Once I was a fiery-hearted progressive with intense feelings of incredulity toward republicans for their, according to my perception at the time, blasphemous lack of support for abortion. I held the view that I’ve heard most commonly touted by pro-choicers of, “It’s the woman’s body and should be her decision — any government regulation of what a woman can do with her body is wrong.” I doubt many pro-choice advocates would disagree with that statement; more often than not I’ve seen them agree with that sentiment and add the notion that there is a substantial element of anti-woman rhetoric behind the criticism of abortion. This is where I take issue with the current debate on abortion the most — as soon as one claims the opposition to their ideology is fueled by bigotry with shaky evidence or no evidence, you should start to imagine there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Not to say there is something inherently wrong with accusing the opposition of those qualities, but to do so without equally bold evidence and to predicate your argument on the insufficiencies of the opposition is where the true evil lies.
This sentiment that one who opposes abortion is automatically a woman-hater or is indifferent to the plight of women is truly dangerous to allow to continue to be mainstream. The incomparable Ben Shapiro said it best in a lecture he gave at the University of Connecticut in response to a woman in line for the Q&A asking, “How do you defend your opinion [against abortion] as a white, well-off, religious male?” To which Shapiro responded, “Evil things are still evil even if I am a white, well-off, religious man.” He went on to compare the debate to the abolition movement, noting the similar disparity between the general lifestyles of opponents and proponents. “The people who were fighting against enslavement of black people were a bunch of well-off, white men for the most parthey didn’t live in the South, they didn’t live the lives of plantation owners — ‘this is evil and we are here to stop it’” This is imperative to realize – just because one does not live the life of a person who will be more affected by legislation does not bar them from having the place to make a moral judgement. Believing that one has the right to say that slavery is wrong, never having owned slaves or experienced the hardships faced by plantations owners, is to concede that anyone has the right to make a moral judgment on legislation, regardless of if it directly affects their current affairs.
On to why I take issue with the mantra, “My body, my choice.” This is the libertarian argument; what a private individual does privately should not be regulated by the government. Democrats are keen on this argument though they believe the government should be more involved in people’s lives in myriad other ways — an interesting contradiction. I agree with this statement for the most part. I’ve expressed my libertarian leanings in the past and still stick by them. I believe we must err on the side of personal liberty and have the government intervene as little as possible so people can live their lives free to make mistakes and imbue their own meaning into their lives. However, I marry a stipulation to that policy that is currently missing in the debate. One can do as they please privately until there is an externality where another citizen can be affected without consequence. The externality in this case, is the child — note that I said child and not the diminutive “cluster of cells” that gets thrown around often in this debate.
Let’s start with the argument that a woman should have the right to abort her baby at any point in the pregnancy, from when she gets a positive result on the pregnancy test to the day before delivery. It has been consistently proven that a baby born after 25 weeks can survive reliably without remaining in utero (obviously as long as it is fed and nurtured the way any other newborn should be) and live a healthy life, largely free of the effects of premature birth. I refuse to support legislature which allows a baby to be killed, who has developed enough to where if taken from the mother it can become a baby as we can all agree on.
Most people that I present that argument to will fire back with “the vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester.” I will not try to refute that as it is verifiably true; however, this is a philosophical discussion of whether or not it is moral to do so, not whether or not that is the reality of our society.
We can agree that post-25 week abortion is immoral; let’s examine whether or not pre-25 week abortion is immoral. Someone who kills a pregnant mother is charged with double homicide — proof that the baby is worth protecting. Perhaps you cling to the argument that as long as the mother is carrying the baby she gets to decide and that the assault on the baby is really an assault on the mother’s sovereignty over her body — no different than regular assault. A flawed argument in my eyes; nevertheless there is an easy refute. The CDC says an unborn baby is susceptible to serious structural and functional disfigurement of the central nervous through alcohol use by the carrying mother from the third week of pregnancy to the end. If we believe it is morally wrong to abuse the baby at this point, the baby does indeed have rights and the mother shouldn’t always have the final say. If we believe it is immoral for a mother to abuse her unborn child in this way, then we have effectively ceded the grounds that the baby should be treated as a separate entity and that the mother shouldn’t always have complete sovereignty over the baby. If we can agree that it is morally wrong to harm the baby in this way then we believe the baby has rights which should be protected because the mother cannot be guaranteed to make the best decision.
What then, is a pregnant mother who doesn’t want to be pregnant to do? Steven Crowder said it best: “I am pro choice. 1. Abstinence. 2. Contraception. 3. Adoption. 4. Motherhood. You’re pro-murder.” It began to really puzzle me why women think abortion is an imperative right for women to have. 45 percent of unplanned pregnancies are the result of couples deliberately not using contraceptives — I unequivocally detest the argument that a woman has the right to kill a baby that was conceived by her own irresponsibility. With every right comes an equal and opposite responsibility — the right to have sex with whomever you please and the right to create a life whenever you please comes with the responsibility that you not create a baby when you are not ready. Condoms at my local gas station cost 6 dollars for a pack of three — two dollars each; you could find that in quarters if you looked hard enough in your furniture — how is that not the obvious first step someone takes when they are about to have sex and don’t want to have a child? This responsibility, in my eyes, must be enforced with the rule of law. In the same way that one can get blackout drunk if they so choose but cannot operate a vehicle or machinery which could hurt another innocent person lest the law punish them, the law should punish those who have sex irresponsibly and create a child, who under current law could be killed on the whim of the mother. I am unwilling to sacrifice the rights of an unborn child for the convenience of a reckless teenage girl who should have known better, or worse yet an adult woman who either did not advocate for herself when her partner insisted they not use contraceptives or deliberately chose not to herself. It is a failure of our culture that we even consider pushing the message that you can conceive and kill a child before you’re old enough to buy cigarettes and we brush it off as a bad mistake anyone can make when they’re young with no legal consequences. It is even more inexcusable for an adult, who should have by now learned that conceiving a child is not something to take lightly and should not be treated as a “whoopsy” which has no consequence. It is not too much to ask that one practice safe sex lest they face the harsh consequences.
I must make the distinction between abortion motivated by medical concerns for the baby and abortion motivated by accidental or regretted pregnancy. I believe that if a mother knowingly had sex to conceive a baby only to find that it has some horrible defect which would, for instance prevent it from breathing or any defect which an MD has confirmed would severely impact the long term health of the baby, they should have the right to end the baby’s life. I believe in euthanasia as it pertains to serious medical conditions. Multiple times in my life my family has desperately tried to throw money at medical treatment for terminally ill family members which only prolonged their suffering. I don’t believe that is a life worth living. I place enough trust in an MD that if he or she has concluded that there is little hope for the baby to live a normal, healthy life then I am willing to support a law which would allow the doctor to sign off on ending the baby’s life if both of the parents so choose. It is not a decision I make lightly. I have witnessed first hand how much harder the lives of people with down syndrome or autism are, or the children who are kept in hospitals for almost their entire lives due to serious medical harm. Their lives are often short, filled with financial and emotional duress on their families and themselves. This is not something that I believe anyone should be subjected to — it is why I support the decision to take a terminally ill patient off life support and why I believe that only in the case of serious medical concerns for the baby that abortion should be legal.
It is not proof of one’s hatred for women to question whether abortion should be legal or not, nor is someone barred for discussion nor is their opinion any less valuable in this discussion because they are not a woman or haven’t been in the situation of a woman who got pregnant by accident. A fetus is a separate entity from the mother; our societal decisions thus far have proved that the fetus should be protected by the law when the mother cannot protect it or refuses to. If the mother does not always have the final say on what happens to the baby in utero, then it is not immoral to take the right away to kill the baby, even before 25 weeks. We cannot let our preconceived narratives of gender politics or politics in general cloud our judgment here, especially on an issue with such high stakes as this.