By Scott Tibbs, January 22, 2003
Originally published in Hoosier Review.
January 22nd, 2003 marks the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that declared women have a "constitutional right" to kill their unborn children. Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" in that case, is now a pro-life activist. Since that decision, over 42 million unborn babies have died at the hands of America's lucrative abortion industry. This number dwarfs the number of people killed in the Nazi Holocaust. As we approach this anniversary of shame, it is reasonable to review why abortion should be prohibited.
Let's look at the facts. When sperm and egg cells meet, a new life is created. The embryo has a completely new DNA code, separate from any other being in the world. All of the building blocks necessary for that new life to grow and develop are present at fertilization. The only thing added from that point forward is nutrition, shelter, and time. Any biology textbook can confirm this fact.
The next question is when should life be protected? Opinions vary widely on this. Princeton University professor Peter Singer, known as the "father of the animal rights movement", argues that a baby does not have a right to life even after birth, and that infanticide is morally acceptable. Some pro-abortion extremists won't go as far as Singer, but do advocate that birth be the dividing line. They argue that a woman's right to personal autonomy over her body is paramount over the right to life of the unborn child growing inside her. But does personal autonomy justify killing?
The answer is no. No one should be in the position of deciding whether another human being lives or dies. Pregnancy is part of a natural biological process. The fetus is not a parasite using the mother's body against her will; it is part of the process that perpetuates the human race. Each human being has an intrinsic worth and a moral right to life.
The Herald-Times ran a staff editorial on January 19th noting that most people remain somewhere in the middle on abortion. Outside of the 40% that say abortion should either always be legal or always be illegal, 59% say it should be legal "sometimes". Even in that group, opinions vary wildly on what "sometimes" means.
If the unborn are offered some sort of legal protection, when should that protection begin? Should it be at a heartbeat, or when brainwaves can be first detected, or when the baby is sufficiently developed to feel pain? What about s specific time frame like the first trimester?
The only logical place to begin protection of the unborn is at fertilization. This is the point where a new human being is created. The problem with using a specific point in the stage of a baby's development as where he or she deserved protection is that it is arbitrary. If a baby cannot be killed once we can detect a heartbeat or brain waves, then what is so different two days earlier? What is so special about these specific points in development? Prohibiting abortions at specific times (only allowing abortions in the first trimester, for example) is even more arbitrary. Protecting the unborn from fertilization onward is the most consistent way of approaching a pro-life viewpoint.
Even many people who call themselves "pro-life" begin to weaken when asked about the hard cases: rape, incest, and severe fetal deformity. But should a ban on abortion make room for these exceptions?
If one believes that the unborn child is a human being, deserving of protection from direct, intentional harm, why is the situation different in the case of rape and incest? Is the unborn baby any less human? If not, then why should an unborn baby be punished for the sins of his or her father? Some would say that a rape victim has been through enough, and should not be forced to carry a rapist's baby to term. But does one crime of violence justify another? No. If one truly believes that an unborn child deserves a right to life, the circumstances of his or her conception should not invalidate this right. Either an unborn baby is worthy of protection or not. Unfortunately, many "pro-life" politicians allow for this exception only because they fear being labeled "extreme", which could cost them votes.
What about severe fetal deformity? A true pro-life position would not allow for this exception either. No one has the right to make a decision on who would have a sufficiently low "quality of life" to justify killing him or her. Just as most people balk at killing the elderly or infirm without their consent, we should recoil at the thought of killing an unborn child because of our own judgments that he or she would not be "happy" if given a chance to live.
Many will argue that this is a women's issue, and that men should not have a right to make a decision in the matter. (Of course, usually when one reads or hears this argument, it is in regard to why a man should not be able to advocate restrictions on or prohibition of abortion. The opinions of pro-"choice" men are okay.) This is a classic example of the ad hominem logical fallacy. Why is an argument that may be valid when made by a female suddenly not valid when a man makes the exact same argument? The logical merits of whether or not abortion should be prohibited do not change regardless of who is making that argument, whether it is a man, a woman, or a five-eyed space alien from Mars.
Roe itself is quite flawed. The Supreme Court sidestepped the question of fetal personhood and declared that an implied "right to privacy" in the Constitution made prohibitions on abortion unconstitutional. But one cannot make a legal decision on abortion without considering personhood. Indeed, the 14th Amendment declares that "nor shall any State… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". Allowing abortion violates the 14th Amendment by denying the unborn equal protection under homicide laws.
In addition, the Constitution does not contain an absolute "right to privacy". The Fourth Amendment guarantees that the people will not be subject to "unreasonable" searches and seizures. But government reserves the right to search someone's home, papers and possessions if the proper legal channels are filed. In any case, a "right to privacy" certainly does not include the right to kill another human being.
Even while pro-lifers want to eliminate abortion altogether, even those who hold the most extreme pro-abortion positions often say the number of abortions is way to high. Former President Bill Clinton, whose pro-abortion views are so extreme that he twice vetoed a ban on the heinous procedure known as "partial-birth abortion", has said that he wants abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare." Clearly, the status quo is not acceptable. While the number of abortions has decreased in recent years, the figure of 1.2 million babies killed per year is still astronomically high. That amounts to an average of 3,287 abortions every single day. As Roe v. Wade enters its fourth decade, and after 42 million babies brutally killed, isn't it time to say, "enough is enough"?