Reading an article in the Guardian on Rick Santorum’s frankly disgusting views on abortion, I came across the following comment:
A problem with pointing out the inconsistency of opposing right-to-abortion and supporting the death penalty is that the same accusation in reverse can be made to liberals.
Really? I don’t think so. While it may seem that if one is inconsistent the other must also be so, I would argue that the consistency of the pro-choice, anti-death penalty position (and the inconsistency of anti-choice pro-death penalty viewpoints) comes from the values generally emphasised in each.
The anti-choice argument generally runs something like this: The primary right is to life, and all human life is sacred. Embryos and fetuses constitute seperate human life, and are therefore entitled to the same protections as other humans. Because of this, terminating fetal and embryonic human life is equivalent to murdering a person and should not be permitted. I gather that being in favour of the death penalty has something to do with punishing people who do bad things to the fullest extent possible, although to be honest it’s a perspective I’ve never been able to wrap my head around.
As a person who’s as pro-choice as I’m against the death penalty, the main difference is in the principles I emphasise. I see the right to bodily integrity as the most basic there is, more important even than the right to life- which is why I’m also very much in favour of the right to a peaceful death at the time of one’s choosing. Basically, I see our bodies as the one thing over which we should have near-absolute sovereignty, with the only exception being where this threatens the sovereignty of others. Given this overarching principle, there is no contradiction in being pro-choice and anti-death penalty. My body is mine, yours is yours. We are the only people with the right to decide to begin lives in our bodies. And we are the only people with the right to end lives in our bodies- whether that be a fetus or ourselves.