Is a fetus a person? Let’s first debate that
Walk past Keane Hall on the right day and you will probably witness the abortion graveyard put together by Duhawks for Life decorating the campus lawn. The pro-life elements of our campus are adamant in their campaign to oppose abortion as a morally baseless and murderous act. I think simply labeling abortion as right or wrong doesn’t properly analyze this medical procedure. There are a lot of things to take into consideration when discussing abortion, so let’s look briefly at some of those factors.
The first distinction we need to decide as a society is whether a human and a person constitute the same thing. To explain, abortion is the killing of a human being, that is undeniable. A fetus has a distinct DNA strand, making it a separate organism from its mother, that organism being biologically human. However, are a human and a person different things? My definition of a person would generally include the ability to process thought, or the previous ability to think, and the ability to have or have had consciousness. So the determining factor for the legitimacy of abortion is whether a fetus has consciousness and is aware of its surroundings. If the fetus is aware, can feel pain, and produces even primitive thoughts, I believe it should be considered a person. If not, however, the argument for its personhood becomes difficult to prove. Where science ultimately draws that line will determine the moral legitimacy of abortion.
On a side note, however, the Right to Life campaign’s insistence that abortion yields no positive benefit is nothing close to the truth. A letter to the editor was entitled, “Abortion not a right, pregnancy not a burden.” I’ve highlighted the last part to reveal a common ignorance amongst the pro-life movement. To start, I’m not a woman, but I’m willing to bet the excruciating pain of delivery makes pregnancy a little bit of a burden for most women. Second, pregnancy and the rearing of children can have destructive effects on individuals who cannot care for them. The Christian Right’s insane baby craze, where the more kids you have, the happier dear Jesus is, isn’t practical for the working class and young women. There is a lot of catastrophic damage that raising children can level on a woman and her family. College education, high school education, careers, financial stability, the resources available to already-existing children, not to mention the mother’s physical and mental health, all are jeopardized by pregnancy and child-rearing. We can debate the moral and scientific implications of abortion all day long, but don’t insult the millions of struggling women in this country and the world by declaring childbirth, the reason for their pain and social/economic demise, as “not a burden.”