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In Defense of Abortion: Why the Potential Humanity of a Fetus Should Not Affect a Woman’s Right to Self-Determination
What is abortion? Is it murder, or is it a woman asserting her natural right to control her own body? Should abortion be legal? Many of those who argue that abortion should outlawed hold the belief that abortion is the legalized slaughter of children and that a woman should only have the right to procure an abortion if her life is threatened by the continuation of the pregnancy. I do not deny that the intentional destruction of potential human life is a tragedy. I am not immune to the realization that abortion ends potential human lives. For this reason, I favor legislation that makes it a crime for any but the mother to harm or destroy a developing human fetus. Nevertheless, I believe that the mother’s unique relationship with the developing fetus inside her gives her the right to sever the physical bonds between them if she so chooses. The fetus is completely dependant upon the woman for survival; only its continued residency within the womb and its unfettered ability to absorb needed resources and nutrients from the woman’s body enables the fetus to develop to its fullest potential. Even though such residency and access are unquestionably needed for the fetus to retain its potential for life, the woman is under no obligation to provide this access against her will. No human individual can be forced to provide another individual, or potential individual, with access to her body even if such access is necessary for the other to survive. Fetuses should not be granted rights that human individuals do not possess. One cannot argue that fetuses are human and thus deserve to enjoy all the rights that such humanity entails while simultaneously asserting that fetuses deserve special rights and considerations that are denied to the rest of humanity. Furthermore, such an argument actually devalues human life. It sends a message that women and their lives are worth far less to society than the potential lives that women may unwillingly harbor within them. It sends a message to women that they do not own and cannot hope to control their bodies. It tells each and every woman that society reserves the right to wrest control of her body away from her without any provocation or wrongdoing on the woman’s part in order to benefit another. Abortion may be tragic, but it far less tragic than the alternative.