personal autonomy and basic human rights 10 basic human rights

The Fight For Personal Autonomy and Basic Human Rights

Are personal autonomy and basic human rights a pipe dream?  Do you think autonomy and rights are increasing or diminishing?  See why this matters.

Autonomy isn’t an abstract concept it is a fundamental aspect of life.  Every spiritual explorer needs it in order to have the freedom to explore and develop their own path.  Unfortunately, there are still cultures that have imposed regulations and laws that restrict what you can think and what you can do with your own body. (1)

10 Basic Human Rights

1) All People are free and equal

2) The right to fair democratic process for their government

3) Freedom of personal autonomy or bodily autonomy and privacy

4) The right to live in a society governed by fair laws

5) Right to basic needs, healthy food, water, shelter and medical care

6) Freedom of thought and the right not to choose a religion

7) Live free of servitude, torture or disparate treatment

8) To have equal and fair access to education

9) Freedom of expression as long as it does not harm others

10) The right to live from persecution by people or the government

All rights are based on the rights on the freedom of the individual to act as they see fit to live their lives as long as they don’t infringe upon the rights or adversely affect others or the planet.  This statement summarizes 10 basic human rights. (2)

Autonomy is the freedom of practical, ethical, and moral discretion.  It  is the ability to think and express oneself in a peaceful manner.  It means the ability to make decisions that affect your life.  Autonomy is fragile.  If you are in a lower socioeconomic class, your right to make decisions about your life is reduced.  Laws and cultural practices can also limit bodily autonomy and rights of discretion.

Justice is the social platform of fairness, equality, and equity.  Liberty is based on the level of freedom a culture allows.  However, the degree of social liberty can be diminished.  This can happen if you are born in the wrong culture where they give preferential treatment to one gender, racial or ethnic group.

Human rights exist on a continuum.  The greater their bandwidth, the more rights and options you have to live a fulfilling life.  A utopian society is one with no inequities or inequalities. Everyone has a great deal of autonomy.  Sadly, this society doesn’t exist.  But it is possible. The ideal provides us with a noble goal.

When the bandwidth of these 10 basic human rights shrinks, it affects everyone.  Losing rights for one affects everyone’s right to pursue happiness and live free.  Sadly, these rights are not distributed equally. (3)

The goal of a  just and fair government to provide a platform of fairness and equality.  It removes disparities and moves toward the utopian ideal.  A corrupt government does just the opposite.  Instead, it promotes preferential treatment and inequity.  Sound familiar?

Do you see any of this happening?  Are you or someone you know affected by these adverse social practices?  Think about it.   You likely know someone who has been or is being affected by constraints or boundaries imposed by the culture.

Liberty and Justice for All or Just Some?

We  can measure the health of a society by the way it treats those with the least socioeconomic power and status.  We can also look at if it promotes equality and equity.  To do this, we look at the level of preferential treatment given any one group.  We can see if there are laws or practices that deny personal autonomy and basic human rights.  We can identify any groups adversely affected by the loss of these rights.  The more of these inequities, the less healthy the culture.  Simple as that.

Some cultures are built on a foundation if inequality.  There is preferential treatment for some, and denial of basic rights for others.  Saudi Arabia is a good example.  Here is a culture that allows preferential treatment for the elite, and affluent, about one percent of the population.  These are the ruling ministers, governors and people with connections to the royal Saudi family.  So, because these cultures have existed for long periods of time does not mean they are healthy.  The cancer of these ideologies tends to spread.

Personal Autonomy and Basic Human Rights

The US Constitution, everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of his person.  There are provisions for right to life, which restrict the State from killing you without a trial.  Liberty is defined as freedom from arbitrary and unreasonable restraint.   Personal security talks about the right to make decisions that support their own personal interests.

You can forget what the Constitution says.  Instead, look at how the culture actually works. All these rights are interpreted differently by the courts and society in general.  Was the Constitution designed to guarantee freedom with liberty and justice for all or just some? How do special interest groups take control of the highest positions in government and use this power to undermine this basic idea?  It should be impossible.  But the Supreme Court shows it is exactly what happens when religion infests government.

Self-governance requires moral independence.  Bodily autonomy is the beginning of all freedoms. All personal freedoms begin with the unconditional liberty to make decisions about your own body.  Without the liberty to choose what to do with your body, no other liberties can survive.  If you are not free to do with your body what you want, then you are a prisoner or a slave, or both.

How then does a culture decide it is time to infringe upon this most fundamental of all personal rights?  It does this when religion takes control. Religion has always been concerned with controlling procreation.  It does so precisely because it undermines personal freedom.  When personal autonomy and basic human rights can be taken away for one group, then it can do so with others.

Religions have dictated with whom one could have a family relationship.  They call it the institution of marriage.  It is the law of the land. In the past, religions used this to boost their membership by encouraging large families.  At the same time, they made laws against other relationships which did not follow their pattern.

Autonomy and Informed Consent

The term informed consent comes from the medical community.  It is when a patient gives the consent for the physician to perform a procedure after being made aware of the potential consequences.  In this way, the patient makes decides after being fulling informed.  They know all the things that could happen.  This gives the physician permission and also absolves them any legal action by the patient for the consequences.  It relates to the first of the 10 basic human rights, which states all people are free and equal.  This should apply to all decisions about our bodies.  Why is the decision about parenthood any different?

Let’s look more closely at two issues which impact our autonomy and rights as individual.

Decisions about Parenthood

If you want to adopt a child in the United States, you must show your ability to care for the child.  That makes sense.  Most states require you to be at least twenty-five years old.  The assumption is this the minimum age someone is mature enough to care for a child.  You must also demonstrate you have the financial resources and home for the child to live.  Again, this makes sense.


To adopt a child, you must also show that you have sufficient resources to care for the child.  Normally, this means you have a stable career and earn at least 60,000 per year.  Some states require more.

Some states give preference to those who are married. It’s not impossible for a single person to adopt, but they must have ample resources. These standards seem to make common sense.

Parental Decision?

Now let’s say you are a thirteen-year-old girl. Would you be able to adopt a child?  The answer is no.  What if you were 19 and rich?  The answer is still no.

But, the same thirteen-year-old girl gets pregnant. Many states forbid her and her family from deciding to abort the pregnancy.  It does not matter that she is not mature enough to handle raising a child, nor does it matter that she lacks the resources to raise a child.  No option to abort the pregnancy even if she was raped.  Why?  Because those in control have their own reasons for forcing birth.

Some claim the rights of the unborn supersede those of the mother.  But the right to life ends at birth.  Right to life advocates stop at the birth.  From that point on, they don’t care about the health care of either the mother or child.  They don’t care if the mother is mature enough or has the resources.

The states that have the largest percentage of children that are given for adoption are the corporate home of the adoption industry.

If you wanted to adopt a healthy white male baby, get in line.  But can skip to the head of the line, if you can pay for it.  If you can afford the 100K+ adoption process, you can adopt. See that’s easy. The adoption industry is the power behind the movement to undermine bodily autonomy.

This is an example of freedom with liberty and justice for all or just some.  It means those with the highest socioeconomic brackets have more choices and more rights than other people.  It means those at the lower end of the income spectrum are used as breeding stock, just like The Handmaiden’s Tale.   Fiction has become a cruel reality. Personal autonomy and basic human rights have become a pipe dream.

There are potential solutions, but it is an uphill battle.  The Supreme Court has become biased toward right-wing values.  To correct this imbalance, we must take steps to now in order to secure a future for democracy.  Are we going to impeach those on the court that obtained their position through nefarious and unlawful means?  Or are we going to restore balance by adding qualified, unbiased individuals?  When the 10 basic human rights are diminished and restricted for any person, it affects everyone.

(1) A non-ideal authenticity-based conceptualization of personal autonomy:

(2) Interpreting the International Right to Health in a Human Rights-Based Approach to Health:

(3) Social Justice and Social Order: Binding Moralities across the Political Spectrum:

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