Breaking up the Abortion Duopoly
Commonly referred to as a “wedge issue,” abortion has more or less divided Americans into two camps. Those who believe in a woman’s right to make that decision more or less unimpeded by the law are referred to as being “pro-choice” while those who oppose abortion in most or all cases are referred to as “pro-life.” Already we run into a problem.
Most anti-abortion advocates simply cannot, with any level of integrity, be referred to as being pro-life. As they are most often right-wingers, they usually believe in the death penalty and rampant militarism — which has resulted in the spread of death and destruction abroad. They also show little care for the child once they exit the mother’s womb as they push for the evisceration of our welfare state and oppose equal of opportunity measures such as free college tuition for all. Someone with these sorts of ideological leanings is not “pro-life.” At best, they’re pro-birth. Moving forward, though, I will refer to them as anti-abortion.
Despite most of their political positions being incongruous with such a label, the reason anti-abortionists have labelled themselves “pro-life” is due to the belief they have that what is inside a mother’s womb is a life from the moment of conception. Nonsense. What’s fascinating about this is that, in my experience, when pressed, most people who profess this belief will quickly back off of it when you take it to its logical conclusion.
If you believe that what is in the womb is a life equal to yours or mine, you must believe that in the case of a successful abortion, the doctor should be punished as a first degree murderer and the woman must be punished as someone who hired a hitman. While there are certainly some committed dogmatic anti-abortion ideologues out there who would agree with this, I would like to think that they make up a small, albeit vocal, minority of the overall movement. Kevin Williamson, a former Atlantic columnist, came under fire for saying abortion should be treated “like any other homicide” and went on to propose hanging as a potential punishment.
Those on the pro-choice side of the aisle, needless to say, have a very different view. The common thread among this movement is that life — meaning a life equal to yours or mine — begins at birth. This is something I agree with as a product of the legal argument I presented last paragraph. However, I diverge from this school of thought when it comes to determining the value of a fetus. Life is the single most precious thing we have — just because a fetus doesn’t constitute a “life” according to my estimations does not mean that it has no value. It is not simply a “cluster of cells.”
So, if a fetus is not a life nor a cluster of cells, then what is it? Allow us to defer to both common sense and the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on this one. fkA fetus represents the potentiality of human life. Most people would agree that the potentiality of life, while not equal to life actualized, has inherent value. Given that, there should be laws in place to protect it.
Some have described me as somewhat of a moderate on the issue of abortion. The problem I have with the framework of the current debate is that you are typically presented with a strict dichotomy — either what’s in the womb is a life, or it’s not. What I advocate for is something of a third position. To put a label on it, up until birth, what is in the womb represents “the potentiality of life.” Not only does it have inherent value, but that value increases as the cycle progresses ever closer to the moment of birth.
I believe that many people would sympathize with this view. Unfortunately, it is seldom presented to the public.