The crux of the abortion argument lies solely on the understanding of what defines “life.” It would be a far stretch to pretend like the argument over abortion is an argument over whether or not it is okay to murder unborn children. Instead, the argument hinges on the question, “When does life begin?”, or to rephrase the question, “Is this a child?” Scientists and doctors have used their imperfect judgements to establish the thresholds that vary by state between legally aborting a fetus and illegally murdering a baby in such a way that the murdering of a pregnant woman results in a trial for two separate counts for murder, but the decision to simply rid oneself of what some view as a nine month old set-back is socially accepted as an empowering parenthood decision.
Seeing as how, according to the Center for Disease Control, 91.3 percent of abortions occurred during the first trimester, or first 12 weeks, in 2012, we will focus on this particular developmental period. According to the Endowment for Human Development, between three and four weeks after conception, an unborn-child’s heart begins to beat, and roughly nine and a half weeks after conception, babies will respond to sound, yawn and suck their thumbs. According to Idaho’s Health and Welfare center, by week 10, all major body organs for the unborn-child have formed, and by week 12, the last week of the first trimester, blood begins to form in the bone marrow, the kidney’s begin to create urine and the fetus now has the ability to fall asleep and wake up. It is also worth noting that, according to neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Ranalli from the University of Toronto, during week 20 of the second trimester, fetuses are capable of feeling and recoiling from pain. Are these signs of a living child or the result of a clump of un-developed cells trying to reach that poorly defined threshold?
The vagueness of this poorly but legally defined threshold of fetal viability, or state in which abortion is no longer legal due to the fact that the fetus can sufficiently live outside of the mother, has become more and more detrimental to the abortion argument as new medical discoveries have been made.
According to ThinkProgress.org, “The Supreme Court stipulates that states may not restrict abortion before a fetus is viable (able to live) outside of the womb.”
However, the abortion of a 22 week-old baby is understandably outrageous when at this stage, some premature babies have been able to live outside of the mother’s womb with the assistance of medical professionals. This argument lacks logical consistency in that fetal viability is contingent on medical advancements and simple chance. Despite this, the temporary dependent state of a human does not discredit that human’s right to live.
I am not asserting valuable human life begins at the moment of conception, but perhaps it does. It is this unknown variable of abortion that makes it such a controversial issue with possibly horrific consequences. If we know that this threshold of life is currently, and possibly forever, unknowable, it seems like we are knowingly and legally supporting a practice that very well may be cold-blooded murder.
In collaboration with this variable of the unknown, there arises a second variable that aids an American woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion: the variable of priority. Of course, this variable of priority is contingent on the validity of the variable concerning when life begins, but assuming that life does begin sometime shortly after or possibly at the moment of conception, a clear and conscious choice of priority becomes apparent. Priority is not something we Americans like to think about as taking a role in limiting or framing our Constitutional freedoms, but it undoubtedly does. You cannot legally end the life of another person simply because their existence makes you unhappy because their right to life takes priority over your right to happiness. In essence, the right with the greatest level of priority when two priorities are juxtaposed is the one that is more fundamental.
I say all of this to illuminate a poignant aspect of the woman’s purported right to have an abortion that is too often dismissed or overlooked. If the woman’s choice to abort her unborn-child in an effort to secure control over when she wishes to bare children after having already made the previous choice to engage in the child conceiving act of sexual intercourse takes precedent over the unborn-child’s right to continue living then the same moral logic that protects me and you from guiltless murder is forsaken in the spirit of an era that views this sort of behavior as progress and not indifference. As a nation, we gamble with the lives of those who do not yet have a voice to defend themselves for the sake of allowing women to escape the consequences of their previous decisions by removing every possible future decision from the children dependent on their bodies for growth and development.
To wrap this up, no pun intended, it is clear that the issue of abortion is centered on the controversial question of, “When does life begin,” and from this, we see a clear spirit of known carelessness in regards to the way we have legalized and promoted a practice cloaked in a veil of uncertainty and indifference. The question is not, “Does a woman have the right to control her body.” The question is, “Does extending this fundamental right of bodily control to the legalization of abortions infringe the right to life for unborn-children, particularly when this threshold of valuable life is drawn differently by subjective men and women who have already secured their right to live?”
It is my hope that soon the determining factor regarding whether or not an unborn-child is considered to be truly alive will no longer hinge upon the mother’s personal desire to keep the child or not. Perhaps then our court systems can stop being hypocrites for enforcing fetal homicide laws along with national abortion laws as if the two were not created for opposite purposes. For as long as we operate in the realm of uncertainty regarding valuable life’s beginning, the cognitive dissonance we feel when sucking out a fetus who can suck his or her thumb is alleviated and diminishes more and more as our society champions the selfishness of undeserved priority.