Carol Everett, a former abortion provider, confesses that one in 500 women were “killed or maimed” in her abortion clinics. Approximately 1,500,000 abortions are performed in this country annually. If her experience is typical, 3,000 women are seriously injured or killed by abortion every year (Everett 25). They give a woman the right to control her own body, which is part of her right to her own freedom and life. In this paper I am going to discuss why abortion should be pro-life.
An embryo, in contrast, is pre-human, only potential, not actual, life (Everett 25). As such, it cannot possess any rights. Abortion-rights advocates should not cede the terms pro-life and right to life to the anti-abortionists. It is a woman s right to her life that gives her the right to terminate her pregnancy. Nor should abortion-rights advocates keep hiding behind the phrase a woman s right to choose. Does she have the right to choose murder? That s what abortion would be, if the fetus were a person. The status of the embryo in the first trimester is the basic issue that cannot be sidestepped. The embryo is clearly pre-human; only the mystical notions of religious dogma treat this clump of cells as constituting a person. (Everett 27)
We must not confuse potentiality with actuality. An embryo is a potential human being. It can, granted the woman s choice, develop into an infant. But what it actually is during the first trimester is a mass of relatively undifferentiated cells that exist as a part of a woman s body. (Alcorn 113) If we consider what it is rather than what it might become, we must acknowledge that the embryo under three months is something far more primitive than a frog or a fish. To compare it to an infant is ludicrous.
That tiny growth, that mass of protoplasm, exists as a part of a woman s body. It is not an independently existing, biologically formed organism, let alone a person. That which lives within the body of another can claim no right against its host. Rights belong only to individuals, not to collectives or to parts of an individual. Independent does not mean self-supporting a child who depends on its parents for food, shelter, and clothing, has rights because it is an actual, separate human being. (Michels 118) It is only on this base that we can support the woman s political right to do what she chooses in this issue. No other person, not even her husband, has the right to dictate what she may do with her own body. That is a fundamental principle of freedom.
There are many legitimate reasons why a rational woman might have an abortion accidental pregnancy, rape, birth defects, and danger to her health. The issue here is the proper role for the government. If a pregnant woman acts wantonly or capriciously, then she should be condemned morally, but not treated as a murderer.
If someone capriciously puts to death his cat or dog that can well be reprehensible, even immoral, but it is not the province of the state to interfere. The same is true of an abortion, which puts to death a far less-developed growth in a woman s body.
Abortions are private affairs and often involve painfully difficult decisions with life-long consequences. But, tragically, the lives of the parents are completely ignored by the anti-abortionists. Yet that is the essential issue. In any conflict it s the actual, living persons who count, not the mere potential of the embryo. (Alcorn 113) Being a parent is a profound responsibility, financial, psychological, and moral across decades. Raising a child demands time, effort, thought and money. It s a full-time job for the first three years, consuming thousands of hours after that as a caretaker, supervisor, educator and mentor. To a woman who does not want it, this is a death sentence.
The anti-abortionists claim to being pro-life is a classic Big Lie. You cannot be in favor of life and yet demand the sacrifice of an actual, living individual to a clump of tissue. Anti-abortionists are not lovers of life, lovers of tissue, maybe. But their stand marks them as haters of real human beings.
3. Nancy Michels, Helping Women Recover from Abortion, Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1988, p.168.
5. Before You Make the Decision, Women Exploited by Abortion, Morena Valley, CA