A pro-abortion OB/GYN recently commented on an article I authored in 2020 for The Pro-Life Rose concerning the number of illegal abortion deaths that occurred prior to Roe v. Wade. The article debunked the common claim that thousands of women died each year due to botched illegal abortions before 1973 when abortion was legalized throughout the United States. The doctor conceded that the statistics that were given in the article — 189-300 illegal maternal abortion deaths per year, and 39 abortion-related deaths in 1972 — are, indeed, accurate, but then said:
[N]o matter the numbers, if even one woman dies, that is one needless death. […] You may say the number of unborn children far outweighs the number of women dying from illegal abortions; hell the number of women dying from legal abortions is significant compared to those dying from illegal ones.
My belief is that 12-week-old fetuses have only the potential of human life. You may say I’m rationalizing that I am killing babies […] The way I see it, saving a life is worth a hundred possibilities.
Human fetuses are living human beings
Scientifically, a human baby has its own unique human DNA and is a human organism. The offspring of two parents of one species is also a member of that same species, not some other species. A dog doesn’t give birth to kittens, for example. A fetus living inside a human mother’s womb is a human life — not the “potential of human life.”
Non-living things don’t grow, yet that’s what a preborn child is doing from the moment of fertilization — growing, developing, and changing, just as born humans do. Her heart pumps blood as early as 21 days after conception (see a video of the heart in action at 4 ½ weeks). Her brain waves are recordable as early as six weeks and two days. She grows and develops, takes in nutrition and oxygen, and secretes waste. Clearly, she is alive, not dead, not an object. At 12 weeks, a preborn baby is fully formed, with arms, legs, toes, and fingers, including unique fingerprints. Here is a picture of a sonogram of a preborn baby 10 weeks and four days after fertilization, or 12 weeks gestation (dated from the mother’s last menstrual period):
She is undeniably a human life.
The doctor, of course, knows this. What he means to say is that he doesn’t believe a preborn baby has the right qualities to be a full-fledged human being. And, therefore, doesn’t deserve the right to life.
What makes us human?
There are differences between preborn babies and adults. There are also differences between adults and infants and adults and toddlers. But despite their differences, they are all human beings – alive at different levels of development. The differences between an adult and a preborn baby are differences of degree, not differences of kind. A preborn child’s inability to live outside the womb doesn’t make her any less human than an adult’s inability to live underwater.
What makes a human being a human being isn’t a certain stage of development — such as when the heart starts beating, when the child feels pain, or when the baby becomes self-aware. These landmarks are arbitrary. The right to life should not rest on how developed the heart is, or the brain. It doesn’t depend on the abilities a human being has at any given time. There are born individuals who rely on ventilators to live, or who are unable to feel pain. They are still human beings.
Some abortion supporters argue that a preborn baby isn’t a person because her brain isn’t fully developed. However, brain development isn’t complete until a person is in their 20s. At what point is a human being “developed enough” to be considered a human being worthy of human rights, according to this OB/GYN?
In addition, consciousness doesn’t start until sometime after birth. Yet most pro-abortion activists (though not all) oppose infanticide.
A child’s location (inside or outside the womb) doesn’t determine that child’s humanity, either. Changing something’s location doesn’t alter its nature. When I leave one building and enter another, I remain a human being — I don’t turn into a duck or an eggplant. When a baby travels a few inches down the birth canal, she doesn’t magically transform from a nonhuman into a human.
Age is another factor. Do we believe older people have more of a right to life than younger ones? Is it less of a crime to kill a toddler than a teenager, or less of a crime to kill a teenager than an adult?
A child in the womb is dependent on her mother to survive. But independence is also a continuum. How independent does someone have to be to have human rights? Is a diabetic less worthy of life because they depend on insulin? Do chronically ill people lose their right to life when they’re given a feeding tube? Is it less wrong to kill disabled people than able-bodied ones because many of them are more dependent?
Pro-lifers answer no to these questions.
Human development is a continuum that begins at fertilization. Where on that continuum does the right to life begin? Instead of letting human rights rest on some random point in development, it makes more sense for human rights to begin when human life begins – at fertilization.
No one’s life is saved by abortion
The doctor argues that if legalized abortion saves one woman’s life, it’s worth it.
But this wrongly assumes that abortion saves lives, when in fact, abortion is never medically necessary — not even to save a woman’s health or life. If a mother’s life or health is in jeopardy during pregnancy and the baby must be delivered, that baby doesn’t need to be killed first — in fact, killing the baby first would add hours or even days to the timeline. Preterm delivery and emergency C-sections are not abortions and both of these procedures allow doctors to try to save the lives of both mother and child. Second and third-trimester abortions take days to complete, while a C-section takes under an hour.
Pro-lifers must reject the premise of weighing the lives of the mothers against the lives of the babies. Mothers and their preborn children aren’t mortal enemies. One or the other doesn’t have to die. They can both live.
Instead of throwing up our hands and assuming illegal abortions are inevitable, pro-lifers should do everything in their power to protect the lives of both women and babies. The pro-life movement is already doing this through pregnancy resource centers, sidewalk counseling, and providing help to those with unplanned pregnancies. We must (and we will) continue to do so.
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