The pro-choice rebuttal to this argument can be found here.
Unlike many social issues surrounded by media attention today, abortion is a hot button issue which has affected millions of Americans on a very deep personal and emotional level. Many arguments for and against abortion can be very insensitive toward the unborn child and the mother, and comments and insults made from either side are counterproductive to solving the issue. To make any real progress, we must examine the subject from a scientific and logical standpoint, leaving out any political or religious rhetoric.
I am proud to be pro-life, and proud to give a voice to the unborn child.
An often-used pro-choice argument is that “we don’t really know when life begins.” However, this argument is built purely off of an emotional rhetoric that has been debunked by science. The instant a sperm cell joins with an egg cell, a new human zygote is formed. At this moment, it contains the four basic characteristics of life: metabolism, response to stimuli, reproduction and growth and change. The zygote contains DNA, which will encode for every protein, every tissue and every organ that will eventually develop. The blueprint for a human being is already there, although at this point is too small to see with the naked eye.
The potential for a human baby to develop to maturity exists, and only biological defects, unexpected maternal illness and outside interventions like abortions can stop it.
What makes this developing life a “person?” Those who do not debate the science of life debate the philosophy of it. The definition of “personhood” can vary by individual, based on their own moral and philosophical beliefs. Some may say that a fetus is neither conscious nor self-aware, which is recognized as a critical part of humanity.
A paper published by Emory University suggests that self-awareness is a fluid, continuous process — it is not something that happens at a certain instant of development. According to the author, Phillippe Rochat, it is not until age four or five that a child begins to express the fifth level of self-awareness, or “meta” self-awareness. This explains that a child is able to see himself not only as he sees himself, but as others do, too. The child is able to feel emotions such as pride and shame, and is not only aware of his own needs, but those of others, too. If we define personhood by self-awareness, then a person really isn’t a person until at least age four. If this is true, do young children have the same rights as older, more psychologically mature people? If there is no set point at which we can define the personhood of a child that has been born, how can we do the same for an unborn child?
Perhaps a favorite argument in favor of the option of abortion is this: without the mother’s body, the child’s life early in pregnancy is not viable. While this may be true, it raises some moral implications: Is a human’s life any less worthy because he or she requires medical, or any other type of assistance to remain alive? A diabetic may not be “viable” without their insulin. A child with special needs may not be “viable” without specialized medical care and attention. A life is a life, regardless of whether it needs the help of outside resources.
Based on these scientific arguments, the conclusion is clear: Abortion is nothing but taking the life of a human child.
Although the science is clear, the social arguments for and against abortion are not as much. From a pro-choice standpoint, being able to have the choice to abort is seen as “empowering” for women. However, once a woman goes through with an abortion, she hardly feels empowered. Statistics from many different sources conclude that a woman’s mental health and well-being can be detrimentally impacted post-abortion. 30 percent of women face serious, chronic mental health problems following an abortion. The rate of deliberate self-harm among women who choose abortion is 70 percent higher than women who give birth, and the suicide rate is 154 percent higher among women who have aborted versus given birth.
You can read about real women’s experiences post-abortion here. Please be aware that some of the content can be upsetting.
Many countries in Asia and some parts of Europe arguably have the most anti-woman abortion practices. In these countries, sometimes female fetuses are selected to be aborted upon identification of the fetus’ gender. This has led to a record 160 million “missing” girls in Asia. This is largely due to a cultural preference for boys, and the practice has stemmed from an initiative to control population in densely populated areas like China. Nonetheless, this practice of selectively terminating the lives of unborn females is extremely unsettling and possibly one of the most misogynistic traditions around the world.
Despite all of the above, some women may still argue, “My body, my choice.” There is no question that body autonomy is important. However, in this case, a woman’s body is responsible for the care of a separate entity who has his or her own set of unique DNA. Life is full of responsibilities we do not wish for, but they are still responsibilities nonetheless.
If you passed by a car on a hot day with a dog inside, would you walk away, or would you do everything in your power to save that dog? You may not have wished for this to happen, but in that situation, you are placed with a responsibility to take care of a living creature until that responsibility is passed on to someone else. The same principle applies with pregnancy. A woman and her body are responsible for the nourishment of a child for nine months, until the child is born. At this point, if a woman is not ready to have a child, she can give up the child for adoption, thereby passing on the responsibility to someone else.
Over one million abortions are performed in America each year. 92 percent of abortions are made by choice, 7 percent are done because a pregnancy poses a severe health risk to the mother and the other 1 percent comes from abortions performed after rape or incest. 100 percent of those unborn children did not get the choice to live.
This 1 percent of abortions performed following rape or incest is most disheartening. While I personally believe in pro-life without exceptions, I feel nothing but empathy and sorrow for women whose bodies have been violated and abused from rape and sexual assault. There is absolutely no excuse for these horrendous crimes, and in this case it is neither the mother’s nor the child’s fault.
The United States House of Representatives recently voted to defund Planned Parenthood for a year. While I am aware that federal dollars are not used to fund abortion, many Americans, including myself, do not wish for their tax dollars to fund an organization that performs procedures against their belief systems. Women’s health is important, and access to health services including contraception should not be difficult to find. Planned Parenthood does not have a monopoly on women’s health clinics. There are over 13,000 other clinics across the country which provide healthcare to underserved women. If Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, women across the country would not be without options.
The Hippocratic Oath states, “I will give no medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.” Clinicians who perform abortions are violating the oath that they once took, that is, to “do no harm.” Ancient medical practitioners knew the moral controversy associated with abortion and the harm it caused. Although some may not see it, so much harm is being done every day to women and their unborn children. It is time we spoke up for these women and children and give them the voice they deserve.
Collegian Columnist Megan Burnett can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @megsbcollegian.