Some Thoughts On Life, and One’s Right To It (Updated Jan 2019)

Mary Charlotte, in utero.

A Persuasive Speech

I remember in high school, while taking a Public Speaking class, we were asked to write and give a persuasive speech. Another student in my class chose to speak on being Pro-Choice, and I chose to speak on being Pro-Life. We both were able to civilly engage our class in presenting our arguments, and were able to be friendly with each other before and after our speeches. I remember speaking on the idea that if we define death by a heart no longer beating, then why do we not define life by a heart that starts beating? I knew that didn’t quite get us to life beginning at conception, but it brought the argument a lot closer than the late term abortion limit legal today. I still like that argument.

A Less-Heard Approach

Moving forward over a decade, I still do believe that life begins at conception, but, I sometimes feel lonely in my approach, and specific reasons for holding this stance. And I’m repelled by the anger and fear-laced commentary and approaches that some Pro-Life people and groups choose to use to share their message. Though I do agree with the reasons The Church gives as to the sanctity of life, there is another side to my thoughts as well, that work well within the Catholic perspective. And I think this additional point of view isn’t often expressed in the way I hope to express it. So, knowing this is a heated issue, I proceed with the intention of explaining my reasoning and how I’ve come to the conclusion that abortion is immoral. And I share my opinion in the same spirit of respectfully communicating ideas that framed both my and my classmate’s speeches many moons ago.

When Do We Get Human Rights?

One of the strongest arguments for Pro-Life, for me, comes in trying to answer this question: When does someone get Human Rights?

I know that the Bill of Rights states that we are born with them, but, in practicality we do not limit Human Rights to birth. We do surgery on fetuses in situations where there is a serious medical condition that can be cured while the child is inside the womb. Except in the state of New York, 39 week abortions are not legal. Nor are 38… Most of us, in practice, give fetuses rights at some point. But, at which point?

I am personally uncomfortable with the idea that the point at which someone gets Human Rights is a moving target. For example, viability is technically 28 weeks, but babies have been able to survive outside the womb, with medical intervention as early as 22 weeks (2-4 weeks before the legal limit for abortion, depending on the state). Do we determine when Human Rights are endowed based upon the medical capabilities of the hospital the birth takes place at? Do we determine when Human Rights are endowed based on whether or not the baby is desired? For some reason, neither of those sit right. They’re subjective. And I hope those reading this are able to sit with those questions for a moment and ponder them within their own minds. They are weighty questions, and not to be taken lightly. I conclude that I would rather err on the side of bestowing Human Rights upon a person sooner rather than later, and objectively rather than basing it on any subjective means.

“It’s My Body”

I’m also uneasy with the argument that “It’s a woman’s body” and therefore her choice. From the moment of conception the embryo is within the woman’s body, but is genetically distinct. Something that was an extension of a woman’s body, like an arm, or an organ, or a bit of extra tissue, would have the woman’s DNA. I have three children and am currently pregnant for the 4th time. Each time, I have been painfully (and nauseatingly) aware that something (someone) was inside my body… but I have also been aware that this is something other than “me” entirely. If we are looking at pure genetics- it’s not part of the woman’s body. It’s something else. And the DNA of that something else is human.

Surviving On Its Own

Another argument I’ve heard is that a human has a right to life once it is able to survive outside the womb without depending on the mother. Well… this may be obvious, but if we went by that standard, I could make a strong case that my 4 year old son does not fit the qualifications to a right to life. My 2 year old most certainly doesn’t, let alone a newborn. This is an example of an instance in which, in reality, if we follow a Pro-Choice argument to it’s logical conclusion, we could reasonably end up in a world where killing infants and tots was ok. There is actually a relatively recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics written by medical ethicists from Oxford, which makes this very argument. As disturbing as it is, I find their conclusions on this point to be more logically consistent than saying abortion is ok but infanticide is not.

For the Life of the Mother

In New York, abortions are now allowed until birth. Proponents of this argue that this is necessary in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. As seen above, in many cases, we can sustain the life of a premature infant after 24 weeks. And a mom at 24 weeks, one way or another, is going to need to deliver a baby. I can’t fathom in what world the mother’s life would be in danger in such a way that it would be medically necessary for her to deliver a dead baby versus a living one.

Right to Prosecute

This same law in New York means that if a woman is attacked or domestically abused to a point that her in utero baby doesn’t survive, she has no legal recourse of action, where in many places that can be charged as homicide. Another example might be a woman who is being trafficked and forced to abort. In New York, there is no more legal recourse for her to atone for the loss of human life. I can’t in my mind get to a place where I remotely see either of those situations as benefitting women’s physical or mental health.

Legalizing Morality

Then there is the argument that we can’t legalize morality. However, there are times in history when morality has become law. Most notably, perhaps, the legality of slavery. Making slavery illegal in America messed with the South’s entire economic system. However, the moral argument that all people have a right to freedom won. So, we have a really strong example of a time when certain people’s “freedoms” and conveniences were limited, in order to uphold a larger moral concept: freedom for all. If we translate this to today, and determine that the morality of abortion doesn’t hold, limiting pregnant women’s total freedom to “live” as they choose for a limited period of time, to ensure that the unborn’s right to “live,” period is upheld, I think logically we are following the same path.

The Politics Of It

And finally… I am also pretty transparent that I don’t fit in any particular political box. Which is partly why I’ll make this last comment. For all the things I am uncomfortable with, this one is a big one. I am really, really, uncomfortable with a group of people that is adamantly, and sometimes militantly “Pro-Life,” but is very hesitant to fund programs that support mothers after they give birth. If we are going to be Pro-Life, then we had dang well better be Pro-Baby. Moms who choose life over abortion need to be supported emotionally and physically, hopefully through programs that help them ultimately gain financial independence, but that will not refuse them help in times of need and stress. We can’t ask people to have babies and then tell them “Good luck, you’re on your own” once the baby is born. I think the Pro-Life culture needs to take a good long look in the mirror and embrace supporting the beautiful, precious lives that come out of a woman’s decision to have her child amidst difficult circumstances.

And I think that about wraps up at least an initial summary of why I am Pro-Life, and a few other things.


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