As the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches next week, the American debate about abortion will likely return in full force. Realistically, calling a person “pro-abortion” is a misnomer. Nobody is truly “pro-abortion.” Rather, the debate centers on the right of a woman to resort to the medical practice as she sees fit. Thus, the U.S. debates within the well-known framework of “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice.”
However, the left has approached the question all wrong. The term “pro-choice” is methodologically incorrect in that it does not truly engage with the arguments of the “pro-life” lobby. Their response to the oft-heard claim “abortion is murder” has typically been to assert that a woman is entitled to make private judgments regarding her own body. However, such a claim unintelligibly fails to prove that abortion is, in fact, not murder. The simplistic claim that a woman has the right to choose will ultimately do nothing to further the debate.
Those that advocate the right to choose must adopt a new methodological approach if they are to expect a more optimal outcome from the debate. It is ultimately the job of the pro-choice activist to contend that a fetus cannot in fact be considered a life; hence, abortion should accordingly be considered a legal and legitimate medical procedure. If this is done, the U.S. can begin to engage in a pragmatic, rational debate. I by no means intend to make ideologically-based judgments of “right” or “wrong” in the debate but simply to challenge approaches to the debate itself.
How many times have we heard passionate claims to the tune of “The GOP has no right to regulate my uterus!” or “I have the right to my own health care choices!” Unfortunately, such claims will without question perpetually fall on deaf ears. After all, as Republicans would argue, isn’t the regulation of the uterus necessary when it is actively used to terminate human life?
Indeed, the arguments from the right make perfect sense in this context. It is certainly not the prerogative of a mother to terminate the life of her child after it has been born. Therefore, if an unborn baby is perceived as a “life” equal to a baby after birth, should the practice of abortion not also be illegal?
Thus, the pro-choice camp must alter its approach to the abortion debate in order to effectively plead its case. This will, in turn, perhaps help to achieve a greater consensus on the issue that will facilitate the process of legislation. There is certainly a wealth of literature to support the assertion that a fetus should in fact not be considered a “life.” Despite the biological claim that pregnancy by definition requires “living” cells, one can logically conclude from passages of the Bible itself (the fact that conservative Christians make up the majority of pro-lifers is well-known) that God in reality considers a fetus as less than “life.”
Such passages include a pair of verses from the Torah that dictate that the punishment for taking another’s life is unequivocally death, while the punishment for harming an unborn child is simply a fine (Exodus 21:12, Exodus 21:22) as well as numerous passages implying that life begins at first breath (Ezekiel 37:5-6, Job 33:4, Genesis 2:7).
In any case, the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment can be used to contend that citizens have the right to not ascribe to the values and morals of Christianity (as faith is often cited as one’s reason for opposition to abortion) if they so please. If a woman does not share a Christian perception of “life,” she should by no means be bound to laws that propagate such rhetoric.
The debate will likely continue for decades to come. Amidst all of the noise, can the two sides move past the emotional and value-based arguments so prevalent since Roe v. Wade and logically engage with one another?