Abortion, a reality check…for the pro-life peeps
There can be no question that a fertilized human egg, newly accoutered with the requisite 46 chromosomes, is a human being in the genetic sense. Many ‘pro-life’ advocates believe this ‘concession’ wins them the day in the debate over abortion, a debate that is in reality one over reproductive rights and bodies. It, however, does nothing of the sort and only exposes the immense vapidity and vacuity of their arguments and mindsets. Much like a dog eager to play fetch, these are the sorts who are so intent on the game itself that they have lost sight of the ball entirely and fall willingly for the age old trick of the feigned throw and go bounding in search of something that was never there.
The realities about a world where abortion is absolutely illegal are these. It is a world where women are held hostage by their bodies. A place where your neighbors are crazed vigilantes in search of cigarettes and booze to justify chaining you to a hospital bed. It is that realm where all sex consented to is consent to pregnancy. It is the infiltrator of hypocrisy that advocates for the right of one at the expense of another while invoking that chimeric virtue, ‘innocence’. It is a nightmare in which the arbitrary morality of some becomes the law for all.
It is now officially vogue to exhort the opposition to pro-life with images of mutilated fetuses and dismembered baby bodies. These are often the same people disgusted with mothers who cannot afford the children they have and complain endlessly about the abused welfare system. Nonetheless, we are expected to forget about the life, body, and rights of our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, and friends in a desperate plea to our humanity as emotional and feeling beings. Abortion is then quickly depicted as a hazardous and amputating surgical act in which future reproduction is an impossibility and the risk of death is high. Character assassination quickly follows, claiming that those who have engaged in abortion are cowardly and without accountability.
The Facts: The Scientific and Rational
Abortion is in fact 14 times safer than childbirth in the United States. And it is therefore logically inconsistent to perseverate on life’s sanctity and refuse to recognize this fact.
Fact two, abortion is an act of accountability. Women unable to financially support a child take responsibility for their situation when they terminate a pregnancy. Women who are not psychologically prepared for parenthood do the same. Women who are ill, can impart congenital ailments, or at risk for serious complications also take control and responsibility for a situation when they terminate.
Another fact, we can freeze a blastocyst which is one of the earliest stages of human embryo development. Can we freeze babies? Can we freeze teenagers or adults without killing them? And what precisely is the difference between the very earliest stages of human development and a ball of cancer cells as far as awareness goes? The answer to these questions matter. There is a fundamental misunderstanding regarding human embryology behind pro-life arguments. Often these people wish to blur the lines of science and claim that there is no difference between a born baby and the ‘preborn’ save an in or out of the body scenario. It is apparent, however, that stages of development matter.
The volley following this first stonewall to pro-lifers is often about later stages of development. ‘So what about the second trimester fetuses?’ Indeed, there is room for intelligent discussion and debate about reasonable timetables for decision-making, what happens when the fetus can survive without the mother’s body, and how developing nervous systems should play a role in either our legal system or our moral/ethical compass. What matters is that our stance on this issue be guided by our understanding of science and fundamental human freedoms and not by arbitrary religious vantage points.
Easily portended is the next volley of attack which asks, ‘And what of the unborn baby’s freedoms and rights?’
Again, even if we concede that a fetus has a right to life it does not have a right to be kept alive by another person’s body. If all sex consented to is not consent to pregnancy then it is only reasonable to conclude that pregnancy can be an unwanted imposition, one that is bodily, dangerous, and taxing.
If my kidneys were to fail and I was in need of one, my mother would not be legally obligated to give me hers – even if it wouldn’t kill her to do so. Simply by opting to have me and care for me as her son does not oblige her legally to sacrifice her physical well-being for my own. Mind you, in this case she has already committed to my care. In the case of a pregnant woman it remains to be seen whether or not the mother has even consented to a future in child-rearing.
Pregnancy can result in 9 months of conditions ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening circumstances. Prohibiting abortions holds women hostage to their biology and enslaves their bodies to the State. You may find abortion morally rebarbative but this is not enough to illegalize it. What is morally dubious is not also always fit for prohibition. I can dislike sugary beverages, cigarettes, and alcohol, or a needlessly violent sport, but this hardly justifies legislation. The jump from morally questionable to illegal is a long one, and it needs to be done without costing others a fundamental right.
Philosophically speaking, it is wiser to begin with all rights and prohibit with reason than to start with none and make allowances as you discover them.
In summary, whether you regard a fetus as human or ascribe it with the right to life does not translate into an argument for abortion’s prohibition. You still must explain how all sex is consent to pregnancy and justify further how a right to life is also a right to be kept alive by another’s body. You must also explain logistically how miscarriages will be dealt with legally. Are they to become crime scenes? How much evidence will be necessary to prove negligence leading to miscarriage? Who will be qualified to make these judgments? What about women who prove to be clumsy or at risk, are they to be shackled to the hospital bed until birth?
There is room for intelligent discussion on the ethics of how and when abortions happen, but whether abortion should be legal is a fundamentally ignorant question.