The Nation recently published a column highlighting a pro-abortion campaign to get women to share their abortion stories. As the Senate gets ready to vote on confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the campaign organizers want Americans to consider abortion in terms of “what women go through,” rather than in terms of “rights on paper.”
Pro-abortion activist Katha Pollitt implores readers of her column to remember that there are huge swaths of the country where abortion is not available, and asserts that overturning Roe v. Wade would endanger women by making it harder for them to access abortion in some states.
She highlights some of the personal stories from the campaign, which is clearly aimed toward taking the focus off the moral and legal problems with abortion and placing it instead on the plight of women who have or want to get an abortion — a common strategy used by activists who want to keep it legal.
After all, shedding a whole bunch of light on the plight of the unborn baby would do very little to advance their mission. Pollitt’s column likewise focuses on the woman making the decision, while avoiding the plight of the unborn babies.
Of course, many women are in dire situations when they find themselves pregnant and they need our support, compassion and material assistance — this is why crisis pregnancy centers exist. But to view the conversation only through the lens of the woman is to ignore the entire reason that people oppose it in the first place.
Abortion advocates like to assert those who oppose abortion are medically-intrusive misogynists out to control the lives and medical decisions of pregnant women. But this simply isn’t true of the pro-life movement, which is clearly opposing abortion because it ends the life of a human being.
It’s not about trying to “control women.” Rather, it’s about preserving the right of all human beings not be killed in a brutal, horrific procedure. The movement is not about misogyny. It has everything to do with a basic understanding of fetal biology.
Advocates can hem and haw all they want about when life begins but the science is clear. When a woman becomes pregnant, from the time of conception, there is another distinct, living, growing human being inside of her. It’s not a tumor, it’s not a parasite, and it’s not some different species than that of the mother. It’s a human being. This is why pro-lifers oppose abortion.
If abortion did not result in the destruction of an innocent human being, then abortion advocates would be justified in their protestations. Pro-lifers could fairly be labelled as meddling busybodies interfering unjustly in the lives of women. But a scientifically-informed understanding of the earliest stages of human life demonstrates that pro-life advocates do in fact represent a movement that seeks to defend and protect the lives of those who cannot defend and protect themselves.
This is why when abortion activists like Pollitt write columns trying to demonstrate how or why it is difficult for women to access abortion, the response should be to immediately redirect the discussion back to the abortion procedure and what it does to those unborn babies. To focus solely on the woman facing the unplanned pregnancy is to ignore the other human being whose life hangs in the balance with every abortion decision.
Pollitt writes: “As long as [the abortion is] successful in the end, the difficulties along the way don’t matter. But why do we accept that women should have a hard time? Do anxiety and stress and fear not count? What about loneliness and having no support, even from the people closest to you? What about stigma and shame?”
She is missing the point here, but not because the stories of women facing unplanned pregnancy are unimportant. They certainly deserve to be heard, and listening to these stories can help the pro-life movement understand how to better help women in those types of situations. But this does not mean we should condone their choice to abort their children.
All the stories of all the pregnant women in the world would never be enough to justify abortion, though they should lead us to a search for possible solutions. Surely, people are going to disagree on the right course. But abortion ought not be a legal option. Unborn human beings should be afforded the same right not to be killed as born human beings. As such, the question of abortion is both a moral and a legal question. After all, the right to life is a human right, so it should be afforded to all humans.
Notably, another human right violated by an abortion procedure is the right to bodily integrity. The human right to bodily integrity means that every human being should have a right to decide what happens in and to one’s body. Ironically, advocates of abortion often cite bodily integrity as a reason why abortion is morally permissible and should remain legal. But the problem is that since we want to approach the abortion discussion armed with a scientifically accurate understanding of human life in its earliest stages, we must acknowledge that both the mother and the child have this right.
So how do we weigh the mother’s right to bodily integrity against that of the child? Philosophy professor Christopher Kaczor, acknowledging that an unborn child cannot make decisions about his or her body, explains: “… if the right to bodily integrity is to have any significance, it must mean that other people cannot violate your body by tearing out your organs and dismembering you without your consent. But this is precisely what takes place to the fetus in an abortion.”
He concludes that because the damage inflicted on the body of an unborn child during an abortion is greater than the damage inflicted on a woman during pregnancy, the unborn child’s right to bodily integrity should be protected, despite the demands this places on a pregnant woman.
When framing the abortion discussion, it is crucial remember that there are always two lives involved. Just because Pollitt does not wish to acknowledge one of them does not make him or her any less worthy of consideration.