Astrobiologists have longed to discover life on Mars. They search diligently on that barren planet some 33 million miles from earth for any trace of organic material that might indicate an organism once lived there or lives there now. The finding of even one microscopic single-celled bacterium would surely send the most stoic of scientists into a celebratory flurry and triumphant proclamation of “Life existing on Mars!”
With new laws pending in Alabama and Missouri that would limit access to abortions, that heated debate has become even hotter. I have read many pro-choice arguments against limiting access to abortion and all of them center on a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. In addition, the legitimate question is raised for why an individual woman should have to limit her own rights based on the values and beliefs of other people, many of whom are men? When taken together in a vacuum, those two points seem convincing . . . what business do anti-abortion advocates have imposing their beliefs on pregnant women? But there is more to this issue. Every pro-choice argument I read left out the most central part of the debate, namely that life exists in the womb of the pregnant woman and that life is ended with abortion. The central subjects in the abortion debate are not women, they are the individual lives that woman carry within them during pregnancy.
But wait . . . Is there really life inside of a uterus from conception to birth? That question brings us back to the planet Mars. What do you imagine the newspaper headlines would read the day after life was discovered there? Would it be “Single-celled organism found on Mars” or, “Clump of tissue found on Mars” or, “Group of cells found on Mars” or even, “Potential life found on Mars”? Not a chance! The headlines without exception would boldly declare, “LIFE ON MARS!” It would not matter how small or simple or insignificant that living creature seemed to be . . . it would be recognized and celebrated for what it was – LIFE!
In our advanced scientific age we can recognize the significance of living cells on a barren planet millions of miles from earth and award those cells with the designation of life. But for some reason we are very hesitant to recognize a collection of rapidly dividing and developing cells, that are nearby and readily available for study, and that contain DNA instructions to form a fully functional human being as . . . life. By any scientific metric a pregnancy represents life, and that life is ended by abortion. Watch any documentary that follows a pregnancy from conception to birth, or look up 4D sonograms, or put your hand on a pregnant belly and then try to convince yourself that there is no life there . . . try to convince yourself that is not a human baby. We hesitate to label those cells as life, not because of their objective characteristics, but because of where they are found. If anything resembling “fetal material” was discovered on Mars it would be celebrated as life and protected at all cost. Does it make sense that life is precious, valuable, and worth protecting, unless it is found inside of a pregnant woman?
We hesitate to label those cells as life, not because of their objective characteristics, but because of where they are found.
Abortion is not an individual act. It is not just about a woman’s right to her own body, it is also about the distinct and individual person that lives inside of her – a person whose life is at stake. Abortion imposes a woman’s will over another human being. A common rebuttal from pro-choice advocates is, “If you believe abortion is wrong, then don’t have one!” That is like saying that if you believe stealing is wrong then don’t do it. Or in even stronger terms, if you believe that murder is wrong then don’t kill anyone. Stealing and murder are wrong because they rob another individual of her right to private property or life, not because I have a certain feeling about them. Laws against stealing and murder restrict what I am allowed to do in order to protect other people. The new laws in Alabama and Missouri are not about oppressing women, they are about protecting life. They are about standing up for those who have no voice. Once we allow the cells inside the womb the same privilege we would allow cells on Mars it becomes clear that abortion is not primarily about the pregnant woman but instead it is about the life that she carries.
That does not make abortion a simple issue. The fact that the life of the baby is inextricably linked to the life of the mother raises all sorts of complicated issues like poverty, birth defects, and interrupted life goals. Women with unplanned pregnancies need generous love and support. But no matter how desperate the circumstance may be, can it ever be right to end a life while it develops in the most sacred and safe place it ever knows?
I am pro-life and it is not because I am anti-woman, in fact half of the lives I am advocating for are women’s lives. My goal is not to remove a woman’s rights, but to protect the rights of the life that grows within her.