Abortion and Animal Rights

Gary L. Francione
5 min readMay 3, 2022
(source: Politico.com)

I advocate for the rights of animals. I argue that, if animals have moral value and are not just things, we are obligated to stop using animals as resources. It’s not just a matter of not causing animals to suffer. Although sentient (subjectively aware) animals certainly do have a morally significant interest in not suffering, they also have a morally significant interest in continuing to live. I believe, and have provided argumentation for, the position that it is morally wrong to kill and eat or otherwise use sentient nonhuman animals. If there were sufficient support as a moral matter to abolish animal exploitation, I would certainly support a legal prohibition on it.

So I must be opposed to letting a woman have the right to choose whether she is going to have a child? I must be in favor of the law probiting abortion or at least not treating the decision to choose as protected by the U.S. Constitution, as the Supreme Court held in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, right?

Nope. Not at all. I support the right of a woman to choose and I think it is very wrong that the Court, led by misogynist Sam Alito and representing an extreme right-wing majority including Justices who dishonestly told the American people that abortion was settled law that they would respect, is apparently planning on overruling Roe v. Wade.

Indeed, I clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court during the October Term 1982. That was when, in her dissent in City of Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, Justice O’Connor rejected the trimester approach to evaluating the state regulation of abortion that had been articulated in Roe v. Wade but still endorsed the right to choose. She proposed the “undue burden” standard: “If the particular regulation does not ‘unduly burden’ the fundamental right, then our evaluation of that regulation is limited to our determination that the regulation rationally relates to a legitimate state purpose.” The “undue burden” approach to evaluating abortion regulation became the law of the land in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and allowed a relatively conservative Court to have a general consensus that the right to choose was constitutionally protected subject to state regulating, but not imposing “undue burdens” on, the right to choose.

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Gary L. Francione

Gary L. Francione is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Lincoln.