Rights should ap­ply in utero, too

Albany Times Union - - PERSPECTIVE - By Kerri Kin­iorski ▶ Kerri Kin­iorski is the out­reach co­or­di­na­tor of Fem­i­nists Choos­ing

Dec. 10 marks the 70th an­niver­sary of the United Na­tion’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights. The Dec­la­ra­tion pro­claims the in­her­ent dig­nity and equal­ity of “all members of the hu­man fam­ily.”

It is the “most trans­lated doc­u­ment in the world.” Fem­i­nists, in the strug­gle for women’s rights and other ad­vo­cates for marginal­ized hu­mans, in­clud­ing im­mi­grants, have looked to the Dec­la­ra­tion for sup­port since its adop­tion in 1948.

In this “en­light­ened” age, the idea that rights are not re­lated to how oth­ers value us is cer­tainly not rev­o­lu­tion­ary. We ac­knowl­edge the in­her­ent worth of all. We know that race, eth­nic­ity, re­li­gion, and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, for ex­am­ple, should not de­ter­mine our worth and cer­tainly not our rights. Yet, the most ba­sic right — the right to life — is pred­i­cated on whether or not some hu­mans, par­tic­u­larly hu­mans in utero, are val­ued by an­other.

It is be­com­ing near in­com­pre­hen­si­ble to­day to imag­ine any other group of peo­ple’s rights be­ing de­nied be­cause they are con­sid­ered in­con­ve­nient or un­wanted. Would we deny the el­derly in our lives ac­cess to de­cent hous­ing even though their needs may be bur­den­some? Would we tell our LGBTQ friends that it is ac­cept­able to dis­crim­i­nate against them be­cause some peo­ple can’t see past their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion? Would we tell a woman can­di­date that she is less qual­i­fied to run for political of­fice be­cause she is a mem­ber of the “weaker sex”? To sug­gest that any of these sce­nar­ios is ac­cept­able would sug­gest a lack of moral­ity.

Yet, each time we up­hold a woman’s right to choose we re­veal the be­lief that hu­man rights are mal­leable and de­pen­dent upon some­one else’s opin­ion of value.

A re­cently resur­faced ad pro­mot­ing Planned Par­ent­hood shows a pic­ture of a smil­ing baby girl, with cap­tions that read, “She de­serves to be loved. She de­serves to be wanted. She de­serves to be a choice.” How has it come to be that sup­pos­edly pro-women ac­tivists or or­ga­ni­za­tions would deny this baby girl the right to life if she is not wanted or loved? Through­out his­tory women have clam­ored for rights sep­a­rate from their hus­bands — rights de­fined by their in­di­vid­ual self-worth — not by whether or not they were wanted by an­other.

If hu­man rights, if fem­i­nism, is about equal rights, how is it that this baby girl can only have her life pro­tected if she is de­sired by an­other per­son? Does this not stand at odds with the ba­sic tenets of hu­man rights, of fem­i­nism — which rec­og­nizes the in­trin­sic dig­nity and equal­ity of all members of the hu­man fam­ily?

At this mo­ment in his­tory, we are watch­ing a car­a­van of mi­grants press on to the United States. While we may dis­agree about what should hap­pen once these in­di­vid­u­als reach the U.S. bor­der, it is hard to ar­gue with the no­tion that a child’s fu­ture should not be de­ter­mined by the cir­cum­stances of her birth.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Gen­der & Refugee Stud­ies, thou­sands of girls and women are flee­ing Cen­tral Amer­ica to es­cape vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing forced pros­ti­tu­tion. These women and girls haven’t stopped fight­ing for their lives. In­stead, they seek a bet­ter life.

And, isn’t that what we want for our daugh­ters? For them to know their own worth. To never stop fight­ing for their rights, re­gard­less of whether or not oth­ers rec­og­nize their value? Yet, this is what we are do­ing to hu­mans in utero. To­day, cul­tures and na­tions are declar­ing that hu­mans in utero are valu­able only if they are wanted by an­other, par­tic­u­larly, their mother. Where is the hu­man­ity and equal­ity in such a stand? This is not the fem­i­nism I seek — where hu­man rights are con­di­tional. This is not my un­der­stand­ing of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights. Rather than mov­ing for­ward, since its adop­tion, it seems we are drift­ing back­wards.

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