(Left Said) Abortion: When Does Life Begin And Who Decides That? Why This Debate Matters

I’ll start by saying that I personally feel that abortion, when resorted to for the wrong reasons, is an immoral and selfish practice. In my own case, as is true for many people, the popular rational for abortion is invalid.

As an individual, I am a person of above-average means. If I were to get a woman pregnant, given that I come from a middle-class background, will soon have a degree from a top public university and look pretty good on a job application, I could afford to offer that child a pretty high quality of life. As a person who is capable of caring for a child, any decision to avoid my responsibility for that child’s life must be grounded in selfishness.

Departing from my personal example, when quarrelling over the status of the mother’s health or that of the fetus, or over the nature of the sexual act that led to conception (whether rape occurred or not), fine lines are difficult to draw. As evidence of this, I’ll refer the reader to Todd Akin’s distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape. In fact, making such concessions, as more liberal conservatives tend to do when defining their position on reproductive rights, does away with the entirety of the conservative argument because it admits the inherent subjectivity of the decision and the existence of gray areas.

Above all, the question of abortion is entirely subjective in nature. That is, the process of deciding to remove a fetus before it has come to term is one to be made solely by the person whose body is at issue: the mother. As a potential father and owner of 50 percent of the fetus’ genetic material, I have a right to take part in deciding the fate of the child. But, I’ll defer ultimate decision making to the person who stands to endure vaginal tearing.

America is a society that places great importance on individual liberties. Last week’s column, for instance, outlined a specific liberty that the state is prohibited from revoking: The right to bear arms. Likewise, a person’s decision to have an abortion, no matter what logic that decision is based upon, boils down to a similar notion of individual liberty.

In a society preoccupied with such liberty, subjective points of view, including those regarding when life begins, abound. The belief that the beginning a fetus’ life occurs immediately after it has been conceived, at the very moment that the sperm penetrates the egg and is a life and a gift from God, is one opinion. However, the view that women should be able to decide what is to become of their own bodies and cannot be imposed upon by another person carries equal weight where individual liberties are concerned. If the opinions of certain subjects are impressed upon others, that society can no longer claim to be liberal and instead becomes coercive.

Such is the true nature of the debate surrounding abortion. Advocates on each side remain stubborn and steadfast, while panels of white men, many of whom probably enjoy Viagra prescriptions covered by Medicare, are left to decide the fate of roughly 330,000 women who seek abortion services each year. Upon evaluating both arguments, one imposes a subjective moral argument based in religion and patriarchy played out on the bodies of women, while the other achieves the opposite: Reproductive agency.

Yes, ladies, Michael Dean is very much single and fabulous.