She’s only a baby if you want her: every child a wanted child, Part 2

scale justice

American justice is blind indeed. And when it comes to babies, it is also painfully lacking in universal ethics and logic.

Perhaps the best example of this national logic deficit can be found in state statutes regarding fetal homicide. For example, Indiana’s state law “specifies that a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide…” Now wait for it: “…the law does not apply to an abortion.”  In other words, the child is only a human worthy of legal protection if her mother wants her.

Abortion is an American ‘right’ granted by the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling. By this law, women have the right to choose. But to choose what? Whether or not a pregnancy involving a separate individual with a unique genetic code and an audible heartbeat is actually human or not? That’s a lot of pressure.

To be fair, women who find themselves with unplanned pregnancies do face tremendous pressure. Choosing whether or not to parent a child is an extremely difficult, painful choice, hardly one to make in a night. We can expect that with the gravity of this decision, inevitably a change of mind would occur during the process. But here is the problem. As a mother considers abortion, adoption or parenting, does the nature of this “clump of cells” change biologically (or philosophically, for that matter) according to the opinion of the mother: human and protected by law when she feels ready to parent and a mass of tissue with no rights and no legal protection in the moments she wants abortion? Giving women the right to choose not simply a pregnancy, but whether or not a real human life is involved is a lot of pressure. Too much pressure.

Now let’s set logic aside for a moment and assume that simply “wanting” a baby is grounds enough to determine her humanity. In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Recent abortion statistics show that 93% of all abortions are for primarily social reasons, such as a parent or partner’s desire for the abortion, lack of financial resources or feeling unready for a child. Only 7% of abortions were performed for women’s health or a medical issue for the child, with less than 1% following a case of rape or incest.  In other words, most children who die from abortions could be classified as the socially inconvenient, “unwanted”, as Ms. Sanger might call them. But unwanted by whom? Is the child’s mother the only one who can determine this? We do not give men this right to their unborn children. Nor do we give women this right once their children are born. Our justice system hardly looks the other way if a woman pulls a Susan Smith and decides she’s had it with parenting.

As we look into society at large, national adoption statistics reveal an arms-wide-open attitude towards babies. According to a February 2011 study compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over two million American women have taken steps toward adoption. Men and women who are unable to parent biologically spend thousands of dollars on hopeful adoptions, often waiting years for the call that one baby is available. These statistics speak to the wantedness of these so-called “unwanted” children.

Regardless of whether or not a child is born planned or wanted, the core issue in question is whether or not the unique value of a human being can be given or taken away by another person. Our conviction of intrinsic value is evidenced in the fight to save a baby born prematurely or the money spent to rescue workers trapped in a coal mine, even if they may already be dead. Our personal worth is something that certainly cannot be assigned the moment we emerge from the womb. Fortunately, the humanity of all people does, in fact, transcend the (ever-changing) opinions of others, as we have been “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among which is life. We claim to have adopted these rights as a nation. But in order to offer these rights to all humans, American justice must open her eyes.

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