Today, Oct. 21, over 4,000 schools and hundreds of thousands of students are silent. Today serves as a sober reminder that since 1973 there have been over 50,000,000 abortions in the United States. There are approximately 3,700 abortions in the U.S. every single day.
There is one simple and compelling argument that is the essence of the pro-life position. I wish that this argument weren’t true- it certainly would relieve my conscience. But as I have yet to hear an adequate refutation to this argument, I adhere to it. It is based on three premises: a value premise, a factual premise and a legal premise.
The value premise: The deliberate (knowingly and willingly) killing (forcing violent death upon) of an innocent person (who has done nothing to justify being killed) is always morally wrong. I believe most of us can agree to this premise. You can base this statement on our inalienable rights, a religious belief or a socially contractual agreement – all of which lead to this conclusion. From this premise it follows that if, for instance, I find you rather ugly and irritating, I have no right to kill you though I may find it convenient.
The real kicker for most people is the factual premise: The unborn are human. Essentially, when the genetic code is complete (at conception), a unique person exists.
Does one become a person gradually or at one specific point?
If you believe one becomes a person gradually, then it would follow that an eight-year-old without a developed reproductive system is less of a person than an 18-year-old. Would it be less wrong to kill an eight-year-old than an 18-year-old? I hope no one would agree to that.
If then there is a specific point at which one becomes human, what is that point? Do scissors and the cutting of an umbilical cord make one human? Does changing rooms and a nine-inch move from a mother’s womb make one a person?
The measure of birth is, in fact, arbitrary. In 1992 Discover Magazine ran a feature story on fetal surgery where doctors repaired herniated diaphragms and spinal disks on unborn babies 21 to 24 weeks old. They would partially remove these babies from the womb, perform the surgery, and then put them back. The obvious question is, did these babies become human during the operation outside the womb, and then become non-human because they were put back in the womb?
The only differences between an about-to-be-born baby and born baby are size, level of development, environment and level of dependency. None of these factors serve as an adequate mark for the beginning of human life. At what point, then, does life begin?
Former abortionist Dr. Beverly McMillan states, “The baby is human from the moment of conception. When the one cell it is made of has the characteristic 46 chromosomes of the human species, it is unique from that moment. Eighteen days after conception [the] baby’s heart is already beating, often pumping a different blood type than [the mother’s].” According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Brain waves have been recorded at 40 days. If you touch a little baby’s nose at that point it will draw its head back.”
Furthermore, we can look to the law of biogenesis, which states, living things reproduce after their own kind, meaning: dogs reproduce dogs, cats reproduce cats and humans reproduce humans. If you want to find out what species something is, just look at its parents. Humans cannot reproduce a “clump of cells” or a “potential human,” because a potential X, must be an actual Y. If the unborn aren’t human, then what are they? Biologically, fetal humans are still humans.
The final premise is the legal premise: Law ought to protect the innocent and weak against the strong. If a fetus is a weaker person, then it is the duty of the law to protect that weaker person from the oppression of the stronger.
Abortion is painted as a personal issue and an individual liberty. To an extent, it is true. It is the woman’s body; she had the right to do whatever she wants with it so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. However, if it is someone else’s body (the baby’s) she has no right to hurt that other person.
Pro-lifers are often accused of forcing their views upon others. Yet, it is the same as murder, rape or slavery. It makes no sense to say, “I’m personally opposed to slavery, but I’m pro-choice. You can have slaves if you want.” If it is wrong, it ought to be legally prohibited.
The argument used by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade stated that the status of an unborn child was unknown. However, killing something you are not sure is or is not human is manslaughter or criminal negligence. Only if we know for certain an unborn baby is not a person do we have the right to kill it, which shifts the burden of proof from pro-life to pro-choice. A fetus is innocent until proven guilty.
Go look at pictures and talk to women who have had (or chose not to have) an abortion. The stories will reveal the truth much more often than an argument.
Nick Elledge is a sophomore economics, political science, Spanish and public policy quadruple major. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.