The pro-life view is, obviously, a controversial one. Here are a few common pro-choice arguments, and my answers to them. Obviously, I do not speak for all pro-lifers. For more pro-life viewpoints, I suggest visiting a few of the pro-life sites listed on my main page.
1. Abortion is a moral issue. Pro-lifers should keep their own moral beliefs away from a woman's right to legal abortion.
Should I also keep my own moral beliefs away from someone's right to kill someone once they're born? How about someone's right to commit rape? The logic doesn't follow -- the whole idea of 'rights' is that there are guidelines as to how people can interact with each other. You can think of this as morality if you like, but whatever you want to call it, these rules are what allow us to have a society. One such guideline that is clearly established and needed for society to function -- is the basis of all other rights, I'd say -- is that ever person has the right to control what's theirs: their life, their health, their property. Abortion contradicts this basic principle. Abortion says that one person has the right to control what belongs to another person, without their consent -- namely, that a mother has the right to end her embryo's life, without the consent (were that possible) of the embryo. To speak of a woman's 'right' to abortion is logically flawed -- abortion contradicts the whole concept of individual rights.
2. My body, my choice. The government has no right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. That violates the woman's right to bodily soveriegnty.
Absolutely true -- but abortion violates the embryo's right to bodily soveriegnty. More than one person's rights are involved in a pregnancy, and those rights must be balanced. If a woman becomes pregnant against her will, her rights have been violated. Clearly, she has a right to decide who may and may not make use of her uterus. However, the embryo also has the right to control of his or her body. The embryo has a right not to be killed. There is no easy, nice solution. In an unwanted pregnancy, someone's rights are going to be trampled. But the severity of that violation of rights must be taken into account. Which is a greater violation of rights -- forced pregnancy and childbirth, or violent death?
Obviously, the embryo's rights are violated by abortion to a much greater extent than the woman's rights are violated by pregnancy. Therefore, it is only reasonable to say that the woman does not have a right to abort, does not have a right to impose her will on the embryo. The body most affected in an abortion is not her body, and it is not her choice.
3. Why should the embryo have rights equal to the womans? The embryo is not a person.
Define 'person'. Person is a philosophical concept. No two people will agree on what precisely constitutes a person. And embryo is biologically human -- possessed of human DNA, and a member of species homo sapien sapien, just like you or I -- from conception. That is all that can be said definatively about any of us. Do you want your human rights left up to each individual, to decide whether you are in fact a person and deserving of rights or not?
4. So it has human DNA -- does that make it a human being, as worthy of rights as you or I? Just because it has human DNA?
Biologically, DNA is what counts. Our DNA is the reason we're humans and not trout or gerbils. It's what defines us as human at the most basic level -- change that, and everything changes. Any biological factor you'd care to throw out -- potential for intelligence, human appearance, motor skills, communication skills -- it's all the end result of some very specific amino acids.
5. Most abortions take place early in pregnancy, when the embryo is just a blob of cells.
Yes, most abortions take place early -- between the fifths and the eighth week from conception. However, the embryo is never a 'blob of cells.' As of the first cell division, after conception, it is decided which cells will form the embryo and which the extraembryonic structures (the placenta, the chorion, and the amnion -- the embryo's 'support system'). At 14 days -- about the time the woman would be expecting her next period, and might first realize she is pregnant -- the embryo proper has formed. About this same time, the embryo's cells have divided into three layers, which will form the major organ systems. At the end of the third week, the embryo has his or her first brain cells and a beating heart. In the fourth and fifth weeks, more organs develop, the brain continues to grow, and the spine appears. By the fifth week, the embryo begins to look human. He or she has hands and feet with the beginnings of fingers and toes, eyes, ears, and a mouth. Neural connections begin to form, and by the sixth or seventh weeks, the first brain impulses can be recorded on an EEG. In the by the end of the eighth week, the embryo becomes a fetus. He or she has the beginnings of all it's organ systems -- after this point, no new organs are formed, the existing ones just grow and mature. The fetus is moving about, and will grasp an object placed in his or her hand hand. By the twelth week, the fetus is sensitive to touch.
6. The embryo is not sentient, therefore it is not a person.
There are two problems with this argument. First, it is dangerous to assign worth to and individuals based on 'sentience'. That could, eventually, lead to a society where someone severely retarded enough, or with certain severe form of mental illness, could be killed if that's what their family wants -- because they're not really self-aware. Secondly, sentience is not exactly hard science. For example: a certain doctor named Carly did some experiments in consciousness. He measured various impulses in the brain and the nervous system. He had his subjects randomly move their wrists. He timed a.) the nerve impulse that resulted in the actual movement, b.) the time the movement took place, as observed, c.) had the subjected record (by pressing a button) the time they decided to move their wrist, and d.) the time when the part of the brain supposedly responsible for decision-making showed activity. Guess what he found? It happened in about this order -- a.),b.),d.),c.). In other words -- according to the clock, the decision was made after the action. Carly's conclusion was that consciousness doesn't actually exist -- we don't actually make decisions, or have free will. We merely record our mindless biological responses in such a way that we're 'tricked' into thinking we've 'decided' to act, because that's the most convenient way for our brains to store info. The convoluted process of compiling a lifetime of conditioning and applying it to one specific actions is summarized by our brains as a 'decision.' I don't agree with Carly's conclusion -- I'd say that he just gave evidence to spirituality, to decisions being made outside the brain, outside the physical body. And obviously, the majority of the psychological community does not agree with Carly. Still, his finding cannot be discounted. Any way you look at it, Carly proved that biological sentience -- decision-making and awareness in the brain, may not even exist. So it's either a very lousy standard of personhood, as none of us may have it . . or, it may have nothing to do with brain development, and an embryo may very well be just as self-aware as you are.
7. The embryo is not independant, therefore it should not have individual rights.
Just how independant are any of us? And what make independance a valid measure of worth? Consider this analogy: there are two conjoined twins, Mary and Jane. They share a single vital organ. By some fluke of biology, Mary is biologically 'superior' to Jane, and Jane is dependant on Mary. Were they seperated, Jane would die. Her body could not maintain that single vital organ on its own. Mary, however, would do just fine without Jane. So, if being physically dependant makes one less of a person and less deserving of rights, is Jane not a person? Could Mary legally demand at any time that Jane be removed from her, even though separation is tantamount to murder, because Jane needs Mary but Mary doesn't need Jane? Of course not -- Jane has just as much of a right to live as Mary does, reguardless of her dependance. Mary's rights do not outweigh Jane's. So why, in the nearly identical situation of pregnancy, should the mother's rights ouweight the embryo's purely on the basis of the embryo's dependance?
8. The Constitution doesn't give right to embryos.
No, it doesn't, specifically -- but neither does it specifically exclude embryos from having basic human rights. It says nothing at all about the unborn. The meaning of the Constitution has been much debated throughout history. At one time, it was interpreted to exclude African Americans from basic civils rights. Obviously, this was in error. The 14th Amendment states that no person may be deprived of their life without due process. The 14th Amendment also establishes citizenship at birth -- but nowhere does it say that 'person' and 'citizen' are synonomous. It merely says that the state must protect the rights of any individual within its jurisdiction, citizen or no. There is no reason to think that embryos and fetuses are excluded from this protection.
8. The Bible does not prohibit abortion.
Not specifically, no. But the Bible does prohibit murder, which is the unlawful taking of a human life. The instances in which a human life can be taken within the law -- such as capital punishment, and war -- are very specifically defined. Abortion is not one of them. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that abortion can be thought of like any other unlawful killing, under Biblical law -- as murder.
9. The Bible does not define the embryos as persons.
Again, not specifically. But then, it does not define anyone specifically as persons. All humans are assumed to be 'people'. The Bible consistantly associates biological life with ensoulment -- with 'personhood.' Adam was granted physical life and a soul simultaneously. No where in the Bible will you find an example of a human who is physically alive and soulless. Therefore, since the embryo is obviously physically alive, it can be assumed that it has a soul and is a person.
9. What about abortion in cases of rape?
Rape is a horrible crime, and a pregnancy resulting from rape must be a horrible burden to any woman. However, does this give her the right to kill the embryo? How is an embryo concieved by rape any different than an embryo concieved through loving, consentual sex? Obviously, it is no different, and the balance of rights involved in the pregnancy is no different. The embryo is not responsible for his or her father's crimes, and should not be punished for them.
10. What about abortion in cases where the fetus has a health problem?
What is a serious enough 'health problem' to merit death? A fatal heart disorder? Down's Syndrome? A cleft palate? Where do you draw the line? Must we be 'perfect' to really be human? That's a very, very dangerous standard to even begin to set. It's not up to us to decide which lives have value, or pretty soon we end up like Nazi Germany. In some cases, it is known that the fetus will not survive birth. Does this justify abortion? Aborting to end the fetus's suffering is noble, but it's still a dangerous precedent to set. The fetus is not capable of consenting to its painless demise. Even if the parents are truly acting with their child's best interests at heart, this sets that standard that 'mercy killing' without consent is permissable. That has too many far-reaching consequences to be allowed.
12. What if the pregnancy endangers the mother's health?
'Health' is a very broad term. It is sad if a pregnancy puts the woman through undue suffering, or threatens her future fertility. But does that justify killing the embryo? The balance of rights must be remembered -- is the woman's health more valuable than the embryo's life? Does her right not to suffer outweight the embryo's right not to be killed? No, it does not. There is one exception to this -- some pregnancies endanger the mother's very life. In such a case, the rights involved become perfectly balanced. Life against life. If continued pregnancy would be certain to kill the mother, the decision to abort or not should be made by her and her family. In this very specific case, the goverment has no place. It is not the role of the state to decide which life, the mother's or the child's has more value. And often, in such cases, the mother's death would result in the embryo's death as well.
13. Pro-lifers aren't really concerned with prenatal rights -- they just want to control women. The anti-abortion stance has nothing to do with the embryo.
It has everything to do with the embryo. Here's the tell-tale question, for anyone who says that pro-lifers don't really care about the embryo. Suppose the embryo could be safely removed from the woman's body and raised to viability artificially. Would you still oppose the woman's right to have the embryo removed, if the procedure were perfectly safe for the embryo? My answer: Of course not. If medicine would allow such a thing, that would be wonderful. What is missing from this scenario, except the embryo's death? Yet most pro-lifers would completely support lived removal, and completely oppose abortion. Obviously, the key issue is the life of the embryo.
14. Pro-lifers just don't like sex. They want to punish women for their sexuality. Pro-life is anti-woman.
Pregnancy and motherhood ought not to be punishments. Better than 3/4 of women have abortions for finanial reasons -- because they can't continue their career or education and ahve a baby, because they cna't afford a baby now, because they're single and couldn't be a mother and continue to work. And that should not be. Society should not punish women for being mothers. We need to adapt, so that motherhood is not socially and economically crippling to women. Companies and universities need to provide their employees and students with childcare and adequate maternity leave and flexible scheduling. We need welfare that works, welfare that focuses on job training and money management skills and available childcare and rehab if necessary, and does not simply throw money at the problem. And we need an end to discrimination against single mothers. A society that allows for sexual liberation should be a society that allows for single parenthood. The two go hand in hand. If society were truly pro-woman, motherhood would be no punishment. Motherhood would not mean dependancy, the end of a career, or poverty. Abortion simply allows women to survive in a world that is hostile to them -- and allows the world to continue to be hostile. Why should women accept that they cannot have a child and a career, that pregnancy means poverty, that they 'need' abortion -- why should we be forced to 'choose' between out children and our own economic survival. It is not pro-lifers who see female sexuality by the narrow definition of a patriarchal world. Female sexuality includes motherhood -- and that is something to be respected and celebrated, not thought of as a punishment or a burden. It is a prejudiced, anti-female world that has turned motherhood into a punishment for sex, rather than a positive element of female sexuality, and it is the pro-abortion mentality that continues this blatant degradation of women.
15. If abortion is illegal, women will die from illegal abortions.
Yes, they will. This cannot be denied. However, very few women would choose illegal abortion if society is reformed to be more accepting of women and particularly of mothers -- if social reform comes along with legal reform. A society that accepts mothers rather than accepting abortion is far better for women. No one can know the exact numbers, but perhaps such a society would see far fewer women dying from disease and malnutrition associated with poverty, from substance abuse, from abuse by their spouse. Perhaps these many women who would have died in today's world but would thrive in a truly pro-female society would far outnumber those few who would, tragically, feel desperate enough to choose illegal abortion. Also, though a death by illegal abortion is always tragic, it is also always a death by choice. No matter how desperate, no matter how few options avaliable to her, no woman is lacking in free will. A woman *chooses* illegal abortion. But in any abortion, legal or otherwise, the embryo has no choice.
Have an argument to make? Or an answer to add to the list? Email me at SLV80@aol.com