The late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a feminist and accomplished American historian wrote in her article, “Abortion: A War on Women” that the legalization of abortion begins as a war on women because not only does it break the “binding tie between women and the children they conceive,” but also “it tells them that in order to be worthy, they must become like men ... which effectively means securing freedoms from their bodies and, especially, from children.”
In her article, “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” Serrin M. Foster, president of Feminists for Life writes, “The anti-abortion laws that early feminists worked so hard to establish in order to protect women and children were the very laws destroyed by the Roe v. Wade decision a hundred years later.”
Women like Mary Wollstonecraft, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were not only active in the abolition movement, advocates of women’s rights and leaders of the National Woman Suffrage Association, but were also staunch defenders of the unborn and unrelenting critics of abortion.
The prevailing narrative in academia paints the abortion issue as solely being a women’s rights issue, and anything else is misogynistic, anti-choice, utter sexism and oppressive.
But this is false.
Being pro-life is recognizing all human lives matter and are worthy of the protections of our laws. The confusion I see all too often is many students do not view human rights as having limits. Human rights understood as claims or privileges to specific things do in fact have limits — a clear example is this: We have a natural right to be born free and not be subjected to slavery, and because of this we cannot own slaves. We have no right to own others even though we have all sorts of rights.
A common objection against the pro-life position is this: Women have the right to do whatever they want with their bodies — it is theirs and they are the sole decision-makers. My question here is: Is abortion still choice-worthy when we know that the unborn is actually a human being?
Other questions to consider are: Does abortion at any stage of a pregnancy end a human life, or just a fetus or zygote? Is a fetus or a zygote just a lump of cells, or are they human beings? The science on this matter is uncompromisingly clear.
Maureen L. Condic, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine writes about this in her paper “
Based on universally accepted scientific criteria, a new cell, the human zygote, comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion, an event that occurs in less than a second. The zygote acts immediately and decisively to initiate a program of development that will, if uninterrupted by accident, disease or external intervention, proceed seamlessly through formation of the definitive body, birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity and aging, ending with death. This coordinated behavior is the very hallmark of an organism.
Moreover, this cell is not merely a unique human cell, but a cell with all the properties of a fully complete (albeit immature) human organism. It is “an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent: a living being.”
Science has established that the unborn are human beings — just in their early developmental stages. When considering to have an abortion, it is critical to understand what such actions are doing — they are intentionally terminating an innocent human life. And how can having abortion on demand be pro-women when what abortion really does is, as the late feminist Elizabeth Fox-Genovese observes, it severs the “binding tie between women and the children they conceive.”
Erika Bachiochi, a feminist and legal scholar writes in her , “I’m a feminist and I’m against abortion,” “When we belittle the developing child in the womb, a scientific reality that most pro-choice advocates have come to admit, we belittle and distort that child’s mother. We make her out to be one with property rights over her developing unborn child (much as husbands once had property rights over their wives).” What is at stake at the abortion debate is not the rights of women to choose, rather whether certain individual human beings are worth protecting and whether their humanity is worth recognizing.
Now, I can imagine someone telling me this: “It is easy for you to be pro-life. After all, it is not you who is bringing another human life to the world, nor is it you who will be taking care of this new life.” This is a fair point.
I have volunteered at , an organization dedicated to helping women who might be having second thoughts about their pregnancy. All of Open Arms’ services are free, and they offer a lot of services. Open Arms connects women or couples to the right programs if they are struggling financially or are in need of parenting skills.
, a grassroots organization “dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion” also provides a handful of to abortion under their resource section. The point here is abortion should not to be the only choice students think they have in light of an unexpected pregnancy.
One reason why movements that defend the rights of minority groups resonate deeply with we students is because, as human beings, we recognize all humans possess intrinsic worth and value and no one deserves to face discrimination or have their rights undermined. Every human life matters, regardless of their skin color, age, ethnicity, religion, sex or developmental stage (i.e., zygote, infant, toddler, teen or adult).
The unborn, whether a human zygote or at five months, is a human being and we should do everything we can to defend their rights to be alive. Abortion is a 21st century human injustice and we should not call it anything else that is short of this reality. How can we, on one hand claim and believe that all human beings have inalienable rights, yet on the other hand want abortion on demand?
According to , “The fifth week of pregnancy, or the third week after conception, marks the beginning of the embryonic period. This is when the baby’s brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form... Your baby’s lungs, intestines and bladder will develop here.” By the sixth week after conception, the baby’s nostrils, lips, eyes, ears, arms and legs are visible. If a fetus is not a human being, then I am not sure what else she can be, especially that by the eighth week her are functioning and her heart has a .
Women don’t need to be punished. They need jobs. Their families need jobs paying family living wages. They need greater access to affordable healthcare. They need paid family leave. They need affordable childcare. A woman needs to know that she doesn’t have to choose between her baby and her education or career ... Democrats need to embrace the Whole Life philosophy that provides protection from conception to natural death, which would give millions of voters a voice — and a real choice.
Embracing this Whole Life philosophy, where the unborn have protections under our laws is not anti-women nor anti-choice because not only does it actually provide women with more choices, options, and support, but also recognizes their distinct gifts — being pregnant should never be looked down upon, only women have this ability to carry another human being within them, this is worth celebrating. Helping women and their families ought to be our primary as human beings.
In this life we will undoubtedly face all sorts of challenges, and sometimes we must make life-changing decisions. Abortion is not the only option out there. Students making these sorts of decisions need to know they are not alone, even though it might seem to them like they are sometimes. Parenthood is nothing to run from. The pro-life movement is pro-women because it recognizes and respects this gift that only women have, which is to bring other humans into the world.
James Lopez currently studies political science at Indiana University. He is also a Youth Council Member at the International Children’s Rights Institute and he is in the process of launching the Human Rights Initiative, a grassroots organization that will be dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking and child poverty, and providing education to young people in order to equip them to fight these injustices.