Philosophers Eliselijn Kingma and Fiona Woollard have responded to a Dutch proposal to increase government powers with respect to pregnant women smoking.
It is very sad when an early life is set back before it is even born. But it is also dreadful that one in four women is the victim of domestic abuse, and that in 30% of cases that abuse begins during pregnancy. Nonetheless the state does not place webcams in our homes, or chips in expectant fathers. Why? Because a just state needs to balance (1) the protection of individuals against each other, and (2) the protection of individuals against the state. In pregnant women, we are too often inclined to lose sight of that latter demand. The physical unity of fetus and pregnant woman means that intervening on the latter in the name of protecting the former is necessarily a profound violation of the mother’s personal freedom, privacy and civil rights. The fetus cannot be forcefully separated from the mother without, literally, cutting her open. And controlling what she inhales and ingests – let alone forced treatment or deprivation of liberty – is a profound interference by the state of her most intimate and basic human freedoms, and a far-reaching abuse of the powers of the state.
Full translation is here.