Since the beginning of time, women have faced oppression in every area of our lives. While people around the world fought and gained the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it seemed the women of the world were being denied these rights. Women have worked long and hard to gain equality and the right to be in charge of their own bodies. As a woman of the 1990’s, about to reach the turn of the century, I feel it is my place to continue to fight for the rights of my gender. As a long time supporter of the pro-choice movement, I have come to see that there are numerous arguments for pro-choice, as well as against.
I have also come to see that there are many different ways to look at both sides of these arguments. Some envision life as black and white, as right and wrong. By looking at life philosophically, we come to see that it is not as simple as that. Intelligent arguments do not only depend on a person’s point of view. They depend on critical analysis also. People are not merely a means to an end, but ends in themselves. A woman treated as an incubator by the law is merely a means to an end, and is therefore not being regarded as a person. The woman’s right as a person, to be treated as an end in herself, accords her the right to choose.
A woman is a person, while the embryo is nothing but a potential person. Being just a potential person, it therefore does not have the rights of an actual person. Another big argument in the movement is the religious aspect of the debate. Christians are usually in accordance with the pro-life group. Anti-abortion legislation is based upon the acceptance of faith of supernatural entities called souls. These souls should not be confused with the psyche studied by psychologists, for psyche is Greek for soul or breath (The American Heritage Dictionary.
Second College Edition. 1982. Houghton Mifflin Company. Pg 999). The Greek term “psyche” is both mental and destructible and aware of the reality of death and its own extinction ( reference). The soul, by contrast, is immortal, indivisible, and indestructible. Having a soul is important to Christians because it is the soul that arises into heaven and gains eternal life.
The reason that we kill, eat, and experiment on animals is because they supposedly lack a soul. But when does a fetus acquire a soul? Fathers of the Christian religion, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, decreed that the fetus acquired a soul after 40 days for a male, and 90 days for a female, (When Did I Begin?.. Dr. Norman Find. 1988. C. U. P. pg 39-43, 193). This example, from a Christian source, highlights a very well known philosophical problem. This problem is the logical impossibility of precisely drawing the line as to when the fetus acquires a soul. Bible can not be accepted as a source of ethics by humane and secular governments, nor is The Bible replete with examples of, what are by modern secular standards, barbaric moral precepts.
For xample, in Deuteronomy 22:28-29, The Bible states: “If a man rapes an unbetrothed female virgin, then the punishment is to force the man to marry the woman with no right of divorce. How is that punishment for him? The woman is punished for something that she had no control over. Some pro-lifers argue that it is murder to kill an unborn child because life begins at conception. They are correct when stating that. A new human life begins when an egg with 23 chromosomes joins with a sperm with 23 chromosomes and creates a fertilized cell called a zygote with 46 chromosomes.
A single cell zygote contains the DNA necessary to grow-therefore it is a potential person ( reference). But being alive does not give the zygote full human rights. A single cell ameba also converts nutrients and oxygen into biological energy that causes its ells to divide and multiply. An ameba also contains a full set of DNA and is just as alive as a human zygote. But would we defend the ameba’s human rights based on it’s DNA? The pro-lifers also argue the use of contraception. Some pro-lifers feel that abortion is being used not as a desperate last measure, but as a type of contraceptive.
While that may be true in some cases, it is not the majority. Pro-lifers have to realize that contraceptives are not 100% effective and unwanted pregnancies do occur. If they agree that abortion is unlawful, then it must follow that sexual intercourse that does not have procreation as its objective is made unlawful also. And the punishment for the “crime” would be the enforced pregnancy and birth of a child. It is a punishment as this is not an accidental outcome of sex, but an inevitable one.