Two weeks ago marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In a ruling of seven to two, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion, giving women the right to abort until viability.
I used to be pro-choice, digesting and regurgitating the mantra, “A woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body.” It was the result of growing up in a liberal family and area that promoted this view, but also because I knew little about fetuses. To be fair, nobody did.
What tends to happen is that pro-choice and pro-life parties argue about women’s rights, what to do if the baby is a product of rape (which represents less than one percent of all cases), and so forth. These issues are important, but they are secondary. Abortion is not limited to women’s rights, but should be held in the context of human rights. The babies are human, after all, some of them women. And so the arguments must be when does human life begin, and are all humans worthy of the same basic right to life?
When abortion was legalized in 1973, the ultrasound was still elementary in the field of obstetrics. We didn’t know then what we do now, like that 46 unique chromosomes are created at the moment of conception, determining the color of a baby’s eyes and hair, and some bits of personality. At eight weeks, a baby’s brain functions, its heart pumps. It has fingerprints, it sucks its thumb, it responds to music and is distressed by pain. “It” sounds a lot like my neighbor’s three-year-old daughter.
As technology and science advance, I’m persuaded that Roe v. Wade will be overturned.
Across the United States, Washington is one of the loudest states to endorse abortion, even going so far as to pass a law that would maintain the legality of abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But, as a whole, the United States — and world — is divided.
Last week, while dozens of Seattleites attended the first “Northwest Summit on Reproductive Justice” at the University of Washington, thousands of pro-life demonstrators “marched for life” up to the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. Mississippi is on the verge of shutting down its last abortion clinic, and California is planning its 18th Power of Choice Luncheon in San Francisco.
Canada and most of Europe share the lightest laws, like the U.S., which permit women to get abortions upon request. No questions asked. Finland and Ireland are exceptions and ban abortion entirely, like much of South America. Most of Africa and Asia fall somewhere in between, only permitting an abortion if the baby’s or mother’s health is at risk, or in cases of rape.
The specifics of each country’s laws fluctuate, like which abortive procedures can be preformed, where, and how late into a pregnancy. But if a baby is a human from conception, does it matter? There is a gap in our society where we dehumanize an unborn baby to allow abortion without a guilty conscience, but we also enforce laws that suggest the contrary.
Under federal law, sea turtles are offered greater worth than humans. If you handle, break or steal a fertilized egg, you can be fined up to $100,000 and sentenced to a year in prison.
If a pregnant woman is driving to an abortion clinic but gets hit on the way and miscarries, the person who hit her can be charged with involuntary manslaughter. If she makes it safely to the clinic and aborts her child with a vacuum or scalpel, no crime has been committed.
Around the globe, and especially in the Western world, the same people who support a woman’s right to choose petition sex-selective abortions, where women opt to abort their baby girls, then try again for boys. If women can choose to abort a child for one reason, why not another? If it’s not a baby, but only a mess of cells, no injustice has been committed, right?
Laws regarding euthanasia are equally ironic. We refuse to let people who want to die end their lives, yet we have also ended more than 50 million lives in the United States in the past 40 years through abortion (around 3,300 per day in 2008).
I’ll stop here.
The United States is young, and we’re still learning.
The Civil Rights Movement wasn’t that long ago, when half of our population believed blacks to be inferior to whites. This wasn’t because blacks were inferior, but because we were brainwashed into believing that to be true. We dehumanized them for our benefit. Many people still do.
Until the 19th Amendment was added in 1920, women were considered second-class citizens.
In the 1930s and 1940s during the Holocaust, Nazi Germany dehumanized people based on race, religion, age, and handicap. Nearly six million people were murdered.
More recently, the FBI’s hate crime incidents report in 2011 showed that of the 6,216 reported hate crimes, 20 percent were motivated by sexual bias.
In each crime against social justice, oppression is justified by dehumanizing, deciding that one group of people is less valuable than another, whether it be for political gain, power, or something else. Might abortion be one more example of dehumanization for the sake of convenience?
Altering laws will do little without changing outlooks, like in Ireland, where more than 4,000 women travel to England annually to abort their child, since it’s illegal in their own country. If all humans, from one-second- to 130-years-old, are allotted proper dignity and basic rights, then, perhaps, this genocide will subside.