In light of the circulating draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, I’ve been doing a little thinking about my uterus. If, like me, you “concealed carry” a uterus between your pelvic bones, either you’re facing the prospect of losing your bodily autonomy because of your zip code, or you’ve already been living that nightmare for some time.
Since I can’t pop my womb out like a Lego piece, I realize that soon I may not be fully recognized as a living, autonomous person in all fifty states.
Consequently, I would like to invite you all to my funeral.
To be clear, I’m not going anywhere. But to maintain my independence, I have decided to slough off the title of “living woman” in favor of “corpse.”
While I hadn’t planned on legally dying so soon, I have many reasons for wanting to become a corpse. I am descended from a proud line of Deceased-Americans. (My aunt was an extra in Dawn of the Dead.) I have the natural pallor of a drowned Victorian child. And most importantly, when you’re a corpse, it seems as if people start respecting your wishes about what you want to do with your body.
Not interested in organ donation, even if it would save another person’s life? Rest in peace—they can’t be harvested without your consent. Have you made it clear that you don’t want to father a child or maintain a pregnancy after your death? That’s your call—at least, according to the Ethics Committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. If I’d known that “My Body, My Choice” starts applying once that body is on a slab, I would have died years ago.
And that’s not all. Consider some of the other perks of corpse-dom:
- Are you concerned that the reversal of Roe will create a slippery legislative slope that will allow states to challenge other rights—including interracial and same-sex marriage, contraception access, and refusal of forced sterilization—predicated on “privacy”? To quote Andrew Marvell, “The grave’s a fine and private place.” What happens in the cemetery stays in the cemetery.
- If you die, you get automatic forgiveness for student loans. Sallie Mae can’t touch you now.
- If a cadaver asks for Plan B, most pharmacists are too spooked to say no.
- Want to defend reproductive health care at a state level? You can still head to the ballot box. Many Republicans consider dead people to be a powerful voting bloc. (Also, if you were affected by the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, being legally dead can’t make your chances that much worse.)
- If you’re sexually assaulted as a corpse, they won’t ask what you were wearing.
“But this is absurd,” you might say. “You can’t declare yourself an animate corpse.” Well, as a strict originalist, I take this objection seriously. Upon reviewing the Constitution with a fine-toothed comb, however, I can report that the Founders make no reference to “falling into the ranks of the walking dead” and that the text implicitly forbids no such right. Furthermore, Justice Alito says that nit-picking about an organism’s viability “makes no sense.” So let me zombie-crawl my way to bodily autonomy. It’s what Thomas Jefferson would have wanted.
(Besides, considering that a nationwide abortion ban would threaten to raise pregnancy-related deaths by 21 percent, surely those opposing Roe won’t mind my raising that potential body count by one.)
I understand that having my gray, clammy presence sitting in the next cubicle or beside you on the train may be a little disconcerting. Trust me, this wasn’t my first choice either. But until women, people of color, queer, trans, non-binary, and disabled people can get you to respect our bodily integrity while we’re alive, I’ll be in my coffin.