“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon.” - Dr. Seuss
Two weeks ago marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In a ruling of 7 to 2, 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,” which was largely 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. 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 3-year-old daughter.
As technology and science advance, I am 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 U.S. 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. At the same time, Mississippi is on the verge of shutting down its last abortion clinic, California is planning its 18th Power of Choice Luncheon in San Francisco, and the rest of the world pulls in different directions.
Canada and most of Europe share the lightest laws, like the U.S., which permit women to get abortions simply upon request. 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 a request 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 supporting 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.
Laws regarding euthanasia are equally ironic. We refuse to let people who are exhausted of living die, yet we have also ended more than 50 million lives in the U.S. 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 was not that long ago, when half of our population believed blacks to be inferior to whites. This was not because blacks were inferior, but because we were brainwashed into believing so. We dehumanized them for our benefit. Many people still do.
Until the 19th Amendment was added in 1920, women were considered second-class citizens. Then, in the 1930s and 1940s during the Holocaust, Nazi Germany dehumanized people based on race, religion, age and handicap. Nearly 6 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 our 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 1-second- to 130-years-old, are allotted proper dignity and basic rights, then, perhaps, this genocide will subside.