The underlying premise to the many arguments that fall within thiscategory - - that "a woman has a right to control her own body" - - isthat it would be unfair to the mother to "force" her to carry herunborn child to term. Therefore, it should be her decision alone todecide whether her unborn child lives or dies.
The argumentunfolds in roughly this fashion. It would be "unjust" to require themother to carry her baby to term because it would require her to quitschool, abandon her career, suffer for the rest of her life neverknowing where her child was if she placed the child for adoption, orface the stigma of "unwed" motherhood, or an endless number of otherscenarios.
Beyond this basic contention, proponents furtherclaim that the mother has the "right" to privacy, the "right" tochoose, and the "right" to equal protection, all of which require a"right" to abortion.
The right to privacy, continues theargument, protects the woman's ability to make personal decisions inprivate, without the imposition of "Big Brother."
This mode ofargument culminates with the conclusion that it is this "freedom ofchoice" that enables a woman to compete equally with a man.
What is astonishing about this reasoning is the assumption behindeach of these "injustices" - - that the only way a pregnant woman canaccomplish anything is for her to kill her baby. What is even moreincomprehensible is that some women accept this specious reasoning andactually fight to keep the ability to legally kill their unborn childas a claimed "right"!
What is the rhetorical ploy at work here?Abortion supporters compare unfavorably the life of one human being(the unborn child) with the "right" to live without the temporarycondition of nine months of pregnancy. The result is that the temporarycondition and its inconveniences trumps the child's very right to exist.
Whenyou reach this point, remind your listeners that this way of reasoningthreatens everyone's right to life. Determining who shall live and whoshall die has become completely arbitrary.
Let's look more closely at the argument that "a woman has the right to control her own body."
Certainlyshe has the right to control the use of her arm by choosing to swingher arm. However, that right stops when her arm approaches the tip ofmy nose.
She may even have the right to scream at the top of her lungs that she hates the movie Titanic,but she doesn't have the right to scream "fire" in the crowded theater.Reason and historic experience teaches us that unless we protect therights of others, our own rights soon diminish as well.
Notealso that, as is so often the case, abortion supporters have simplydefined the unborn out of existence. Or, more specifically, theycontend nobody can know "when human life begins."
An essentialpart of your response to this family of argument is to remind youraudience that it is not a mere opinion that two bodies are involved inthis decision but a scientific fact. It is important to understand thata surprising number of people have convinced themselves that the unbornchild is not a separate human being, meaning the entire focus is on themother.
Shorn of its individual existence, the child is reduced to a "problem" to be eliminated. What is your counter?
Remindyour audience that the unborn child is the smallest, least seen amongus, and thus, is the most vulnerable. Buttress your appeal to ourcommon humanity with some of the elementary points of embryology. Thislittle human being has a beating heart as early as 18 days, with tinylittle fingers and toes.
All her genetic definition of who sheis for now and always - - the color of her eyes, her hair, how tall shewill grow to be - - was present at the moment of fertilization.Therefore, in every abortion a helpless someone dies.
Answeringthis argument also allows the pro-lifer to bring attention to the leastunderstood facet of the abortion debate: that most women feel trappedinto their abortions. This is a great opportunity to point out thatwomen usually make their decision with little or no accurateinformation about their pregnancy or knowledge that assistance isavailable for them from the over 3,000 pro-life mother-helping centersaround the country.
We must help people to grasp that womenaren't really in control of anything if they do not have the right toknow the whole truth before they have an abortion. Point out thatanyone who supports "choice" surely should support an informed choicein this context as well.
Yet, attempts to pass protectivelegislation insuring that women are given information about risks andalternatives to abortion and scientifically accurate information aboutthe developing unborn child are routinely opposed and challenged byabortion advocates. Only a handful of states have recognized the rightof women to be fully informed. There is a real insult to women'sintelligence in that fact.
As women we believe that perhaps thegreatest crime committed against women by the legalization of abortionis the ugly idea that our ability to bear children is a punishment or afailure on our part. That notion has sent a message to threegenerations of women that they must - - at all costs - - reject theirown children if they are going to avert failure.
Women have tostop apologizing for the fact that they bear children. Gently butfirmly emphasize that, ironically, as long as women give into theexpectation that they ought to kill their children in order to getfurther in this world (that is, compete equally with men), they reallyare "second-class" citizens.
A major element in much of therhetoric that is used within this particular category of arguments isthe tragic notion that the unborn child is an enemy of her mother.Mother and child are pitted against each other.
We must help our questioners to realize that mother and child are not antagonists but equals who must both be protected by law.
Theonly reasonable perspective is that every human being's life must beprotected from the moment of fertilization until natural death. Itcannot be subject to the arbitrary whims of others, or soon each of uswill find ourselves or our loved ones being defined out of existence.
Finally,the constant rallying cry attendant to this "women must control theirown bodies" argument is the clever but evasive rejoinder, "Whodecides?" You can point out that the more appropriate question is, "Whodies?"
Since every abortion does in fact stop a beating heartit is absolutely essential that a just government pass laws to respectthe right to life. Slogans like "Keep your laws off my ovaries" aresimply a distraction from the power of the truth about the unborn'slife. Our elected officials are bound on our behalf to ensure thatprotection is provided every human being.
Ultimately the onlyway to actually protect the mother's rights will be by enforcing lawsthat secure her child's right to life.
*This article originally appeared in February 11, 1998 NRL News
Printed with permission from National Right to Life (www.nrlc.org ).