By Adrienne Denny
According to Thomas Jefferson, author of the above quote from the Declaration of Independence, there are no greater or lesser human beings; all are equal.
Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers of the United States hoped to protect the people from an anarchistic society. According to this Declaration, each citizen should have an equal chance to establish himself and be successful in this republic. This was stated by noting the existence of unalienable rights. “Unalienable rights” means that there are certain conditions inherent to humankind that make a peaceful and pluralistic civilization possible.
The first stated here is the right to Life. This meant that each person had a right to exist and that no one has the right to attack another person; and if one is attacked, he has the right to defend himself.2
This point should be obvious; the idea of any other individual rights would be a moot point if people did not exist. The idea of “civil liberties” and the contents of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution would have no meaning if people did not have the right to exist in the first place. How can anyone exercise the right of free speech, or the freedom of religion, etc., if someone else has the right to destroy them at will?
The second unalienable right was Liberty. The Founding Fathers were working from a political viewpoint. They had experienced political repression at the hands of King George III and decided that, instead of letting people be subjugated to rules they had no part in creating, they would institute a “safety valve.” This new nation would allow the people to form their own government. And, if the government started to go awry and work against the principles of society, the people had a right to abolish it and start over.
Let’s say for instance, that the government began instituting policies that denied certain segments of the population their right to Life; that the government decided it was appropriate that individuals could destroy other human beings under various conditions. It would be the right (some would say the obligation) of the people to establish a new government that would not make the same mistake.
The final unalienable right in the Declaration is the Pursuit of Happiness. This right intended that people could own and protect property; it also allowed for the people to strive for the betterment of society.
Although the final two rights are unique to democratic societies, the only right that is established in some form around the world in all civilized societies is the right to Life. Every nation, state, and tribe in the world has some sort of law code. That code invariably has penalties for an individual who unjustly destroys another person of the society.
It should be noted, however, that not all societies dictate that all of their members are on equal footing. India, for example, had a caste system with some people (to use an Orwellian phrase) “more equal than others.” In other societies, it would be possible for the weak or sick to be killed by members of the family at their will because it was “their business” and the laws dictated that certain humans were not persons and did not have legal rights. The United States has set forth that all of its citizens are equal to each other, no matter what their strengths and weaknesses, and all deserve equal protection.
Unfortunately, the high ideals on which the United States were founded do not truly exist today. On January 22, 1973, the United States Government instituted a private right for a mother to kill her own children at any time before they are born, for any reason whatsoever.3 Instead of all of society rising up in arms to overthrow this government that would dare encourage such disgrace to its founding principles, citizens actually march in the streets and pressure our elected government in all of its levels to make sure the destruction can continue.
The History of Abortion
In ancient times, abortion was not illegal, but it was also rarely practiced because it was extremely dangerous to the mother.4 In medieval Europe, abortion was only outlawed after the mother felt the baby move.5 Because little was known about the development of the human fetus, this arbitrary definition was instituted only because motion (or “quickening”) was the only sign of “life” that could be pinpointed.
Even with these standards, abortionists were rarely prosecuted because the only proof of an abortion was the baby’s dead body – which was rarely found.6 Around 1750, a new procedure for inducing abortion was invented whereby objects were inserted through the woman’s cervix in order to cause miscarriage.7 It was still risky (as was all surgery at that time) but it was safer than the drugs or physical abuse a woman would suffer otherwise to have an abortion. (This process of opening the cervix is the foundation of abortion procedures used today). Again, there were no limits placed on early abortion simply simply because there was no evidence of “life.”
In 1843, the physician Martin Berry observed the processes which he entitled “conception” between the sperm and ovum of a rabbit.8 This discovery marked a great change in medical thinking: life was not implanted by a man into a woman, but in fact, a man and a woman both contributed half of the material that created a new individual life when they were combined.
Human “conception” was observed under the microscope a few years later, confirming the theory.9 It was this discovery that caused the anti-abortion actions of doctors throughout the United States.10 By 1859, the American Medical Association (AMA) stood firmly against abortion at any time during pregnancy because of the knowledge that it destroyed a new life.11 Eventually, every state in the United States protected life from its beginning by making abortion illegal.12
One of the most popular questions in the abortion debate is of when an individual life begins. The so-called “pro-choice” advocates say that life begins at birth, while the right-to-life advocates claim it begins at conception. It is difficult to reconcile the debate in this way because of a lack of consensus on the definition for “life.”
There are several ways of defining life, which include religious, philosophical and biological arguments. Even if we the dismiss religion and philosophy, it can be proven from a purely biological viewpoint, that life begins at conception.
Solid Evidence from Biological Science
Biology offers solid definitions and facts about processes that can be seen and proven. According to biological definitions, an organism is “alive” if it can grow, take in nourishment, and reproduce itself (or parts of itself). These attributes are true for all organisms. The human embryo, from the point when the nuclei of the sperm and ovum fuse, is alive.13
The cell divides and becomes many cells under its own power, with nothing added except the nourishment provided by the mother’s bloodstream. Not only do the cells divide, they arrange themselves so that they form the basic shape of the human body. They then differentiate into the various types necessary for the body’s function: bone, skin, muscles, brain, lungs, heart, liver and the hundreds of together specialized functions. Again, only something that is “alive” can do this. So when one speaks about the human fetus in the womb, they are definitely discussing a living creature.
Another frequently cited argument is whether or not the fetus in the womb is actually human. The so-called “pro-choice” side says no; the right-to-life side says yes. How is this question to be solved? History has shown that when a society uses unfounded reasoning for what the definition of “human” is, discrimination of certain groups is right around the corner.
In 1857, in the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that black people were not human and could be owned as property – simply because of a different skin color.14 This decision was hardly a bright spot in human history. But this standard existed and was actually favored by the people of this nation simply because the definition of what was “human” was based on the arbitrary belief system of that time.
Biology offers an answer to the question of what is human. Humans have a unique genetic system that sets it apart from all other animals. Human cells each have 46 chromosomes that define and direct human body structure and function. Each human has a discreet set of genetic information. In analyzing the DNA from human beings, it can be noted that each individual’s DNA is similar enough to the rest of the human race to define the individual as human, yet it is different enough to distinguish one individual from the rest.
This discreet information is created at the moment when the nuclei of a sperm and ovum are fused. The mother and father each contribute 23 chromosomes that recombine to create a new individual. Again, this individual’s DNA defines it as human; the newly-formed embryo will never develop into a fish, or a frog, or a horse, or a chimpanzee – it is distinctly a member of the human race.
From this information, we can conclude that the fetus that is destroyed during an abortion is alive (it is growing and developing) and it is human (genetically it can be nothing else.) Therefore, making abortion legal is allowing an individual person to destroy another human life. That directly contradicts the principles that the United States was founded on by allowing the infringement on the right to Life of the the weakest humans in our society.
The Right to Choose?
There are two choices facing the public today: 1) stay on the present course and keep abortion legal and available on demand and 2) prevent further killing and outlaw all attempts to allow individuals the right to Life that all humans have in the United States.
If the most fundamental right of all humans can be legally sidestepped, it will only be a short time before the civil liberties built on the right to life will also crumble. The second course is much more difficult, since it would be necessary to reform public opinion. But it is necessary to keep America truly free – by protecting the most basic right we have: our own lives. And as it was said earlier, if we don’t have our lives protected, our civil rights mean nothing.
The pro-choice movement encourages abortion made legal by playing on the public’s sympathies and encouraging a twisted patriotism. Women were portrayed as “victims of reproduction” who could become “unpregnant.” Abortion is portrayed as a “civil right;” the idea of a Constitutional “right to choose abortion” and a “right to Privacy” were created to accomplish their goals.15
There are some obvious flaws in these arguments: one is that the proponents of abortion forget that pregnancy is the nurturing of a new life – not a disease that must be eradicated like the Plague or AIDS. The abortion advocates consistently forget the unborn baby in their debates. Another snag is the definition of their newly discovered rights: they do not exist as such in the Constitution. The so-called “rights” of choice and privacy are never mentioned in the Constitution and it takes a great deal of creativity to find the passages that may hint at these “rights.”
Finally, these “rights” are imposing on the most fundamental right to Life; if the right to “choose” an abortion really is a legitimate part of our society’s ideals, our society’s laws contradict themselves. Either the right to choose abortion must go or the right to Life must be removed. And if the right to Life is destroyed, then our other rights will soon follow – even the “right to choose.” Yet even with these flaws, our society seems to have accepted abortion as a right.
Behind the “Pro-Choice” Rhetoric
How does one go about changing the attitude of a nation? The answer lies in the media and how it makes impressions on human nature. Americans, whether they like to admit it or not, follow trends and fads. It is human nature to want to “fit in,” to be accepted and recognized as a member of a community. There is a tremendous rush to be “in vogue” or “in fashion;” to live up to what is perceived as the popular thing to be. This is the famous “peer pressure.”
Simple things like hairstyles, clothing, perfume, and even sports and exercise foods can all be set on a pedestal called “high fashion” and the nation will flock to use them. Even those who call themselves individualists when placed in a group together look strangely alike. It is not an unrealistic idea, therefore, that people would want to hold similar values to fit in to their community.
This is how the so-called “pro-choice” community got its foothold. A fashion was created based on the public’s desire to live the ideals of personal freedom that were revived in the 1960’s. Abortion became “reproductive freedom.“16 Procuring an abortion became “a woman’s choice,” or “a woman’s right to control her body.“17 The movement that created this fashion rewrote history to make women’s lives seem more pathetic and dangerous.
It is commonly touted that thousands of women died because of illegal abortions and that “Women’s lives are on the line“18 if abortions are eliminated. Slogans like “Keep abortion safe and legal” are waved around like flags;19 the implication being that the only safe abortions are legal ones.
Most recently, the abortion advocates are referring to themselves as the “pro-choice majority.“20 This mindset is the “icing on the cake;” “the majority favor this point of view,” we are told. “And you do want to be a part of the majority, don’t you?” A perfect tidbit to attract the public through their social human nature.
In spite of the fact that no one can prove that any of these statements are correct, the public does believe them.21 Ask any person on the street who is mindlessly “pro-choice” why they hold that opinion and they will answer, “It’s a woman’s right,” or “Women will have illegal abortions, and those are unsafe.” The pro-abortion advocates were able to accomplish the implantation of this mindset into America through television programs and through the media.
Through television programs, TV news items, newspaper ads, magazine features, and the like, the media has all but convinced the people of the United States that abortion is a right and it is incorrect not to believe so. This not only brought people to their side, but silenced those “pro-lifers” who oppose abortion by trying to make them think that somehow their cause is not worth fighting for because no one agrees with them.
How is it possible to turn the tide and make the public realize the value of the right to Life? By using the same tactics – with a few minor changes. Slogans and ads and favorable media coverage are needed to get the right-to-life movement in the public eye. There is one difference though: the right-to-life movement does not have to make up “facts” to support itself. A few photographs of a baby killed by abortion are difficult to ignore. A statement such as “Abortion kills human lives” is easy to prove.
Helping women support their families will also help by showing the public how much we care about these helpless lives. Basic lessons in reproductive biology in the schools are absolutely vital. In short, the public has to see (through working examples) that it is not only “O.K.” to value human life from conception onward, but that it is the correct value to hold as human beings and Americans who recognize the most fundamental right to Life.
The effort needed to accomplish this work is immense. It took years to convince America that abortion is a “right.” It will most likely take years to change that back, and the right-to-life movement is working against the forces that would have abortion remain legal. However, this is a challenge that all Americans must rise to. A country that dictates that “all men are created equal” and that life itself is an unalienable right will not succeed for long if its own laws contradict its founding principles.
As long as the basic right to life is denied the tiniest and most helpless members of the human race – the preborn – then it will not take long for the strongest members of our society to completely overpower the weaker ones who cannot protect themselves. And that situation will destroy the very foundations of our free country. That is our choice: either all human lives are protected, or none are protected. The United States of America is depending on us to protect its most valuable rights.
1. Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
2. World Book Encyclopedia, 1981, vol. 5, p.68.
3. Roe vs. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court, 1973, VI, 6, Doe vs. Bolton, U.S. Supreme Court, 1973, VI, 70-40
4. J.C. Wilke, Abortion: Questions and Answers (Cincinnati: Hayes Publishing Co., 1988) p.10.
5. J. Connery, Abortion, The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective (Chicago: Loyola University Press, !977)pp.65-87
6. J. Dellapenna, “The History of Abortion, Morality, Technology, and Law,” University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 1979.
7. Ibid. 8. Wilke, p.12. 9. Ibid. 10. Ibid. 11. Roe vs. Wade, p.26
12. Wilke, p.13.
13. Albert Rosenfeld “Life Before Birth” (text accompanying photo essay) Life (reprint #27) 1965. 14. Wilke, p.17.
15. for evidence, see Ruth Walker, “Taking Control of Our Bodies; Gay Rights and Reproductive Freedom” The Thistle (Women’s Rights Issue) April 6, 1983, p.3.
16. for examples, see The Fight for Reproductive Freedom, A Newsletter for Student Activists (Amherst: Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at Hampshire College) vol.3, no.2, Winter, 1989. 17. Ibid.
18. Slogan used by Massachusetts National Organization for Women for 1989 “mobilization” NOW in Massachusetts, Fall 1989. See also The Thistle.
19. Slogan used by Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts in petition drive. 20. Ibid.
21. For actual statistics on abortion deaths, see Center for Disease Control, Abortion Surveillance, Nov. 1980. See also Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (Doubleday: 1979) p.179.
For statistics on abortion safety, see Nathanson.
For actual public opinion polls, see ABC news/Washington Post, 1981 (quoted in Wilke). See also The Boston Globe, March 31, 1989 headline, “Most in US favor ban on majority of abortions, poll finds.”