Rights of the Unborn

Last Saturday, January 22, marked the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Over 400,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. over the weekend to participate in the annual pro-life march, and to commiserate the 52 million innocent humans beings who have been murdered in the United States since 1973; constituting one of the largest genocides in human history. They gather in order to foster resistance against Roe v Wade in the hopes of one day overturning it, and I am very sympathetic to their cause.

I don’t presume that pro-choice advocates are consciously complacent with this genocide, but that they merely have fixed preconceptions which are impervious to reason. They simply do not believe that the unborn have rights. Much in the same way that our society doesn’t give plants or other lesser beings rights, an unborn human hasn’t achieved enough complexity of life to be granted personhood in the opinions of some people. Consequently, their concern is focused solely on the expecting mother. Like all good Americans, Roe v. Wade supporters are naturally fearful of government extending its authority over anything, especially their bodies. They wanted legislation to restrict the government’s control.

The problem with Roe v. Wade is that it is predicated on the idea that life does not begin until birth. The decision was made to protect mothers of their right to privacy under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. So mothers do indeed have the right to an abortion- if the unborn cannot be considered persons. It has long been held that a person’s rights extend to the point where they encroach on another person’s rights. Therefore, a mother doesn’t have any such right if the exercising of that right will violate a much more fundamental right of another person, the right to live.

In death-penalty cases, “reasonable doubt” goes to the accused unless the jury is absolutely certain of the defendant’s guilt. Our legal system is not willing to risk an innocent man’s life if there is any dissent with the verdict. Applying this logic to abortion would inevitably result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Unless the court was 100 percent sure, without doubt, that all fetuses attain the status of human beings only after the umbilical cord is cut, abortion cannot be allowed to take place because it risks the lives of the innocent; and thus is inconsistent with current jurisprudence.

There is evidence, even for atheists, that life begins at conception. At conception the embryo consists of a full set of chromosomes that constitute DNA that is completely unique from the mother’s. What’s more, this DNA is identical throughout that specimen’s life, which is to say even after birth. Therefore, there is no change in the genetic makeup of a person from when they were conceived to when they die. Biologically the unborn are identical to the born. So how can a government allow its citizens to end the lives of unborn persons while prosecuting those who end the lives of born persons?

If the aforementioned reasons have failed to persuade any pro-choice readers, I implore them to consider one last, more philosophical argument. A fetus’ lack consciousness doesn’t make it any less of a person. When an adult human falls into a coma they lose all consciousness, yet we still consider them to be fully human persons. Why would the inverse not also be true? A fetus certainly has the potential to become a fully conscious adult (unless of course its life is terminated via abortion), so why does its provisional lack of consciousness preclude it from the same rights an adult human has?