The purpose of the following article is to emphasize many points that some people may have not considered regarding abortion. I do not assume that I will change a pro-choice person's mind, though I do at least hope to make some people think, and, and if I change any minds, all the better.
Today, more than twenty-seven years since the legalization of abortion, over 30 million legal abortions have taken place in the United States. To me, this is an issue which is more than a simple question of women controlling their own lives and bodies. It is a matter of life and death for an innocent human being.
Right away, some will say that abortion is not a matter of life and death, arguing that a fetus is not a "person", or a "human being". Yet, medical research proves that the fetus is a living organism from the moment of conception. Though it may be argued that this living organism is not a person, it seems that it can be nothing other than a human being. I realize that it may be difficult to think of a three-week old fetus as a human with rights. The way I think to best explain this is to start by going back to the sperm and the egg.
A sperm has 23 chromosomes and no matter what, even though it is alive and can fertilize an egg it can never make another sperm. An egg also has 23 chromosomes and it can never make another egg. So we have eggs and sperm that cannot reproduce. A solitary egg or a solitary sperm does not have the complete genetic code for a separate human being. The ovum and the sperm are each a product of another's body: unlike the fertilized egg, neither is an independent entity. Neither one is complete. Like cells in someone's hair or fingernails, an egg or sperm does not have the capacity to become other than what it already is. Both are essentially dead-ends, destined to remain what they are until they die in a matter of days. This negates one common argument - that the unborn isn't human, or else every time a man ejaculated, or a woman menstruated, an "unborn" dies. Obviously this is ridiculous - a sperm without an egg and an egg without a sperm does NOT constitute human life.
Once there is the union of a sperm and egg, the 23 chromosomes are brought together in one cell with 46 chromosomes. Once there are 46 chromosomes, that one cell has all of the DNA, the whole genetic code for a genetically distinct human life. It isn't a "potential" human life, or some "other" type of life because something non-human does not magically become human by getting older and bigger - whatever is human must be human from the beginning. Everything that constitutes a human being is present from that moment forward - the only thing added from that point on is nutrition so the unborn can grow. This new life is not a sperm or an egg, or even a simple combination of both. It is independent with a life of its own, and the development is actually self-directed. A sperm can't do that - neither can an egg. They do not "develop".
The baby's blood supply is also completely separate from the mother's. If they are not separate bodies, how could a mother and child have different blood types? If a child's and mother's blood mix, it can be fatal for the child if the Rh factors are different. There is a shot to prevent this, but if there is not, and the blood of different Rh factors mix, the baby can die. Now, I cannot think of any doctor that would kill a newborn baby the moment that it was born. My question is now, can that baby be killed a minute before it is born, or a minute before that, or a minute before that? You see what I'm getting at. At what minute can one consider life to be worthless and at the next minute that life to be precious?
Even most medical texts and pro-choice doctors agree with pro-choice geneticist Ashley Montagu, who has written: "The basic fact is simple:life begins not at birth, but at conception." The beginning of human life is not a religious, moral, or philosophical issue; it is a scientific and biological one. From the time those 23 chromosomes become 46 onward, the unborn is a living, developing individual with a unique genetic makeup.
What surprised me most was statements from abortionists themselves who seemed to know that they were destroying life, a human life. For instance:
Neville Sender, M.D., who runs an abortion clinic, Metropolitan Medical Service, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: "We know it is killing, but the states permit killing under certain circumstances."
Warren Hern, M.D., of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Boulder Colorado: "There is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one's eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current."
Abortionist at a New York City hospital, as quoted by psychologist Magda Denes in her book, In Necessity and Sorrow: "Even now I feel a little peculiar about it, because as a physician I'm trained to conserve life and here I am destroying life."
Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers: "Women enter abortion clinics to kill their fetuses. It is a form of killing. You're ending a life." 
So much for medical ethics.
I hope to have at least shown that the unborn is a human individual. It is also interesting that this individual, who can be denied life, has other rights. An unborn baby can be injured in an accident and at a later date, after being born, can sue the person who has injured him; a fetus can inherit an estate and take precedence over a person who is already born as soon as that fetus himself is born.  In addition, the US Congress voted unanimously in 1974 to delay the capital punishment of pregnant women until after they have given birth.
The problem I have with abortion is: why should we deny this individual the right to live? At what point is the unborn worthy to live? I realize that there are other difficult questions regarding abortion, and I will address a few of them.
Some believe that even though there may be life, or potential life, or however one wants to refer to the fetus, that by denying a woman the right to an abortion is denying her control of her body. Being a woman myself, I am obviously against people trying to control women or their bodies. But the fetus is a completely separate life from the woman. It has a completely different blood type and genetic code; it is not just part of the mother's body. It is temporarily residing there, and birth is just the change of residence from an already living, active person. Just because the unborn is dependent on the mother for nine months, does that give anyone the right to choose to end its life? Being dependent on others should not deprive a helpless human being the fundamental right to live, as we do not base humanness on whether another person is around to take care of that life. Trying to justify abortion by arguing that the unborn does not have this right is a form of discrimination based on age and the fact that they cannot speak for themselves.
There is also an issue about child abuse, that unwanted children will be unloved and abused. There are two tough questions here. First, what does "unwanted" mean? If the mother does not want the child, there are thousands of childless couples who certainly would want that child. Also, someone's right to live should not be based on how much one individual wants them. Do we dispose of born children who are abandoned and obviously not wanted?
There are also countless programs across the country that can provide counseling, housing, medical care, job training and other services for anyone with an unplanned pregnancy who would want to keep their child. Many loving couples are also seeking to adopt children - in fact, there are many more parents waiting to adopt children of all types - white, black, handicapped or not - than there are available children.
Secondly, there is no correlation between unplanned pregnancies and the subsequent abuse of the children - in fact, it is most often the wanted children who are abused. For instance, a study of 674 battered children in California found that 91% of the children were wanted, compared to 63% for the control groups nationally.  I have not yet seen a study (and I have read a large amount of pro-choice material) that correlates the two.
Child abuse has also increased by 500% since abortion was legalized in 1973.  Another study by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, also indicates that the prevalence of child abuse is increasing, and the increases are "significant." From 1986 to 1993, the incidence of physical abuse rose 42% (97% under the revised Endangerment Standard), physical neglect rose 102% (163% E.S.), sexual abuse rose 83% (125% E.S.) and emotional neglect rose 333% (188% E.S.). This study did not conclude that better reporting was the reason for the increases: "Although the rise in the population of endangered children may stem from improved recognition of more subtle cues from the child by community professionals, the rise in the number of serious injuries probably reflects a real increase in child abuse and neglect because it cannot be plausibly explained on the basis of heightened sensitivity." The study cited parental substance abuse, not the "unwanted" status of the child, as the major factor contributing to increases in abuse.
In another study by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, child abuse reporting levels rose 41% between 1988 and 1997. This study did attribute greater public awareness and willingness to report as reasons for the sharp increase. However, the levels rose 1.7% between 1996 and 1997, despite the level of public awareness remaining relatively constant over a one-year period.
People may still want to argue that child abuse could have gone up even more if abortion had not been legalized. Yet I want the flip side of this argument to be equally considered. Consider the likely possibility that legalized abortion contributes to the atmosphere of disregard for life and the resentment of children that leads to child abuse.
I would also like to address the potential problem of women seeking "back-alley", or illegal abortions if abortion is not kept legal. What is interesting about this argument is that Roe v. Wade basically made people who were previously considered illegal abortionists, now legal abortionists! As quoted in Roe v. Wade: "The state is constitutionally barred, however, from requiring review of the abortion decision by a hospital committee or concurrence in the decision by two physicians other than the attending physician. The Constitution also prohibits a state from requiring that the abortion be in a hospital licensed by the Joint Committee on Accreditation of Hospitals or indeed that it be a hospital at all."  By virtually eliminating state regulation of abortions, the Court simply let illegal "back-alley" abortionists to go legal, with their procedures unchanged.
It should also be remembered that a death occurs every time an abortion is performed--the death of an unborn child. Women have control over choosing an illegal abortion that they know could be harmful. The unborn has absolutely no control when the mother chooses to abort. In addition, abortion is a surgical procedure, and even though it is legal, it still puts many women at risk. Many women suffer post-abortion complications, such as severe muscle damage and damage to the uterine wall, which can lead to scarring, future miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other future medical problems. In addition, induced abortion approximately triples the risk of suicide (British Medical Journal, 7 Dec 1996); women who carry full-term have about 1/2 the risk of suicide as the general female population.
Many people who I've talked to say, "Well, abortion is acceptable because it's done before the fetus is viable." First, viability is not something which should be used to determine whether someone is "human enough" to have the right to live, since viability is based on medical science. Medical science does not determine when someone becomes human.Ten years ago, a 25 week-old fetus could not survive outside the womb. Now it can. Maybe in ten years, a 15 week old fetus will be able to be sustained outside the womb. Does this mean that the fetus, in 1999, is not human, but a fetus of the same age in 2007 is somehow more human? The point of viability constantly changes because it is based on medical technology, not the fetus itself. What if one hospital had the technology to keep a 20 week old fetus alive but another hospital only had the technology to keep a 28 week old fetus alive? Is the fetus "human" and worthy of life in one hospital but not in another?
Secondly, abortions are done after viability because abortion is basically legal the full nine months. As defined by the Supreme Court, "viable," is "capable of meaningful life." According to Roe v. Wade after viability has been reached, the life is not a person in the "whole sense", so that even after viability the fetus is not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee that life shall not be taken without due process of the law. States may, but are not required to prohibit post-viability abortions. Only twenty-one prohibit them now.  Only 1% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and about 4/100ths of one percent (300-600 abortions) take place after 26 weeks.  "Viability" is usually considered to be about 24 weeks, so it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many "post-viability" abortions occur.
However, "late-term" abortions are described as abortions occurring after the 16th week, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a well-known pro-choice institute. Many people believe that late-term abortions are only done for extreme circumstances, as is the case with most post-viability abortions, but this is not the case. In one pro-choice study of women who had an abortion after the 16th week, 71% said they "did not recognize that she was pregnant or misjudged gestation," and 24% "took time to decide to have an abortion." Only 2% said "a fetal problem was diagnosed late in pregnancy," and the report did not indicate that any of the late abortions were performed because of maternal health problems.  Look at a picture of a baby aborted in the fifth month of pregnancy, and then try and say abortion does not end a human life.
Despite the opinion that I have heard from many people, the majority of the American public is pro-life. In addition, pro-life people are not against sex or women's rights. Sure, there are some radicals, but there are radicals in every group. Some say that the pro-life side is run by men who want to control women. This is untrue, and I think the situation may be reversed. How many women have had an abortion because they have been pressured by a man - their father, boyfriend, or husband? And who primarily performs abortions? Male doctors. In essence, I feel that making abortion an acceptable, and even preferred option in some cases, is yet another way to control women. Think about it - get the woman to have an abortion, and the man doesn't have to be burdened with any responsibility. If men were the ones who had to go through abortions, I'm sure the medical community would be much more interested in developing fool-proof birth control.
Despite what the media often portrays, pro-life people are not violent. Yes, there have been bombed abortion clinics and shootings, again done from the very minor population of radicals who call themselves "pro-life." These radicals are not pro-life, and are not accepted in the pro-life community. The pro-life community does not approve of such violent, terroristic measures. When an abortion clinic bombing occurred in Atlanta pro-lifers officially and vocally condemned the violence! Such violence sickens me.
On a personal level, I have stood outside clinics with people from both sides of the issue, and I have never witnessed an act of violence, verbal or physical, from the pro-life side. However, I have seen verbal as well as physical assaults take place on the pro-choice side. The pro-life response to such assaults included ignoring the insults, and standing quietly. I am not trying to portray myself or the other pro-lifers as "holier than thou," I am just explaining what happened, since this side of the issue never seems to be acknowledged by the media. It also shows that pro-lifers are not the screaming, loud, radical group that is portrayed in newspapers and television over and over again. The point of standing outside a clinic was not to get into arguments or fights. It was to let people going into the clinic know that there were other options, and that there were many people willing to help.
The pro-life stand is not just an anti-abortion stand. It is one to try and prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to take care of the mother and child if one does occur. Pro-lifers will also counsel people after an abortion if they suffer physically or psychologically. Women, especially teenagers, are often totally distraught after an abortion and have no one to turn to because the clinic did not offer post-abortion counseling. These girls have turned to people from the pro-life community for help, and they have been helped, not yelled at or condemned. To be hateful or vindictive towards these women is not the point. Pro-lifers stand up for the sacredness of life, and speak mainly out of love-love for the babies that we will never see, for the frightened women who don't understand what they are going through. I always urge people to remember also, that it is the abortion clinic workers, not pro-life volunteers, who are receiving a financial gain in persuading women into the choice of whether or not to have an abortion.
What I also find interesting is that pro-lifers are always asked the question, "If you're so compassionate, why don't you take care of all the 'unwanted' children?"
Using that logic, if pro-lifers believe that abortion is wrong and thus should pay for every "unwanted" child, then the pro-choicers, who believe abortion is not wrong, should pay for all women's abortions.
Funny, I've heard many stories of these "compassionate" clinics turning women away if they didn't have enough money. For instance, in March 1994, a single, unemployed woman was turned away from a St. Petersburg abortion clinic because she didn't have enough money. 
There is no easy answer to this situation, and I do not think unwanted pregnancies are something to be taken lightly. However, I feel that the medical community should emphasize finding safe and effective birth control that would eliminate the need for abortion. That would be the easiest solution, because even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the debate will still rage on, and some abortions will still occur. But before effective birth control is found, before society changes its attitude toward pregnancy, and makes it more acceptable for women or young girls to be pregnant, the answer to this societal problem is not to kill the innocent.
This article is copyright © 1995-1999 Carolyn C. Gargaro. All rights reserved. It may not be reproduced with out specific consent of the author.
Last Updated February 5, 2000
For more information, please refer to my Abortion Issues Web Site
1. Alan Guttmacher Institute, "Limitations of US Statistics on Abortion" ISSUES IN BRIEF, 1997
2. Jeff Lane Hensely. The Zero People. Servant Books, Ann Arbor, MI, p.64
3. Hensely, pg. 79
4. David Stout. An Abortion Rights Advocate Says He Lied About Procedure New York Times, February 16, 1997
5. Hensely, pg. 157
6. E. Lenowski. Heartbeat. Vol 3, No 4, December, 1980
7. Hensely, pg. 4
8. Dennis J. Horgan, Abortion and the Constitution. Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, pg. 25
10. Barbara Kaiser, Summary and Analysis of State Abortion Laws, US Department of Health
11. Alan Guttmacher Institute, "Limitations of US Statistics on Abortion" ISSUES IN BRIEF, 1997
12. A. Torres & J.D. Forrest, Why Do Women Have Abortions? Family Planning Perspectives, Jul/Aug 1988
13. Ashley v. State of Florida
ABC News "Nightline"
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, "Limitations of US Statistics on Abortion" ISSUES IN BRIEF, 1997
Garton, Jean Staker. 1979. Who Broke the Baby? Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers
Hensely, Jeff Lane. 1983. The Zero People Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books
Horgan, Dennis J. 1987. Abortion and the Constitution. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press
Kaiser, Barbara. 1978. Summary and Analysis of State Laws Relating to Abortion. U.S. Department of Health
Lenowski, E. December, 1980. Heartbeat. Vol 3, No 4,
Marganthau, Tom. August 7, 1991 Newsweek
Stout, David. February 26, 1997 New York Times
Torres, A. & Forrest, J.D. "Why Do Women Have Abortions?", Family Planning Perspectives, Jul/Aug 1988
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