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by Christian Beenfeldt

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 on faith.

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 pre-human.

The defeat, in South Dakota, of a bad law, is the only pro-life result.

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 at media@aynrand.org.



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