Opinion Columnists Melanie Moyer, Katelyn McCarthy, and Emmanuel Simon debate abortion. Moyer argues in favor of the ‘Pro-Choice’ position, believing that women, not the government, should have the power to make decisions regarding their own bodies. McCarthy and Simon argue in favor of the ‘Pro-Life’ position, believing that abortion is morally wrong, and the unborn deserve legal protection.
Outlawing Abortion Does Not Mean Ending Abortion
Studies and history have shown that outlawing abortion does not make it go away. If efforts are genuinely interested in preventing abortion in the name of fetal life, efforts would be focused on areas that prevent unwanted pregnancy, financially help new parents, and improve foster care programs. The absence of these actions shows that “Pro-Life” may mean more than what’s on the surface.
By Melanie Moyer
A hanger formed into the instrument used on women to achieve an abortion before it was legalized in the U.S. Women would suffer severe pain, and be placed in extreme danger (Photo by Melanie Moyer).
Women’s bodies are used as political battlegrounds. We grow up with the notion that our bodies are not our own through the hypersexualization of our developing anatomy and our treatment as the reproductive property of men. It comes as no surprise that the unique features of our bodies, such as our uteruses, vaginas, nipples, etc., are treated as if they are some kind of public property we are forced to let others influence. The goal of a patriarchal society is to ensure that those who are not male hold the least amount of power possible. What better way to do so than to make sure pregnancy is not something a woman can choose for herself. How telling is it that we talk about a woman’s womb as if it were a rental unit that she loses control over the minute she becomes pregnant. It would be unthinkable for The Supreme Court to decide whether or not a man should have the option to reject fatherhood. However, a woman’s right to choose is something everyone feels entitled to have an opinion on.
The problem with the argument that compares a man’s ability to reject fatherhood with that of a woman is that many men do not foster life inside their bodies when they become pregnant. It is not lost on me that women and people with uteruses are in a very special position to carry a developing life. The ability to develop life inside oneself is miraculous and beautiful. People with uteruses have the unbelievable opportunity to create something beyond what we are able to comprehend, the mystery of life and creation lies within the ability to rear children from what our bodies give us. Our bodies do the unthinkable during pregnancy: our organs compress, we make room for fetuses the size of bowling balls, the nutrients to create life are made inside of us. To force a miracle of this nature would be to strip it of all its beauty. Childrearing is beautiful and mysterious, and can be one of the most important moments in a person’s life. To take away someone’s right to choose the path to childbirth would be to take away the natural beauty of the process and the life that is created.
Going through the process of having children and becoming a parent goes beyond the moment a child is born and the events that come before it. If anything, parenthood begins for many the moment a child is born. Parenthood is a tremendous responsibility that rears some of the most rewarding results. It requires at least eighteen years of a person’s life and finances, not to mention their emotional dedication. Thus, we must acknowledge that there are financial, moral, and personal responsibilities that exist when it comes to discussing a person’s ability to choose parenthood for themselves. Resources and the time it takes to take care of a child are part of the process of childrearing and parenthood, and it is unfair to expect people with uteruses to take on these roles when it is not appropriate for their lifestyles. Women deserve the reproductive rights that allow them to choose if and when they are ready to take on the responsibility of parenthood. Having a child requires extensive financial and lifestyle security that involves the undivided attention of at least one parent, and since childrearing responsibilities fall on women more often than they do men, improper access to abortion will force many women to sacrifice their lives to care for a child. The narrative that women cannot achieve the same career and spiritual goals as men since they are responsible for caring for children has existed throughout history. Familial responsibilities have made it so women could not lead lives of their own once they bore children, leading to the systematic oppression of women, especially Black women, in the US. The refusal to grant women reproductive rights is thus something that has been systemized in order to aid in the oppression they face. If all people in the US are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, parenthood should not be forced upon people with uteruses.
Reproductive rights come in the form of granting someone’s right to choose parenthood in any shape. Abortion is a reproductive right, but access to birth control and sex education are as well. Studies show that when we increase the normalcy of one sector of reproductive rights, we diminish the demand for another. Birth control gives many the option to have sex without getting pregnant, and sex education helps people understand their body’s ability to get pregnant. Sex education in the United States is inadequate and even harmful, leaving people uneducated and careless with their ability to become pregnant. If we dedicate more time to actually teaching people about sex and preventative measures for pregnancy, we can justify having a discussion about abortion in the first place. Thus, the argument that people with uteruses should be denied access to abortion is hypocritical if it is not followed by the advocation and funding for free and accessible birth control as well as a robust sexual education. Groups that claim to be “Pro-Life” often oppose birth control and sexual education, which tells us that they are actually opposing reproductive and sexual rights rather than a fetus’s right to live. I have yet to see an argument from a “Pro-Life” standpoint that advocates for preventative measures against unwanted pregnancy.
Further, I have never seen a “Pro-Life” argument that advocates for the life of a fetus after it is born. The Constitutional right to life is often used by these groups, but the right to life requires the dignity that comes with it. Proper dignity in life is lost when children starve, live in abusive households, or are emotionally neglected. These events run rampant in the United States but are ignored by the same legislators who have caused them by forcing parents to have unwanted pregnancies. There are little to no programs that parents can rely on in our country that will support them and their children after they are born. Our system gives the bare minimum compared to other countries when it comes to Maternity and Paternity leave, forcing us to answer the question of why parents should be expected to keep a child they do not have the time to provide for in the first months of their birth. Statistics show that increased government-subsidized parental leave leads to lower abortion rates, yet many conservative legislators oppose it. We are once again left with the hypocrisy of denying a person’s right to abortion while not providing any programs to preserve a child’s dignity of life.
Beyond parental leave, childcare is astoundingly underfunded for a country that aims to end abortion. With little to no options for parents to access free childcare, many are forced to bring their children to work or leave them unsupervised. This is harmful to both parent and child, for both of their needs in life are forced into compromise. Access to free childcare is required to ensure that children have a place to go if their parents are forced to have them. In a similar way, school lunches and other government-subsidized programs for kids are required for many kids to eat but are often opposed by those who advocate against abortion. We must strengthen these programs if we expect parents to have children without the financial security to pay for something as essential as food, or else yield to the reproductive oppression that has run rampant in the country.
Despite any financial or childcare support, there will always be people who have children they do not want. Unless these people are given the right to have an abortion, the foster care system will remain under great pressure. However, foster care in our country is in shambles with efforts not being directed to preserving the sanctity of life. Many kids enter this system and face dire consequences, especially Black, Indigenous, and children of Color. According to the Children’s Rights Organization, “in 2019, The Kansas City Star surveyed nearly 6,000 incarcerated people in 12 states. 1 in 4 responded that they had been in foster care.” Further, racial inequities are present, for “once in the system, Black children… are more likely to languish in foster care, less likely to be reunified with their families, more likely to be placed in group care, age out in greater numbers, and become involved in the criminal justice system.”
It would infringe on people’s rights to take away their option to give their child up for adoption or send them into foster care, and this is the option those who are opposed to abortion propose if parents do not want or cannot provide for their children. It is astounding that foster care is what opponents to reproductive rights rely on in their argument for life. These programs require more funding if we want them to create a dignified life for a child. They remain embarrassingly underfunded, leaving many children to suffer needlessly in them. If we want all children who are conceived to be born in an ethical way, we need a rational safety net for when parents die during birth, choose not to provide for their children, or abandon them. If basic requirements of living are not met for these children in foster care, the sanctity of life argument is thrown out the window.
If opponents of legal abortion are successful in outlawing abortion, their only accomplishment will be making abortion more dangerous. Abortions will continue to be performed as they were before abortion became legal in the 1970s. However, these abortions will also go underground, leading to unsafe medical practices that can kill and injure both the parent and the child. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “the abortion rate is actually higher in countries that restrict abortion access than in those that do not.” Further, “unintended pregnancy rates are highest in countries that restrict abortion access and lowest in countries where abortion is broadly legal.” Thus, outlawing abortion is not the answer. The decision to take away a person’s right to safe abortion is the equivalent of handing them a wire coathanger.
Further, lack of access to safe abortion has far-reaching and racially oppressive consequences, with Black, Indigenous, and women of color facing the direst consequences. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “similar to many health outcomes in the United States, there are substantial disparities in abortion rates in the United States, with low-income women and women of color having higher rates than affluent and White women.” Thus, outlawing abortion would impact people beyond the realm of reproductive rights, it also deepens our nation’s wounds of racial oppression.
In the end, it is pretty well known that those in opposition to abortion do not actually carry the philanthropic messages they tote. Legal access to abortion has actually been shown to prevent late-stage, unregulated abortion. This issue is about controlling the bodies of women and people with uteruses. If the life of a child is genuinely the concern of those who identify as “Pro-Life,” they would already be pursuing efforts to end abortion through preventing unwanted pregnancies, supporting parents who cannot afford children, and funding programs that give unwanted children the opportunity for a dignified life. The need for abortion will always be there unless more is done to prevent it. Control is a tactic of a government that exploits those who are unprivileged. Support and opportunity is the mission of an altruistic government that fosters the rights of every individual, even those who are not born yet.
All Human Beings Deserve the Right to Life: A Case Against Abortion
Abortion is morally, and ethically wrong as this act intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. Regardless of circumstances, abortion is never the solution to an unplanned, or unwanted pregnancy, and instead, other solutions must be considered.
By Katelyn McCarthy and Emmanuel Simon
An unborn baby of 20 weeks sucking his or her thumb. Abortion is legal in the majority of states at and after this stage of the baby's life. (Image courtesy of Lennart Nilsson's "A Child is Born").
A refrain one often hears from both pro-choicers and pro-lifers is that “abortion is a complicated topic.” While the feelings of a woman dealing with an unplanned or difficult pregnancy are complicated and very real, the question of whether or not abortion is moral is actually very simple. A definition of abortion that will likely be acceptable to both pro-choicers and pro-lifers is as follows: abortion is the direct and intentional termination of a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus. That this act is unethical we believe can be presented in four simple steps.
Statement One: It is wrong to kill an innocent human being. Most people agree that one does not have the right to take an innocent life. Whether or not this applies to the unborn, we will see.
Statement Two: A zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is an innocent human being. “That’s false!” some might say. “It’s just a clump of cells!” Sure, but all of us members of the Saint Mary’s community are clumps of cells. We are still human beings, aren’t we?
“Alright,” one might say. “A fetus is a potential human, not an actual human.” This statement, however, begs the question, “What does it mean to be a human?”
“To be able to feel pleasure or pain,” some say. Yet animals can feel pleasure and pain, but we don’t call them human.
“To possess a fully developed brain,” others say. If this is the case, then most of our student body aren’t human beings, seeing as the human brain isn’t fully developed until around age 25.
“To be able to support your life on your own, without the aid of a woman’s body,” others add. Most infants and toddlers require an adult in order to survive, yet no one would advocate to kill them.
To be a human is to possess a living human body (not to mention a soul). An unborn child is not a part of a woman’s body. He or she has his or her own body. Did you know that, at the moment of conception, the child’s entire DNA set that he will possess for his whole life is decided? From that moment on, he or she grows and grows, and will not finish growing until he reaches late adolescence.
And, funnily enough, these “clumps of cells” are not so “clumpy” as one might believe. According to the Endowment for Human Development, a non-profit organization with an explicit Policy of Bioethical Neutrality, the child’s heart begins beating in week 5. Fingers form between weeks 6-8. By 10 weeks, a physician can begin to tell whether the child will be right or left handed. Most astonishingly, they state, “Experts estimate the 10-week embryo possesses approximately 90% of the 4,500 body parts found in adults. This means that approximately 4,000 permanent body parts are present just eight weeks after conception.”
By 22 weeks—only halfway through the pregnancy—the mother’s child can survive outside of the womb with medical care. Some babies are born at 22 weeks. Others are aborted. The only difference between the two is that one is outside of the womb and the other is not. A person’s location is not indicative of their personhood.
Statement Three: Abortion kills a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus. Once the abortion has been performed, the mother’s child no longer exists. The baby’s life has ended. The intentional ending of a human life is a killing.
Therefore, since it is wrong to kill an innocent human being, since the unborn child is a human being, and since abortion kills an unborn child, abortion is wrong. To agree with these three steps but to still argue that abortion should be permissible is to say, “Yes, it’s wrong to kill babies, only sometimes it’s not.”
Despite the fact that this statement is self-refuting, what might these “sometimes” be?
Some argue that women should be able to live their lives as they please and that children can hinder their plans. A woman, therefore, should be allowed to abort her child if doing so will enable her to live the life she desires. But is it okay to kill people in order to get what one wants? Is it okay to assert one’s life over the life of someone else?
According to the pro-choice Guttmacher Insitutite, 1% of abortions are due to rape and less than .5% are due to incest. Thus, over 98.5% of all abortions occur when a woman, of her own free will, engaged in sexual activity knowing that she could possibly become pregnant. Regardless of her knowledge of or usage of contraceptives, she knew when choosing to engage in sexual activity that she could become pregnant. To have done so and then to claim that she should be able to abort her child is unfair to the child and an irresponsible way to exercise “choice.”
Take the following example. A person chooses to enter a lottery in which the prizes are a phone and a puppy, with the hopes of winning the phone. The person wins the puppy, instead, and, because it takes too much work, or money, or time, he asks to have it killed.
Would we do this to a puppy? Hopefully not. But we do it to human children to the tune of tens of millions in America alone. It seems like we should take a lesson from the way we treat our pets and apply it to the way we treat our children.
That’s not to say that a mother facing an unplanned pregnancy should be forced to raise her child. If she is unable to keep the baby, adoption, not abortion, is the right option. One might counter that the foster care system is inadequate and that it is better to abort the child. To deny a child a chance at life because the life one suspects the child might live would not be up to one’s own standards is not a decision anyone has a right to make. To improve this program, moreover, the $600,000,000 Planned Parenthood receives from the government (as reported in Planned Parenthood’s 2018-2019 Annual Report) should be reallocated to the foster care system and to other programs which promote the welfare of children and their parents.
Others argue that the right to privacy guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion. The right to privacy, however, presupposes the right to life. One cannot be private if one is not first living. One person’s right to privacy certainly cannot supersede another person's right to life and thereby justify the killing of the other!
Some also argue that access to abortion promotes racial equity. It is an insult to women of color to tell them that their pathway to equality is founded on the blood of their own children.
That abortion promotes racial equity, furthermore, is a false statement. In New York City, a Black child in the womb is more likely to be aborted than born alive. The abortion rate among Black women is five times that of white women, and the abortion rate among Hispanic/Latina women is two times that of white women. How does abortion promote racial equality when black and brown children are significantly more likely to be aborted than are white children?
Ultimately, abortion is the greatest form of oppression. The unborn possess the least privilege of all people in society. To be unseen and hidden away in the warmth of the womb, to possess a body that is budding growth, to have as yet no voice with which to proclaim your worth, to be unable to go where you please—this is the most vulnerable state of the human person. It is the state of the unborn child. As the late abortion doctor-turned-pro-life activist, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, wrote, “Fewer women would have abortions if wombs had windows.”
This, seemingly, is the way that human rights abuses always work. The humanity of a group of people—be they Jews, African Americans, or unborn children—is denied and their dehumanization touted as necessary for the status quo to be preserved. Often too late do we come to recognize the dignity and worth of these individuals, individuals whose lives can never be reclaimed or relived. We hope that we might start seeing through the womb like a window and see inside not a clump of cells or an unwanted burden but a baby deserving of love and respect, a baby like all of us once were.
Author’s Note: Women facing unplanned pregnancies, post-abortive women, young parents in need of assistance, and anyone else with a need can take a look at the various resources provided in the links below. For more resources or assistance, you can also contact Katelyn with Students for Life of SMC at firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie Moyer '22,