My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I put a taste below. I realized that as the abortion debate has moved to the state houses where we, the people, will actually have to debate the issue and come to some decisions, the rhetoric of abortion politics is still frozen in the theater of inaction in which SCOTUS froze it in 1973. This is one guy’s attempt to explain his position on the issue. Hopefully those with other opinions will offer them with the same sincerity and not resort to the crutch of “you hate women” or some such nonsense and we can have a grown-up debate about public policy. Pollyannish? Probably, but a guy can hope.
Our nation’s Declaration of Independence set forth that we are all created equal and, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life.” Our United States Constitution went on to protect people from being deprived of life without the due process of law in the fifth and fourteenth amendments. Both documents are based on a fundamental understanding of Natural Rights.
Natural rights are universal and inalienable. They are not dependent on government, laws, customs, traditions, or societal norms. They are rights that are embedded in the very essence of humanity and are enjoyed by each individual irrespective of age, color, creed, nationality, gender, or station. The just duty of government is to protect those rights from being infringed upon by others and to regulate the outcome of when two rights collide.
The most precious Natural Right is the right to live. Life is the right from which all other Natural Rights flow. The only real question regarding abortion, then, is to determine when life begins, for once we have determined that a life has begun, it is incumbent on us to protect that life through the power of government.
Fortunately, here in the 22nd century, the mysteries of reproduction and gestation have been largely solved. Once an egg is fertilized, a unique DNA is created and cells begin to multiply until they form a human that we would recognize. Some would pinpoint the start of life at when the heartbeat starts, or when brain activity begins, or when the baby would be viable outside of the womb. Some would allow abortion even in the moments after birth under the argument that the baby is still woefully dependent on the mother. That is the same argument that could be made for infanticide well into the toddler years.
For me, the most ethical and logical point at which to mark the start of life is when that unique DNA is created. That is when there is a unique life. There is clearly nothing separate from the parents before that moment and there is someone unique after it. While one could argue that life begins at a more viable state, each of those benchmarks seem arbitrary. Our moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect life should make us err, if we are to err, on the side of prudence. It is better to accidentally protect people’s pre-lives than it is to intentionally kill them.
With life beginning at fertilization, we must structure our laws to protect those lives. In the case of a mother not wanting a baby, we come into a conflict of the rights of two individuals. The baby has a right to life. The mother has a right to bodily autonomy. In such cases of conflict, we make laws to decide the best, least harmful, outcome. In no other area of law do we permit the killing of one individual to protect the bodily autonomy of another. Neither should we in this case. The consequences for the mother are significant, but the consequences for the baby are cataclysmic. In such cases, we must protect the life of the baby even though its very existence imposes obligations and consequences on the mother.