Seatbelts and Abortion

Not long ago my family and I drove through four states to attend the wedding of a family friend. As we entered one state, we encountered a huge sign that read “Seatbelts Save Lives: Buckle up–It’s the Law!” Then underneath in smaller print we saw the fashionable cliché: “Click it or Ticket.”

A law that requires all passengers in motor vehicles to wear seatbelts is a no-brainer. Most people consider this a commonsense safety practice and don’t need a billboard and the threat of criminal prosecution to compel compliance with the law.

It’s not so much the law that caught my attention, so much as its inner logic, which often seems to be missing in discussions pertaining to abortion “rights.”

Let’s start with the premise that seatbelts save lives. This premise far outweighs the 101 reasons why one might not want to wear a seatbelt. Yet, wearing a seatbelt doesn’t make me a safer driver. People who are not in my car are not in any way threatened by my not wearing a seatbelt. As my Mom used to say, “it’s your own funeral,” meaning I’m only hurting myself by not wearing a seatbelt.

If that’s the case, isn’t wearing a seatbelt a “personal decision”? [more]Shouldn’t I be able to personally weigh the pros and cons and come up with my own decision without threat of legal repercussion?

Or, does the state have a vested interest in my well-being and that of my passengers–especially those who are too young to make their own decisions? Should the state protect this interest even when I am too foolish or ignorant or reckless to do so myself?

Clearly society’s answer to the second set of questions–at least when it comes to seatbelts–is yes.

But where is my choice in the matter? Shouldn’t I have a certain autonomy to decide how I will protect myself and my passengers without outside interference? I’m not saying that seatbelts aren’t right for most people. I’m not even saying that seatbelts most of the time aren’t right for me. But doesn’t the Constitution respect my freedom to make choices that concern my own body?

Apparently when it comes to seatbelts, there is no “right to choose.”

And lastly, doesn’t it seem legitimate for the state to make the judgment that its citizens should wear seatbelts? Yes, there is a value judgment or moral judgment implied in all this. While some people probably disagree with the law, the state is free to make the law if most of the people think it’s going to promote the common good. Those who back the law see this as an important public safety issue, and not as the unwarranted imposition of the “values” of the majority on the minority.

After all, don’t all laws reflect the values of those who enact them? I mean, it seems silly to think one way, but legislate another, doesn’t it?  

Wouldn’t it seem to be an undue and in fact odd imposition of the federal courts to strike down seatbelt laws because they violate the privacy and autonomy of individual motorists and their passengers? Further still, wouldn’t it be strange if the Supreme Court were to find somewhere in the Constitution a “fundamental right to choose” to not wear seatbelts?

Of course it would. Maybe we should use more common sense when it comes to abortion. At least seatbelts save lives. Abortion doesn’t.

2 Responses to “Seatbelts and Abortion”

  1. JohnE says:

    Perhaps when the officer pulls you over you can say that it was a very agonizing and personal decision not to wear your seat belt — a decision that was by no means taken lightly.

  2. leon says:

    This comment was forwarded to me via email:

    Not wearing a seatbelt is a vice/sin therefore it is in the collective interest to turn it into a crime not to wear a seatbelt because the government has a vested interest in our well-being…well using this argument…adultery is a vice/sin and it is in the collective interest to make sure that it doesn”t happen…the government has a vested interest in our well-being, therefore adultery should also be a crime punishable by fines and even jail time, yet it isn”t. Why is that? The argument to be made is that we have allowed the government to intrude into our lives at an unnatural level. Instead we should use the influence of sound arguments and those responsible for moral formation to persuade us to do what is right and government should be used to help us by protecting us…and even that should be narrowly defined since punishing someone for murder or stealing is obvious because those vices/sins infringe upon another person”s rights the argument could be made that all vices/sins effect another in some way and therefore should be punishable by the government as a crime…what a slippery slope.

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