In the United States, an important conversation is taking place, the results of which, might set a world- wide precedent for ethical regress of the most devastating kind. It is now an alarming reality that, while European countries have laws which generally ban abortion after the first trimester, when the baby becomes better formed and (as far as science knows so far) able to feel pain, in the US, late term abortions, that is, those that take place after the first trimester, are being celebrated by some as a sign of freedom. In fact, recently, a law was passed in New York which permits abortion after 24 weeks, that is 5 and a half months. Several other such laws are being prepared in other states. This has reopened debates on both sides of the political spectrum. Some call for no restrictions on any type of abortion and gratuity of services related to it. Others call for a complete ban on the practice.
One can only suppose that many do not take into account the fact that once a woman is pregnant, her life will change forever no matter what choice she makes. Moreover, many must also not be taking into account the fact that “no one can tell a woman what to do with her body and the life growing inside of it” is a true statement. Whether this is a tragic reality or not is irrelevant to the general conversation regarding results of state policies on abortion. Many societies over the years have tried to regulate such matters. One example is that of imposed abortions in China, where women desperately struggle to save their unborn children from certain death dictated by the state. Another example is communist Romania, where women went to the old village midwifes and had abortions performed without the knowledge of the state, which banned abortions. No society in history has managed to impose on all women a certain behavior regarding their bodies. It simply comes down to personal responsibility and a woman’s own conscience.
However, in terms of late term abortions, while one might emphasize the same personal responsibility, the current situation borders on the absurd. Medically speaking, especially when the mother’s life is in danger, it seems that the best option for the mother is to actually have the child delivered. It is faster and easier on her body. A late term abortion takes 2-3 days of preparation for the cervix to be dilated enough to be able to abort the child. During this time the mother would carry in her womb the deceased child which has been killed by a lethal injection. The complications of this type of procedures are numerous and, especially for a mother who is already ill, they can be life threatening. The safest and quickest alternative seems to be a C section and delivery of the child. Thus, if the child is old enough, it may have the option to live, and, perhaps, be put up for adoption. One does not have to kill a child that is already formed in order to be free from it. They can simply deliver, which, if the abortion is late enough, they would have to do anyway.
Unfortunately, the story of these late term abortions goes on in an increasingly frightful manner. Killing a child who could survive outside the womb, instead of delivering it, is a choice which lacks as much in logic as it does in emotion. Many might blame this on the fact that perhaps a woman is not well informed about her choices. But what would they say about abortions performed a few weeks before birth or at the very moment of birth? There is no question that the child could live and be put up for adoption, the woman having already carried it close to or close to term. It would make no sense to kill it, and even the most uninformed woman would know that.
When it comes to a child already born, the matter should be obvious. The mother could simply give up the rights to the child and move on with her life. However, the conversation has now turned to a choice which might sound unimaginable. In some cases (for now), such as severe deformities of the child for instance, a woman might choose to have (what some would still call) an abortion, even when she is in labor. She would give birth to her baby, have it placed comfortably in a room and taken care of, while talking to her health care providers about ending the child’s life, after birth. Regarding such “late term abortions”, Virginia Democrat Governor Ralph Northam noted: “If a mother is in labor I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother”. He then added that “legislators, most of whom are men, should not be telling a woman what she should and shouldn’t be doing with her body.” Yet, here, the discussion is no longer about the woman’s body. It is not even about the body of a baby who is living inside of hers. It is now about a baby, living and breathing on its own, outside of the woman’s body.
It seems that the abortion argument has moved from a first trimester “clump of cells that can’t feel pain” to mothers deciding whether or not to keep their children alive, even after birth. If a society has come to the point where it cannot see the absence of logic (not to mention the lack of humanity) in killing a child who is born breathing and living on its own, with no risk or attachment to the mother’s body, then that society is on the brink of a grim and dystopic future. Logically, as well as morally, we should be able to see that this is an absurd and unnecessary waste of life.
The speed with which moral leaps have been made from early abortion to late term abortion, and now, infanticide, begs many ominous questions. How long before conditions such as “severe deformities” would be lifted, and, complete freedom would be given to the mother to kill any “type” of child, whether healthy or sick? How long before the definition of personhood, with all its legal protections, is only given to people when they reach the age of self-awareness, around 3 or 4? How long before personhood is taken from those who are no longer able to use their minds in the way necessary for society to consider them persons? In other words, how long before a newly declared matria potestas opens the world’s eyes to the full potential of a revived jus vitae necisque? And, how long after that can we still claim to be a moral society?
It doesn’t take most people long to declare certain things outdated and incompatible with modern society and to encourage each other to be “free of such constraints”. However, if we are not mindful of where the future is heading, we might end up living in a world where the list of outdated mentalities includes ethics and morality. What is more tragic is that, if that point is reached, we will already have lost the capacity to know any better.