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Last week, I attended Princeton Pro-Life’s counter-protest to a rally organized by Princeton Mutual Aid and Princeton Students for Reproductive Justice in light of the recently leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that, if issued as drafted, would overturn Roe v. Wade. Being a pro-life woman isn’t always easy. Many are baffled as to why I would be willing to sacrifice my education, my career, my success, and “my life” for a baby if I had not wanted it.
Responding to these questions, I say: because a life is a life. When an egg and a sperm, carrying the DNA of the female and the male, unite, a new being is created. The DNA of this new being is distinct from both the mother’s and the father’s, and it is now a new individual, able to grow into a fully formed baby, and eventually into an adult — with time and the right conditions. Research suggests that this new human being’s heart may begin to beat just 16 days after conception. This new human being’s brain, kidneys, intestines, and liver begin to function, and its fingernails and toenails begin to form at around 10 weeks after conception. This new human being’s eyes begin to move 14 weeks after conception. And, if this being is alive, nothing is worth taking the life of another, even when that means I need to make sacrifices for this person that has come into my care. To claim that “I am not an incubator,” as the protestors were chanting at the rally, seems incredibly selfish to me, as it communicates that the mother's liberty comes before the child’s life.
One of the pro-choice speakers at the rally said, “It’s well past time that we drop talking points of ‘safe, legal, and rare.’ I don’t give a fuck if it’s rare. People deserve abortion on demand. That means you can have an abortion if you don’t want to have kids, and that’s fine. You don’t need a sob story to deserve basic bodily autonomy.”
It may be a personal choice whether or not to have kids, but that choice must come before one is pregnant. Once new life has been formed, nobody has the right to deprive this being of its right to life. Every human being — the mother, the unborn child, the victim of a car accident reduced to a vegetative state, and the baby born with a severe genetic disorder — has an inherent and equal dignity that must be protected. Thus, the mother's right to choice ends where the child's right to life begins.
Not only does the decision in Roe v. Wade pose serious moral and ethical issues, but the justices who decided Roe also failed to deliver legally sound reasoning. The Court argued that the right to abortion fell under the right of privacy, putting it in the same camp as marriage, contraception, childrearing, and education. To liken the termination of a human life to a decision about how to educate one’s child ignores a clear difference in the proportion of the decision.
Furthermore, Roe decided that the unborn child is not protected under the Fourteenth Amendment based on the Constitution’s use of the word “person.” The Constitution uses that word in one section to list the qualifications for representatives and senators and also in the Migration and Importation provision. It is unlikely that the framers of the Constitution were thinking of the unborn when they were outlining the qualifications to be an elected official, which, for obvious reasons, one must be out of the womb and a functioning adult to meet.
Although overturning Roe, in my opinion, is a move in the right direction, it does not and should not be the end of the pro-life movement’s efforts. We need to support women who become pregnant, so that they are not forced to make a decision that they will regret or that could harm themselves or others. Most women don't get abortions because they have something against the child; they do it because it's the only way they feel like they can continue on with their lives, which is an extremely tragic position to be in. It is our duty to make resources available to pregnant women, so that abortion isn’t their only option, and so that this support continues after the child is born so that the mother isn't financially, physically, and emotionally overwhelmed.
We have to recognize that something is wrong with our society if a woman finds herself in a situation where she is forced to choose between her child and her livelihood. In fact, Erika Bachiochi, legal scholar and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, argues that abortion’s position in our society as the primary option for women allows companies to overlook other forms of support, such as flexible work schedules and better pay for part-time work. Moreover, the responsibility for raising a child does not, and should not, fall on the woman alone. We can make our laws reflect this value by holding men legally and financially accountable for every child they father.
At Princeton, when a pregnant student visits the University Health Services website, she is given options for counseling, abortion services, and adoption. These options assume that the baby would be a burden and would need to be taken off the student's hands. There are no links to any pregnancy resource centers, which operate free of charge and offer alternatives to abortion as well as services including OB ultrasounds, parenting classes, information about food resources, medical assistance, baby equipment, counseling, and more.
It is not too much to ask of our society to protect the lives of the most vulnerable — both those of pregnant women and those of unborn children.
Julianna Lee is a first-year from Demarest, N.J. and a prospective politics concentrator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org