In a Washington Post column titled “Why does ‘pro-life’ mean disregarding the actual lives of pregnant people?” Monica Hesse claims that the pro-lifers behind legislation like the Texas Heartbeat Act — concerned with protecting preborn babies from abortion — hurts mothers (“pregnant people” being the new moniker). But Hesse’s caricature of the pro-life movement sets up a false dichotomy between the child and his mother that ignores the facts: statistics show that pro-life laws actually do not harm women, and research has also shown that abortion itself can and does harm mothers, many of whom struggle with that trauma for the rest of their lives.
Rather than considering the pro-life worldview, Hesse begins with the perspective of an abortion doula — a woman who accompanies and supports mothers undergoing elective abortion. When pressed on how late in pregnancy abortion doulas might have hesitation about assisting an abortion client, one doula asserted that the question did not matter. Hesse writes, “She didn’t need to know when life ‘began for a fetus incubating in someone else’s body, she said. She only needed to know that there was already a living patient, one with hopes and dreams and loved ones and responsibilities, and that person did not want to be pregnant.”
Hesse uses this statement as a springboard for her column, but there are several problems with it:
1. We know when human life begins, and this is an undisputed scientific fact. Abortion supporters continue to pretend that this is a controversial point, yet this is already established. Scientific advances continue to reveal more about the earliest stages of human life. Elsewhere Hesse derogatorily states that a six-week-old preborn baby is “the size of a lentil,” as if size is a necessary feature of life and personhood. No matter how abortion activists try to define human life, the fact is that the preborn baby is human, alive, growing, and separated from all of us only by time and development.
2. Hesse’s thesis mischaracterizes the nature of pregnancy and abortion. The mother, one of at least two patients who should be considered (more if there are twins), is very unlikely to be destroyed by pregnancy. Pregnancy is temporary. Abortion activists frequently claim that a mother’s life depends on the availability of abortion. There are fatal complications that can occur, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, but deliberately killing the child is not a solution even in these cases. Abortions late in pregnancy are multi-day procedures that involve injecting the baby with a drug to stop his heart over the course of several minutes or hours and then inducing labor. By contrast, an emergency C-section, which ends a pregnancy by delivering a living baby, can be performed in less than an hour, not days.
Reflecting on the supposed harm of pro-life laws, Hesse concocts a bizarre hypothetical. She asks what would happen if pro-lifers were given the chance to save either a blastocyst (a preborn baby in the early stages of development) in a petri dish or a woman “who has a heartbeat but no desire to become a parent or put her body through the ravages of childbirth.” Hesse claims confidently, “The petri dish would be saved. The woman would hit the pavement.”
Of course, this is merely a hypothetical meant to slander, and it makes no sense. In reality, a mother and her child are intimately connected, and pro-lifers rightly oppose violently severing a child from her mother, destroying an innocent human life. It should be obvious that starving to death or dismembering the baby inside her mother would understandably cause physical and emotional trauma for the mother. Even the abortion doulas Hesse quotes in her piece are evidence of the harm and trauma that abortion often causes. If abortion is really of little consequence and no more significant than having dental work done — as it has been described by some abortion advocates in the past — then the emotional support of a doula should not be necessary.
Empowering pregnant mothers means giving them choices and support. This is precisely what the pro-life movement has done through an extensive network of pregnancy resource centers and community outreach. Far from letting vulnerable mothers “hit the pavement,” pro-lifers have volunteered to ensure that pregnant moms have real solutions.
Hesse describes her own pregnancy as “a countdown to the point at which an abortion was no longer a legal option.” Her child, whom she refers to only as a “pregnancy,” is “very much wanted, planned, prepared for and cared for,” yet Hesse is concerned about always having the option to end that child’s life. She claims once a pregnant woman moves beyond the legal limit for abortion, “our uteruses no longer belonged to us.”
Despite what Hesse thinks, the issue is not the woman’s uterus, but rather the life of another person. Pro-lifers are not harming women or “taking ownership” of a woman’s womb. They are simply advocating for a society in which we can recognize the rights of both the mother and the child, not treating one as better than the other, but ensuring that both are given the rights and care they deserve.
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