Abortion seems to be one of the most controversial topics in the world. However,

the majority always seem to rest on the side of Pro-choice. Should a woman be forced to

have an unwanted child? A child that she cannot care for? Should a woman be forced

into “high-risk” childbirth? Isn’t it enough torture that women in this world today are

raped, and further torture to force them into having their rapist’s child? All of these

questions arise during any debate about abortion. Abortion can be a very moral choice,

even though it is argued that it is the most immoral choice one can make. Many Pro-

choice supporters agree with the decision of Roe V. Wade, and believe that a woman

should have the right to choose, but they themselves would never have an abortion.

Statistically, most Americans support the decision made in 1973 by the Supreme Court in

Roe v. Wade. Approximately six out of ten do. Statistically speaking, Americans do only

support abortion in serious cases. Eighty-four percent think abortions should be allowed

only in cases of health, rape, and birth defects. Of the estimated 1.2 million abortions in

1997, approximately 14, 000 were cases of rape, incest, or birth defects. That is a three-

percent decrease from 1996. There are restrictions to abortion. No one can just walk

into a clinic and have an abortion done right on demand. There are waiting periods. The

shortest waiting period in the United States is 12 hours. There are short waiting periods

so women don’t go out and have unsafe abortions. This will help change the statistic that

20 million of the 46 million abortions are unsafe.

If a woman wants an abortion, she is going to get one. She will go to any means to

do so. Having abortion legal helps affirm the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of

happiness, which is stated in the U.S. Constitution. If abortion was banned, woman

would still have them, and most of them would be done extremely unsafe. Some women

could bleed to death from “coat-hanger abortions” or they could torture themselves to the

point of fatality. Not all women want abortions due to carelessness on their part.

Approximately 14,100 in 1997 were for cases of rape, incest, or possibility of birth

defects. Another 4,700 were cases that were due to the health of the mother.

Every American is either Pro-Life (anti-abortion) or Pro-Choice (believe women

should have the right to choose). The U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Roe v. Wade

case of 1973 that women do have the right to choose and that it is protected in the

Constitution (2,66). Today, 3 out of 5 American’s agree with this 1973 decision and are

pro-choice (19,85). This doesn’t mean that every pro-choice supporter agree’s with

abortion in all cases, or that they would ever even have an abortion themselves (19,85). It

just means that they believe that there are some cases where it is necessary. Pro-life

supporters argue that it is an immoral choice to believe it is “okay to kill a baby.” Many

pro-lifer’s also argue that it isn’t any human-beings place to “play God” or decide that just

because it’s a fetus, it’s not murder (16,41). On that note, some pro-choice defenders

would argue that it isn’t murder because the fetus isn’t alive. Now, pro-choice defenders

who claim the fetus isn’t alive do themselves, and their cause, a dis-service. Of course

it’s alive. It’s a biological mechanism that converts nutrients and oxygen into biological

energy that causes it’s cells to divide, multiply, and grow **. It is alive. Anti-abortion

activists often mistakenly use this fact to support their cause. "Life begins at conception"

they claim (11,8). And technically speaking, they are right. The genesis of a new human

life begins when an egg with 23 chromosomes joins with a sperm with 23 chromosomes

and creates a fertilized cell, called a zygote (a cell formed by the union of two gametes),

with 46 chromosomes (5,30). The single-cell zygote contains all of the DNA necessary to

grow into an independent, conscious human being (5,30). It is a potential person. Being

alive does not give the zygote full human rights - including the right not to be aborted

during its gestation. A single-cell ameba (a one-celled animal that continually changes

shape to engulf and absorb food) also coverts nutrients and oxygen into biological energy

that causes it’s cells to divide, multiply and grow (5,30). It also contains a full set of its

own DNA (5,30). It shares everything in common with a human zygote except that it is

not a potential person (5,30). Left to grow, it will always just be an ameba - never a

human being. It is just as alive as the zygote, but we would never defend the zygote’s

human rights based primarily on that fact. Neither can the anti-abortionist.

Again, Pro-choice defenders stick their feet in their mouths when they defend

abortion by claiming the zygote-embryo-fetus isn't human. It is human. Its DNA is that of

a human (12,8). Left to grow, it will become a full human person. And again, anti-

abortion activists often mistakenly use this fact to support their cause. They are fond of

saying, "an acorn is an oak tree in an early stage of development; furthermore, the zygote

is a human being in an early stage of development." And again, technically they are right.

But having a full set of human DNA does not give the zygote full human rights -

including the right not to be aborted during its gestation (8,63).

To better understand, try this experiment: grab one strand of hair, and yank it

out(3,14). Look at the base of the hair. That little blob of tissue at the end is a hair follicle

(3,14). It also contains a full set of human DNA (3,14). Granted it's the same DNA pattern

found in every other cell in that person’s body but in reality the uniqueness of the DNA is

not what makes it a different person (3,14). Identical twins share the exact same DNA,

and yet we don't say that one is less human than the other, nor are two twins the exact

same person (3,14). It's not the configuration of the DNA that makes a zygote human; It’s

simply human DNA (3,14). A hair follicle shares everything in common with a human

zygote except that it is a little bit bigger and it is not a potential person (These days even

that's not an absolute considering our new-found ability to clone humans from existing

DNA, even the DNA from a hair follicle).

A hair follicle is just as human as the zygote, but no one would ever defend it’s

human rights based solely on that fact. And neither can the anti-abortionist, which is why

the following two questions become critically important to the abortion debate. Is it a

person? No. It's merely a potential person. Webster's Dictionary lists a person as "being an

individual or existing as an indivisible whole; Existing as a distinct entity." Anti-

abortionists claim that each new fertilized zygote is already a new person because its

DNA is uniquely different than anyone else's. In other words, if it’s human, it must be a


Of course, it’s already been explained that a simple hair follicle is just as human as

a single-cell zygote, and that unique DNA doesn't make the difference since two twins are

not one person. It's quite obvious, then, that something else must occur to make one

human being different from another. There must be something else that happens to

change a DNA-patterned body into a distinct person (Or in the case of twins, two

identically DNA-patterned bodies into two distinct persons). There is, and most people

inherently know it, but have trouble verbalizing it for one very specific reason. The

defining mark between something that is human and someone who is a person is

'consciousness' (5,30). It is the self-aware quality of consciousness that makes us

uniquely different from others (5,30). This self-awareness, this consciousness is also what

separates humans from every other animal life form on the planet (5,30). Humans think

about themselves. Humans use language to describe themselves. Humans are aware of

themselves as a part of the greater whole. The problem is, that consciousness normally

doesn't occur until months, even years, after a baby is born. This creates a moral dilemma

for the defender of abortion rights. Indeed, they inherently know what makes a human

into a person, but they are also aware such individual personhood doesn't occur until well

after birth. To use personhood as an argument for abortion rights, therefore, also leads to

the argument that it should be okay to kill a 3-month-old baby since it hasn't obtained

consciousness either.

Anti-abortionists use this perceived problem in an attempt to prove their point. In a

debate, a Pro-choice defender will suitably state that the difference between a fetus and a

full-term human-being is that the fetus isn't a person. The anti-abortion activist, being

quite sly, will reply by asking his opponent to define what makes someone into a person.

Suddenly the Pro-choice defender is at a loss for words. Humans have no memory of self-

awareness before their first birthday, or even before their second. But they also quickly

become aware of the "problem" they create if they say a human doesn't become a person

until well after its birth. And they end up saying nothing. The anti-abortionist then takes

this inability to verbally explain the nature of personhood as proof of their claim that a

human is a person at conception (7,50).

Their "logic" is greatly flawed. Just because someone is afraid to voice the truth

doesn't make it any less true. And in reality, the Pro-choice defender's fear is unfounded.

They are right, and they can state it without hesitation. A human indeed does not become

a full person until consciousness. And consciousness doesn't occur until well after the

birth of the child. But that does not automatically advance credibility to the anti-

abortionist's argument that it should, therefore, be acceptable to kill a three-month-old

baby because it is not yet a person (5,30).

It is still a potential person. And after birth it is an independent potential person whose

existence no longer poses a threat to the physical well-being of another (3,14). To

understand this better, this question needs to be asked: Is it physically independent?

No. It is absolutely dependant on another human being for its continued existence

(. Without the mother's life-giving nutrients and oxygen it would die. Throughout

gestation the zygote-embryo-fetus and the mother's body are symbiotically linked, existing

in the same physical space and sharing the same risks. What the mother does effects the

fetus. And when things go wrong with the fetus, it affects the mother. Anti-abortionists

claim fetal dependence cannot be used as an issue in the abortion debate. They make the

point, that even after birth, and for years to come, a child is still dependent on its mother,

its father, and those around it. And since no one would claim it is okay to kill a child

because of its dependency on others, we can't, if we follow their “logic,” claim it's okay to

abort a fetus because of its dependence.

What the anti-abortionist fails to do, however, is differentiate between physical

dependence and social dependence. Physical dependence does not refer to meeting the

physical needs of the child - such as in the anti-abortionist's argument above. That's social

dependence; that's where the child depends on society - on other people - to feed it, clothe

it, and love it. Physical dependence occurs when one life form depends solely on the

physical body of another life form for its existence. Physical dependence was cleverly

illustrated back in 1971 by philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson. She created a scenario in

which a woman is kidnaped and wakes up to find she's been surgically attached to a

world-famous violinist who, for nine months, needs her body to survive. After those nine

months, the violinist could survive just fine on his own, but he must have this particular

woman in order to survive until then. Thompson then asks if the woman is morally

obliged to stay connected to the violinist who is living off her body. It might be a very

good thing if she did - the world could have the beauty that would come from such a

violinist - but is she morally obliged to let another human-being use her body to survive?

This very situation is already conceded by anti-abortionists. They claim RU-486

should be illegal for a mother to take because it causes her uterus to flush its nutrient-rich

lining, thus removing a zygote from its necessary support system, therefore ending its

short existence as a life form (6,30). Thus, the anti-abortionist's own rhetoric only proves

the point of absolute physical dependence. This question becomes even more profound

when we consider a scenario where it's not an existing person who is living off the

woman's body, but simply a potential person, or better yet, a single-cell zygote with

human DNA that is no different than the DNA in a simple hair follicle.

To complicate it even further, realize that physical dependence also means a

physical threat to the life of the mother. The World Health Organization reports that

nearly 670,000 women die from pregnancy-related complications each year (this number

does not include abortions). That's 1,800 women per day (20,85). We also read that in

developed countries, such as the United States and Canada, a woman is 13 times more

likely to die bringing a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion (20,85). Therefore,

not only is pregnancy the prospect of having a potential person physically dependant on

the body of one particular woman, it also includes the women putting herself into a life-

threatening situation for that potential person.

Unlike social dependence, where the mother can choose to put her child up for

adoption or make it a ward of the state or hire someone else to take care of it, during

pregnancy the fetus is absolutely physically dependent on the body of one woman (13,8).

Unlike social dependence, where a woman's physical life is not threatened by the

existence of another person, during pregnancy, a woman places herself in the path of

bodily harm for the benefit of a DNA life form that is only a potential person - even

exposing herself to the threat of death (7,37).

This brings the next questions: Do the rights of a potential person supercede the

rights of the mother to control her body and protect herself from potential life-threatening

danger? Does it have human rights? Yes and No. A potential person must always be

given full human rights unless its existence interferes with the rights of Life, Liberty, and

the Pursuit of Happiness of an already existing conscious human being (6,30). Thus, a

gestating fetus has no rights before birth and full rights after birth (17,41). If a fetus

comes to term and is born, it is because the mother chooses to for-go her own rights and

her own bodily security in order to allow that future person to gestate inside her body. If

the mother chooses to take control over her own body and to protect herself from the

potential dangers of childbearing, then she has the full right to terminate the pregnancy


Anti-abortion activists are fond of saying "The only difference between a fetus and

a baby is a trip down the birth canal." This nonchalant phrase may make for catchy

rhetoric, but it doesn't justify the fact that indeed, "location" makes all the difference in

the world. Go ahead and ask any realtor. It's actually quite simple. There cannot be two

entities with equal rights occupying a single body. One will automatically have veto

power over the other - hence they don't have equal rights. In the case of a pregnant

woman, giving a "right to life" to the potential person in the womb automatically cancels

out the mother's right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (8,50). After birth, on

the other hand, the potential person no longer occupies the same body as the mother, and

thus, giving it full human rights causes no interference with another's right to control her

body (8,50). Therefore, even though a full-term human baby may still not be a person,

after birth it enjoys the full support of the law in protecting its rights. After birth its

independence begs that it be protected as if it were equal to a fully-conscious human

being. But before birth its lack of personhood and its threat to the women in which it

resides makes abortion a completely logical and moral choice (11,24). Which brings us to

our last question, which is the real anchor of the issue: Is abortion murder?

No. Absolutely not. It's not murder if it's not an independent person. One might

argue, then, that it's not murder to end the life of any child before she reaches

consciousness, but we don't know how long after birth personhood arrives for each new

child, so it's completely logical to use their independence as the dividing line for when

full rights are given to a new human being. Using independence also solves the problem

of dealing with premature babies. Although a premature baby is obviously still only a

potential person, by virtue of its independence from the mother, we give it the full rights

of a conscious person. This saves us from setting some other arbitrary date of when we

consider a new human being a full person. Older cultures used to set it at two years of

age, or even older. Modern religious cultures want to set it at conception, which is simply

wishful thinking on their part.

In some unfortunate cases, women are infertile or men are sterile. So these couples

decide to take fertility drugs or use vitro fertilization. This can increase the chance of

multiple conception dramatically (15,60). This is what doctors call a “high-risk”

pregnancy (15,60). In most cases, physicians would recommend abortions even in cases

of twins (15,60). It can cause severe medical complications for both the mother and

child. If the mother chooses to keep all of some of the children then the possibilities of

respiratory infections to cerebral pulsy for the children multiply (15,60). Another form of

“high-risk” pregnancy is in young women. In particular, teens (2,7). Since their bodies

have not fully developed, the child may be too large to go through a vaginal child birth

which can lead to severe problems that can be fatal to both the mother and child (6,30).

Women over 33 are thought to be at “high-risk” of complications also (6,30).

As we've clearly demonstrated, a single-cell zygote is no more a person that a

human hair follicle (13,8). But that doesn't stop religious fanatics from dumping their

judgements and their anger on top of women who choose to exercise the right to control

their bodies. It's the ultimate irony that people who claim to represent a loving God resort

to scare tactics and fear to support their mistaken beliefs. It's even worse when you

consider that most women who have an abortion have just made the most difficult

decision of their life. No one thinks abortion is a wonderful thing. No one tries to get

pregnant just so they can terminate it. Even though it's not murder, it still eliminates a

potential person, a potential daughter, a potential son. It's hard enough as it is. Women

certainly don't need others telling them it's a murder. It's not. On the contrary, abortion is

an absolutely moral choice for any woman wishing to control her own body, and even her

own life.

Word Count: 3312

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