What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: partick
Come November, individuals living in Colorado will have the opportunity to define through legislation what a person is, and therefore who is entitled to individual rights. Titled the “Colorado Definition of Person Initiative”, the measure seeks to amend the state Constitution as follows:
…the terms “person” or “persons” shall include any human being from the moment of fertilization.
Understandably, the proposed amendment is a loaded issue with both sides of the battle becoming firmly entrenched in their preparation for war, leading up to election day. Those few simple words are a direct threat to the so-called “pro-choice” crowd, and therefore the greatest opposition to the bill comes from those who see it as a threat to a woman’s rights.
The epitome of the opposition’s argument can be summarized with the following quote from a recent Washington Post article:
If we give fertilized eggs legal rights, abortion could be considered murder and a woman could be sent to jail for making the difficult life decision to terminate a pregnancy. (Crystal Clinkenbeard, spokeswoman for Protect Families, Protect Choices (a coalition of abortion-loving organizations and individuals))
At its core, this issue is one of legal protection: should the unborn fetus be granted protection under the law from injury or termination? The bill’s opposition parrots the pro-abortion line that such a measure would infringe upon the mother’s right to choose what she will do with her body, and therefore the fetus should be a lifeless, rightless mass of cells until it leaves the mother’s womb and instantaneously and magically becomes an individual entitled to certain rights.
Let’s first get things straight with our terminology. You’ve no doubt seen a number of car dealerships offering “pre-owned” vehicles. This is, of course, a recent twist in marketing designed to soften the blow that the word “used” brings to mind. Rather than offering used cars (which conjures up images of boogers wiped under the seat and hair trapped in the crevices), a positive spin is applied to deter those negative images and accentuate the more ideal aspects of owning a car that somebody else had previously owned.
So it is with abortion. I believe that in those cases where the mother’s health is not immediately threatened, abortion should be properly labeled as infanticide. Now, the issue over whether or not to accept such terminology is the same as the issue presented by this bill, for if an unborn fetus is considered to have rights, then the termination of its existence would be grounds for criminal action.
I stand with the authors of this bill and believe that unborn fetuses should be granted protection under the law. My reason is simple. I believe that individual rights not only extend to individuals already born, but to the state in which that individual is developed. In pregnancy, life already exists in the womb and the fetus is maturing to become an infant child. But destroying that infant, say, in the first trimester of pregnancy, terminates the opportunity for that developing fetus to become a born individual. Thus, I believe that it should be illegal not only to terminate the life of an individual, but also to destroy the opportunity for that individual to be born.
This is why I have a problem with most forms of hormonal contraception. Sold to the masses as a way to prevent ovulation and subsequent fertilization, birth control pills and devices (even those not classified as abortifacients) contain a backup method that creates a hostile environment in the womb, so that if the contraceptive portion of the pill or device fails, the fertilized egg will not implant. This is documented in a wonderful article, a portion of which reads as follows:
[Birth control pills] today work in one of three ways: by suppressing or inhibiting ovulation so that fertilization is impeded; altering cervical mucus to reduce sperm migration; or via a backup mechanism that prevents implantation of the newly conceived human life in the lining of the womb by creating a chemically hostile environment, sometimes called a postfertilization effect. In 1994, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, a respected fertility specialist and clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Creighton University School of Medicine, said, “All birth control pills available have a mechanism which disturbs or disintegrates the lining of the uterus to the extent that the possibility of abortion exists when break-through ovulation occurs.” (Break-through ovulation is the term used when the contraceptive component of the pill has failed, allowing ovulation and therefore conception to take place.)
Pharmaceutical company statements, medical textbooks, doctors, scientists, and even the government show total agreement when it comes to the abortifacient nature of the backup mechanism. Dr. Leon Speroff, the nation’s premier contraceptive expert and advocate, in his paper A Clinical Guide for Contraception, says about BCPs, “The progestin in the combination pill produces an endometrium which is not receptive to ovum implantation, a decidualized bed with exhausted and atrophied glands.” Dutch gynecologist Dr. Nine Van Der Vange of the Society for Advancement in Contraception said, “The contraceptive preparations are more complex than has been thought. They are not only based on inhibition of ovulation.”
Searle, Ortho, and Wyeth-Ayerst, major manufacturers of BCPs, admit in the fine print of some of their package inserts that alterations in the endometrium (uterine lining) reduce the likelihood of “implantation” of the already conceived embryo. Wyeth-Ayerst says its product maximizes protection “by causing endometrial changes that will not support implantation.” The Food and Drug Administration reported as early as 1976 that the pill changed “the characteristics of the uterus so that it is not receptive to a fertilized egg.” And a standard medical reference, Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology, states, “The production of glycogen by the endometrial glands is diminished by the ingestion of oral contraceptives, which impairs the survival of the blastocyst in the uterine cavity.” A blastocyst refers to a newly conceived human being.
The article also points out that while abortion numbers seem to be on the decline, they only factor in surgical abortions, or in other words, the physical removal of a developing fetus. Chemical abortions—those effectuated by birth control pills and devices, especially those promoted as “day-after” pills—would heavily inflate the already staggering numbers.
While currently accepted by law, snuffing out a developing life form is morally reprehensible. To argue that a woman’s individual rights (or her so-called “difficult life decision” as the spokeswoman cited above called it) somehow affords her the right to terminate life is absurd. We would be up in arms if a woman killed her child one week after delivery; why, then, do we tolerate it if she does it one week before delivery?
To be sure, there are circumstances in which an unborn child must be aborted to save the life of the mother. There are miscarriages and stillbirths when, through no fault of the mother, the developing child dies. But to assert that a woman’s desire/need to work full time, have less children, maintain her slender figure, or whatever other reason she may conjure up should be accepted as moral justification for terminating a developing life is tantamount to simply arguing that mothers may murder their children.
The main argument used against this notion (that abortion is equal to murder) is, of course, that life does not begin until the child leaves the mother’s womb. Until that point, critics argue, the unborn child is simply a parasite living in the host of the mother’s body, and thus the host organism can do with it as it pleases. I reject that argument, and echo the poetic words of Elder Maxwell in rebuttal:
I thank the Father that His Only Begotten Son did not say in defiant protest at Calvary, “My body is my own!” I stand in admiration of women today who resist the fashion of abortion, by refusing to make the sacred womb a tomb! (Neal A Maxwell, via Quoty)
While we commonly understand life to be sacred (or, rather, the lives of those already born), it is not as widely accepted that the same sacredness should be afforded to the miraculous process of pregnancy. I stand firm in believing that all levels of life should be protected under the law. As soon as fertilization occurs, I believe that the mother—who (except in the case of rape) consented to be impregnated and chose to follow this path—should be held accountable for her actions and required to live with the consequences of her choice.
All human life is sacred; therefore, embryos should be granted protection under the law to prevent their potentially selfish or troubled mothers from extinguishing their existence.