by guest contributor Jack Baldwin
The first thing I feel needs to be addressed, is that this discussion dwells as a small controversy within a much larger topic. I believe that before we ask the question “should I have an abortion?”, we should ask “how did it get to this stage in the first place?” This is a broader discussion that would be of great benefit to those on both sides of the abortion debate. If we could all agree that every step should be taken to avoid the situation in which an abortion is to be considered, and work together to make it easier to avoid, both parties would be much happier, and more productive.
My main argument is that abortion is always immoral, regardless of circumstance. Killing an innocent human being is always immoral. Because I assume that most (if not all) people would agree with that statement, and that a great way to hammer home my points is to deconstruct the arguments of my opposition, I will go through and deconstruct the best arguments in favour of killing babies, for your own convenience.
Notice that I always refer to the life inside the womb as a baby, the same as the NHS. I always use language that doesn’t deheumanise a baby.
You can’t tell me what to do with my own body!
Well, I mean, I can. It’s not what I’m doing. But I can if I so choose, and you don’t have to listen. But I digress. I assure you ladies, while I certainly care about you, and wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you or your body, I also happen to be concerned about the baby, and its body, which is inside you.
From the moment of conception, a baby has its own unique, personal DNA which is completely different to the DNA of the mother. Within 2 weeks of conception, the baby has its own blood cells, which is not unlikely to be a different type to the mother’s. Your baby is not your body. Your baby has its own body.
The staunchest of Pro-Choice advocates tend to quote this idea. Essentially, it is the notion that everyone has the right to their own bodies, and no one is under any obligation to allow anyone to use their body without their permission. It is this notion that makes rape illegal, and why no one can be forced to donate blood or organs (even after death) without express permission. All fine and dandy. Under the theory of bodily autonomy, because a baby inside the womb is using the woman’s body – without her permission – to survive, the woman has the right to abort. Those that endorse this, are not even put off by partial-birth abortion, e.g. Hillary Clinton. To me, bodily autonomy essentially reduces the status of babies to that of parasites to justify killing them.
Lots of flaws in this line of thinking, as you can imagine. Firstly, you consented to a baby using your womb to survive when you chose to engage in sexual intercourse. Also, this argument extends to post-natal abortion, in that a baby still relies on its mother’s body to be fed. The baby must be assisted by the body of its mother, in the form of breastfeeding, or holding the milk bottle. If a woman chooses not to allow the baby to use her body for its own survival, then she has the right to ignore her baby’s needs, and allow it to die of malnutrition. At the very least, she can refuse to feed her baby, and not be held accountable when her baby is diagnosed as dangerously malnourished by her midwife or doctor. So yes, bodily autonomy is all well and good until an innocent human being, who did not ask to be created, is forcibly included in the equation.
Life begins at the point of viability
In the UK, this is defined as 24 weeks. It is illegal to abort a baby after this time period, unless there is a ‘substantial risk’ to the woman’s life or foetal abnormalities. As pregnancies take 40 weeks, this standard concedes that a baby is alive after 24 weeks. Thus far we are in agreement that abortion is killing a human life, albeit only 40% of the time.
This notion is now being challenged more frequently, with cases of babies surviving outside the womb before this 24 week cut-off. So, with the advent of more advanced medicine, pro-choicers subscribing to this train of thought should progressively be leaning more and more in my direction. However, again, the basic logical premise of this argument is at fault. For example, it is very common for those who are in comas to require life support to live. Imagine your mother is in a coma, and the doctor assures you that in 24 weeks time, she will live without life support. According to pro-choicers, because she cannot survive on her own, it is perfectly moral to kill her before she wakes up. I have heard criticisms that the mother in this scenario has already objectively lived a life outside the womb, which is not comparable to a baby inside the womb. To this, I say replace the woman in the scenario with a newborn baby, a rare occurrence, but not unheard of. If a baby is born into a coma, is it therefore not alive because it is not viable, and it has not objectively lived a life outside the womb?
Viability, in the premise of abortion, is not judged by the ‘alive-ness’ of the individual, but by the level of sophistication and amount of life support systems that surround him/her. So a cancer sufferer, someone suffering with mental illness, and those with physical disabilities are less viable than other healthy individuals in society, making their lives less valuable, and their deaths less of a travesty. If we want to be realistic about viability, then no one has ever been viable, as no one survives life.
Reaction to external stimuli is the standard for life
This is the notion that because a baby is not capable of reacting to external stimuli, it cannot be classed as alive, and thusly it is not immoral to abort – until 14-16 weeks that is. These people, in theory, agree with me around 60% of the time.
Not the most convincing of arguments. I could not react to external stimuli when I was put under general anaesthetic to remove shards of glass from my hand. By these people’s standards, I was not alive during that operation, and it would not have been immoral to smother me to death during that window of opportunity – wishful thinking for some people I’m sure…
There must be brain waves for an organism to be considered alive
The logic here is that a person cannot think, react or feel pain without brain waves, ergo abortion prior to the existence of brain waves is not immoral. As brain waves are registered in unborn babies at 8 weeks, these people should, in theory, agree with me 80% of the time.
I can agree that abortions in this scenario are less inhumane. This however, still bears no relevance to morality. It is not uncommon for those in a coma to give flatline brainwave readings. If your mother is in a coma with flatline brainwave readings, and your doctor assures you that in 8 weeks she will again have brainwaves, is it perfectly moral to kill her within the 8 weeks window of opportunity?
There must be a heart beat for an organism to be considered alive
Although some have reported as early as 3 weeks, most sources confirm that the baby’s heart begins to beat at around 5 weeks after conception. So after 5 weeks, abortion is killing a human life, in agreement with me 87.5% of the time.
If a heart beat is the standard, then all plant life, sea stars, jellyfish and some insects are not living organisms. A single celled organism on Mars would be held up as an example of life on Mars, but a complex organism with a heart beat inside a human womb is not life at all – how strange.
It should be perfectly acceptable to shoot your mother, whom you are responsible for supporting and caring for in her old age, in the head (for your own convenience) if she falls victim to cardiac arrest to ensure she does not get resuscitated. It would be perfectly normal for UK hospitals to stop saving the lives of 52% of patients that suffer cardiac arrest while in hospital. And lastly, it would be perfectly acceptable for this mother to have decided to abort her post-natal baby during the 8 minute window of opportunity between it being born with no heart beat, and being resuscitated.
OK, so that leaves a window of 3 weeks when abortion is not immoral
You’d think so, wouldn’t you? The reasoning here is that prior to 3 weeks, a baby in the womb cannot survive by itself, it cannot react to external stimuli, it does not have brain waves and it does not have a heart beat. Exactly the same as, in order: every human being ever, myself under general anaesthetic, your mother in a deep coma and everyone whom suffers cardiac arrest. Before 3 weeks, the unborn baby has no hard and fast features that define it as alive or human, except that if it is allowed to, it will develop all of them.
But what about in instances of rape?
Rape is an evil act, and murder is an evil act. I have every sympathy for anyone affected by this, and would never attempt to delegitimise the amount of emotional strain it entails. However, They are two separate issues, they are both wrong, and conflating the two is dishonest. A child’s right to life should not depend on the actions of either of its parents.
I guarantee you that if you attempt to compromise that abortions should only be available to women in cases of rape, and in all other cases pregnancies should be carried to term, then a pro- choicer using this would disagree with you. They would most likely explain abortions should be available regardless of rape, proving that they do not consider rape to be the issue at large, and that they are using it as an anecdotal scapegoat.
For me, there are good solutions to stop rape pregnancies from happening. First, once someone is proven guilty of rape, only the most severe of punishments should be considered. In addition to this, encourage women to learn self defence, allow them to carry and seek training in the use of pepper spray, introduce conceal and carry laws so as you can shoot the man that tries to rape you. The solution to combat rape pregnancies thus far is to kill the babies; my solution is to stop the rape.
Moreover, many people are not aware of how little this issue affects the population. Running through the numbers in America, along with some simple maths, shows just how minuscule the likelihood of this happening really is. Going through US rape data, the total pregnancies due to rape in 2010 make up 0.015% of total pregnancies. Even if I concede the moral high ground on this issue (I won’t), it still leaves the debate surrounding the 99.985% of pregnancies which are most likely to be a result of a couple’s poor decisions.
So all abortion should be made illegal?
I tend towards the notion that all abortions are immoral, and should not be an option unless the mother’s life is in danger – which does have a large margin for error. Legality however, is another argument, which I feel has no good answers.
More than anything, I would like to see a shift in attitude, so as this entire debate could be avoided for the most part by more people taking responsibility for their actions, and making better decisions. If more couples took proper precautions, utilised the multiple forms of contraception available to them (including the only 100% effective form of contraception known as abstinence), and stopped regarding sex as innocent fun, devoid of potential consequence, then the amount of unwanted pregnancies and abortions would be drastically reduced. Understand that I simply ding the bell and get off the bus of logic, morality and personal responsibility at an earlier stop. Make your choice by not making a baby, rather than making it and killing it.