Your point is understood, but abortion isn't murder.
From the start of this election season that ended up with Donald Trump as the President-Elect, there have been many stories, posts, videos, and other forms of communication regarding the most prominent single-issue that conservatives have been focusing on. Abortion. This, of course, is not new for conservatives. It is a mantra, of sorts. Kind of like a Holy Grail. As can be expected, the discussions regarding abortion are wide and varied, ranging ranged from polite discourse to more nefarious reactions such as the outright murder of physicians and the bombing of clinics. I have heard many good arguments against abortion. Well thought out and presented, etc. And those conversations I cherish, because discussion is always better than an insult filled shout fest.
Alongside these discussions come some rather poor arguments. These come mostly from the religious right. Make no mistake, this article is not being focused on religion, but on definitions and scientific facts. This is the point of view from where I draw my argument. Perhaps you may believe this to be an argument of semantics. However, I place importance on fact and definition. I also place importance on an individual being able to have total control over what they do with their bodies. I am pro-choice when it comes to abortion, and pro-choice when it comes to dieing with dignity. But that is a topic for another discussion.
Thus, it is my belief that one of the most misleading arguments against abortion is the one that includes the belief that abortion is murder. This is patently incorrect. Abortion is not murder. Murder has a very particular definition. It’s called homicide. Homicide also has a very specific legal definition. It defines the killing of a human being. A human being is an independent human life. Until the time when a fetus can survive apart from the mother, either naturally or by medical incubation, it is an unarguable biological fact that fetal gestation and sustenance is inextricable from the mother.
Now, please understand that I am not pro-abortion. It is a common misconception that those of us who are pro-choice are also pro-abortion. I really don’t know anyone personally who is actually pro-abortion. As a parent and grandparent, my thoughts and views on abortion fall on the side of it being a viable option in matters of the mother’s health and in instances of rape and incest. That being stated, I also believe that my personal opinion on abortion does not mean that I have the right to force that opinion on another human being. Or to pass judgment on anyone who chooses to terminate their pregnancy for whatever reason they choose. You see, I currently do not possess a uterus, and by that virtue alone, I have no quarter to pass judgment on, or impose my will on a woman. There are, of course, other reasons.
As I pointed out at the start of this article, regarding my pro-choice stance, I follow the science. It cannot be stated enough that the very health of a fetus requires the direct coercion of the mother’s body, and while this coercion is in process, the mother reserves the right to terminate her pregnancy.
At conception, the life form inside the women is called a zygote, and it begins its 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 its 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.
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 its 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.
So, to say that the termination of a zygote, blastocyst, embryo or a fetus is a human being before viability, with a right to life, is scientifically unfounded and rightfully illegal. There is a huge difference between something being potentially human and an actual 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.
A desire that there should exist legislation that accords rights and person-hood to a zygote, blastocyst or a non-viable fetus is borne out of misplaced 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.
Many of them seek to have a fetus designated as a person, but “personhood” is a legal term. It means the existence of a birth certificate. If a fetus is considered a person, then it would be entitled to all the rights and privileges that a person who owns an actual birth certificate has. This would mean that a woman’s body would be subordinated to the protection of embryos. The legal consequences of this would be catastrophic. Why this is not obvious to everyone still baffles me.
Still, there are many individuals 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 also need to have complete control and supervision over the body of the mother. When laws that protect a human child from negligence in areas of health, safety, nutrition, physical and mental abuse are violated, the child can be removed from the custody of irresponsible parents or guardians. However, this cannot be done with a fetus without controlling the mother’s body. In fact, 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.
Because the life of the fetus depends on the life of the mother, decisions regarding the fetus should be the decision of the mother. Because a fetus does not have the ability to exist independently from its 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.
Equating abortion with murder is not only playing fast and furious with the truth, such a comparison is legally disingenuous. With few exceptions, the pro-life argument is theological. Again, this is not a bash on religious belief. Those who oppose abortion for religious reasons certainly do have the right to do so. I am a staunch supporter of the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment is a two-way street. The state should have no influence on the church, and the church should have no influence on the state. Legislation is not supposed to reflect theological doctrines.
Thus, personal religious convictions toward abortion do not constitute legal opposition to the right to an abortion. Additionally, abortion does not have an equal effect on our societies as murder. We need laws against murder to regulate behavior and allow the civil function of human society and laws against murder pre-date most religions, and definitely all the Abrahamic religions.
Exactly when a fetus becomes viable was addressed and decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, in a decision stating that an unborn fetus had no constitutional rights until the third trimester. This decision was reached based on scientific data, which revealed a post-birth survival rate of less than ten percent 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.
Abortion often has positive benefits to the health and well being of women. Most people reject the position that abortion is always wrong. Abortion helps with family planning, which only serves to strengthen families. When abortion was illegal it did not stop the practice from being performed, but only made them horrifically unsafe. As well, many unwanted babies are abused, neglected and suffer lifelong developmental and social problems.
Pro-lifers fear that their interpretation of morality is being abrogated. I am not one to judge another person’s interpretation of what is moral or immoral. We are all entitled to our opinions when it comes to morality, as it is subjective. The only caveats revolve around what is or is not legal. And at the time of this writing, abortion is legal.
As well, a woman’s reproductive rights are, at their core, critical to her civil rights. If this choice is taken from her, the ramifications are detrimental. Giving the government the ability to force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term can easily include that same government forcing a woman to use contraception or undergo sterilization.
As you can see, and as most of us know, this is a contentious subject, eliciting a range of emotion responses. I have done my best here to offer my point of view based on science, and based on my existence on this earth as a parent and grandparent. On my understanding that being pro-choice is not tantamount to being pro-abortion. On the science behind biology and embryology.
On my steadfast belief that I have no business telling anyone what to do with their own body.