The abortion debate centers on two rights fundamental to American society: life and liberty. The two sides say as much, with one labeling itself “pro-life” and the other “pro-choice.” In general, it is accepted that individuals are free to do as they choose as long as those choices do not harm others, society, or themselves, within reason. There is certainly some leeway here, as the boundary between “not harmful enough” and “too harmful” is often fuzzy. We’ve seen this in the implementation and subsequent repeal of Prohibition, the debate over the legalization of marijuana, and other differences between states’ laws.
But in the case of abortion, there is no fuzziness. The pro-choice individuals argue that, in fact, there is substantial fuzziness; after all, we do not know when a human life really begins. Thus, in the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the majority opinion says that should it ever become determined when life begins, abortions would not be able to take place after that point, for the life would then be in possession of its Constitutional rights. Until such a time, many states tend to use the rather arbitrary metric suggested by the Court: if a fetus can survive outside the womb, then an abortion should not be performed. The reason this is a ridiculous measure is because whether or not a fetus can survive outside the womb is entirely dependent upon our technology; it is in no way a measure of whether or not the fetus is “alive.” It is unbelievably presumptuous and arrogant to establish such an arbitrary moment when the fetus “becomes alive” rather than err on the side of caution. What happens if it is scientifically, irrefutably determined that life begins at some moment prior to when the fetus is viable outside the womb? Oops, we killed a few million babies, our mistake.
In fact, the moment when life begins is irrelevant to the abortion debate. First, an individual’s entire genome is determined at conception. Everything from their hair color to the shape of their nose is determined, barring some external circumstances later in life. And whether or not one believes that life begins at conception, there is no arguing that if an abortion is done at the point of conception or later, there will be one less person in the United States nine months down the road than if that abortion had not taken place.
If I asked a group of people if they were okay with me planting a bomb in their home, I’d bet they would have an issue with that. Why? It’s not as though me literally putting the bomb down on the ground is going to hurt them. Rather, it is because when the timer on that bomb runs out, they will not be alive at that later time. In the context of abortion, one cannot ask a fetus if it minds if it is terminated. But, once speech and the ability to reason are acquired, I guarantee that not a single 3-year-old child would say, “Yeah, it would’ve been fine if you’d prevented me from existing!” The child would not particularly care about whether, scientifically speaking, it was alive or not at a given time.
The only relevant thing to consider is that an abortion would have prevented the child from being alive at a later time. What time the bomb goes off is irrelevant; at the end of the day, they’re dead.
At this point, many pro-choice individuals try to twist the argument, claiming that denying women the right to an abortion is in fact an infringement of women’s rights — particularly their right to privacy. This is an undeniable perversion of what the right to privacy entails, and I am shocked that the Supreme Court justified abortion through this avenue. I can invoke my right to privacy to not share my personal information, to get a tattoo or not get a tattoo, to not permit individuals into my home without a search warrant, and choose what I will eat for meals. Essentially, I control who has access to my “body, home, thoughts, feelings, secrets and identity,” as one Israeli law school has phrased it.
Does the right to privacy allow a bus driver to murder his passengers? Or a principal to kill his students? Of course not — the very idea is ludicrous. Yet pro-choice individuals claim that a mother who is charged with carrying and caring for her child should be able to destroy the genetically-determined individual inside her womb because she has a right to privacy. The fact that whether or not the right to privacy extends to murder has been debated between intelligent individuals is an embarrassment and a sick distortion of what is a very important right in American society.
Some individuals try to find common ground and to compromise, arguing that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life. I, for one, applaud compromise, and find the lack of it (in one party) in Congress appalling, shameful, and worthy of defeat in a reelection bid. But let me be clear: compromise is for differences of opinion. It is about recognizing that different constituencies desire different things, and doing the best to deliver to each group a bit of what they want. When it comes to human life, there should be no such thing as compromise.
I am not trivializing rape, nor can I imagine being told that having a baby would likely result in my death. Both impose an emotional burden greater than anyone, with the exception of those having experienced it, could imagine. Even so, it does not justify abortion. As many of us were probably told as young children, two wrongs do not make a right. Rape is a horrible, inhuman crime, but it is not the child’s fault, and the unborn baby should not be punished for the crimes of his father any more than the son of a thief should be sent to prison. In the case of the mother’s life hanging in the balance, all that can be done is to try to save both lives. Deliberately ending the pregnancy to save the mother is tantamount to putting a higher value on the life of the mother than that of the child, and we all know that “all men are created equal.”
There are also some who claim that it is more merciful to abort a fetus that would enter a home environment where it is unwanted or unable to be cared for. This argument is like grasping at straws. The United States has an adoption apparatus for a reason, and this is one of them. Even if a child is born into an awful environment, is abused, sent to a foster home, abused again, and ends up on the streets or in jail, this does not justify abortion any more than one could justify simply killing all homeless, incarcerated, and abused individuals to “put them out of their misery.” The killing of so many adults is horrific, but that’s exactly what is being suggested we do to individuals who are far more vulnerable and cannot even offer their thoughts on the matter.
The final argument forwarded by pro-choice proponents is that further restrictions on abortion or an outright ban would lead to “back-alley” abortions. This is not an argument at all; it is a claim. It is a claim that is very likely true, but it in no way logically leads to the conclusion that abortion should not be banned or restricted. Do back-alley heroin deals prevent us from outlawing heroin? Since there are back-alley murders, robberies, and vandalism, why don’t we just legalize those crimes too? It is common sense to state that, if something is made illegal, there are still going to be individuals who do it. In the context of abortions, the people who make this claim are concerned because if someone is conducting an abortion in a “back-alley”, it is doubtful they’ll be doing it in a medically safe way. I have some news for these folks: there’s no medically safe way to murder someone. Regardless of how it’s done, in the end, they’re dead. And if the mother contracts an infection because of her illegal acts, that is unfortunate, but when you do something illegal, you know the risks. Whether it is a disease, a stint in jail, or even death, terrible acts often have terrible consequences.
If you truly believe that, on the list of civil rights, liberty trumps life, then there is nothing I can argue to convince you otherwise. The argument I have made is based on the assumption that liberty is a right insofar as it does not infringe on others’ rights, of which the greatest of these is life. For without life, none of the other rights matter.