I like abortion. I think it’s a good thing, and I’m glad that we have it.
This isn’t just because it’s every woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny. It isn’t just because of the health problems, some of them life-threatening, that are eliminated by a well-timed termination. It isn’t even due to the possibility that abortion lowers the crime rate by preventing a generation of at-risk youths from being born.
All of these are true.
But they are not the main reason: in the same way that people lose some rights after they die, foetuses only gain some rights when they become alive.
Let me explain.
First let’s talk about life.
According to Wikipedia (and some online dictionaries I checked) something is “alive” if it:
undergoes metabolism, maintains homoeostasis, possesses a capacity to grow, responds to stimuli, reproduces and, through natural selection, adapts to its environment in successive generations.
Well friends, it looks like Jim the Foetus has fallen at the first hurdle *thump*.
Because early foetuses can neither maintain homoeostasis (the stability of internal biological processes) nor respond to stimuli. In both cases it is the mother who takes care of these functions. This is one of the reasons why drinking and smoking during pregnancy are bad things: the baby can’t defend itself against these toxins, it relies on the mother to do that, and it’s the mother who is poisoning it.
Early foetuses are not properly alive. They are a collection of cells that cannot survive by itself. I’m not going to go as far as some theorists who compare early foetuses to cancer, because that’s kinda gross, but they are not really alive, not yet at least.
Also, despite what fundamentalists would have you believe, foetuses do not look like tiny little babies. If anything, they look like tadpoles.
They also cannot feel pain. There is a horrible little website that features a picture of an unborn baby holding a surgeon’s hand during an operation. They try to use this to pretend that unborn babies are alive, aware and gosh-darn cute.
The picture is most likely genuine, but it doesn’t prove a thing. Foetuses don’t even have fingers until later in the pregnancy. We all know that babies have a reflex that causes them to grip anything that is placed in their hands but it’s not as if the baby reached out and grabbed the surgeon. Babies can’t even see until a little while after their birth. A baby that did actually reach out for someone before being born would be super creepy.
So I’m glad that’s not real.
Anyway, babies only have fully developed nervous systems when they are into their 3rd trimester. Until this happens they absolutely cannot feel pain. The earliest point that scientists believe a foetus could feel pain is deep into the 2nd trimester, at about 20 weeks, and even that doesn’t matter since there is a form of abortion available that stops the foetuses growth with a dose of anaesthetic, so even if it could feel something, which it can’t, those feelings would be numbed.
And even if that wasn’t the case there still wouldn’t be an argument against abortion here because abortions are only allowed to occur earlier in the pregnancy, before the baby has a nervous system, the ability to feel pain or the ability to “reach out and touch someone”.