Abortion is Life

Abortion is never an easy decision, but women have been making that choice for thousands of years, for many good reasons. Whenever a society has sought to outlaw abortions, it has only driven them into back alleys where they became dangerous, expensive, and humiliating. Amazingly, this was the case in the United States until 1973, when abortion was legalized nationwide. Thousands of American women died. Thousands more were maimed. For this reason and others, women and men fought for and achieved women's legal right to make their own decisions about abortion.

However, there are people in our society who still won't accept this. Some argue that even victims of rape or incest should be forced to bear the child. And now, having failed to convince the public or the lawmakers, certain of these people have become violent extremists, engaging in a campaign of intimidation and terror aimed at women seeking abortions and health professionals who work at family planning clinics.

Some say these acts will stop abortions, but that is ridiculous. When the smoke clears, the same urgent reasons will exist for safe, legal abortions as have always existed. No nation committed to individual liberty could seriously consider returning to the days of back-alley abortions; to the revolting specter of a government forcing women to bear children against their will. Still, amid such attacks, it is worthwhile to repeat a few of the reasons why our society trusts each woman to make the abortion decision herself.

Laws against abortion kill women.
To prohibit abortions does not stop them. When women feel it is absolutely necessary, they will choose to have abortions, even in secret, without medical care, in dangerous circumstances. In the two decades before abortion was legal in the U.S., it's been estimated that nearly a million women per year sought out illegal abortions. Thousands died. Tens of thousands were mutilated. All were forced to behave as if they were criminals.

Legal abortions protect women's health.
Legal abortion not only protects women's lives, it also protects their health. For tens of thousands of women with heart disease, kidney disease, severe hypertension, sickle-cell anemia and severe diabetes, and other illnesses that can be life-threatening, the availability of legal abortion has helped avert serious medical complications that could have resulted from childbirth. Before legal abortion, such women's choices were limited to dangerous illegal abortion or dangerous childbirth.

A woman is more than a fetus.
There's an argument these days that a fetus is a "person" that is "indistinguishable from the rest of us" and that it deserves rights equal to women's. On this question there is a tremendous spectrum of religious, philosophical, scientific, and medical opinion. It's been argued for centuries. Fortunately, our society has recognized that each woman must be able to make this decision, based on her own conscience. To impose a law defining a fetus as a "person," granting it rights equal to or superior to a woman's -- a thinking, feeling, conscious human being -- is arrogant and absurd. It only serves to diminish women.

Being a mother is just one option for women.
Many hard battles have been fought to win political and economic equality for women. These gains will not be worth much if reproductive choice is denied. To be able to choose a safe, legal abortion makes many other options possible. Otherwise an accident or a rape can end a woman's economic and personal freedom.

Outlawing abortion is discriminatory.
Anti-abortion laws discriminate against low-income women, who are driven to dangerous self-induced or back-alley abortions. That is all they can afford. But the rich can travel wherever necessary to obtain a safe abortion.

Compulsory pregnancy laws are incompatible with a free society.
If there is any matter which is personal and private, then pregnancy is it. There can be no more extreme invasion of privacy than requiring a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. If government is permitted to compel a woman to bear a child, where will government stop? The concept is morally repugnant. It violates traditional American ideas of individual rights and freedoms.

Outlaw abortion, and more children will bear children.
Forty percent of 14-year-old girls will become pregnant before they turn 20. This could happen to your daughter or someone else close to you. Here are the critical questions: Should the penalty for lack of knowledge or even for a moment's carelessness be enforced pregnancy and childrearing? Or dangerous illegal abortion? Should we consign a teenager to a life sentence of joblessness, hopelessness, and dependency?

"Every child a wanted child."
If women are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, the result is unwanted children. Everyone knows they are among society's most tragic cases, often uncared-for, unloved, brutalized, and abandoned. When they grow up, these children are often seriously disadvantaged, and sometimes inclined toward brutal behavior to others. This is not good for children, for families, or for the country. Children need love and families who want and will care for them.

Choice is good for families.
Even when precautions are taken, accidents can and do happen. For some families, this is not a problem. But for others, such an event can be catastrophic. An unintended pregnancy can increase tensions, disrupt stability, and push people below the line of economic survival. Family planning is the answer. All options must be open.

At the most basic level, the abortion issue is not really about abortion. It is about the value of women in society. Should women make their own decisions about family, career, and how to live their lives? Or should government do that for them? Do women have the option of deciding when or whether to have children? Or is that a government decision?

The anti-abortion leaders really have a larger purpose. They oppose most ideas and programs which can help women achieve equality and freedom. They also oppose programs which protect the health and well-being of women and their children.

Anti-abortion leaders claim to act "in defense of life." If so, why have they worked to destroy programs which serve life, including prenatal care and nutrition programs for dependent pregnant women? Is this respect for life?

Anti-abortion leaders also say they are trying to save children, but they have fought against health and nutrition programs for children once they are born. The anti-abortion groups seem to believe life begins at conception, but it ends at birth. Is this respect for life?

Then there are programs which diminish the number of unwanted pregnancies before they occur: family planning counseling, sex education, and contraception for those who wish it. Anti-abortion leaders oppose those too. And clinics providing such services have been bombed. Is this respect for life?

Such stances reveal the ultimate cynicism of the compulsory pregnancy movement. "Life" is not what they're fighting for. What they want is a return to the days when a woman had few choices in controlling her future. They think that the abortion option gives too much freedom. That even contraception is too liberating. That women cannot be trusted to make their own decisions.

Americans today don't accept that. Women can now select their own paths in society, including when and whether to have children. Family planning, contraception, and, if need be, legal abortion are critical to sustaining women's freedom. There is no going back.

If you agree with this, you can help. Circulate this statement among your friends, and support our work by contacting Planned Parenthood in your area. Thank you. - Text appropriated from Planned Parenthood

Abortion is Murder

There is a great deal of discussion about women's rights, privacy, deformed babies, child abuse, back-alley abortions, and so on. But surely the central question is, Is this a human life? If the unborn child, at some point in its development, is not a living human being, then there may be any number of valid reasons for destroying this "thing". On the other hand, if the unborn child, at some point in his/her development, is a human being, than destroying him/her is killing a person.

So when does human life begin?

Some people say that life begins when the unborn child reaches "viability", the point where he or she can survive outside the womb. For example, the picture to the leftshows Kenya King. A normal (although exceptionally cute) baby? Yes and no. She was born June 16, 1985, at just 21 weeks into her mother's pregnancy. That's over four months premature. She weighed just 1 pound, 2 ounces when she was born, and in the weeks that followed her weight dropped to 13 ounces. This picture was taken when she was able to go home with her mother, Lisa, a healthy, adorable, five-pound little girl.

This is Kelly Thorman, born in March 1971 in Toledo, Ohio, also at 21 weeks. This picture was taken three weeks later. It shows just how tiny she was. Do you see that bracelet around her wrist? Well, it's not really a bracelet -- it's the nurse's wedding ring. Kelly weighed just one pound when this picture was taken.

When does a developing child become "viable"? That is, what is the earliest a child could be born and still have a chance to survive? Forty years ago doctors put the age of viability at about 30 weeks into pregnancy, or ten weeks premature. Twenty years ago it was 25 weeks. Today it is 20 weeks. Both of the children pictured above were born at 21 weeks and survived.

But viability used to be 30 weeks and is now 20. What's changed? Have babies changed? Have mothers changed? No, what's changed is the medical know-how of the doctors and the sophistication of the life support equipment available to them. Forty years ago doctors didn't have all the high-tech medical equipment they have today, so babies who would have died back then can now be saved. So what is "viability" measuring? It is a measure of the state of medical science and technology in a particular place at a particular time; it does not tell us anything about the baby.

For several centuries the most popular belief was that life begins when the unborn child begins to move. This was called "quickening", which actually means "becoming alive". I suppose this is not too irrational. After all, what's the most obvious sign that someone is dead? Surely it's that he's lying on the floor not moving. Of course this test is not totally reliable, but if you kick him a few times and he doesn't get up or make a sound, that's a strong clue that he's dead. So if someone is dead when he stops moving, perhaps we should say that he is alive when he starts moving.

Anyway, back then they didn't have ways to see into the womb to really tell when a baby starts moving. By 18 weeks the baby can kick hard enough for the mother to feel it, but of course he's moving before then, though they weren't sure exactly when. Today we know that babies start moving at about six weeks, the age of the baby shown here.

Brain Waves
Of course today we're more sophisticated than the simple "not moving" test. Today we usually declare someone to be clinically and legally dead when we can no longer detect brain waves using an electroencephalogram (EEG). So if we say that someone is dead when brainwaves stop, perhaps we should say that he is alive when brainwaves start. When do brainwaves start? We can meaure them at 6 weeks.

Before the idea of "brain death" came along, we used to declare someone dead when his heart stopped beating. So if you're dead when your heart stops beating, perhaps you're alive when you're heart starts beating. When does this happen? At just three weeks after conception. (Sorry, I don't have a picture this early.)

Our Story So Far ...
What we've just said is something of a quick summary of development in the womb -- albeit in reverse. So let's summarize some highlights of fetal development:

  • At 20 weeks the baby is viable.
  • At 6 weeks we can measure brain waves.
  • At 6 weeks he begins to move his arms and legs. At 3 weeks his heart begins to beat.

How many abortions are there?
In 1985, 1,588,600 abortions were done in the U.S., with 10% being late abortions (after 12 weeks) (Alan Guttmacher Institute's figure). When the unreported abortions are added (income tax evasion, cover-up for privacy, etc.), a figure of 1,800,000 is probably more realistic. Live births have hovered around the 3,600,000 figure for several years. Therefore: Almost every third baby conceived in America is killed by abortion. In the U.S., about 40% of the total are repeat abortions.

In Canada, in 1984, there were 62,291 abortions, which is 17.5% of their birth rate (11.7% were late abortions).

The Extremely Harsh Reality
These dead babies had reached fetal ages of 18 to 24 weeks before being killed by abortion. This is the result of one morning's work at a Canadian teaching hospital.

Text appropriated from Ohio Right to Life Site