Before my inbox gets filled with reminders that I said I would not write about this ever again, it should be known that I am writing about it again because my inbox was filled by people asking me to. Abortion is a subject that I rarely touch upon because, as I have stated, I do not currently posses a uterus and thus I maintain that it is really none of my business what those who do posses one choose to do with it, or it’s contents. The subject generally brings out the worst in ‘certain people’ and I am fully expecting the usual plethora of hate mail. To the fourteen people who have sent along those lovely death threats, you should know that your IP addresses were forwarded to the FBI.
The right of a woman to have an abortion, solely at her own request, is known as ‘Abortion on Demand”. It is a right that I support one-hundred percent. Contrary to those who choose to make up their own definitions of things (they know who they are), abortion is not infanticide. Infanticide is the killing of an infant, which is an independent human life. A fetus is what it is, and an infant is what he or she is, and there is a definite line that divides them. Biologically independent life is that line.
It is an unarguable biological fact that fetal gestation is dependent upon the mother, thus the sustenance of a fetus is inextricable from the her. The health of a fetus requires the direct coercion of a mother’s body. The fetus may be life, but it is not independent life, and for that reason alone, the mother reserves the right to terminate her pregnancy.
There are many proponents within the pro-life movement that seek to give a fetus full legal protection. If this were to be granted then whatever agency was given jurisdiction over a fetus would, by necessity, need to have complete control and supervision over the body of the mother. There are laws protecting a human child from negligent mothers in areas of health, safety, nutrition, physical and mental abuse. When these laws are violated, the child can be removed from the custody of irresponsible parents. This cannot be done with a fetus without controlling the mother’s body, and no matter how irresponsibly a pregnant woman behaves, charges cannot be levied against her until her fetus becomes viable, and even then there are complicated issues until the child is actually born.
It is my opinion that there should not exist provisions in the penal code for two murder charges against someone who kills a pregnant woman that results in the death of a fetus. While there should be a more severe punishment for those who kill pregnant women and saving the life of a fetus should be attempted if at all possible, there should not be a murder charge against a biologically inseparable life. A fetus is life within a life, and has no basis for distinction or regulation without direct imposition on a woman’s reproductive processes. Because the life of the fetus depends on the life of the mother, decisions regarding the fetus need to remain the decision of the mother, as with the rest of her body.
With very few exceptions, the pro-life argument is a theological one, and the First Amendment implies that legislation should not reflect theological doctrines, including evangelical Christianity even though it is the dominant religion in the United States. Personal religious convictions toward abortion do not constitute legal opposition to the right to an abortion. Laws should not exist to enforce morality, and history should show us the problems that inevitably arise when we attempt to legislate it, especially biblical morality.
Murder and abortion were in existence before the advent of Christianity and the canonization of the bible, and so were laws prohibiting murder. We need laws against murder to regulate behavior to allow the civil function of human society. A god is not needed to regulate murder, because if it left unregulated, civil society could not exist. Abortion does not have an equal effect of society as murder.
Because a fetus does not have the ability to exist independently from it’s mother until it reaches viability, it cannot be considered a person with all the rights and responsibilities of someone who has been born. If we were to grant the same rights to a fetus as we do to the born, it would automatically subjugate the rights of the woman, thus giving the fetus greater rights than the woman carrying it. It is illogical, unreasonable and unfair to the mother.
A word about viability…
While there exists no definitive line that states at what stage of development a fetus automatically becomes viable, the Supreme Court decided in 1973 that the unborn fetus had no constitutional rights until the third trimester (24-28 weeks). This decision was reached based on scientific data which revealed a post-birth survival rate of less than ten due to undifferentiated respiratory and central nervous systems. Pre-term birth remains the most common cause of perinatal mortality and it is rare for a baby weighing less than five hundred grams to survive.
A little scientific background…
At conception, the life form is called a zygote and it begins it’s journey by dividing into two identical cells, called blastomeres. They continue to subdivide once every twelve to twenty hours. When it reaches sixteen cells it becomes known as a morula, which usually occurs after three days gestation. A couple of days later a cavity appears in it’s center and it is now called a blastocyst, which contain an inner group of cells that will eventually become the fetus and an outer group that will form the placenta. At about twelve days or so after conception, the blastocyst starts to produce hormones that are detectable in urine. It is at this point where most physicians define the start of pregnancy.
A vast majority of zygotes never make it this far. To those who argue that a fertilized egg is sacred and that any form of contraception or abortion at this stage of human embryonic development is akin to the murder of a god-ordained life, I would suggest that makes god the most prolific abortionist in the history of the universe. This doesn’t even include miscarriages.
But I digress…
At about two weeks what is known as a ‘primitive streak’ appears that will later develop into the central nervous system and the zygote is now referred to as an embryo. It is still an extremely small cluster of undifferentiated tissue. After another week of development, the embryo is about the size of pen point and looks a lot like a worm. At four weeks, it looks like a tadpole, complete with gill-like structures which is normal given our evolutionary beginnings. By seven weeks, the embryo has lost it’s tail, which is another point of reference to our evolutionary ancestry.
The higher functions of the brain have yet to develop, and there are no pathways to transfer pain signals. In fact, even at two months along, the embryo does not appear to be fully human. It has a reptilian brain and has not yet developed the capacity for consciousness. It is not yet sentient and is not defined as a fetus until the tenth week. In fact, over ninety percent of abortions are performed before the fetus reaches thirteen weeks, at which time it is about three inches long and weighs about an ounce.
Human and a Human Being
So, to say that the termination of a human zygote, blastocyst, embryo or a fetus before viability is a human being with a right to life is scientifically unfounded and rightfully illegal. There is a huge difference between something being human and an actual living, breathing human being. Even a fetus that is prematurely born or removed from a sick or dying mother is not a human being until it is actually apart from the mother.
Yes, it is true that a fetus consists of human tissue and DNA, but so is my fingernail. However, to call my fingernail a human being is ridiculous. So is calling a zygote, blastocyst or an embryo that cannot survive outside of it’s mother a human being. Besides, the fact that a blastocyst can split in half to form twins, and may even recombine at a later stage of development, casts some interesting light on the religious belief that a “soul” is infused into a zygote at conception. I wonder then, if twins share a soul – kind of like bunk beds…
And while I am at it, will someone please explain to me how some religious people can justify your run of the mill abortion (pardon the pun) as murder, but abortion in cases of rape or incest acceptable? Now, from my point of view, forcing a woman to birth a child that was conceived as a result of rape only makes her suffer twice, but to the religionist who views abortion as murder, why would it make a difference? Isn’t it kind of a cop-out for them? A little hypocritical, I would say. I won’t even begin to regale on the twisted logic used to combat abortion by killing abortion doctors. Indeed…
A desire that there should exist legislation that accords rights and personhood to a zygote, blastocyst or a non-viable fetus is borne out of fairy-tale religious beliefs and a gross ignorance of human embryology. It is a poor way to govern a civil society, is misogynist in principle and results in the oppression of women. The value of a fetus needs to remain subjective. If you are against abortion, then don’t have one. Just as if you are against gay marriage, then don’t marry a homosexual. It is my opinion that the choice to have an abortion ultimately belongs only to the pregnant woman.