I think I wouldn’t mind it as much if things were consistent, that is, if every single unborn child was deemed to be less than human. But that is not the case.
It is now the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade that nationally legalized abortion and launched the country into sharp and endless debate on the topic. In the midst of all the semantics and speeches, marches and meetings, the main question has never received unanimous answer: is the unborn child a child?
Regardless of which side of the issue you are on, this is the first and foremost question of the abortion issue. No pro-choice proponent (I hope) would quietly accept the dismemberment and vivisection of a three year old child, for the simple reason that the child is a child, is human. Likewise, no pro-life proponent (I hope) would stand in the way of a woman having a voluntary surgical procedure done on her body. The difference then lies on whether or not the surgery in question kills a human child. If the “fetus” is a child, the act is murderous and absolutely reprehensible under any circumstances (Experiment: try dismembering a three year, two month, or one day old child alive and see how well that goes over in the community). If the fetus is not a child, then abortion is merely a medical procedure and we should all shut up about it.
And I think I wouldn’t mind if we, the American people, the media, the scientific community, and the government, were consistent on how we answer the question.
The American people in communities all across the country, seem to be mostly unperturbed about the approx. 1 million abortions that occur annually in the United States (statistics from 2005). Just to put that number in perspective, that number is equivalent to one fifth the population of the country I currently live in (Experiment: try killing off one fifth of the population of Singapore and see how well that goes over). At the same time, the American people in communities all across the country will mourn over the miscarried baby of a friend or family member. The message here seems to be that if the parents WANT the child, then it counts as a child, but if they don’t, then it isn’t a child.
I read a news story from my home state of Minnesota this past week, the headline of which read “Minn. man accused of trying to kill wife’s fetus” (1/18/2011, kare11.com). The article explained that the man “is charged with attempted murder of an unborn child after he allegedly kicked and punched his pregnant wife in the stomach” and “had threatened to kill her fetus.” The source stated that “He is charged with first-degree premeditated attempted murder of an unborn child and third-degree assault.” The man, Rory Northrup is in jail this week for trying to kill an unborn child (or fetus, the article can’t seem to settle on the preferred term), whereas in that same day, about thirty children (sorry, fetuses, I get confused sometimes) were not only brutally attacked as this one was, but killed in sterilized surgical rooms across the state (stats from 2009, mccl.org). The message here seems to be….actually I have no idea, and I don’t think the article does either. Rory Northrup of Aitkin, is in jail for attempted murder of an unborn child, whereas the practitioners of the “Women’s Health Center” of Duluth, are successfully attempting first degree murder of an unborn child every day and are free and clear.
Well, maybe the scientific community can give us a hand here. When does the blob of tissue inside the womb count as being alive? Well, if life is the opposite of death, then let’s consider what death means. The American legal definition of death is a cessation of brain activity. Medterms.com suggests the traditional “an absence of spontaneous respiratory and cardiac functions”; basically, if it’s not breathing on its own and has no heartbeat, it’s not alive. The American Medical Association accepts both of these, an absence of heartbeat and brain activity, as defining death (accepted in 1980). Okay, so when does that blob of tissue begin exhibiting these signs of life?
The heartbeat of a human embryo (that’s what you’re supposed to call it until it’s been in the womb three months, then it’s a fetus) begins 18-25 days after conception. If you engage in some complex scientific mathematics you’ll figure out that that is less than four weeks. LESS THAN FOUR WEEKS after conception, there is a heartbeat. Brainwaves have been recorded in human embryos as early as 43 days after conception (approx. 6 weeks). At eight weeks of gestation, the unborn child responds to outside stimulus; if it is touched or tickled, it will voluntarily move away from the contact. It should come as no surprise then that you can observe ultrasounds of unborn children (oops, I mean fetuses) fleeing abortive instruments (Watch here, the abortion begins at 4:30. Video includes disturbing images. Go figure.) Scientifically speaking, the “embryo” is a living thing at about 6 weeks after birth. At this point in time, some women may not even realize that they’re pregnant. (information from Human Life Alliance, www.humanlife.org)
What about the government? Is the government consistent on this issue? Well, one might first ask if the government is consistent on anything, but we’ll leave the sarcasm for a day that doesn’t commemorate 50 million human deaths. Another news story broke this week about an abortion doctor in Philadelphia, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, being arrested and charged with eight murders: one woman (due to overdose of anesthetics) and seven children who, during late term abortions, were delivered alive at 7-9 months gestation, and then killed outside the womb “by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord”. However, had this been done inside the womb bare months earlier, Gosnell would be legally charged with only one murder, and not eight. The article makes no mention whatsoever of how many infants Gosnell was able to kill inside the womb in his thirty years of business.
President Ronald Reagan, a man who himself was not consistent on this question, once said regarding abortion on the life of a human child that “Unless and until it can be proven that the unborn child is not a living entity, then its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be protected.” “If there is a question as to whether there is life or death, the doubt should be resolved in favor of life.” That is, if a conclusion on this question cannot be reached, we should err in favor of not potentially exterminating a human life.
Experiment: hand someone a pistol and offer to give them a thousand dollars if they will shoot into a closed cardboard box that may or may not contain a child in it. See if anyone takes you up on the offer.
We are inconsistent at all levels of our society in the treatment of the embryo/fetus/human child that is routinely terminated every day across our country. We are not only inconsistent, we are comfortably inconsistent. Just as citizens of Germany quietly sat by during the government sanctioned mass genocide of the Jews and other unwanted minorities, we quietly sit by and ignore the silent heartbeats of slaughtered children that echo across our nation. But maybe it isn’t fair to compare legalized abortion to the Holocaust. After all, at the highest estimates, the Nazi regime only exterminated 11-17 million people. We’re going on 50 million in America alone. Maybe the real question is not whether or not the aborted tissue is a human child, maybe the real question is how we can sleep at night without answering that question in the first place.