The latest craze by leftist protesters is wearing costumes based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The fear women’s rights would be stripped from them as Atwood depicted culminated with the nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. Even before the allegations of gang rape emerged, progressive protesters were fearful he would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision which stated there was a right to abortion in the Constitution.
The debate on the topic of abortion is likely the most contentious in the nation today. The problem with the vehement attacks of pro-abortion groups is they ignore even the possibility they might understand the arguments and beliefs of the pro-life crowd; regardless of whether they might be swayed by them. Therefore, it is incumbent upon pro-lifers to be able to gently and succinctly make their points whenever they engage with someone who is willing to listen.
The logic of life in the womb:
If we are to logically assess life in the womb then we must first determine what life is. Dictionary.com defines life as: the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Does a fetus meets these criteria? A fetus is not inorganic, is currently and will continue to grow if allowed, will likely be able to reproduce, function, and change until its death. A fetus is then necessarily life.
I would then posit that life necessarily begins at conception. To argue otherwise is like saying your day doesn’t begin until your first cup of coffee; you simply mean you weren’t ready or prepared for the day until your coffee, not that the day hadn’t already begun.
The legality of life in the womb:
The legal question of whether a fetus constitutes life is answered in part by the treatment of the crime of killing a pregnant woman, which constitutes a double-homicide. Homicide meaning unlawful killing; kill meaning cause death; death meaning the end of life. Therefore, for a double-homicide to occur two lives must be ended. This begs the question why is it that when the fetus is deliberately killed by a physician, no charge of homicide will necessarily be brought? Have we given women the power to situationally determine what life is and, if so, at what point does a mother’s ability to make this determination end?
The Roe v. Wade decision also makes a claim about life in the womb. Justice Blackmun in the opinion of the court stated: With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the “compelling” point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb. At the time of the decision, viability was 24-28 weeks. Now, however, according to the decision’s own logic the State’s interest can now be as early as 21 weeks. While this aspect of the decision refutes pro-abortion activist blind support of it, it is also a reflection of how poor the decision actually was.
In the 45 years since the Roe decision, there has been a 16% reduction in time until viability. It is not inconceivable that over the next 50 years we see viability move into the first trimester – a collision of Roe v. Wade into itself predicted by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her dissent in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health. Justice O’Connor further stated: Without the necessary expertise or ability, courts must then pretend to act as science review boards and examine those legislative judgments. While her contention is apt, one must further contend that science should not determine morality in the first place. Was a 20-week old fetus less valuable 40 years ago than it is today?
What can we do with life in the womb:
The debate between those for and against abortion is not a debate over what life is, but rather what we can do with it. Hardcore abortion advocates ignore the question of life and instead argue it remains the mother’s choice until the baby is free of her womb. If we admit a fetus is life, then we must allot it the same protections as any other human life. It cannot, for example, be owned by another being.
Some argue that, as the fetus is inside her, it is a woman’s property and therefore she gets to decide what is done to it. So let me ask, if you found a baby in your house could you kill it? Even if someone were to break into your house and leave a baby behind could you kill it? Of course not.
A more common argument is the parasite argument. An abortion advocate may say that because a fetus cannot survive on its own outside the womb and depends on the body of the mother to nourish it, it drains the mother of nutrients and can therefore be treated as a parasite and excised at will. This is a question of human dependency. Yes a fetus is dependent upon the mother until viability, but does 5 months of dependency merit the death penalty?
The question of what we can do with life in the womb is no different than what we can do with life outside. Even the generally accepted exemption, “the life of the mother” is no exception to the rule. If something were to do significant physical harm to someone, you would be within your rights to stop them. Any other justification for abortion is wholly inadequate and doesn’t distinguish between life in and outside the womb.
Common claims such as “it’s just a clump of cells”, while accurate, prove nothing. All life is necessarily a cell – a clump of cells being particularly complex. The argument it is not life if it can’t survive on its own implies someone on life support could be killed without consequence. The most troubling defense of abortion comes from Justice Blackmun’s opinion in the Roe v. Wade decision where he stated:
Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.
If mental and physical duress give a mother legal power over life and death, why then is there a distinction between life inside and outside the womb? Following this logic, if your three-year-old was too much of a burden you would be within your Constitutionally guaranteed rights to kill him or her. To someone who is pro-life there is no distinction as both lives are sacred. To someone who is pro-abortion the distinction is simply locational.
I have yet to hear a pro-abortion argument that satisfactorily addresses and counters these pro-life arguments and the fact of the matter is there simply isn’t one. We either view life as sacred or something we can determine based on what is convenient for ourselves.