Even though abortion took a back seat to economic issues in this year’s midterm elections, it remains an important and divisive topic. The issue of abortion played a central role in the legislative fight over Obamacare and recently returned to the public eye when a Minnesota couple unveiled an internet poll to decide whether to abort their baby or not. (Incidentally, the couple said that the poll’s results were 77% in favor of abortion. When repetitive and fraudulent votes were discarded, the result shifted to 73% in favor of sparing the baby’s life.)
As with many other issues, the facts about abortion are often obscured by emotional and irrational claims. Interestingly, the leftist position on abortion is at odds with the liberal position on many other issues. There are several arguments that liberals use to defend abortion. One of the most common is that the abortion decision is a woman’s alone because it affects her body and the government has no right to dictate what a person can do with their body. “Keep your laws off my body” is a slogan often seen on signs at pro-abortion rallies.
This line of reasoning fails on several levels. First, the notion that the government has no right to say what someone can or cannot do with their body is not correct. There are numerous other situations in which the government tells us what we can or cannot do, even when no one else is affected. One of the best examples is that most states have passed laws requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Failure to wear a helmet affects no one but the rider. In fact the abortion issue is one of the few areas in which liberals push for a more limited government role. In everything from health care to light bulbs liberals usually favor increased government intervention in American life.
A common liberal interpretation stemming from the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 is that abortion is constitutionally protected based on the right to privacy. The problem with this argument is that the right to privacy is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution (including its amendments).
The conservative position that favors more restrictions on abortion is not inconsistent with conservative beliefs in limited government. Conservatives believe that the government does have certain legitimate, constitutional roles that are enumerated in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Government has a duty to establish justice and provide for the general welfare by protecting its citizens. No citizens are more in need of protection than fetal-Americans, unborn babies. Further, the Declaration of Independence specifically lists the right to life as self-evident an inalienable.
Second, the abortion decision does not affect the woman alone. Every single abortion affects at least one other person: the baby. Additionally, the decision also affects the father, who in almost any other situation would have the parental right to be involved in a decision affecting his child. The lack of concern for the unborn child flies in the face of liberal compassion and concern for children on other issues. On most other issues, liberals proclaim concern for children, yet abortion is almost 100% fatal for the children (there are some survivors).
An additional argument used to support abortion is the idea that it is necessary to protect the lives or mental health of women, particularly those who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. In reality, only 1% of abortions are the result of rape or incest. A further 3% are due to risks to the mother’s health. Even taking into account the abortions performed because of possible fetal abnormalities (1%), that leaves the overwhelming majority (on the order of 95%) of abortions performed as an elective procedure for social or birth control reasons. This equates to almost 21,000 elective abortions per year in Georgia and almost 1.5 million nationally.
In the rare cases of rape or incest pregnancies, the guilt for the sexual abuse is not with the baby. Killing the baby does not erase the pain and shame that the victim feels after the attack. On the contrary, guilt from knowing that they were complicit in the death of their baby makes the mental anguish of many sexual abuse victims worse. Even in other cases of elective abortion, depression, guilt and suicidal feelings often plague the mother. Perhaps this is why instances of substance abuse are higher for women who have had abortions. Additionally, a host of physical health problems are also linked to abortion. Women who have had an abortion are at a significantly higher risk for breast cancer as well as having an increased likelihood of miscarriage or complications on future pregnancies. Perhaps this explains why 94% of women who have had abortions regret making the choice.
Along the same lines, some abortion proponents argue that a mother should not be required to bring a child bearing the genes and DNA of their attacker or abuser into the world. They believe that the child is destined to follow the criminal path of its biological father. These arguments smack of eugenics and the belief that some people are genetically inferior to others. In reality, a person’s actions and personality are not determined by his genetics, but by his choices, which are a product of his environment and ethics. A child whose father is a criminal can still grow up to be an honest and productive member of society. Even in cases where there is a genetic history of mental illness, this can often be treated as well.
Similar to this argument is the belief that only wanted children should be born. Children who are unwanted or who belong to poor parents might be better off not being born. The answer to this argument is that if a mother does not want to care for her child, there are a multitude of loving parents who are willing to adopt.
A final common argument in favor of abortion is the claim that government regulations are an attempt to impose morality. “You can’t legislate morality” is an oft repeated phrase. In fact, we can and do legislate morality. Almost all of our laws reflect our society’s morality from laws against murder to laws against theft. If an action was not considered immoral or harmful, there would be no need to make a law against it. Liberals did not hesitate to impose their moral belief that health care is a right on the rest of the nation.
As a society we have decided that killing is acceptable only in limited circumstances. War is one such circumstance, but then only in the case of an armed combatant. Killing is also permissible to defend someone’s life (or, in many states, property). Finally, killing is permissible by the state after due process has determined the guilt of a criminal and has set the penalty for his crimes as death. None of these circumstances describe abortion.
In general, liberals are quick to come to the defense of criminals who are denied due process, yet in the abortion debate they deny due process to an innocent baby. In effect, the unborn baby is being punished with death for the sins (if not crimes) of his parents. There is no judge, no jury, and no appeal.
Liberals are also inconsistent in their application of the first amendment with respect to abortion. Although liberals normally view first amendment rights as expansive enough to cover everything from flag burning to nude dancing, they have historically supported heavy restrictions on the right to protest abortion. Pro-abortion groups have even used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, intended to prosecute mafia dons, in an attempt to stifle the abortion debate.
Stripping away all the extraneous arguments about abortion, the whole issue boils down to whether a fetus, an unborn baby, is human. I first became aware of abortion as an elementary school student in rural Georgia. Two older girls in my church, Beth Manley and Alison Byrum (both of whom have since died in separate incidents), were working on a school project about abortion and asked the rest of the children to answer a short survey on the subject. I was probably in fourth or fifth grade at the time and had never heard of abortion. When they explained what it was, it seemed inconceivable to me that it could be legal for a mother to elect to kill her unborn baby. Even at eleven or twelve years old, it seemed obvious that an unborn baby is a living person and that killing a person is murder.
Today, advanced medical technology makes it even harder to perpetuate the myth that an unborn baby is simply a blob of unliving tissue. Three-D ultrasounds give an unprecedented view of life in the womb and show remarkably developed babies. The film Silent Scream vividly depicts the pain and fear of an unborn baby as it is literally ripped apart in the womb by an abortionist.
A legal inconsistency is that many states allow prosecution for murder when unborn babies are killed. Exceptions in these laws allow legal abortions. It is illogical to say that a baby just outside the birth canal is human while the same baby inches inside the mother’s body is not. The evidence is strong that unborn babies are just as alive and just as human as the rest of us.
A final inconsistency is that many liberals claim to desire fewer abortions but actively oppose even reasonable restrictions on the practice. Attempts to place a waiting period on the procedure, to require parental consent in the case of minors, or to give the father a voice in the decision almost always meet with strong opposition from pro-abortion advocates. Similarly, they have long been on a quest to find federal funding for abortions. Pro-abortion politicians who repeated the mantra that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare” usually concentrated on the “safe” and “legal” part of the statement, while doing little to make it rare.
There are two bright spots for pro-lifers in the abortion debate. One is that public opinion on the issue has been trending toward the pro-life viewpoint in recent years. This is probably due to the new knowledge about unborn babies, as well as the fact that many people born after 1973 realize that they could have easily been aborted on the whim of their mother. A second positive development is that the number of abortions has decreased markedly since the early 1990s.
A clear majority of Americans now believe that abortion is morally wrong and that more restrictive abortion laws are needed. As attitudes change, abortion is becoming less socially acceptable and less common (although it is on the increase in Georgia). It is hopefully only a matter of time before the courts and legislatures around the country accept the constitutional will of the people.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Beth Manley and Alison Byrum who first made me aware of the tragedy of abortion.