“How late is too late for an abortion?” xoJane’s writer, Lesley, wonders. In her September 19 article, Lesley shares her own personal experience at a Catholic high school. She claims that “Bloody Baby Week” is, at least in part, responsible for her extreme pro-abortion stance today. Lesley explains “Bloody Baby Week”:
One year, it culminated in a film on the realities of abortion that was so gruesome and gore-riddled that it might have rivaled Faces of Death for most talked-about maybe-snuff-film ever. It showed recorded footage of actual abortions, the narration making sure we noted the way the blurry and ghost-faced fetus grimaced and recoiled in horror (the power of suggestion is a hell of a drug) as the vacuum aspiration apparatus drew near. Did the terrified unborn emit terrified screams as it was torn limb from limb, the film wondered? Who can say, certainly they would be drowned out by the roar of the death machine.
Lesley claims that she felt “such helpless rage that I sat on my hands to prevent myself from lunging at and punching our invited pro-life guests.” Anyone is left to wonder why she felt rage at the pro-life guests instead of the abortionists committing the atrocities she was witnessing. Certainly, some within the pro-life movement would agree with Lesley that high school students should not be shown videos of real abortions or photos of bloody, cut-up babies. Others would say that these true images are vital to any civil rights movement. Regardless, Lesley nowhere claims that she disbelieved the video and images she was shown.
How a person can look straight at photos of torn-apart babies and still believe that abortion is a “right,” I will never understand. In the same way, I will never understand how the Iranian president can see photos of the Holocaust and yet claim it never happened. I will never understand how neo-Nazi racists can see photos of the scars on a black slave’s back and still believe in white supremacy. To deny the truth you hear is bad enough. But to deny the truth you see is absolutely unacceptable.
Lesley of xoJane went on to discuss the case of Sarah Catt, a British woman who self-aborted her baby just a week before his due date. The baby boy was 39 weeks old, and because of the drug Catt ingested, he was stillborn. Her entire purpose was to kill him. Catt refuses to reveal to authorities where she put her dead baby. She has been sentenced to eight years in prison because, according to British law, elective abortions may not be performed after 24 weeks. At that point, the birth of the child is imminent, and a woman cannot have an abortion simply because she does not want to keep her baby.
Lesley opines, however, that Catt should have had the right to end her pregnancy at any time. According to Lesley, it should probably never be too late for an abortion. She’s a stickler for consistency, apparently. If a woman has the right to have an abortion, by golly, she has that right ’til the very end of time – no matter that her baby could easily live outside the womb on his own. No matter that he technically no longer needs his mother for sustained life. Catt’s baby could have been delivered at 39 weeks and very likely been the picture of health and given to someone else to raise. But instead, because Catt believed, just like Lesley, that it’s never too late to kill a child as long as his body hasn’t touched outside air yet, another little boy is dead, murdered at the hands of his own mother.
In her article, Lesley attempts to appeal to fellow abortion supporters:
[I]f Catt’s actions were unacceptable even from a pro-choice standpoint, then where is the line drawn? This is why government regulation of individual morality — which is what abortion laws ultimately are — is so problematic. Viability is not always an exact science, and “personhood” is barely a spiritual notion of the moment at which the special reproductive magic happens and a clump of cells transforms into an independent (if not fully sentient) being.
In the end I am left to wonder if — in spite of all the discomfort of cases like Sarah Catt’s — we can afford not to be hard-line about a woman’s right to choose up right until the moment that she and her offspring are permanently separated. We are losing so much ground to pro-life concessions and compromises already. Maybe it’s time to stop backing down and making apologies; maybe it’s time to enforce the “personhood” of pregnant women first.
She’s wrong on quite a few points. Government regulation of individual morality is not limited to abortion, and it never has been. Our laws against murder and rape and robbery and kidnapping and child molestation are all “regulations of individual morality.” And yet they couldn’t be more necessary to a civilized society. Until Lesley comes out against our murder and rape laws, she has no ground to stand on with this argument.
She’s absolutely correct, however, that viability is not always an exact science. But what ever happened to taking a stand on the side of life, if we have to err one way or the other? Why are so many abortion supporters consumed by giving women an extra week here or an extra month there to kill their children? While viability is certainly a better standard than birth for the right to life, it’s not the standard we should have. A baby is either a living human being or he’s not. And the ever-earlier moment of viability does not suddenly transform a growing human being into a baby. That little growing human has always been a baby – from the moment of his earliest beginnings. And that’s what science has told us for years.
Here’s the problem with Lesley’s assertions about personhood. Personhood is not a “spiritual notion.” There is no transformational moment where a “clump of cells” becomes a human being. Instead, that supposed “clump of cells” has always been, in reality, a human being who is simply less developed than an adult – in the same way that a newborn is less developed than an adolescent. Since when have we believed that our level of development ought to define our personhood status?
Lesley is also incorrect in her assumption that personhood is defined as a sort of “independent” status. Personhood is more accurately defined as the distinct individuality that all human beings possess from the moment of their earliest beginnings – when their own unique DNA comes together at the moment of fertilization:
The state or condition of being a person, especially having those qualities that confer distinct individuality
Personhood truly isn’t that complicated. Every human being – no matter his or her level of development – should automatically be granted the inherent status of “person.” Human and person should be interchangeable in a civilized society that recognizes basic human dignity.
There is definitely a time when it’s too late for an abortion – a time that’s specific, unchangeable, and measured in science. It’s the moment when a new, unique person has been created.