opinion

A little boy named Tom Joyce has precisely nothing to do with my uterus.

In Armidale, New South Wales, situated about half way between Sydney and Brisbane, lives a little boy named Thomas Joyce.

He has tiny legs, not much hair, and probably gurgles sometimes as two month old babies tend to do.

And apparently he has something to do with my uterus. Yours too.

You see, this week Independent MP Alex Greenwich presented a bill to the NSW Parliament calling for the decriminalisation of terminations up to 22 weeks.

Greenwich argued that women and doctors are operating under an “out of date law” drafted 119 years ago.

Barnaby Joyce, the former deputy Prime Minister of Australia and MP, however, thought there was something missing from the debate. Namely, his two month old son, Thomas.

“On the first of June, Vikki’s and my son Tom took his first breath,” Joyce told parliament, which felt… unrelated. But he wasn’t finished.

“This was not the start of his life. The reality is he was part of this world for some time and was merely passing from one room to another.

“Inside the womb, Tom kicked, punched, grabbed his umbilical cord, felt pain, slept and dreamed – to say he didn’t have the rights of other human life is to say he must be sub-human,” Joyce said about his son, using him as a political plaything despite the fact Thomas doesn’t even know how to roll over yet.

“I don’t believe that any person, any doctor, any parliament has the power today to declassify another person as less than human and by so doing removing their most fundamental right to be alive.”

Look.

There appears to be some kind of misunderstanding.

No one – as far as I can tell – has said that little Thomas does not have the right to be alive. 

He seems great. Cute, even. No one thinks Thomas is sub-human. He is fully human. So human, in fact, that he might even grow up to have his own personal views on abortion and not be entirely comfortable with being used to illustrate a pro-life argument, but I digress.

We all like human rights a lot. That’s a point we can agree on. So let’s imagine for a moment that little Thomas had been born little Tamara.

One day, when Tamara grows up she falls pregnant unexpectedly. Maybe she feels too young. Maybe she’s (actually) on the Newstart allowance and can hardly afford to feed herself. Maybe she doesn’t see a future for herself with children. Maybe the father has disappeared – which was never part of the deal. Maybe she can’t even put it into words properly, but she knows, for sure, that she cannot let the cluster of cells forming in her uterus turn into a little baby.

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Just like it would be Joyce’s human right to do whatever he wants with his body (I cannot think of any limitations whatsoever when it comes to what men can do with their bodies) it would be Tamara’s human right to do what she feels is best with her own body.

Simple as that.

As author and columnist Patrick S. Tomlinson put it, let’s all imagine for a moment we’re in a fertility clinic and the fire alarm has just gone off.

You have the option to save either a five-year-old child who is begging for help or 1000 viable human embryos.

What do you choose?

“A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically,” Tomlinson said.

If destroying cells is murder, then so too is removing a cancerous growth. If destroying potential life is murder, then so is a wet dream. Or masturbation (for men). Or contraception.

It is a basic human right for women to have bodily autonomy.

A foetus is not distinct from the mother because it needs the resources of a mother’s body to survive. Without the mother, there is no baby.

There is no other case where a person is forced to do something with their own body, for the purposes of someone else’s body.

For example, you cannot force another person to give you a kidney.

Body autonomy is an existing legal, social and philosophical concept. You cannot even take something from the body of a dead person without their consent. Therefore, dead people have more rights than a woman.

In regards to Joyce’s claim that Thomas “felt pain” – I’m not quite sure how he… qualifies that point.

According to Dr David Robert Grimes, who is backed up by several studies, that statement is “extremely unlikely to be true”.

In the early stages of development, a foetus lacks the nervous system and brain development to be able to ‘feel’ anything.

“The neutoanatomical apparatus required for pain and sensation is not complete until about 26 weeks into pregnancy,” Grimes writes. Most terminations take place in the first nine weeks, with very rare cases going anywhere near 24 weeks (which are due to foetal abnormalities or serious health risks for the mother).

Joyce seems to love his son Thomas very much, and we are all happy for him.

I’m just desperately trying to think of anyone in the world who has less to do with my uterus than a two-month-old who lives in Armidale.

Joyce knows very well that he can do whatever he likes with his body. He impregnated a woman while married to an entirely different woman, so he is exercising that right to the full extent.

I, too, will be doing what I like with my body.

And I shan’t be consulting a baby named Thomas about it.

Tags: australian-news , news-stories , opinion
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