|Consider what banning abortion would mean for
human life—not the “lives” of embryos or primitive
fetuses, but the lives of real, living, breathing, thinking women.
It would mean that women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy
because it resulted from rape or contraceptive failure—or
because the would-be father abandoned her, or because the fetus
is malformed—would be forbidden from doing so. It would
mean that these women would be forced to endure the misery of
unwanted pregnancy and the incredible burdens of childrearing.
It would mean that women would be sentenced to 18-year terms
of enslavement to unwanted children, thereby suffocating their
hopes, their dreams, their personal ambitions, and their chance
of happiness. And it would mean that women who refused to submit
to such a fate would be forced to turn to the “back-alley” at
a staggering risk to their health.
According to the World Health Organization, 110,000 women worldwide
die each year from illegal abortions, and up to six times as
many suffer injury from them.
Clearly, anti-choicers 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 whom
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 potential of the most primitive kind? There can be no rational
justification for such a position, certainly not a genuine concern
for human life.
The ultimate “justification” of the anti-choice 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 that 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
The anti-choice movement tries to obscure the religious, and
inhuman, 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
and often involve a malformed fetus or a threat to the life of
the mother). But one must not allow this smokescreen to distract
one from the real issue: the anti-choice (to call them “pro-life” is
absurd) movement is a faith-based crusade to ban abortion no
matter the consequences to actual human life.
The Pro-Life Alliance refers to anti-choicer’s “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 supported 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 Pro-Life 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 to faith-based idolatry of
The defeat, in South Dakota, of a bad law, is the only pro-life
Christian Beenfeldt, M.A. in Philosophy, is a guest
writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute
promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand—author
of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Contact the writer