How is pregnancy measured?
Pregnancy is said to typically last 40 weeks of gestation. Day one of pregnancy is set to be the first day of the person’s last menstrual period. Fertilization and implantation occur around the 2nd-week mark, which means from implantation to delivery, pregnancy is actually about 38 weeks long. Healing after pregnancy takes an average of 6 to 8 weeks, so it’s fair to say pregnancy significantly affects a person’s health for a minimum of 44 weeks (equal to 11 months). If you include breastfeeding in this calculation (given that new mothers are encouraged to lactate for at least one year after delivery) then it is fair to say pregnancy significantly affects a person’s health for a minimum of 90 weeks, which is about 22 months (almost 2 years).
Is pregnancy dangerous for women?
Yes. According to the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnancy complications are the 6th leading cause of death for women in the United States between the ages of 15 and 34. For reference, see pages 13 and 14 of this CDC mortality rate report from 2017. For further reading, see "The Disturbing, Shameful History of Childbirth Deaths," a Slate article by Laura Helmuth.
Which is more dangerous for a pregnant person, abortion or continuing the pregnancy?
Statistically, continuing a pregnancy is more dangerous than aborting a pregnancy. The CDC reports that in 2017, one thousand two hundred and eight women in the United States died from pregnancy complications. That same year, two women in the United States died from abortion complications. The number of deaths due to pregnancy complications was 60,300% greater than the number of deaths due to abortion complications.
According to a Guttmacher Institute data set, there were 5,575,150 pregnancies in the United States in 2017.
857,330 ended in miscarriage.
862,320 ended in abortion.
3,855,500 ended in birth.
Based on these statistics:
For every 100,000 abortions, there were 0.23 abortion-related deaths.
For every 100,000 pregnancies, there were 21.67 pregnancy-related deaths.
For every 100,000 pregnancies, there were 0.036 abortion-related deaths.
For every 100,000 births, there were 0.052 abortion-related deaths.
For every 100,000 births, there were 31.332 pregnancy-related deaths.
The data is clear that continuing a pregnancy is many times over more dangerous than abortion.
Birth control for men?
Aside from vasectomies, which run the risk of being irreversible, men currently have no highly reliable form of sperm control, making it challenging for them to control their reproduction during recreational sex. (Let's be honest, condoms are known to break.) Men deserve to be able to have recreational sex without fear of unwanted fatherhood. The good news is that hormone-free, reliable, and efficient types of sperm control are in the works! If a sperm control is approved by the FDA, and if men choose to use it, then the number of unwanted pregnancies can drop drastically. For more information, go to https://www.malecontraceptive.org/. Men deserve quality contraception not only for recreational sex but also for protection against unwanted fatherhood in the case of sexual assault. It is a fact that sexual assaults happen to men, too (click here for study).
Is abortion the moral choice when it's evident the developing body is defective?
From the beginning of pregnancy up to between 23-27 weeks of gestation, within a womb there exists a body of living cells that does not contain and has never contained a living person. If this developing, personless body is defective such that the life of your future baby is likely to be torturous, aborting the developing body can be a kindness. You have to ask yourself, given whatever medical condition is occurring, if aborting the developing body is better than allowing a person to come to exist in that body.
If a human body exists that does not contain and has never contained a person, then who owns that body?
In general, living human cells belong to the person sustaining them, which means before 23 weeks of gestation, a fetal body in a uterus belongs to the owner of the uterus. The natural follow up question here is "Does the biological father own half of that personless fetal body because he provided half of its DNA?" The answer is no, because being related to human cellular life does not grant ownership of that life. For example, consider your own life. The owner of the sperm that contributed to your existence does not own half of you. Likewise, the owner of the egg that contributed to your existence does not own half of you. You own yourself, and human cellular lives belong to the person sustaining them. There are legal cases that grant ownership of embryos created via in vitro fertilization, but these specific cases concern frozen embryos that are located in a freezer, not a human person's body.
What are rights?
Rights are privileges that are granted through a social contract (like a government constitution) where a group of people agrees on how they will treat each other.
When a social contract includes the right to life, then people who are part of that contract agree they will respect each others' lives by not committing murder. To have the right to life is to have protection from murder. All people deserve the right to life.
When a social contract includes the right to bodily autonomy, then people who are part of that contract agree that every person owns their own body. To have the right to bodily autonomy is to have ownership of your own body. Close synonyms for bodily autonomy are liberty, bodily security, bodily inviolability, freedom from involuntary servitude, and freedom from slavery. If your social contract provides the right to liberty, then it consequently provides the right to bodily autonomy as well, because if someone (or some institution) denies you bodily autonomy, then they also deny you liberty. The right to bodily autonomy safeguards individual freedom and provides a standard quality of life free from oppression. All people deserve the right to bodily autonomy.
If you had a right to life but not a right to bodily autonomy, then someone could enslave you. They could do whatever they want to you, as long as they don't murder you, because you had the right to life without the right to bodily autonomy. Someone could use your body without your permission. Someone could rape you, use your body for pleasure against your will, without care of how it would hurt you. Someone could use technology to hook their body to yours and use you as human life support without any care of how it hurts your quality of life. They could take blood from you multiple times a day, everyday. They could take one of your kidneys. They could take part of your liver. They could take your bone marrow. They could cut off your hair to make themselves a wig. They could take whatever they want from your body, no matter how it hurts, no matter how it upsets you, all because you did not have the right to bodily autonomy. The right to bodily autonomy is critical to the protection of a person's well-being.
The right to life and the right to liberty/bodily autonomy are both important to a moral society, and neither right ever outweighs the other. Review Questions Two and Three and our Homepage for more information.
Many social contracts include both the right to life and the right to liberty/bodily autonomy, and two examples are the United States Constitution and the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment IV states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Constitution of the United States of America, Bill of Rights, Amendment IX states, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
The United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment XIII, Section 1 states, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
The United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment XIV, Section 1 states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains 30 articles. Here are the first four:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Hyperlink above is to Responses to Anti-Abortion Arguments page to emphasize that “human being” is poor word choice and ought to be updated to all “human people.” And yes, "born free" is keywording that shows Article I refers specifically to born human people, not human cells.)
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
What about religious beliefs that contradict science?
Through the right to liberty, every person deserves control over their own body, which includes their brain—the seat of their mind and beliefs. Therefore, every person deserves control over their own religious beliefs, and no person deserves to have any set of religious beliefs forced upon them. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive paradigms. All scientific, religious, and scientific-religious people and institutions ought to respect people, which requires polite, heartfelt conversations to settle disputes and absolutely no tolerance for discrimination against other people on account of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.