Alive, But Not a Person

Megan Moutsatsos, Queens University.

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For centuries, women have been fighting an uphill battle for their rights. From voting rights, to property rights, to the right to be viewed as people, women’s rights are all too frequently restricted, as though when one hurdle is shattered, another shoots up in its place. A massively controversial, modern issue is a woman’s right to an abortion — a debate in which people stand behind one of two opposing movements, “pro-choice” and “pro-life”.

The “pro-choice” versus “pro-life” debate poses the question of whether a woman should have legal access to an abortion. The “pro-life” movement, in their belief that abortions should be illegal, thus restricts a woman’s right to make a decision regarding themselves and their body. The right to an abortion is more complex than a woman’s right to vote or to own a house because it takes another life into question — that of the fetus, hence raising the question: can a fetus be considered a person? Does the fetus have a “right to life”, one than can ethically override a woman’s right to abortion? In my opinion, the answer is no.

Biologically speaking, life begins at the fertilization of an egg by the sperm. At this point, the egg consists of its full genetic code, and has begun to develop inside the womb. While the fetus might be alive in basic terms, that does not mean it qualifies as a person. A person is more than a breathing, blood-pumping entity; a person can think, feel, and love. Science has proven that a fetus cannot feel pain until the third trimester, around the 27th week of pregnancy, because the neural pathways must be connected and functioning in order to experience such complex sensations91% of abortions take place at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy, well before the fetus can feel pain. The human brain is not viable until the 23rd week in the womb. If a fetus does not have a viable brain, how can it feel emotions that are the essence of our humanity? I’m not necessarily referring to emotions as intense as love; I’m referring to emotions such as admiration, comfort, and peace. Fetuses, therefore, lack the qualities and abilities that make us people. They are living, no doubt, but their lives cannot ethically be placed above the woman in which they reside, especially considering that the majority of those seeking abortions are doing so for very personal reasons.

Some women experience rape, some experience incest, and some face potential health risks if they were to carry their pregnancy to term. In these instances, abortion is vital for their mental and physical health. One might propose the argument that seeking out an abortion will not heal the trauma induced by horrors such as rape, but having her rapist’s baby might be a horror in itself for a woman. If a woman makes the decision to have an abortion upon the basis that she is not ready, or that her priority is her postsecondary degree, or that she does not have enough money to support herself and a child, that is her decision to make. People do not know the specific circumstances of individual women, therefore, people should not have the right to decide whether or not a woman brings another life into the world — an act that would drastically alter her own life forever. A woman should have a baby because she is fully, wholeheartedly ready, not because she did not have the choice to seek out an abortion.

Abortion, whether certain individuals like it or not, is a part of our society, and for many women, it is necessary. In my opinion, abortion is not evil, it is not vile, and it is not murder, for the fetus does not qualify as a person. Ironically enough, it does not truly matter if one believes a fetus is a person, or if one believes that all life forms are equal because pro-choice, contrary to popular belief, is not pro-abortion. Some women may never have or desire an abortion, and will still be pro-choice. Some women have an understanding that every pregnancy is unique and that every woman is entitled to make her own choice. Some women may even view a fetus as a complete person, as having a life equivalent to that of the mother, and could still be pro-choice, perhaps understanding that the debate of personhood will likely never be fully agreed upon. Perhaps some women understand that, although abortion may be immoral for them, it does not necessarily mean it will be immoral for everyone.

The debate of abortion’s legality and the root of its complexity hinges on morality, on what makes us human. At what point do we have the right to life? At what point do the laws protect us?

As these questions are further explored, with no definite answer in sight, people will always have differing answers on whether or not abortion is “moral”. These opinions should not necessarily stir up support within us for those who seek out abortions, but they should make us think a little deeper about the topic. These opinions should make us realize that the debate regarding abortion is complex, and that every woman should have the right to choose one, safely and legally, provided it aligns with their own morals and ethics.

Depending on a woman’s definition of “person”, an abortion very well could be the right choice for them.

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Sources

Chalabi, M. (2019, March 8). The truth about late-term abortions in the US: they’re very

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https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2019/mar/07/abortion-late-term-what-pregnancy-stage.

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2005, June 19). ‘The Ethical Brain’. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

https://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/19/books/chapters/the-ethical-brain.html.

Mellor, M. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/139003773

Miller, S. G. (2016, May 17). Do Fetuses Feel Pain? What the Science Says. Retrieved

October 10, 2019, from https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-

anesthesia.html.

When is the foetus ‘alive’? (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2019, from

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/child/alive_1.shtml.