Once, I was unapologetically “pro-choice.” I was also a typical college agnostic and political liberal.
Now, I am unapologetically pro-life. And yes, most of my other deep philosophical and theological views have changed too—or matured rather.
Even though some years have passed since then, some of my friends may not understand the change from positions I once seemed so passionate about. So let me explain.
Abortion is unique in that it is a life or death question and therefore not something anyone should be indifferent to.
Abortion is certainly and clearly murder. It kills an innocent human life on grounds no greater than the arbitrary will of the mother (regarding the question of health, see obj. 1).
The typical response of the “pro-choice” position is that the fetus is not a person. Well, personhood is a deep philosophical concept, and when the life or death of a potential person hangs in the balance, it is unacceptable to simply dismiss or ignore the question of personhood. Serious thinkers have answered this question differently. Obviously, I know the Catholic answer and I think it’s right.
But let me provide an answer to the personhood question from my own experience.
The “clump of cells” in the mother’s belly is certainly a person from day one. I am convinced of this because I now have a child. My beautiful one year old baby boy, named William, is the same entity (or being) that he was when he was born, though of course, he has grown a lot.
My one year old William, the same William that was born, is also the same William that we looked at on the screen during my ultrasound. Ultrasound William is the same William that set the pregnancy test to positive before I even knew he was there.
In short, there was no magical moment when he went from not being a person into being a person. He is the same entity that he has been since that particular egg and that particular sperm fused, though of course he grew and continues to grow. He didn’t suddenly gain personhood when he passed through the birth canal. He was the same baby the day before he was born.
We as adults are like this too. We forget that we have continuous identity with ourselves as babies. I am Stephanie, the same person I was when I was 10, when I was 4, when I was born, and when I was conceived. Yes, I have grown, but I am the same being.
That means that if my mother had aborted me in the womb, I wouldn’t be here. Abortion would have killed Stephanie. Likewise, if I had aborted William in the womb, I would have killed the person William. Killing 1 month old (in utero) William would kill the same person as killing 1 month old William (after birth). Killing William in utero is the same as killing William on the outside, or even a William who has been outside for 5 years.
As humans, we are the same beings that our parents conceived. Those little babies inside their mother are persons, just as we are. The fact that they rely on the mother for life support doesn’t change that.
Now that I have William, I know that the personhood of a baby is continuous from conception onward. So I am totally and unflinchingly convinced that abortion is just a different word for murder.
Ironically, when I joined the Church, I was not fully convinced on the question of abortion. But, the teachings of the Church about Christ, salvation, and especially moral theory in general were so strong and compelling to me, that I just gave up my defense of abortion. I prayed that one day I would come to fully understand and appreciate the teaching against abortion.
Slowly, as I studied theology, the role of personhood became apparent to me and also the meaning of sexuality (yes, it really is the-act-that-makes-babies, as I have discussed in another post). Still, even when I was pregnant, I was nervous and scared about what being a mother would mean. I wasn’t even sure I would like the baby.
But once my son was born, I didn’t need philosophy, valuable and necessary though it is. Then I understood in the core of my being that the baby is the same baby that was conceived. I understood that the children belong to God and are given to us for a little while to raise and care for.
I am now horrified that I ever supported abortion, and I puzzle how I used to defend such violence. The answer was that I had very little experience with babies and young children. And I know that I cannot judge the consciences of those who do defend abortion because I really, truly thought that I was defending women’s rights. I thought I was on the right side of a tough moral question. I’m sure that most abortion supporters feel this way. No one chooses to promote or do evil as evil. We do evil while seeking an illusion of the good.
My hope is just to implore those who support abortion to truly search their souls and pray to receive truth. Because the truth would save the lives of thousands of tiny people.
Question for the reader: Have you ever seriously changed your views about an important subject? If so, how did that go?
Obj. 1 – What about the health of the mother?
Ans. 1 – The number of pregnancies that actually threaten the life of the mother is tiny. Pregnancy may be uncomfortable, but it is almost never life-threatening. Appeals for abortion on this ground are therefore very weak. If a non-life threatening health issue were to occur (as it often does), it would be in no way acceptable to kill a person in order to fix such an issue. If a case truly exists where a mother and child’s life hang in opposing sides of the balance, the rule of double effect applies.
Obj. 2 – What about rape?
Ans. 2 – Rape as a reason for abortion is also very rare, though more frequent than truly life-threatening health situations. Nevertheless, if abortion is murder, it is always murder. The tragically unfortunate circumstances through which the baby was conceived do not negate his or her personhood. The right to life does not turn on the intentions of the progenitors. I recognize that such a pregnancy would likely be an extremely psychologically challenging event for the mother. But that doesn’t mean we can kill the baby to make the trauma go away. The suffering is real, but the killing of persons is not a justifiable means to fix it. It means that the mother should receive the utmost in sensitive and loving support from her family, friends and medical practitioners.
Obj. 3 – Isn’t the “baby” just a clump of cells?
Ans. 3 – Yes. The baby is a clump of cells just as adults are clumps of cells, albeit larger clumps. From conception, the baby has a unique sequence of human DNA that will direct her cells to grow in accordance with human nature into a fully formed being. No “clump of cells” in cheek tissue or lungs can do that.
Obj. 4 – It’s my body. Because the baby depends on the mother’s body, the mother has a right to kill it.
Ans. 4 – Yes, the baby depends on the mother. But the baby has a body and right to life of her own. The success of this argument requires that the baby’s personhood be negated by her dependence on the mother. I see no reason that the child’s dependence on the mother should make the child less a person and less the subject of rights.