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Abortion is not the answer

Column/Chris Papineau

Are homo sapiens merely advanced gorillas with a little less hair? What is it indeed that separates human beings from animals? The answer lies in the respect human beings have for each other's lives. The intrinsic value of human life is deeply seated in mankind's nature. As a society we have laws against indiscriminate killing and against denial of one's right to life due to handicaps, physical weakness, or other "lack of utility."

Such ideals, however, are in danger. Each year 1.5 million of American's mute, defenseless, and innocent citizens are slaughtered. These victims are unborn children whose lives are taken away by abortion. Compounding the horror of this holocaust are two abominations. Firstly, ninety-eight percent of all abortions performed are for reasons of pure convenience -- financial and social, not medical, according to testimony by Dr. Irvin Cushner before a US Senate subcommittee. Secondly, the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision has effectively given women a constitutional right to abortion on demand at any point in pregnancy, right up until birth. The decision allows a physician to decide on the basis of the mother's health when an abortion is an acceptable option; however, the court's definition of health is so broad that almost anything can apply. The vast majority of the American public is unaware of the latitude provided to doctors by the Roe v. Wade decision.

Typically pro-abortionists bandy about the notion that "We don't know when human life really begins." So long as there is any question about when human life begins, we have no choice but to assume it starts right at conception. The concept of conception as the beginning of life is well-established medically and scientifically, not just theologically, because a child's complete genetic identity is fully established at conception -- gender, eye-color, height, etc. The fact that a child cannot survive outside the mother's body before a certain point means only that we lack the medical technology to keep it alive, not that it is not a person. In short, you did not come from a fetus, you were once a fetus.

So while a female's "right to the privacy of her own body" means that she can dye her hair green or her eyes polka-dot, it does not extend to removing the brain tissue of another person from her uterus because she is not in the mood to give it a free ride for nine months. Does movement in the mother's womb constitute "kicking herself from the inside?"

Many organizations can and do aid women in the face of emotional and psychological pain, and help them to cope with making their real "choice" in the event of an unwanted pregnancy: to raise the child or to give it to a family who will love and care for it. Organizations provide assistance in placing the child in an adoptive home as well as food and clothing, education, round-the-clock counseling, and even baby furniture.

Abortion is the wrong solution to unwanted pregnancies. The correct remedy is to prevent them from occurring. Runaway hormones can result in the creation of another human being. For some, the notion of chastity is too much to accept. Birth control, as the lesser of two evils, should not be illegal. But since no means of birth control is 100 percent effective, if one is going to openly exploit one's sexuality, one must also accept the responsibility of the creation of human life which can result. Reproductive responsibility must override "reproductive rights."

Should abortion be legal for cases of rape and risk to a mother's life? There is no question that rape is a horrible and ugly evil -- rape victims suffer horrible feelings of guilt and abandonment. But when rape occurs, the damage has been done. Compounding one act of inhumanity with a second will not neutralize the first. Abortion will not unrape a woman. Enduring the humiliation of abortion serves to further fuel the emotional crisis, and it punishes the unborn child for a rapist's crime. Moreover, abortion has psychological consequences of its own, such as Post-Abortion Syndrome, a documented psychological disorder similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder suffered by Vietnam veterans. Women Exploited By Abortion, a national group of abortion victims that offers counseling to pregnant women, testifies to the fact that abortion is the wrong decision for a woman -- from a psychological, ethical, and physical viewpoint. These women, as abortion victims themselves, are the voice of experience.

In the rare event when a woman's life is threatened by a pregnancy, the situation can only be resolved by making the best possible effort to save the life of both patients. If a pregnant woman has a cancerous uterus, for example, then it must be removed, but not with a curette or a suction machine by an abortionist. The child's death, if it occurs when preserving the mother's life, must only occur as the unfortunate failure of attempts to save it, after it has been removed, not as a deliberate act of abortion.

What should be done about children who are "unwanted," who will grow up in poor environments, or who may not find adoptive parents? Should such children be mercifully aborted and saved from a "meaningless" life? No. No more than the 20,000 people sleeping on heating grates and sidewalks in Boston should be slaughtered and thrown out as human garbage. Society won't accept the butchering of unwanted adults in this manner. But if we're throwing the corpses of 1.5 million unwanted babies annually into dumpsters, what's to stop the trend to infanticide, the killing of the handicapped or mentally retarded because they are "unwanted" or "unneeded?" What keeps us from achieving Aldous Huxley's "brave new world?" Coldness such as this settles into a society which ranks human life on a utilitarian scale.

Some will argue that when "safe" abortions are made illegal, unpreventable "back-alley" abortions will take their place. Do we make it "safe" for a woman to commit murder? We should not legalize something that is wrong simply because it will occur anyway. Thieves will always steal cars, but car theft should still be illegal. Society passes laws because it indeed strives for certain ideals, not because the law will wipe some crime from the face of the earth.

In a single year 100,000 children reside in adoption homes in the United States and 800,000 adoption opportunities exist for them, according to Handbook on Abortion, by Jack Wilke, M.D. Any roadblocks to adoption are simply bureaucratic. We should improve the mechanisms by which children are adopted -- rather than abort these children.

Our legal system maintains a great schizophrenia regarding unborn children and abortion. Under current laws, a man who murders a pregnant woman whose child also dies is tried for two counts of murder, but an abortionist is never tried for a single count. A 13-year old girl in Massachusetts cannot get pierced ears or an aspirin in a public school without a parent's signature. Yet she has the legal right to an abortion without even her parent's knowledge if she so chooses. And unborn children have been awarded Social Security benefits upon the death of the father, according to Wilke's book.

So is an unborn baby a precious protected human life or isn't it? Does it have rights or doesn't it? Society seems to have in many ways come to the intellectual and moral conclusion that the answer to both these questions is "yes." And if society is to maintain a fundamental respect for human life, it must do so from its beginning. We must realize that "pro-choice" is tantamount to "pro-choice to kill" and that abortion "doctors" must be regarded as no less than murderers. In the words of Dr. Bernard Nathanson: "Let's all, here and now, for humanity's sake, stop the killing."


Chris Papineau '90, is assistant vice president of MIT Pro-Life.