I knew why I was pro-life, but what was the reasoning behind the movement? Why did pro-choice people believe in their side so much? So I researched. I didn’t simply look at pro-choice and pro-life propaganda. I read scientific articles detailing whether or not (and how early) a fetus feels pain. I studied the concept of life and the soul from various religious points of view. I looked at abortion philosophically. Does anyone have an obligation to save another life, regardless of the consequences to him/herself? Does a potential life take priority over a life already in existence? If life is a gift, is it still a gift when coerced from an unwilling party?
To my shame, I had never considered the mental trauma of rape and incest victims having to carry a very physical reminder of their anguish for the better part of a year. The undesired internal exams at the hospital had felt extremely violating to me; how much more so to a rape survivor forced to endure those same exams while experiencing equally traumatic childbirth as the result of invidious sexual intercourse?
The other thing I learned in my research was that each side tends to vilify the other. Pro-choice groups look at pro-lifers as anti-abortionists who care more for a group of human cells with the potential for life than the woman carrying the cells and her current medical, physical, and psychological state. Pro-lifers see pro-choice individuals as heartless fiends who want the right to murder innocent babies, because a child would slow their wild, free-love ways. Look at the names they call each other. Anti-choice. Baby killer.
Ironically, pro-choicers are also more likely to support welfare programs that provide help for young, single mothers who choose to carry their babies to term. Conversely, pro-lifers tend to oppose those programs on the grounds that a free ride from the government will simply make it easier for women to have more children in order to “work the system.”
I had always been pro-life because, I thought, two wrongs don’t make a right. In my thinking, the slaughter of an innocent life does not make a rape resulting in pregnancy any easier to handle. But in actually listening to the pro-choice side, I realized they were also trying to do right. They believed it was wrong to, in essence, commit a second rape by forcing a victim to carry a child against her will.
The following thought experiment really helped put things in perspective for me. Let’s say a young couple, the woman in the first trimester of pregnancy, are in a horrific car accident. The man is in a coma for several weeks, and when he finally awakens, he discovers his love has died. As he weeps over his loss, the medical staff informs him that a radical medical procedure has allowed them to surgically alter him while he was in the coma. He now has an artificial uterus and his unborn child has been successfully transplanted inside. What he needs to decide soon is whether or not he will bring the pregnancy to term. Obviously, carrying to term will put the man’s health at risk. The dangers of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy-related complications are very real. Also, the baby would have to be delivered by c-section, a surgery which carries its own set of possible life-threatening complications.
The man did not ask to have the uterus implanted. Neither do females who are born with them. The man did not ask to have the fetus implanted. Neither do women who have unplanned pregnancies. Does the man now have the obligation to carry the fetus to term, even though it was put there without his consent? Do women have that obligation?