Laws Requiring Trans-Vaginal Ultrasounds Are Constitutional. Should They Be?
Today we have a guest post written by philosopher Neil McArthur. Neil writes regularly on his blog Moral Lust about sexual ethics and the philosophy of sexuality.
In America, you have a right to an abortion, but you don’t have a right to refuse a trans-vaginal ultrasound if your state lawmakers decide to make you have one. People could demand a fundamental right to control their own bodies – but it might have consequences they don’t expect.
Abortion is protected by the “right to privacy” that U.S. law now reads into the Constitution. But as this right is currently interpreted, it does not mean bodily privacy. Courts have always taken seriously an individual’s interest in disposing of her body as she chooses, free from state intrusion. But they have never recognised a right to do this, on par with the right to free speech or free assocation. Prisoners have been unsuccessful, for instance, in challenging mandatory body-cavity searches, and the courts have not ruled decisively against strip-searches in high schools.
The most important decision establishing a constitutional right to privacy, Roe v. Wade, specifically denied a relationship between this right and “an unlimited right to do with one’s body as one pleases”. (This denial is in fact the only actual use of the term “body”, at least to describe a human body, in the entire decision.) The Roe decision was based instead on a woman’s right to determine her identity and the course of her own life. Such a right is without question an important one. But it does not on its own rule out mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds.
Cases involving sexual freedom tell a similar story. Another monumental decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 invalidated Texas’s anti-sodomy law, grounded its legalisation of gay sex in the right of gay people to form relationships important to their identity, rather than a right to have whatever sex they want. Nor is this a quirk of U.S. law. European and Canadian courts have similarly resisted recognising a basic right to dispose of our bodies as we see fit.
The motivation is clear. A right to do as we please with our bodies would threaten, probably fatally, a wide swath of current laws, including those against prostitution and adult incest. We as a society may want to preserve those laws – for any number of reasons, such as public health and the protection of vulnerable women.
But when we are thinking about rights, or at least about human rights, this is arguably to think precisely backwards. We do not generally start by asking ourselves which activities we want to ban and which to allow, and then decide what rights people have based on our answer. We are supposed to start with our beliefs about the fundamental rights people have, and then ensure the laws conform to them. Aren’t we?
Pretend, for the sake of argument, that there is only one way to give women constitutional protection against laws like the ones mandating trans-vaginal ultrasounds – and that is to recognise a fundamental right to bodily privacy. And pretend we had the power to do so. Now assume, again for the sake of argument, that by recognising such a right, we would make it impossible for the state to regulate activities such as prostitution, bigamy and adult incest. Would you be in favour of recognising such a right? Or would the costs be too high?
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We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
In the face of seemingly unstoppable gun violence, Americans could stand to gain by looking to the Swiss.
- According to a recent study, the U.S. had the second highest number of gun-related deaths in 2016 after Brazil.
- Like the U.S., Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership. However, it has a considerably lower rate of deaths from gun violence.
- Though pro-gun advocates point to Switzerland as an example of how gun ownership doesn't have to correlate with mass shootings, Switzerland has very different regulations, practices, and policies related to guns than America.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
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