The abortion debate is, by its very nature, a complex issue which touches on many different topics.
One has to look no further than the debates which have raged on our LifeChoice Facebook homepage to see how the debate encompasses a variety of different issues ranging from the metaphysical nature of human rights to the adoption statistics in the state of NSW. However, is it possible that amongst this myriad of complex issues, the true core of the abortion debate has begun to take a back seat?
This can be said for all sides. A common trend amongst ‘pro-life’ members on the LifeChoice page is the argument that abortion is bad for a woman’s health – both physically and psychologically. While there is no doubt a case to be made for these statements, I would suggest that this line of argument somewhat misses the point. Despite assertions to the contrary, prolifers don’t, and shouldn’t, want to control the legitimate autonomy of women’s bodies. A woman has every right to do with her body as she wills, and if this includes the destruction of a meaningless, parasitic ‘clump of cells’, even at the risk of harming herself, then so be it. However, if this ‘clump of cells’ is in fact a human being then the woman is no longer dealing exclusively with her own body. Thus it seems that the core of the abortion debate is the beginning point of human life.
The many critics of the pro-life movement who post on LifeChoice’s page commonly use emotional arguments to support their pro-choice convictions. One such argument I read was the case of a 14 year old girl who was raped and subsequently fell pregnant. While stories such as this evoke strong feelings of sympathy, if the foetus in question is in fact a human being, the circumstances of its conception should have no impact on its right to exist. Conversely, if the foetus in fact a meaningless clump of cells, then clearly the teenage girl should be entitled to terminate her pregnancy.
The point of this article is merely to suggest that without defining the status of a human foetus – that is whether it is a human being or not – all arguments brought to the abortion debate are in fact irrelevant. A pro-life advocate will never support abortion, even in the most extreme of circumstances while he/she holds the belief that a human life is in question. In a similar vein, pro-choice advocates will always defend a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy while they believe that only a clump of cells will be destroyed. While I find Peter Singer’s idea that infanticide is in fact not an immoral practice quite disturbing, I do admire his logic and his consistency. He does not let emotion sway his argument what soever. One cannot argue that abortion is a moral practice without any attempt to define the beginning point of human life.