Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Right Choice

            You are presented with two choices. The choice is very hard for you to make. One of the choices is encouraged by your conscience, family, and education. The other choice is encouraged by how hard your current situation is, the resolution to the problem, and what many of your friends tell you. The choice is whether or not you should start using dangerous hallucinogenic drugs.

Your conscience tells you that using this drug is wrong, your family has always told you to stay away from it, and your education has told you about all of the bad things that can happen with drug use. You reason with yourself. Your friends have told you that it will make you feel better. You have been going through so much stress in your life; you just need to have an escape from your life and current situation.

Many women face a similar choice, but on an entirely different issue. The choice is abortion. Many times women are unsure if abortion is the right choice to end their unexpected pregnancy. In the United States, "approximately half of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. result from a contraceptive method failure." (1) By what they are told, abortion is a woman’s choice. The abortion will end their worry and allow them to have an escape from their current situation. Many women feel trapped and come to the conclusion that abortion is the only way out of their predicament.

While the reasons for doing drugs and for having an abortion are both oftentimes very real and legitimate, does it make those things right? When someone is truly trying to do what is right, is any choice acceptable?

Some choices are considered wrong and are discouraged in our society. One way that choices are discouraged is through law. Dangerous hallucinogenic drugs are illegal in an attempt to reduce the amount of people who use them. Society has determined, through research, previous experiences, and morals that these drugs should not be allowed in their country. Other choices that are regulated by laws include certain sexual acts, robbery, murder, extortion, perjury, and even how to drive a car and walk around public streets. Laws are created by those representing the people who believe which choices are right and wrong. These laws do not guarantee the eradication of such acts; the laws aid in the reduction of them.

Is abortion considered a wrong choice in the United States of America? An ABC News/Washington Post poll asked if abortion should be legal altogether or if it should be regulated in some way. 22% of those polled believed that abortion should legal in all cases while 76% believed that abortion should be at least illegal in certain situations. Altogether, 44% stated that abortion should be illegal in most cases and in all cases combined. (2)

With so many people believing that abortion should be at least illegal in some circumstances, is there law to reflect this belief? No. Seven out of the nine Supreme Court justices voted in the case Roe v. Wade, alongside the Doe v. Bolton decision, to legalize abortion in all nine months of pregnancy in 1973.

The case of Roe v. Wade states that abortion can occur without regulation in the first trimester, that the mother’s health in the second month is the only issue regulating abortion in the second trimester, and that abortions in the third trimester can be regulated except “for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” (3)

The case Roe v. Wade would have allowed some abortions in the third trimester to be illegal. Unfortunately, Doe v. Bolton extended the clause of regulation in exception of the mother’s health to also include “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and woman’s age.” (4) Thus, even emotional hardship in a pregnancy renders abortion legal in all nine months of pregnancy, as long as a physician determines this emotional hardship. Late term abortions are commonly held within hospitals while earlier abortions are done in medical clinics.

Since Supreme Court decisions can only be overturned by itself, the 76% in our country who wish that abortion is illegal in at least some circumstances have been forced to accept legal abortion virtually unregulated in all nine months of pregnancy. Was this a choice that the United States decided? No. It was a choice that nine Supreme Court Justices decided. Was it the right choice?

The choice of the seven Supreme Court Justices that legalized abortion in all nine months of pregnancy was based upon two premises. The first premise was that zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not human persons. The second premise was that a woman has a "right to privacy" in the United States Constitution. Both premises were based upon interpretation and personal opinion. If the first premise can be proven wrong, then there is no basis for the second. Thus, the question that must be asked is are unborn human beings human persons?

Most people, if not all, recognize that once a child is born he is certainly a human person. Today's law enacts the ideology that personhood is only recognized at birth. Some people attest that this is only point in which we can assign personhood to a new human being. Most people know that, in normal circumstances, a baby is born 40 weeks gestational age (after the pregnant woman's last menstrual period). (5) Does this mean that a baby born at 36 weeks is not a human person? Most would consider this reasoning abominable! Yet the baby is 4 weeks younger than the one born at 40 weeks. A fetus still within the womb at 38 weeks can still be legally destroyed prior to birth. So if a marker of personhood cannot be made at birth, then where can it be made?

There are those that believe that viability, the ability of a fetus to live outside of the womb, should be the marker of personhood. Has this timetable of viability remained constant? A book arguing in favor of abortion, written by Solinger, openly admitted that "fifty years go [viability] was reached after approximately thirty-four weeks' of gestation." Furthermore, the author stated "so that today, in some cases, a fetus of twenty-seven or twenty-eight weeks gestation can be rendered viable" due to medical advances. (6)  According to the nursing curriculum written by Klossner "a fetus less than 23 weeks' gestation has almost no chance of surviving outside of the womb" rather than an age less than twent-seven or twenty-eight as Solinger claims. (7) Family Planning Associates, a company that provides abortions, advertises in the Verizon Yellow Pages abortions up to twenty-two weeks' gestation in their clinics. Yet there is a chance, albeit very small, that a twenty-two week fetus could survive outside of the womb. My own neice was born years ago at between twenty-two and twenty-four weeks gestation who is today alive and well. So if a marker of personhood cannot be made at viability, then where can it be made?

Still others claim that fertilization, the moment at which the spermatozoa and ovum join to begin pregnancy, is the marker of personhood. A book titled Langman's Medical Embryology states "the main results of fertilization are as follows: restoration of the diploid (23 and 23 is 46) number of chromosomes...determination of the sex of the new individual...[and] initiation of cleavage." (8) Notice how the authors decided to use the term "new individual" when referring the newly fertilized ovum, now termed zygote. (7) The fertilized offspring zygote is a seperate entity and will continue to always be. So is fertilization where the marker of personhood be made? There is no other moment in human development that can come close.


1. American College of Gynecology, 2008.

2. ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Aug. 19-22, 2008.

3., Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973),

4., Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. (1973),

5. Marieb, Elaine. Human Anatomy and Physiology 6th Edition. Page 1131. Pearson Education, 2004.

6. Solinger, Rickie. Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America. Page 19. NYU Press, 2005.

7. Klossner, N and Hatfield, Nancy. Introductory Maternity and Pediatric Nursing. Page 442, 107. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2006.

8. Sadler, Langman, and Leland. Langman's Medical Embryology. Page 37. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2006.

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