Pro- abortion to Pro- life
When I was younger, I was always particularly shocked when I heard about societies where it was common to abandon or kill unwanted newborns. In college I once read a particularly graphic description of a family in ancient Greece "discarding" a newborn baby girl. I was shocked to the point of breathlessness. I was also horribly confused: How could normal people be okay with this, let alone participate in it? Nobody I knew would do that! Were people that different back then?!
Because of my deep distress at hearing of things like this, I found it really irritating when pro-lifers would refer to abortion as "killing babies." Obviously, none of us pro-choice folks were in favor of killing babies; to imply otherwise, in my mind, was an insult to the babies throughout history who actually were killed by their insane societies. We weren't in favor of killing anyone. We simply felt like women had the right to stop the growth process of a fetus if she faced an unwanted pregnancy. Sure, it was unfortunate since fetuses had potential to be babies one day, and we recognized that there was something special about that. But, alas, that was a sacrifice that had to be made in the name of not making women slaves to their bodies.
I continued to be vehemently pro-choice after college. Though my views became more moderate once I had a child of my own, I was still pro-choice. But as my husband and I began a religious search that led us to Christianity, we were increasingly put on the defensive about our views. One day my husband was re-evaluating his own pro-choice ideas, and he made a passing remark that startled me. He said:
"It just occurred to me that being pro-life is being pro-other-people's-lives. Everyone is pro-their-own-life."
It made me realize that my pro-choice viewpoints were putting me in the position of deciding who is and is not human, and whose lives are worth living. I (along with doctors, the government, or other abortion advocates) decided where to draw this very important line. When I would come across claims that life begins at conception, I would scoff. Yet I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with my defense:
"A few cells is obviously not a baby, or even a human life!" I would sneer to myself. "Fetuses eventually become full-fledged humans, but not until, umm, like, six months gestation or something. Or maybe five months? When is it that they can kick their legs and stuff?...Nine weeks?! No, they’re not human then, those must be involuntary spasms..."
I was putting the burden of proof on the fetuses to demonstrate to me that they were human, and I was a tough judge. I found myself looking the other way when I heard that 3D ultrasounds showed "fetuses" touching their faces, smiling and opening their eyes at ages at which I still considered abortion okay. Babies -- I mean, fetuses -- seen yawning at 12 weeks gestation? Involuntary spasm.As modern technology helped fetuses offer me more and more evidence that they were human too, I would simply move the bar of what I considered human.
I realized that my definition of how and when a "fetus" became a "person," when he or she begins to have rights, also depended on his or her level of health: The length of time in which I considered it okay to terminate a pregnancy lengthened as the severity of disability increased ("I wouldn't be comfortable with abortion after 26 weeks, unless the fetus had a disability," I once said). It was with a sickening feeling in my stomach that I realized that, under the premise of wanting to spare the potential child from suffering, I was basically saying that disabled babies had fewer rights -- were less human -- than able-bodied ones.
At some point I started to feel like I was more determined to be pro-choice than I was to honestly analyze who was and was not human. And I saw it in others in the pro-choice community as well. On more than one occasion I was stunned to the point of feeling physically ill upon reading of what otherwise nice, reasonable people in the pro-abortion camp would support.
In reading through the Supreme Court case of Stenberg v. Carhart, I read that Dr. Leroy Carhart, an abortion advocate who actually performs the procedures, described some second-trimester abortions by saying, "[W]hen you pull out a piece of the fetus, let's say, an arm or a leg and remove that, at the time just prior to removal of the portion of the fetus...the fetus [is] alive." He said that he has observed fetal heartbeat via ultrasound with "extensive parts of the fetus removed."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which presumably consists of well-educated, reasonable, intelligent men and women, spoke out against this procedure. When I discovered their reasoning, I felt dizzy. They didn't oppose it because it's clearly infanticide in its most grisly form; they opposed it because of the inconvenience of dismembered body parts. In their amici brief to Stenberg, the ACOG explained in detail why they believe it's better to kill these babies outside the womb, in a procedure they refer to as "D&X":
D&X presents a variety of potential safety advantages over other abortion procedures used during the same gestational period. Compared to D&E's involving dismemberment, D&X involves less risk of uterine perforation or cervical laceration because it requires the physician to make fewer passes into the uterus with sharp instruments and reduces the presence of sharp fetal bone fragments that can injure the uterus and cervix.
There is also considerable evidence that D&X reduces the risk of retained fetal tissue, a serious abortion complication that can cause maternal death, and that D&X reduces the incidence of a 'free floating' fetal head that can be difficult for a physician to grasp and remove and can thus cause maternal injury.
I read the Court documents from Stenberg in a state of shock. A few years before, a friend of mine had her baby prematurely, and I had visited him in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He was so beautiful, just like the full-term newborns I’d seen, only smaller. Seeing him and the other babies lying there so peacefully in their incubators, I was overwhelmed with feelings of wanting to protect these precious, innocent little babies. So I found myself in a state of cold shock that I was reading of people -- not just fringe crazies, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and some Supreme Court Justices -- casually speaking about the inconvenience of the severed heads and bone fragments of dismembered children ("fetuses") the same age as those babies in the NICU.