An article in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News by Douglas Call entitled “Abortion foes miss the point” has been sitting on my desk since it was printed months ago. In light of some recent similar articles, it’s finally time for me to respond.
Very few people would argue against abortion if the mother’s life is truly at stake, a very rare occurrence. And few would argue against civil rights that protect women from sexual abuse and exploitation, both broadly defined, or unjust employment and wage discrimination. Nor would many argue against a woman’s individual right to choose whom to marry, or to not marry at all, and how many children, if any, she would like to have.
These and many other similar choices are, for the most part, ones that directly involve only her and have only indirect consequences on others.
This is most definitely not the case when she becomes pregnant, in which case all of her choices directly involve another living and developing organism that will continue developing in one way or another until it ceases to exist.
Generally, arguments as to when a developing embryo or fetus is to be considered worthy of human rights center around the month of gestation, the appearance of a heartbeat on ultrasound, the ability to perceive pain, the end of organ differentiation or viability outside the womb. For me, all of them are deficient in that they ignore the reality that, from the moment of conception, this clump of living, dividing and differentiating cells is obviously undergoing a process that continues from its inception until, hopefully, their final end as various tissues and organs wear out, terminating in death.
All these processes involve an ongoing communication between each cell’s DNA and other cellular and extracellular processes. As we all know, an embryo with a specific set of DNA is developing into an identifiable, species specific organism – in our case, a human. And this human will have specific DNA dependent predispositions … that is, it will develop various individual characteristics such as becoming a male or female; color of eyes, hair and skin; various muscle and skeletal features, etc.
The primary attribute I wish to address here, however, concerns facial features. Embedded within each fertilized egg is a “face” (albeit in various stages of development). And this face is entirely unique to this specific creature.
So, the point most pro-choice advocates miss is that each abortion entails the willful destruction of a unique, distinct and irreplaceable face, and buried even further within that face is a unique, distinct and irreplaceable personality, all of which are in, and will continue to be in, various stages of development.
As a result, statements like “women must be incubators to satisfy the self-righteous ideology of anti-abortion politicians” and “the principle motivation for abortion restrictions is, of course, religious,” only reveal the author’s own self-righteous ideologically based politics and his “religion.”
This is because I assume both the author and myself are grounding our principles in something we believe transcends the law, and that is some idea of a good that we believe should apply to all humanity.
As for me and others like me, that good will never include the willful destruction of another face — another human being — no matter what its stage of construction.
I have no illusion my argument will sway anyone on this highly divisive issue. Nevertheless, science is on my side, and I believe it will be very difficult for anyone, including microbiologists, to discredit my primary argument.
Tom Richards is a retired family physician who has lived in Moscow about 15 years.