Let’s make this simple. This is a picture of my son. He’s 3 years old.
Here he is when he was 1.
And here he is 2 days after he was born.
And this is him at 19 weeks gestation.
And here he is again at about 9 weeks.
All of these are, without question, pictures of my son. In each photo, he is alive. He has his own DNA, his own heartbeat, his own cells. He is at every stage of his development, a human being. If a doctor terminates my son’s life now, it is murder. If a doctor terminated my sons life when he was in my wife’s womb, without her consent, it would have been murder. If a doctor terminated my sons life, while he was in my wife’s womb, but with her consent, I argue that still would have been murder, however in this specific case, the law does not recognize it as such. To me this is a ludicrous contradiction.
Many people argue that my son, in those final two ultrasound photos, was somehow not alive, or not a human, or not a person. They might have a number of explanations for why my son was a person the moment he was born, but not one in the weeks and months leading p to that event. I’d like to address some of the more common ones.
An embryo is not a person, it’s a clump of cells. This argument applies to very early abortions, which are the most common. If this is your only argument, than you must conclude that second trimester abortions ought to be outlawed, because in that stage the fetus is essentially a fully formed, yet tiny, human being. He or she has an identifiable gender, possesses limbs, fingers, a heart, lungs, liver, a functioning circulatory system, and a brain. If you’re only ok with destroying “clumps of cells” then a child at this age no longer qualifies, and it cannot be killed.
But what about those “clumps of cells” which are so commonly and callously destroyed? I would argue that you and I were both at one time a clump of cells. If someone killed you when you were just a clump of cells, I would call that murder. Furthermore, you are still a clump of cells. Those cells have just gotten further along in their development. I concede that there is a great difference between an embryo and second trimester fetus. However there is also a huge difference between a newborn baby and a full grown adult. We don’t have the right to draw an arbitrary line and say, when a person is at this stage of development, it’s OK to terminate their life without their consent, but once they reach a certain stage of life we can no longer do so.
A fetus doesn’t have consciousness and therefore it’s not a person. To begin with, we have no idea what stage of development consciousness arises. Newborns have very little mental capacities, they will not retain any memories from their first few years of life, they can barely process and understand their surroundings, yet no one argues that it’s OK to kill them before they realize what you’re doing to them.
But the greater question is, on what basis can one decide that consciousness is the defining characteristic of humanness? We don’t say that it’s acceptable to kill coma patients, certainly not if we knew that a person in a coma was 100% guaranteed to wake up and regain their consciousness, which is really the closest parallel we have to an unborn child. That embryo, that fetus, that baby, is essentially guaranteed to acquire consciousness. To kill it before it does is no different from killing a newborn child.
A fetus that can’t survive outside the womb can’t be considered a human yet. Medical science continues to push back this boundary, to the point that even baby born at 22 weeks has a shot at survival. So if this is your argument, you must support a ban on all abortions past 22 weeks. And as medical science continues to push back this boundary you must support earlier and earlier bans on abortion.
But even this misses the obvious point, which is that this view is perhaps the most callous and heartless reason of all. Essentially you are arguing that it is ok to kill this child because they are helpless. A newborn also is incapable of surviving on it’s own. It continues to rely upon it’s mother in particular for food and nourishment during it’s first 6 months of life, and on it’s parents and caregivers for much longer. Yet no one is so depraved that they would argue that 3 month old infants should be allowed to be killed if their mother doesn’t want the burden to feed them.
Abortion brings up many other complicated questions. What if the mother can’t provide for her child, or the father refuses to help? What burden and responsibility does society bear to help care for these unplanned children? What if the child was conceived because of rape or incest? If we want to consider abortion as a solution to these problems, we must be absolutely certain that we are not ending the life of an innocent baby for our own ease and convenience. All of these questions need to be addressed, however, abortion can never be considered a moral option, if abortion is indeed equivalent to murder, which it is.