When Abortion Stopped Making Sense, Pt 2
The usual justification for abortion is that the unborn person is not a ‘person’. It’s said that ‘Nobody knows when life begins’. But that’s not true; everybody knows when life, a new individual human life, gets started. It’s when the sperm is dissolved in the egg. That new single cell has a brand-new DNA, never before seen in the world. If you examined it through a microscope, three cells lined up– the newly fertilized ovum, a cell from the father, and a cell from the mother. You would say that, judging from the DNA, the cells came from three different people. When people say the unborn is ‘not a person’ or ‘not a life’, they mean that it has not yet grown or gained abilities that arrive later in life.
But there’s no agreement about which of the abilities should be determinative. Pro-choice people don’t even agree with each other. Obviously, law cannot be based on such subjective criteria. If it’s a case where the question is ‘Can I kill this?’, the answer must be based on objective medical and scientific data. And the fact is, an unborn child, from the very first moment, is a new human individual. It has the three essential characteristics that make it ‘a human life’–it’s alive and growing, it is composed entirely of human cells, and it has unique DNA–it’s a person, just like the rest of us. Abortion indisputably ends a human life.
But this loss is usually set against the woman’s need to have an abortion in order to freely direct her own life. It is particular cruelty to present abortion as something women want, something they demand, and find liberating. Because nobody wants this. The procedure itself is painful, humiliating, and expensive; no woman ‘wants’ to go through it. But once it’s available, it appears to be the logical, reasonable choice. All complexities can be shoved down that funnel. Yes, abortion “solves” all the problems; but it solves them inside the woman’s body. And she is expected to keep that pain inside for a lifetime, and be grateful for the gift of abortion.
Many years ago, I wrote something in an essay about abortion, and I was surprised that the line got picked up and frequently quoted. I’ve seen it in both pro-life and pro-choice contexts so it appears to be something both sides agree on. I wrote, ‘No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.’ Strange, isn’t it, that both pro-choice and pro-life people agree that this is true? Abortion is a horrible and harrowing experience. That women choose it so frequently shows how much worse continuing a pregnancy can be. Essentially, we’ve agreed to surgically alter women so that they can get along in a man’s world. And then we expect them to be grateful for it.
Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it 2,800 times every day? If women are doing something 2.800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation they have won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression.
And so we came around to one more March for Life, like the one last year, and like the one next year. Protesters understandably focus on the unborn child because the danger it faces is the most galvanizing aspect of this struggle. If there are different degrees of injustice, surely violence is the worst manifestation, and killing worst of all. If there are different categories of innocent victim, surely the small and helpless have a higher claim to protection, and tiny babies the highest of all. The minimum purpose of government is to shield the weak from abuse by the strong, and there is no one weaker or more voiceless than unborn children. And so we keep saying that they should be protected, for all the same reasons that newborn babies are protected.
Pro-lifers have been doing this for 43 years now, and will continue holding a candle in the darkness for as many more years as it takes. I understand all the reasons why the movement’s prime attention is focused on the unborn. But we can also say that abortion is no bargain for women either. It’s destructive and tragic. We shouldn’t listen unthinkingly to the other side of the time-worn script, the one that tells us that women want abortion, that abortion liberates them. Many a post-abortion woman could tell you a different story. The pro-life cause is perennially unpopular, and pro-lifers get used to being misrepresented and wrongly accused. There are only a limited number of people who are going to be brave enough to stand up on the side of an unpopular cause. But sometimes a cause is so urgent, is so dramatically clear, that it’s worth it. What cause could be more outrageous than violence, fatal violence, against the most helpless members of our human community?
If that doesn’t move us, how hard are our hearts? If that doesn’t move us, what will ever move us? In time it’s going to be impossible to deny that abortion is violence against children. Future generations, as they look back, are not necessarily going to go easy on ours. Our bland acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. In fact, the kind of hatred that people now level at Nazis and slave-owners may well fall upon our era. Future generations can accurately say, ‘It’s not like they didn’t know.’ They can say, ‘After all, they had sonograms.’ They may consider this bloodshed to be a form of genocide. They might judge our generation to be monsters. One day, the tide is going to turn. With that Supreme Court decision 43 years ago, one of the sides in the abortion debate won the day. But sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. The time is coming when a younger generation will sit in judgment of ours. And they are not obligated to be kind.