Some people in the United States think fetuses have rights.
I believe animals have rights. Why?
Scientists guess that somewhere between 18 and 30 weeks, fetuses feel pain—we certainly know that animals feel pain.
Some people speculate that humans are differentiated from other animals by their capabilities. We do know that some animals—like birds and pigs—are capable of cognitive tasks that toddlers are not capable of. Can animals love and can they grieve? Are they self-aware? These questions are surprisingly difficult to answer.
Perhaps the biggest difference between animals and fetuses is that only fetuses can turn into human children—as Judith Thompson famously remarked though, while an acorn will turn into an oak tree, an acorn is not the same thing as an oak tree.
If you ask around the Duke philosophy department, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of faculty who would assert that adult cows, pigs and birds deserve to be treated at least as well as fetuses.
And what does religion tell us? Let’s winnow things down to just pigs for a second. On pork, the Christian Bible is clear: “They who eat swine’s flesh, loathsome things and mice, shall all perish with their deeds and their thoughts, says the Lord.” Eat bacon and your soul will be damned—on this point, the Bible leaves no room for doubt, prohibiting pork on at least three occasions.
Now that famous biblical literalist Rick Santorum is off the campaign trail, I hope he’ll partner with me in helping to implement my proposed “Pork Laws,”—together, Rick Santorum and I might be successful in protecting the lives of our porcine friends.
Pork Law I: The Pork Eater’s Right to Know Act. For some reason, people keep eating pork, despite the fact that it is obviously an abomination to do so. Some people have noted that abortion carries medical risks—albeit, medical risks on par with the medical risks of carrying a child to term. But do pork eaters know all of the medical risks associated with an animal-based diet? Eating bacon has been known to be associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. I propose that, 24 hours before a person be allowed to purchase pork, they should have to receive counseling about their decision.
First, they will watch a video of cute baby piglets. Second, they will watch a video of pigs being brutally tortured and slaughtered—no averting your eyes, pork eaters! Third, they will receive an ECG scan to make sure they don’t already have coronary artery disease. I recognize that this is medically unnecessary, but, laws, including in North Carolina and at least 19 other states, require women seeking abortions to receive medically unnecessary ultrasounds—which add substantially to the cost of the procedure. Does the Pork Eater’s Right to Know Act make buying bacon unnecessarily cumbersome? Well, maybe, but I think we can all agree that if we can prevent some people from eating pork, that’s a good thing.
Pork Law II: The Oscar Mayer Amendment, modeled off the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits certain federal funds from being spent on abortion. It is obvious that no citizen’s tax dollars should be spent in ways that violate his conscience. That is why all the pacifists got a big tax rebate after the wars in Iraq and Vietnam, right? Most conservative Christians might have skipped over their holy book’s prohibition on pork, but many Muslims and kosher Jews take the matter quite seriously. No more federal funding for pork! If we have the gall to tell women in the military who have been raped while serving their country that we’ll have to discharge them if they want an abortion, then I see no problem forbidding federal tax dollars from being spent on pork. No pork for soldiers! No pork in schools!
Pork Law III: Pig Trap Laws. “Trap” laws, or targeted regulation of abortion providers, put into place hyper-specific regulations for abortion providers that don’t exist for other health care facilities—rules about the placement of janitor’s closets or even rules dictating lawn care maintenance for grassy areas. The original “trap” laws are pretty creative—and they’re on the books in at least 34 states, including North Carolina. Any room that serves pork must have vents at least six feet off the ground! Water fountains in pork-serving facilities must have designs preapproved by the state!
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I’m going to take a step back and say that, in case this wasn’t obvious, I’m not in favor of Pork Laws I-III. And although this article has been sardonic, I certainly don’t think abortion—or restricting abortion access for women—is funny.
Bacon might taste good, but most people could probably give it up easily. For those who agree with the Supreme Court that abortion is a legal right, but don’t see the problem with laws that severely restrict its access, I hope you’ll consider the ways in which these restrictions can threaten the health and well-being of vulnerable women.
Elena Botella is a Trinity junior. This is her final column of the semester.