Abortion is a controversial issue with strong proponents on both sides. Let’s take a step back and analyse things a bit.
What about the language used? Pro-life sounds good. Surely you’re in favour of life! The not-so-subtle implication is that the other side must be pro-death. However, those on the other side use the term pro-choice which also sounds good. If you disagree with them, you must be pro-tyranny. But just as when it comes to politics, it’s not the name or even the intention of a policy which matters but what it actually does and what the resulting short and long-term effects are. So let’s focus on the facts.
If a woman has become pregnant, should she be allowed to terminate the pregnancy if she so chooses?
The question really boils down to whether it is morally okay to kill an embryo/foetus/baby in certain situations. I think 99% of the time it is completely immoral. But I want to explain why and address the arguments on both sides.
Firstly, religion is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what a book written a long time ago said. If you ask someone why it is bad to murder and they refer immediately to the ten commandments, that’s a red flag. It suggests they would happily kill people except that the bible prohibits it. Similarly, quoting existing laws is not an adequate argument. We must tackle these questions directly with reasoning and by considering them from all angles.
Unfortunately there’s an abundance of bad logic to be found surrounding abortion, most of which falls under the category of “irrelevance”: something is used to justify/condemn an action which we obviously wouldn’t accept in other contexts. Let’s go through some of the most common points found on the pro-choice side and “debunk” them.
It’s just a cluster of cells.
Every living thing, ever, is a cluster of cells. Admittedly, an adult human being is a staggeringly ambitious cluster of cells but nonetheless, it’s a cluster of cells. This argument seems to imply that smaller things are worth less than larger things. Are women worth less than men? Are children worth less than adults? Is a mouse worth less than a blue whale?
It’s not yet really alive.
A rock isn’t alive. We know this because if you leave it alone for 9 months and come back, it’ll be in the same spot and won’t have changed much. But a fertilised egg grows into a baby, then a child and eventually an adult, capable of thinking, feeling, reproducing and dying. It’s on its way, that’s why you have to go out of your way to stop it in its tracks.
It won’t feel any pain.
If you shoot someone in their sleep, they won’t feel any pain.
It doesn’t have any memories.
Neither do amnesiacs or babies.
No-one will miss it because no-one yet knows it.
The same goes for an orphan who’s moved to a new town.
It takes pressure off the mother who may go on to live a wonderful life.
Then you can kill anyone who stands in your way, as long as it makes things easier/better for you.
Who will look after all the children who have single mothers and end up on the streets?
Should we be pro-active in killing poor and sick people to make the world a better place?
If abortion is illegal, women will attempt it themselves or via a black market with greatly increased risk.
This is a more persuasive point. And it does actually make sense for something like drugs. The War on Drugs has failed and arguably made things worse. Similarly, there is clearly a market for abortions whether they are legal or not, so why not make it legal so they can be carried out more safely? The problem is that whereas drugs only affect the individual, abortions affect third parties – the embryos. There is a market for murder in spite of its illegality, but that doesn’t justify it. We can’t give in simply because some people choose to do it.
My body, my choice.
This is one of stupidest slogans which should really have been adopted (pun intended) by the pro-life side of the argument. It is indeed your body and it’s your choice what goes into it. If you’re pregnant, it’s clear what choice you’ve made (to have unsafe sex, just in case you couldn’t figure that out). Also, the baby isn’t part of your body. It’s inside you and it’s connected to you but it’s a separate living thing (you won’t die without it and theoretically it could be taken out and kept alive with advanced-enough technology).
The point is that all of these so-called reasons made irrelevant points which don’t hold up to any real scrutiny. They also tend to fall apart if you respond with the phrase: “use a condom”. Which reminds me of another one.
The condom broke.
If you shoot someone in the head, the fact that you thought the gun wasn’t loaded isn’t a very good excuse. You’re a responsible adult. Check first. Also, if a family has children with ages of 17, 16, 14 and 3 (with the implication that the most recent child was an “accident”), it’s not okay to kill the 3-year-old.
But the abundance of bad arguments does not prove that the alternative is right. So why am I pro-life? It’s simple: I don’t think you can justify killing a living human being. I’m not playing with words here – embryos are living and in this case, they’re of the human variety.
Being an adult comes with responsibilities. There’s a reason for the historic stigma surrounding a young, unmarried girl getting pregnant: it’s irresponsible and tends to put a burden on the entire family, both financially and in terms of reputation. Hence the existence of shotgun weddings. Making abortions legal relieves irresponsible people from having to face the consequences of their actions (aka: reality) at the small cost of killing a living human being. Reducing the stigma (which exists for logical reasons) by legalising and promoting abortion as if it’s normal and commonplace will tend to increase the irresponsible behaviour. Again, the phrase “use a condom” is flashing in bright lights in my mind as I type this.
Now I want to acknowledge some exceptional cases before readers get too flabbergasted. Of course, a woman can get pregnant from a rape. In this case, she had no say in the matter and an abortion may be the lesser of two evils. Should she be forced to go through a full preganancy and give birth to the rapist’s baby, all the while being reminded of how she got pregnant in the first place? What will be done with the baby? Will she have to look after it or will it be put up for adoption? Killing the embryo early on and holding the rapist accountable for this additional crime seems appropriate. Of course, if the woman wants to keep the baby, that’s fine but she’ll have to commit to it.
Another circumstance is where medical complications arise with chances that the mother or baby will be harmed or die at some point. The best course of action may be an abortion, depending on the severity of the risks involved.
After all I’ve said, there’s a good chance you still feel abortion is a complicated issue with a lot of grey area. There’s much debate over where to “draw the line” (generally in reference to the question of when does the embryo actually become a truly living, feeling, human being whose life should be valued). But in fact, this phrase is what originally drove me to reach such a definitive opinion in the first place.
Let’s see. We have a not-pregnant woman who, at a specific point in time, becomes pregnant as a direct result of a specific action. The timeline goes something like: not-pregnant, not-pregnant, not-pregnant, UNSAFE SEX, pregnant, pregnant, pregnant. If only we could find a clear place to draw a line? An analogy I like is the “commit to buy” button on eBay. Once you click it, you’re past the point of no return. Conception is well-and-truly the point of no return.
Let me end with what I think is my most persuasive hypothetical scenario. A young couple have recently married and the woman becomes pregnant. She announces it on Facebook to hundreds of likes and congratulatory comments. Her entire family is ecstatic and they’ve already started picking names. But then someone slips her an abortion pill (maybe as a prank, maybe as revenge for something) and it works. Is this a crime? I mean, it was only an embryo after all. Even if the mother herself was the one who abruptly chose to have an abortion, how would the father and rest of the family feel when they find out?
One other thing. My mother used to work as a nurse, usually as a midwife. She observed that some of the same women who got abortions would be back at the hospital months or years later because they were having difficulty getting pregnant. Abortion is not without risks or side-effects. And prevention is better than cure so “use a condom”.