we are being honest with ourselves, we know a fetus isn’t going to end up as a tree or tomato plant. The fetus is a human from conception.

To ignore the basic physiological developments of a fetus in the womb is to ignore the truth. Furthermore, it has been proven that fetuses feel pain, and some scientists argue that fetuses can even dream.

So, as Ben Shapiro taunted, let’s play a game: what part of this information indicates that a fetus is not yet a human? Trick question – a fetus is always a human.