This is the crucial issue. Pro-choice arguments tend to avoid scientific and medical facts and would rather pit a woman’s choice against a “blob of tissue” or, here, a “minuscule embryo of cells.” Pro-choice proponents avoid discussing fetal development, viability, or pain. They’d rather we not look behind the curtain.
Ms. Copaken wants it to have “always been about choice.” But we are too scientifically and medically advanced to pretend we don’t know what’s at stake. Abortion is about life and death. It is about whether and when a woman’s life can be so much more valuable than a developing baby’s that she can end that baby’s life. I challenge the reader to think that through.
So when should a developing human be a legal person?
I’m a reasonable person. Of course I don’t think an adult is the same as a fertilized egg, but when I honestly search for a reliable developmental milestone that could determine when a human passes from “potential life” to “life” or “life worth protecting,” the big moments seem to be conception, birth, and maturity (whenever that is). Obviously, we’ve already decided children are people. Birth is too arbitrary a measure, since it can be manipulated with an induction or C-section. The only other option I see is conception.
This is often portrayed as an “extreme” position, but I don’t see an honest ethical alternative. Nature has not given us an easy out, no matter how unfair that seems.
I do not want to minimize the real difficulties of unexpected pregnancies. I would simply challenge the pro-choice argument: If such hardships would not justify infanticide or homicide or eldercide, then I would argue they don’t justify causing a death in utero. Let’s focus instead—and I mean this sincerely, piggybacking on the author’s exhortation for a holistic pro-life ethic—on improving the lives of both mother and baby.
Like Deborah Copaken, I am thankful for legal, safe abortion services. And, again like Deborah, I’ve had more pregnancies than live births, and I can relate to the discomfort of entering those details on medical forms. But my perspective is different. I had two miscarriages between the births of my first and second children: One minute I was pregnant, and the next, I was cramping and spotting and desperately hoping I was misreading the signs. I don’t know how these things are handled now, but 30 years ago the standard operating procedure was cruel. I was hospitalized and placed on the obstetrics ward, sharing a room with a teenager awaiting an abortion. From a medical perspective, I can see the logic in placing two I-won’t-be-pregnant-for-long women together, but given that I wanted a baby and she had one to spare, the injustice of it all compounded my grief. I was too scared to have a dilation and curettage, so I labored in that room and was given a plastic basin into which I could eventually deposit the “product of conception” (to spare the nurses from having to fish it out of the toilet). Once I was medically stable, I was discharged, and I hobbled past the newborn nursery, the celebrating families, and the sea of stuffed animals.