Saturday 25 October 2003 - Filed under Essays
Even if you think people should not have abortions, they should be legal.
As I’ve stated elsewhere, no one wants abortions, per se. Abortions are used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Everyone should agree that the goal is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. This is why no one should ever do anything to prevent people from having access to birth control, especially young adults who are most adversely effected by unwanted pregnancies. The anti-abortion people like to characterize pro-choice people as pro-abortion, and that is not accurate. A better word for the pro-choice movement would be pro-privacy. Basically the pro-life folks think that the government should have an eye and ear in the room when you and your doctor discuss your personal health. The pro-choice people are saying that the decision as to whether to terminate a pregnancy should be between a woman, her doctor, her partner and her clergy. The government should not be at the table. It is hard for me to believe that anyone would disagree with this.
The argument they use, which is not irrational, is that abortion is murder. Is it though? There are two issues we have to tackle. 1) When does a fertilized egg become a person and; 2) when is the termination of this egg/person considered murder? If you want to argue that abortion is murder you have to establish that the unborn fetus is a person in a legal sense of the word, meaning a citizen. When is an unborn child endowed with rights? If you wish to argue that at conception a fertilized egg is endowed with rights under the State, we should issue a legal document at conception. Call it a pre-birth certificate. From that point on the welfare of that “child” is protected by the State. This essentially means a woman would have to notify the government as soon as it was clear she was pregnant. Do you believe we should do that? On top of this, there is a fuzzy line as to when a fertilized egg becomes a person, just like there is a fuzzy line between when a child becomes an adult. There are 18 year olds who are not adults and who are exploited because of the bright line legal definition. There are also people who are mature as adults who are less than 18 years old. The legal system had to adopt a bright line definition so we say if you are 18 or older you are an adult.
Do we have a bright line definition of when a fertilized egg becomes a person? If you say at conception, this means every failed pregnancy is the death of a person. Some of these deaths would need to be investigated as murder or negligence. The paper should be full of funeral notices for every failed pregnancy. Is it rational to say that a fertilized egg is a person? Note the difference between the words “life” and “person”. You can say that life begins at birth but that does not mean it is a person. My blood is alive but it is not a person. It is living cells. The way I’ve best heard it described is that a fertilized egg is a possible person, a fetus developed beyond 13 weeks is a probable person and a baby living outside the womb IS a person. Currently our bright line legal definition of when a fetus becomes a person is when they are born and issued a birth certificate. Prior to that time there is no legal person.
Let’s rewind a bit: abortions are bad. If we plan well there should rarely be a need for abortions. Let’s prevent unwanted pregnancies. Women have always had and will always have the ability to end their pregnancies, either safely or violently. When you are saying that abortion should be illegal you are A) putting the government in the examination room between a woman and her doctor and; B) dooming woman to ending their unwanted pregnancies through backroom and violent means. If you want to end abortions you should work to prevent unwanted pregnancies. You should not work to put woman and their doctors in jail.
This is a tough issue. A lot of people feel that abortion is immoral. They may be right. As a secular country, though, our task is to figure out whether it should be criminalized. The win-win situation is obvious: we can eliminate abortions without criminalizing them by working together to make family planning as effective as it can be. Let’s end the debate on criminalization and instead focus on our common goal of good, healthy family planning.
2003-10-25 » lolife