Bruce Ashford, DCNF
On Monday, Politico leaked a draft document revealing that the Supreme Court could potentially overturn Roe v. Wade.
This development is significant for at least two reasons: its leaking is a stunning, unprecedented violation of the Court’s privacy and is an equally surprising, though precedented affirmation of human rights.
Although political discourse often frames Roe v. Wade in terms of women’s reproductive rights, the famous 1973 ruling has nothing to do with women’s rights.
Pro-choice intellectuals and activists use any one of three scientifically-implausible arguments to support their view that Roe v. Wade protects women. Each argument involves an errant perspective on the unborn being inside of a woman’s womb.
One errant approach defines the unborn being as a part of the woman’s body. They claim that having an abortion is similar to clipping a woman’s toenails. This claim runs counter to common sense and counter to scientific consensus. Every part of a woman’s body contains her unique DNA. But the unborn being has its own, unique, DNA.
Another approach, made famous by the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson, contends that the unborn being is essentially a parasite that feeds off the mother’s body. Thomson argues that the mother therefore has a right to kill the parasite. At least there’s an admission that we’re dealing with something living.
One of the key problems with this, however, is that the same logic can be used to justify infanticide. Newborns feed off their mother’s body, but hardly anyone makes the argument that mothers have the right to kill their children until they are weaned.
A third approach contends that the unborn being is the woman’s property. In fact, this is how the legal system has recently treated the unborn. Under Roe, the unborn being is treated as property to which the woman has almost-exclusive rights.
The state can only interfere with these rights when they have a compelling interest and then only after the first trimester. Until that time the woman has the right to “dispose” of her property in any manner she chooses.
This perspective is deeply ironic and more troublesome than the previous two views, especially in a nation such as the U.S., which claims to have left slavery in the dust of distant history. There is no situation other than abortion in which an American can legally own another human being, much less choose whether or not to terminate the human person they “own.”
To get around this problem, the Supreme Court makes a distinction that most people wouldn’t understand: they claim that the unborn human being is not a person.
Sadly, this errant distinction is unsurprising. History reveals that societies often classify groups of human beings as “non-persons.” Slaves, women, infants, Jews, or “foreigners” were all, at one time or another, denied legal or moral standing as persons, despite being recognized as humans.
Of course, the standards these judges, pro-choice intellectuals and activists put in place could theoretically be used to justify killing them too. For instance, every night these philosophers fall into a state of prolonged unconsciousness, whereby they would no longer, under their definition, classify as “people.”
We call it “sleep.” And we all agree that you can’t just kill judges, intellectuals, or activists in their sleep. Even the nasty ones.
Thus, we must recognize unborn beings for who they are: persons who have just as much right to justice and equality as any other person. Indeed, studies show that most modern American women understand fully well that the unborn being is a human person.
Therefore, as former fetuses — all of us — we must safeguard the full dignity and personhood of every American, including unborn Americans.
Thus, in regard to the greatest threat to human dignity in our era, let us neither weary nor rest until every unborn being is protected in law and welcomed in life.
Bruce Ashford is a political speechwriter and Senior Fellow at the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology. He is the author of Letters to an American Christian. Follow him on Twitter, @BruceAshford.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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