Abortion is such a divisive topic today, so it is more important than ever to research the science of abortion and arguments both for and against it. Regardless of your views on abortion, I encourage you to read this article in its entirety.
WHAT IS ABORTION?
First of all, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, abortion is, “(the) induced expulsion of a human fetus.”
Recent studies have shown that in 2014, 19% of pregnancies ended in abortion; this excludes spontaneous abortions, also known as miscarriage. In addition, about one in four women by the age of 45 will have an abortion. In fact, in the first three months of 2020, over 240,897 babies have already been aborted and over 61,628,584 abortions have taken place since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
There are a few different ways of performing an abortion, three of the most common being the abortion pill, vacuum aspiration, and dilation and evacuation. The “abortion pill” is actually two pills: mifepristone, and misoprostol. The pills work together to cause cramping and bleeding, which forces expulsion of the fetus. Abortion pills can be taken within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Next, vacuum aspiration is done early in the pregnancy, typically within the first 12 weeks. A tube is inserted into the uterus and connected to a vacuum which suctions out the fetus. Finally, dilation and evacuation/extraction is done in the second and third trimesters. Osmotic dilators are used in the cervix, and a combination of suction and grasping instruments are used to remove the fetus. At or after 18 weeks, forceps are used to grasp the fetus’ legs and pull them out, leaving the head inside. An incision is then made in the fetus’ skull, and suction is used to remove the brain. This allows the skull to collapse so the fetus can pass through the cervix.
WHY DO WOMEN HAVE AN ABORTION?
In 2004, the Guttmacher Institute surveyed eleven abortion clinics and 1,209 women gave a primary reason for their abortion. The study found that,
“The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman's education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).”
Another heartbreaking statistic shows that 75% of women who have abortions were poor or low income.
For those pregnant mothers who feel like they are not ready to be parents, adoption is always an option and a better, more loving alternative to the horror of abortion. According to the Adoption Network, there are an estimated one to two million couples waiting to adopt; however, each year only 4% of women facing unplanned pregnancies choose to place their child for adoption. I would like to tell the many women not ready to parent that termination is not the only option; so many families desperately want to adopt.
While adoption is available for those who are not ready to be parents, pregnancy centers as well as other pro-life organizations across the nation are working hard to support those who do not feel like they can provide for their children. Society has worked hard to convince women struggling with poverty that termination is the only responsible option, and that is simply not the case. Pro-lifers are combating this notion by providing women with the real support they need. They do this through not only life-affirming counseling but via tangible resources such as housing, material aid, and financial assistance. We need to support these women whether they decide to place their child for adoption or parent.
THE ETHICS OF ABORTION
Now that we have discussed the reasoning behind abortions, we need to delve into another key component of abortion — ethics.
A. Are human fetuses living persons?
Is the fetus human? What makes someone a person? Even if someone were to deny the scientific fact that life has been proven to begin at conception, it is a well-known fact that someone dies when their heart stops; so does life then begin when the heart starts? If so, the human embryo’s heart begins to beat around three weeks post-fertilization, before it is even detectable via ultrasound a few weeks later (around five to six weeks after fertilization), therefore abortion would still be the intentional ending of a human life. The age of viability is the gestational age in which an infant has a good chance to survive outside of the womb. The current age of viability is considered to be 24 weeks, at which point with proper care after birth, there is a 39% chance of survival. If a baby is born 27-31 weeks there is a 90%-95% chance of survival. However in many places, a woman can still get an abortion at these gestational ages. This suggests the question, does personhood and human rights depend on location? If a baby is prematurely born at 24 weeks, doctors and nurses will tirelessly fight for him or her to live, but a woman could voluntarily get an abortion and terminate her child’s life at that same age if that child is “unwanted.”
We can discuss fetal heartbeat, infant age of viability or any other parameters people have tried to pinpoint as indicators for the beginning of life. However, the moment the sperm and egg meet, the new cell is no longer a haploid sperm or egg, but a distinctly new diploid cell which is now an organism. Each of us began as a single cell, and now we are grown and developed human beings. Our personhood has been present from the moment of conception. All humans are equal simply because of what we are; we are all genetically human organisms. Our humanity is not dependent on where we are located or our level of ability in any area.
Gianna Jensen, an abortion survivor, put it this way,
“Today a baby is a baby when convenient. It is tissue or otherwise when the time isn’t right. A baby is a baby when miscarriage takes place at 2, 3, 4 months. A baby is called a tissue or clumps of cells when an abortion takes place at 2, 3, 4 months. Why is that?”
B. What About My Body My Choice?
Another ethical question arises regarding bodily autonomy. We’ve all heard it said, “My body, my choice.” I, for one, believe wholeheartedly in the freedom to choose. If someone wants to do something to their body that I do not agree with, it is not my place to step in; people are free to make choices regarding their own body. However, the fact is that women are not choosing to abort themselves, but are aborting someone else. In fact, it has been argued, “A child is a genetically distinct human being. A car is not part of the garage because it’s parked there. A cake is not part of the oven because it’s baked there. Being inside of something is not the same as being part of something.” Women should not be able to take a life simply based on his/her location. As Ronald Reagan put it so well, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” Pro-choice bodily autonomy arguments have been responded to thoroughly over the years by pro-life advocates, which you can read more about here and here.
Numerous babies are aborted when their parents find out they might have or will have special needs. In fact, an estimated 75% of all Down syndrome babies are aborted in the United States.
Chelsea Zimmerman, is a woman who is paralyzed from the chest down due to a spinal cord injury, explains,
“Advocating for abortion for unborn children in order to ‘spare them a life of suffering’ suggests one must be perfect in mind and body in order to have a fulfilling life, which sends a message to those of us poor fools living with disabilities outside the womb that you do not think our lives are worth living.”
We must consider the message we are sending. Aborting babies who have disabilities sends a message that individuals with special needs are not important or valued. However, it is not only true of children with disabilities. Likewise, women today are allowed to abort because of ethnicity, gender, as well as rape and incest, among many other things. This sends a message that these people are not wanted, that they are “less than.” Aborting based on ethnicity is one of the greatest acts of racism in modern America. Rape and incest are absolutely awful things, but the baby conceived in these situations is also a victim. Killing one victim does not heal the other victim. Beyond that, to people born from rape and incest, the current push for aborting these babies sends a message that they are not valuable, or are better off dead. We need to support women who have been in these difficult situations and come alongside to help however we can.
D. What About Politics?
A political argument for abortion is that abortion is a woman’s right. However, a key part of women's rights is fighting for the rights of preborn women who deserve the most basic right, which is to live and be born. The original feminists who fought for women’s rights (and suffrage) fought for all women, including those in the womb. Without the right to live, no other rights have any grounding.
Many times abortion advocates bring up other political issues to try to point out hypocrisy in the pro-life viewpoint without actually addressing whether abortion is wrong or what abortion does. One of the issues commonly brought up is families being detained and the children being separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border. Over 2,000 children have been separated from their families. This is a tragedy. In addition to this, some children have even lost their lives while in government custody. This is heartbreaking and disastrous. It is clear the system is not working and needs to be fixed. What baffles me though, is the number of people upset about this who fully support abortion. In both family separation and abortion the child leaves the mother, in some cases the children have even died after being separated. In abortion, the mother chooses to end her baby’s life. If you believe every life matters, then regardless of whether the life is in the womb, at the United States border or anywhere else, that life still matters.
1) Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.
According to a tweet by Live Action,
“Slave owners once argued: Slavery’s legal, how dare you oppose it? Slavery is a natural part of society. My slave, I can do what I want. Don’t want a slave? Don’t have one. Slave’s aren’t people.”
Now, I sure hope everyone can agree it is awful and disgusting anyone could think this way. Slavery is an awful violation of the most basic human rights. If we replaced “slavery” with “abortion” the quote starts to sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
I have heard each one of these arguments in favor of abortion, and it genuinely concerns me the way our country is going and the dehumanization happening to babies in the womb that is so similar to the dehumanization of slaves by slave owners and slavery sympathizers. Violation of rights affects more than the person being violated; it affects all of society. Unless people get together to affect change in society, wrongs will continue to happen. Just like people did something about slavery, we should do something about abortion.
2) If something is legal, does that make it right?
In fact, Live Action also points out there exist parallels between the Holocaust and abortion which include, “sanitized killing, standardized body disposal, euphemized language, government sanctioning and lack of public outcry.” Now hear me out, I am not saying these things out of disrespect for Jews; rather, I believe an important reason to study history is so that we do not make the same mistakes over and over again. I fear we are repeating the same grave apathy to evil that lead to Jews being tortured and killed. Abortion is legal, it is government-sanctioned mass murder, but just because it is legal does not make it right. Just as Jews did not choose genocide, and African Americans did not choose slavery, babies have not chosen abortion. When it comes to the freedom to choose, it seems everyone gets a choice except the victim.
The goal of abortion is not to deprive women of healthcare. In fact, medical professionals agree there is not a single health reason that would force a woman to get an abortion. In cases of the life of the mother, an early c-section should be the primary option as it is faster and does not take multiple days to complete such as with a late-term abortion. What about ectopic pregnancies? That’s a different procedure altogether and the removal of ectopic pregnancies are not considered an abortion — even Planned Parenthood does not classify these procedures as such. The goal is to make abortion not only unavailable but also unthinkable by providing expecting mothers the life-affirming resources they so desperately need.
It is time we fight for the lives of all. For children scared to go to school for fear of a shooting, different religions and ethnicities scared of being the target of the next hate crime, children separated from their parents at the border, and babies in the womb who deserve a chance at reaching their full potential. This is not a partisan issue or a religious issue, but a human rights issue that we, as fellow human beings, should all care about.
Every life matters.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.