But is it?
The South Dakota law bans abortions in all cases except saving
the life of the mother. Consider what this means for human
life—not the “lives” of embryos or primitive
fetuses, but the lives of real, living, breathing, thinking
It means that women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy because
it resulted from rape or contraceptive failure—or because
the would-be father has abandoned them, or because the fetus
is malformed—would be forbidden from doing so. It means
they will be forced to endure the pain of unwanted pregnancy
and the incredible burdens of rearing a child. It means that
women would be forced into 18-year terms of enslavement to unwanted
children—thereby suffocating their hopes, their dreams,
their personal ambitions, and their chance of happiness.
Women who refused to submit to such a tyranny would be forced
to leave South Dakota or turn to “back-alley” abortion
providers. At a staggering risk to their health, according to
a World Health Organization estimate: 110,000 women worldwide
die each year from illegal abortions, and 660,000 suffer injury
Clearly, anti-abortionists believe that women’s lives are
an unimportant consideration in the issue of abortion. Why? Because,
they claim, the embryo or fetus is a human being—and thus
to abort it is murder. But an embryo is not a human being, and
abortion is not murder.
There is no scientific reason to characterize a raisin-size lump
of cells as a human being.
Biologically speaking, such an embryo
is far more primitive than a fish or a bird. Anatomically, its
brain has yet to develop, so in terms of its capacity for consciousness,
it doesn’t bear the remotest similarity to a human being.
This growth of cells has the potential to become a human being—if
preserved, fed, nurtured, and brought to term by the woman that
it depends on—but it is not actually a human being. Analogously,
seeds can become mature plants—but that hardly makes a
pile of acorns equal to a forest.
What can justify the sacrifice of an actual woman’s life
to human potential of the most primitive kind? There is no rational
justification for such a position—certainly not a genuine
concern for human life. The ultimate “justification” of
the “pro-life” position is religious dogma. Led by
the American Roman Catholic Church and Protestant fundamentalists,
the movement’s basic tenet, in the words of the Catechism
of the Catholic Church, is that an embryo must be treated “from
conception as a person” created by the “action of
God.” What about the fact that an embryo is manifestly
not a person, and treating it as such inflicts mass suffering
on real people? This tenet is not subject to rational scrutiny;
it is a dogma that must be accepted on faith.
The “pro-life” movement tries to obscure the religious,
anti-human nature of its position by endlessly focusing on the
medical details of late-term abortions (although it seldom mentions
that “partial birth” abortions are extremely rare,
constituting 0.17 percent of all abortions, and often involve
a malformed fetus or a threat to the life of the mother). But
one must not allow the smokescreen to distract one from the real
issue: the “pro-life” movement is a faith-based crusade
to ban abortion no matter the consequences to actual human life.
The Pro-Life Alliance urges the “absolute moral duty to
do everything possible to stop abortion, even if in the first
instance we are only able to chip away at the existing legislation.” This
is why it supports the South Dakota law, which is the closest
the movement has come to achieving its avowed goal: to ban abortion
at any stage of pregnancy, including the first trimester—when
90 percent of abortions take place. As the alliance puts it: “We
continue to campaign for total abolition.”
The “pro-life” movement is not a defender of human
life—it is, in fact, a profound enemy of actual human life
and happiness. Its goal is to turn women into breeding mares
whose bodies are owned by the state and whose rights, health,
and pursuit of happiness are sacrificed en mass—all in
the name of dogmatic sacrifice to the pre-human.
Christian Beenfeldt has an M.A. in philosophy and is a guest
writer for the Ayn Rand Institute which promotes Objectivism,
the philosophy of Ayn Rand.