President of the United States (whomever you may be):
There are countless things I’d like to express my opinions about, in the hopes that maybe someone with your influence could settle some of the toughest social debates of this day and age. Conflicted as I was, something had to be discussed, and today the topic of abortion won the coin toss. I’d like to discuss abortion because I am in favor of it, and the last thing I want is for women to lose what I consider to be a valuable freedom. The topic of abortion is highly philosophical in a way that I had not considered until I had begun doing research on it.
I very highly suggest checking out a Youtube video called “Abortion and Personhood: What the Moral Dilemma Is Really About” on a channel called “Big Think”. The channel features a single speaker per video, and that speaker is always a scientist or philosopher with considerable credentials. In the video I have recommended, Harvard Professor Glenn Cohen talks about how abortion is a more difficult topic to discuss that it may seem at first. Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ezS5vQ1j_E , but I’m going to sum it up anyways (I’ve also embedded the video at the bottom of this letter). Glenn Cohen discusses how abortion is really about the question, “At what point does someone become a ‘person’?”. Personhood is essentially the deciding factor in whether abortion is the same as murder. Kill a person, that’s a crime. Assuming fetuses are people, aborting them would be the same as killing a person. Another problem is that, if something becomes a person at a certain point, could it also cease to be a person? The worst part of it all is that personhood is not some static thing that can be quantified or determined at a glance, it’s extremely nuanced and takes a lot of thought to sort out.
To help sift through how I felt about this discussion, I simply tried to answer some food for thought, also posed in the video (can you tell I was really into this discussion?). It goes something like this; If you were about your business, passed out suddenly, and awoke as a human dialysis machine for a stranger-or even the most talented musician in the world- would you have the right to pull the plug? I answered yes, because my body is under my juror's diction in much the same way that my mind is. Maybe it would be best if I stuck it through and helped the stranger, it surely would be a nice gesture. Still, if I decide that I don’t want to be a part of the procedure, I should not have to be. This scenario parallels abortion in a way that should be fairly clear, though one major problem is that a fetus will not suddenly and miraculously appear in the womb, making a strong case for abstinence in place of abortion. Next, with an understanding of the philosophy of the discussion, it is time to discuss what I believe to be considerable reasons to take up one side over the other.
Firstly, the term “Pro-Life” is easily one of the most misleading uses of propaganda nowadays. Reading something like George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” reveals how language can be used to make things more appealing. Saying that you are for something instead of against another is a staple in politics (note that it is not Anti-Choice vs Anti-Life that I’ve been talking about). Pro-Life as a term would not be as misleading if its message was ultimately the correct one I suppose, so I’ll be touching on what makes Pro-Choice the way to go.
Secondly, the inclusion of religion in some of the most passionate pro-life messages waters down some of their credibility. I won’t get into my personal opinions on religion right now, but it should be noted that it is on the decline since keeping politics secular has been popularized. Keeping highly opinionated discourse out of the abortion discussion would be best for all of America, letting the general moral compass of our country do the talking in place of a single book’s preachings (which are hardly ever settled on anyways). The Pew Research center showed that the more Christian you are, the more likely you are (generally speaking) to support the “Pro-Life” movement. http://www.pewforum.org/2009/01/15/abortion-views-by-religious-affiliation/
Third, all I have left to give is my personal opinions and justifications for my stance. The way I see it, a fetus has no feelings or a basic sense of preservation, and thus it has no wishes that need to be heard. The developing fetus, in its very early stages is as much a part of its mother as it is itself since its existence relies solely on the mother that nourishes it. A fetus has not achieved personhood, and its potential to do so is uncertain. When the time comes that proper medical care could keep the little tike alive (22 weeks, approximately 5 months according to http://www.livestrong.com/article/222162-how-soon-can-a-baby-survive-outside-the-womb/), the mother should take responsibility for letting it get that far along and should stick it through. Fetal viability is important to my conclusion because it gives a numbers based (and thus more solid) answer to the dilemma of abortion.
Arguments I’ve heard when discussing this same thing with peers have included the assumption that I must not care about the disabled if I think reliance on a guardian lessens the value of a human life, or that whether a mother wants the fetus or not changes the fetus’ status from ‘bundle of cells’ to ‘baby’. To counter the first, I can tell you outright that I am not prejudiced against the disabled, it is just my philosophy that some things are tragically too extreme for one’s life to be worth living (comatose patients often hand off their right to decide what to do with their own lives off to their families, since they cannot make the decision themselves, nor can they exist in any meaningful way). My counter for the next is admittedly as grounded as a Jenga tower; it is difficult to outright deny something I see the truth in, however I feel that the term ‘baby’ is simply a word used out of excitement/ anticipation for the fetus to BECOME a baby.
To conclude, the topic of abortion is one that is difficult to find an answer to, but after giving it careful consideration I have come to my conclusion. Instead of calling for change in the legislature regarding abortion, I’d like to ask that the discussion be put to rest. I thank you for reading as much as you have, and I urge you to support abortion as it is: a necessary practice.
Michael J. M.