In memory of the 50 million Americans lost since the dreadful Roe v. Wade decision, I wrote a poem for a competition hosted by the Manhattan Declaration (you can read it here). The point of the poem is simply this: A little girl in the womb has no guarantee of liberty or the pursuit of happiness in America because she has no guarantee of life.
Two contrary points are typically made by those who favor abortion. First, it is said that the baby in the womb is something less than human, not quite considered a person. Maybe it is a fetus or embryo, but not a person. And because it is philosophically impossible to determine at what point the embryo becomes a baby, we are not at liberty to impose a definition upon the mother. She is free to choose for herself. Second, the argument is made that because the mother will have the primary burden of caring for the child, then she must decide whether to allow her birth. Each of these arguments is fundamentally unsound.
On the first point, the question must be answered concerning the child in the womb. If it is not human, then what is it? If it is human, then it must be protected. Terms such as fetus and embryo only obscure what ought to be obvious to all. What kind of embryo is it? What kind of fetus is it? Obviously, they are human embryos. As such, they should be protected under the law. According to our Declaration of Independence, “They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Still, the argument persists because pro-abortion advocates claim that humanity is not so easily defined. When do the cells and DNA actually become a full human being? Our simple response to this inquiry is, “When is it ever not human?” From the moment of conception, a human being is in process—a process of growth which continues throughout the time in the womb and even for most of the next two decades after the child is born. There is growth and development (in the strictly physical sense) from conception to the age of 18 or so. This is undeniable.
In fact, this line of reasoning is so filled with common sense that it permeates our legal code. Take, for instance, Title 16, Chapter 5A, Subchapter II, Paragraph 668 (a), of the United States Code:
“Whoever, within the United States or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof… shall knowingly…take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or in any manner any bald eagle commonly known as the American eagle or any golden eagle, alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof of the foregoing eagles, or whoever violates any permit or regulation issued pursuant to this subchapter, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both…”
What is particularly illuminating in the U. S. legal code is the threat of criminal sanction for taking not just the egg of the eagle but also the nest. It is clear enough that the egg of the eagle is protected (for the sake of protecting all eagles); what is even more astounding is that the eagle’s nest is also protected. Why? Because the nest is also a necessary part of the life-development of a bald eagle. In the case of the bald eagle, the law protects a collection of non-living sticks and limbs because those sticks and limbs provide a nesting area for an egg which—if all goes well—will eventually develop into an eaglet, which–if all goes well–will one day fly as an eagle. The nest of the egg of the eagle is protected in America because Americans value eagles and want to protect them. The womb of a mother is not protected in America because Americans…
Now, on the second point of debate, again, the law is clear. Those who advocate for abortion will say that they may be personally opposed to it, but they cannot feel compelled to burden the mother when child-rearing is her responsibility. (There are many false assumptions built into this argument—child-rearing is a mother and father responsibility; children are not burdens but blessings; and one cannot be opposed to something and advocate for it in the same breath). On the basic point of whether the child is the mother’s responsibility solely because it is part of her body, I would appeal to common sense and the law.
Common sense makes plain that the child in the womb is not simply a subsidiary part of the mother’s body. When a couple goes for an ultrasound, they don’t go there to find out what kind of tumor is growing on the mother’s body. They go there to find out the ___________ of the ___________. (Could you fill in the blanks? They go to find out the sex of the baby). It is simply ludicrous to assert that the baby is like a hemorrhoid, and abortion is good in the same sense as Preparation H. This is not a part of the mother’s body; it is a separate human body. The ultrasound is able to determine its sex. If it is a little boy, it will have a little boy organ which belongs to him—not to his mother.
In the law, the same common sense provisions can be found. Even if we were to say that the baby were merely a growth on the mother’s body, and, because it is her body and her burden, it is also her free choice, we still would not think that the mother is free to do whatever she wants with her body. Women are not free to do anything they want with their bodies; neither are men. One cannot expose his body to others without facing charges of indecent exposure. One cannot prostitute his or her body without facing criminal charges. One cannot fill his or her body with illegal drugs without violating the law. There are a great many things one cannot do with his or her body. There simply is no absolute right to your own body when you live in community with others.
So, we conclude with two simple and undeniable truths. At conception, human life begins. And, no one should have the right to rob another human of her right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With these simple facts recognized, we will see the value of human life soaring in America again like the eagle’s.