Author: ADF Blackstone Fellow David Manni
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always thought the debate on abortion revolved around an issue of framing. The pro-life crowd has long recognized the intrinsic rights of every human being from the moment of existence: conception. Whereas the rallying cry of the “pro-choice” view falls on the perceived notion of a “woman’s right to choose.” In my experience, debate on this topic never progresses much further than each side’s sticking point. Yet, it has always seemed so simple to me, if I could only get a person to see that, foremost, an embryo is a human life deserving of dignity and respect – all other arguments become weak and inconsequential. If we start from this premise, there is no wiggle room. It is as unlawful to shoot a 2-year-old for convenience, as it is to smother an 85-year-old to escape financial burden. (I reserve my arguments against assisted suicide and euthanasia for another day.)
It is axiomatic that those who control the foundation of an issue regulate the content of any ensuing discussion. In 1973, the Supreme Court failed when it chose to tiptoe around the fundamental question of human life in Roe v. Wade. Justice Blackmun wrote in the majority opinion, “[w]e need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins” to hold the issue of abortion legal. Legislation from the bench aside, the results of this case have been of great disservice to our nation and the framework of our society.
It is with this impression that I came to read The Times (UK) Columnist Antonia Senior’s piece “Yes, abortion is killing. But it's the lesser evil” in June of this year. Initially intrigued by Senior’s reflections upon the issue of abortion after the birth of her daughter, I became flummoxed by her seemingly inconsistent conclusion. She admits “[A] foetus [sic] is a life by any subjective measure... Any other conclusion is a convenient lie that we on the pro-choice side of the debate tell ourselves to make us feel better...” However, she then completely discounts the incredible significance of her admission by claiming women’s rights are so inexorably tied with their right to fertility control that ending legal abortion will be a return to women’s subjugation. Sputtering for leverage, Senior explains that if it weren’t for perceived blessings of biology (i.e., the inability to physically bear children), men could never have “managed to hang on to political and cultural hegemony for so long.” Correlating restricted abortion access with misogyny, she finally concludes by stating that, when an issue is nuanced, one should choose the lesser of two evils. For Senior, babies and women’s autonomy are mutually exclusive; to gain the one you must be prepared to kill the other.
Her resolve seems so absolutely selfish in this regard. It is simply astounding how one can admit the existence of a new life and simply dismiss it, nay kill it, in favor of pursuing a “career.” As I’ve continued my education, I’ve found this ideology degrading motherhood increasingly prevalent. I’ve always understood that the two sexes were created to be complementary not identical; equal in status but with different roles. Sadly, motherhood as a vocation has fallen into ridicule as today’s “higher” culture extols the supposed virtues of indulgence and instantaneous gratification. Sexual intimacy is considered a right per se.
However, this is not so. We are never justified in doing evil that good may come of it. As such, a woman’s “right to choose” comes down to choosing whether to be sexually active. If she chooses to engage in sexual behavior, then both she and her partner must be prepared to accept the normal consequences. The argument put forward for abortion in cases of pregnancy due to rape or incest is often presented simply to sow discord and color the issue. Women who procure an abortion in cases of rape or incest are a statistical anomaly. Yet even those cases, horrific as they are, would never vindicate the direct killing of an innocent child.
As this debate boils down to framing, we must not lose perspective. Abortion advocates, like Senior, subscribe to a crumbling ideology, struggling in their attempts to justify murder.
David Michael Manni is an Alliance Defense Fund Blackstone Fellow (2010) and a second-year law student at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida. His column received second place in the 2010 ADF “Blackstone Op-ed Quest.” The opinions expressed here belong solely to the author.