I’m not asking the question because I think I know the answer. I don’t and, frankly, I don’t think anyone does. But those who say there are _no_ limits, are, I believe, simply wrong.
A well-known Oliver Wendell Holmes remark goes like this: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” It’s a simple, colorful statement illustrating that our rights are not unlimited, and that those limits exist because other people have rights, too. Defining the limits, of course, is the hard part.
Abortion provides probably the best example of how complicated it can be. One side frames the debate as solely about a woman’s rights, while the other believes the fetus has rights, as well, but is in the difficult position of being unable to speak up for them. I don’t believe a legal resolution to this issue will _ever_ be reached that satisfies everyone, and I understand, entirely, that interfering in a woman’s decisions in this arena—even for unimpeachable reasons—involves depriving her of a basic freedom. But would those who say it can’t be done, then, and who reject the idea that a fetus has any rights, pause when the other person’s ‘nose’ belongs to a living child?
Consider the case of a young couple in Ohio—Felicia and Cody Beemer. Mr. Beemer, 23, just pleaded guilty to raping his own 13-month-old daughter—while on a supposedly supervised visit at a child protective services facility, no less. The abuse was in the presence of—and apparently participated in by—the child’s mother, Felicia, who is 21. They recorded the assault on a cell phone, and a relative who saw it reported the abuse. The cell phone also revealed hundreds of images of child porn, many involving bestiality, and evidence that Mr. Beemer had also raped an 18-month-old nephew.
It gets worse. Beemer was a registered sex offender, having raped a 3-year-old child when he was a teenager. Mrs. Beemer, only 21, has already had four children, and every one of them was taken away from her immediately after birth. One of those children has already been murdered in foster care. I have been unable to find any details on the Beemers but, clearly, there must have been ample evidence of her unfitness for motherhood. No one has to point out to me that Mr. Beemer was very likely a victim of child sexual abuse himself, or that something has to be deeply, profoundly, wrong with a woman who would not only sexually abuse her own child, but preserve the evidence for later enjoyment. Who knows what kind of screwed up parents she was probably subjected to, or what happened to her to turn her into a monster.
But does any of that change what they’ve done? The death, destruction, physical and psychological trauma and blighted futures of three children? (As mentioned, one is already dead.) And yet, she has the reproductive “right” to continue to get pregnant, and continue to bear children.