My personal conviction is that, once an unborn child’s heartbeat exists, both mother and society are obligated to do whatever is necessary to ensure the birth. I understand the many and difficult issue surrounding unwanted pregnancies, as I also understand that many who support legal abortion do not actually “like” the practice. What debate misses, however, are two critical elements. The first is that, while a woman has the right to determine what occurs with her own body, the child has rights as well.
The pregnant woman is no longer the sole determinant of her body simply because it carries another life with natural rights to existence as well. The second consideration relates to how external issues are allowed to complicate the subject. I perceive abortion as criminal under the noted condition of the fetus’ heartbeat, but this in no way translates to ignoring the needs and realities of the mother. Just as we must respect the fetus as a human being shortly to exist independently, so too must we work to create a society in which pregnancies are unwanted because of adverse circumstances.
Real change is needed, then, and on multiple levels. If we respect the inborn life, we must also accept that harming – or killing – doctors who perform abortions is equally and completely wrong. We must as well learn and recognize how our perceptions of human life evolve, and how science is a vital tool in lessening and ending abortion, by virtue of opportunity. Prior to the development of the modern incubator, for example, the lives of premature babies were seen differently.
With no means of keeping the infants alive, their deaths became socially accepted as, if tragic, a natural event (Baker, 1991, p. 655). Perceptions of infant life radically altered; if premature babies could be kept alive, they gained stature as living human beings entitled to the right of such care. Put another way, the baby as questionably valid shifted to views of it as human. What then emerges is how science and social thinking may combine to ease or eliminate the motives for aborting infants, and life as beginning is correctly respected.
- Baker, J. P. (1991). The incubator controversy: pediatricians and the origins of premature infant technology in the United States, 1890 to 1910. Pediatrics, 87(5), 654-662.