With the recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade and President Obama repealing the Mexico City Policy, the pro-life movement has seen the last couple weeks as a time of great injustice, and have begun numerous campaigns to overturn one of the Supreme Court’s most controversial decisions. Their goal is to institute a policy which outlaws abortion on the grounds that abortion is murder. However, the morality of a faith-based movement should not apply to public policy nor should it apply to an issue as complex as women’s health.
The first step in understanding why a policy banning abortion is wrong is to first understand the ethics of the issue. Pro-life movements argue that aborting a fetus is murder. They argue that a fetus is a human being, since it has human DNA and is composed of 23 male and 23 female chromosomes. However, these are very narrow views on the qualifications of humanity, which don’t take the whole picture into account. For instance, if human DNA is a requirement, then every cell in a body would be its own person, since cells carry DNA. Also, chromosomes are part of the cellular structure, which means that, again, each cell would be considered a person. Clearly, these are not concrete requirements.
So what makes a fetus a human life? When would abortion be considered murder? We must consider that abortion can only be murder if the fetus is equal to that of a human being. In order to be equal, it must first be fully developed – in other words, it has to have a fully developed brain and a nervous system that would support life in the event the fetus could no longer rely on the support of the mother’s body. This development occurs during week 26, well after the generally accepted limit for abortions, which typically occur no later than week 23.
When determining whether a fetus is a human being, having a fully developed brain and nervous system is a necessary requirement because human beings are capable of feeling pain and pleasure, both physically and emotionally. A fetus is incapable of these complex emotions or stimuli because it lacks a brain and nervous system. Therefore, a fetus in the earliest stages of development is not equal to a human being.
But the pro-life movement would argue that, even in an undeveloped stage, a fetus still has the potential to become a human life, therefore we shouldn’t condone abortion. However, the argument of potentiality is just as flawed. If potential is a sufficient cause to consider something a life, then every sperm and egg would have to be considered a life, since they have the potential to create a fetus. Any rational person would agree that eggs and sperm are not people, so the argument of potential becomes irrelevant.
Since the ground on which the pro-life movement stands is based in religion, it may seem like a weak argument for those outside of that faith. Yet it’s wrong to outright say it’s incorrect, since this would encourage religious persecution. Although we should allow that group the right to their beliefs, it also stands that we shouldn’t apply their beliefs to public policy, such as the Mexico City Policy. Any point of view rooted in religion does not offer valid ground for such policy because it allows blanket statements to be turned into laws. When it comes to a topic as diverse as health, those general statements can’t be applied to every scenario. Each pregnancy is so unique that the only people who should be allowed to make any sort of judgment on whether or not to carry the fetus to term is the woman and her doctor.
But pro-life arguments insist abortion is unhealthy, often citing cases of depression or mental instability occurring shortly after the abortion. Again, these cases are unique to each woman; therefore any blanket statement made on the mental health effects of abortion is bound to be a ridiculous overgeneralization and would not make good grounds for public policy.
The Mexico City Policy was repealed for a reason: It didn’t allow women to have control over their own bodies. And in the case of abortion, there is insufficient evidence and reason for the policy to have even existed in the first place.