Pro-Life and Pro-Choice: One Student’s Opinion

Last weekend's pro-life rally organized by the Respect Life Ministry.

Photograph by Respect for Life Ministry

Last weekend’s pro-life rally organized by the Respect Life Ministry.

“Abortion kills children”

“Abortion hurts women”

“PRAY TO END ABORTION”

These are just three of the crude slogans seen at this year’s annual anti-abortion event held by schools and parishes under the Archdiocese of Miami. The grim protest signs were proudly wielded by high school and middle school students, many of whom received service hours for attending, as they stood in support of the Respect Life Ministry. The photos of this event subsequently circulated around social media, mostly among teenagers. 

Last weekend’s event, in particular, seemed to have gained more attention than past events because of the focus that has recently been put on women’s reproductive rights. The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month and the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett have caused Americans to fear a reversal of the landmark case Roe v. Wade. So, you can understand the upheaval caused by seeing photos of teenage boys claiming the power to determine the fate of women’s bodies and their lives. 

To clarify: pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. But I can see why critics would call us “pro-abortion.” After all, “pro-abortion” elicits a great emotional response from the opposition than does “pro-choice.” Being pro-choice simply means you believe that the right to choose what happens to a person’s body belongs to that person alone. A woman seeking an abortion has no responsibility to explain themselves to those who disagree with the practice. Abortion may not align with your own personal religious views, however, not all people are of your religion. Therefore, the opinions of a few should in no way dictate the rights of many. And, in general, most women don’t actually want to have abortions. They are often the results of unfortunate circumstances, including rape, incest, medical, life-threatening illnesses or circumstances. It is not the norm for women to engage in sex and think “if I get pregnant, I’ll just get an abortion. Easy!” It’s not an easy decision to make. But it should be our own decision to make and it should be free from public scrutiny.

The Respect Life Ministry of Miami seeks to “uphold the sanctity and dignity of all human life from conception to natural death.” One of the main components of the pro-life argument is that life begins at conception. Following this logic, abortion is considered murder because it imposes on a fetus’s “right to life.” Simple enough. However, the formal definition of life includes the ability to self-sustain, and in no way does a fetus have the ability to do this— a fetus is not viable outside of the womb until about 24 weeks into pregnancy. According to the CDC, more than half of abortions in 2016 took place during the first trimester of pregnancy. Actually, a staggering majority of 91.0% of abortions took place in early gestation, or from zero to thirteen weeks, when the fetus is still an embryo. 1.2% of abortions were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation, and even then a fetus is not considered viable to live outside the womb. Well, what about a heartbeat? That must account for something, right? Not exactly. According to physician Dr. Joel Zivot, “it would be wrong to state that a beating heart is necessary for life, or proof of life.” Fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, often times before a person even realizes they are pregnant. For many scientists, functioning higher brain activity and consciousness actually define human life. Reaction to stimuli, which is another characteristic of life, seems to be absent in fetuses since “there is no transmission of sensory nerves,” according to neurologist Dr. Howard Kreger. “It’s really unlikely that any pain would be interpreted in a fetal brain before 28 weeks,” after which abortions are less frequently performed.

Where does the mother’s “right to life” stand in pro-life arguments? As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, her own right to life may be jeopardized. Women in the U.S. are dying from childbirth at alarming rates compared to in other developed countries. According to the CDC, 700 women die in childbirth each year, and “Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.” Abortions, on the contrary, remain one of the safest medical procedures in the U.S. according to the CDC. But if abortions become illegal, this will cease to be true. If laws prevent women from receiving abortions, these procedures won’t magically disappear. Women will still be having abortions, but they will in no way be safe. Consider the coat hanger if you don’t believe me.

Still, pro-life supporters argue that going through with a pregnancy is the responsible choice. That’s their opinion. In my opinion, however, the responsible choice is whatever choice the woman wishes to make. So this includes pregnancies as a result of rape or incest and pregnancies that result in life-threatening medical issues, as well as cases in which a woman feels she is ill-equipped to be a mother, either financially or emotionally. Whatever the reason, I trust her decision to be the responsible choice. And seriously? It’s a woman’s responsibility to be a mother? Pro-life supporters view a woman’s choice to have sex with a man as a binding contract of motherhood. If she wants to be sexually active, then surely this woman is prepared to face the consequences, no? Actually, no. Not only are contraceptives, such as birth control and IUDs, unavailable to all women but they are also not always 100% effective even when used with a condom, according to Planned Parenthood. A woman can become pregnant even after having safe sex. Is this her fault? No! 

Where do men stand in this logic? If a man has sex with a woman, is he expected to face the consequences should he become a father? Of course not, because men are not held to the same standard as women. The sexuality of men is celebrated, championed even. But the sexuality of women? The sexuality of women lies in the hands of the male politicians who control her rights. When access to contraception is limited and abortions are frowned upon, where does the line blur between wanting to protect “unborn babies” and wanting to suppress women? And keep in mind that these laws not only affect cis-gendered women but also transgender men, intersex and gender-nonconforming people, and many others who were born with the reproductive organs of the female sex.

Finally, the primary rebuttal of pro-life supporters: “What if your mother had aborted you?” First of all, I would not have a strong opinion on the subject seeing as though I would have never been born. But in all seriousness, I love my mother. If she had decided to have an abortion for whatever reason, I would have respected her decision because, at the end of the day, it should be none other than her choice to have a child. The keyword being HER. 

Choice is under attack. If you weren’t already concerned about the state of women’s reproductive rights in the U.S., hopefully, reading this may sway you. If you are able to vote in this year’s election, vote for the candidate who supports choice. And to all of you reading, make sure you are having these difficult conversations with your family and friends.

For further reading on this subject consider these: 

“Meet Dr. Willie Parker, a Southern Christian Abortion Provider” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/opinion/sunday/meet-dr-willie-parker-a-southern-christian-abortion-provider.html?referringSource=articleShare

“Abortion after the first trimester in the United States”

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/files/5113/9611/5527/Abortion_After_first_trimester.pdf

“A Brief History of Deadly Attacks on Abortion Providers”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/29/us/30abortion-clinic-violence.html

“I was in the pro-life movement. But then, widowed with 6 kids, I prepared for an abortion.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/10/11/abortion-miscarriage-pro-life-choice-widow-column/5909096002/

Disclaimer: This publication is a public, open forum for student voice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the SpartansSpeak section, while approved by the editorial staff,  are the writer’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any other party, including the opinions or policies of The Spartacus staff or anyone else at MCDS.