Why I Vote Pro-Life
If you have read any of my other articles on this site, you are likely able to infer that I lean fairly libertarian on social issues- to put my opinion as succinctly as possible, I think that the government should have a smaller role in our lives as long as religious freedom is respected. I think good arguments can be made in favor of allowing gay marriage, relaxing drug laws, and well-meaning people of all kinds come to different conclusions on many issues. But abortion, which is usually couched in terms of privacy and individual rights by its defenders, remains one of the core issues that will cause a candidate to gain or forfeit my vote. My position is simple: it is not an issue of individual rights, as there are two individuals involved. Most pro-choice argumentation can be seen as a series of attempts to obfuscate this very simple fact. Allow me to summarize the main arguments here.
The fetus is simply a clump of tissue, not a person. On the internet, this is often followed up with snide remarks about how it’s the moral equivalent to cutting hair or clipping toenails- and Christians are hypocrites for not condemning these practices as well. This idea is usually based on ideas about the fetus’ viability outside the womb- since it fully relies on its mother for life, it is more like a tumor than a child. Christopher Hitchens, the late writer/atheist, confronts this idea with his usual eloquence:
“As the evidence about early ‘viability’ mounted, and as advances in medicine made it ever easier for even a distressingly premature fetus to survive outside its mother, the argument showed a tendency to shift. Suddenly, we were talking trimesters. And there was no longer much dispute about whether the unborn subject was alive. It certainly couldn’t be dead, since the whole battle consisted in how or whether to stop its growing and developing (not metastasizing). Now and then there would be a tussle over whether it was a fully ‘human’ life, but this was casuistry. What other species of life could it be? … The original embryonic ‘blastocyst’ may be a clump of 64 to 200 cells that is only five days old. But all of us began our important careers in that form, and every needful encoding for life is already present in the apparently inchoate. We are the first generation to have to confront this as a certain knowledge.” (Vanity Fair, February 2003)
(Full disclosure: Hitchens arrives at a different conclusion, based on this knowledge, than I do.) Human development is continuous. Arguments based on ability to reason, feel pain, and create memories would allow infanticide for the first few months- and only the more courageous of the pro-choice crowd admit to this.
Regardless of its humanity, the negative effects of the pregnancy and birth outweigh the negative of aborting it. This withers under the mildest scrutiny. How can the worth of a life be measured before it is lived? One friend of mine once argued that since many of these abortions take place in poor areas, the abortions are saving children from lives of poverty, drugs, and bad parenting. Has no life of worth ever come from dark surroundings? Should it be permissible to kill a three-month-old child, if his/her parents find themselves on the streets? What about a two-year-old?
I understand that in many cases, a pregnancy can lead to pain (physical and emotional), hardship, ridicule, and danger. I feel sympathy for the women who obtain abortions in these situations, and I could never imagine the pain and fear in a woman pregnant as a result of rape or incest. But only about 1% of abortions take place on women in these situations, and only another 6% have health problems threatening the life of the mother. So 93% of abortions are purely elective, chosen for convenience. And in every case, whatever the reason, a human being dies.
The idea that abortion should be used to reduce overpopulation is a similar idea. Only the staunchest pro-abortion thinkers have the moral fortitude to carry this train of thought to its logical extreme: that some people (me) are worth more than others (the third world). That life in poverty is not worth living at all. That ‘quality of life’ is some sort of quantitative standard, and is based only on the physical and the temporary. Along this line of thought, noted eugenicist (and racist) Margaret Sanger promoted birth control, abortion, and forced sterilization of the ‘unfit.’
Ignoring facts, ignoring discussion. In my brief Google research, I found that most pro-choice websites apply this tactic. The only mention made of pro-life arguments is some studies which purported to show connections between abortion and higher incidences of breast cancer and mental illness. I have no position on the accuracy of these studies (although the NARAL website simply states they are false, without linking to or referencing any studies), but the fact that they are listed as the only science-based objections to abortion is incredibly dishonest. The only mention of the idea that personhood begins at conception is in the context of legislative efforts (personhood amendments) that threaten abortion rights.
A current issue which perfectly demonstrates the hypocrisy, ignorance, and willful blindness of the pro-abortion movement is the missing girls around the world, especially in South-East Asia. ‘Missing girls’ refers to the dearth of baby girls in societies that see them as a burden. A New York Times article last May reported that as many as 12 million girls have been aborted in India in the last thirty years, giving them the lowest ratio of girls to boys since independence. The response from much of the pro-abortion world has been to promote laws to discourage sex-selective abortions, which would be laughable if its implications were not so heartbreaking. What argument currently used to justify ending pregnancies could not also justify targeting baby girls? If the pro-abortion community protests too loudly about this ongoing tragedy, we might begin to wonder they believe their own rhetoric about the value of a fetus.
In a world where abortion is not only legal, but celebrated, life cannot be protected because life is given no objective value beyond what it can do for me. In this culture, individuals see others as means to various ends, not as ends in themselves. And the ‘missing girls’ are only one consequence. And it remains vital for me to vote for leaders who recognize the worth of life.