One of the slogans used to justify the practice of abortion is this: ‘It’s my body – I can do what I like with it.’ The reasoning is that since the baby is attached to the woman, it is therefore her right to choose what she does with it. Sort of like cutting off a limb, I suppose, although were women to start indulging in that practice, it is doubtful that feminists in general would be rushing to uphold it as a human right.
The usual response from abortion opponents to the ‘It’s my body’ line is to argue that what the woman has inside her is a separate being in his or her own right, and therefore it is not just a part of her body that she has the right to discard.
Both views, I believe, miss the point quite spectacularly.
Let’s begin by looking at the counter-claim. The pro-lifer’s assertion that the entity growing inside the woman is a being in its own right can be scientifically proven. From the moment of conception, the baby contains its own genetic code, one that differs from its mother’s since it contains genes from the father too. Well, says the pro-lifer, if this is so, then the act of removing that being with a morning-after pill, a medical abortion or a surgical abortion is wrong because it involves killing a human being. And indeed it does.
However, in seeking to establish the separateness of the unborn baby, so that the claim that it is ‘her body and she can do as she likes with it’ can be refuted, I think the pro-lifer makes a fundamental error. Yes, it is absolutely true that a unique human being is brought into existence at the moment of conception. But when the pro-abortionists say that the baby is part of the woman’s body, they are quite right – even if they are tragically wrong in working out what this ought to mean.
The baby in the womb is part of the woman’s body. This can also be established by science. Every baby that comes into the world comes with an umbilical cord – a cord that until that time has joined the baby to its mother, so that it could receive nourishment and grow. That same mother has provided the child with a home, her womb, in which it was kept safe and protected for nine months. It would be absurd to deny that the baby has been a part of the woman’s body, and the fact that it is also an entity in its own right does not alter this one iota.
In other words, the baby is not one thing or the other. It is not simply a unique individual with its own body, its own mind, and its own genetic code, yet separate from the mother’s body. Neither is it simply a part of the woman’s body, and therefore not a unique individual. It is both a unique individual, and it is part of the woman’s body.
So where is the error of the pro-abortionists? It is not merely that they ignore the scientifically established facts of the uniqueness of the being inside the womb; their error is also that they use the fact that the baby is part of its mother as a reason to argue that she has the right to destroy it.
Think about the absurdity of this. A woman finds out that she is pregnant. She has a being inside her who is individual and unique, but who is also a part of her. Quite literally. Wouldn’t we expect her to cherish her own flesh and blood? But what’s that? She wants to get rid of it? Have you ever heard anything more ludicrous?
Think about the monstrosity of this. A woman finds out she is pregnant. The being inside her is not only made in the image of God; it is also made in her image. Wouldn’t we expect her to want to protect this little person and do all she can to see that it makes it into the world? But what’s that? She wants to get rid of it? Have you ever heard anything more shocking?
Think about the lack of love. A woman finds out she is pregnant. The being that is part of her body is utterly helpless and dependent on her. Wouldn’t we expect her to love him or her with all her heart and soul? But what’s that? She wants to get rid of it? Have you ever heard anything more heartbreaking?
Beginning from the premise that an unborn child is part of a woman – which it is – and then concluding that this means she has the right to destroy it, rather than loving, cherishing, protecting, nurturing and defending it, is as perverse reasoning as humans have ever come up with. It is not just the life of the child being taken; in a sense the woman is killing part of herself – her own flesh and blood that she should have loved and cared for.
To anyone thinking of having an abortion, do think about this. The person in your womb is a unique being, with a separate identity. But it is also part of you. What would be the loving thing to do?