When Does Life Begin?
In 2011, Ohio legislation introduced the “Heartbeat Bill” that stated abortions should be deemed illegal after the first detection of a heartbeat. In most cases, this heartbeat comes as early as six weeks, the time before most woman have not even realized they are pregnant. Most arguments when discussing abortion are centered around “when is this group of cells considered a ‘person?'” We have come up with measurements of time, whether it is the first trimester or the until the first heartbeat, to determine when something has the right of personhood. People have regulated women’s bodies’ prior to Roe v. Wade as well as after, as the legislation is slowly chipped away at; the same legislation that protects the already slim amount of personal rights women have. This form of discrimination perpetuates misrepresentation and energizes a movement to limit women’s reproductive freedom. By not giving women the right to choose, a distance in humanization occurs and discrimination begins to be seen as normal.
So how can we talk freely about reasons for these regulations and so blatantly disregard them in other situations? Underprivileged youth, transgender folk, or woman just trying to make the best decisions for themselves, are not met with the same care and discriminate uproar as the fight for a fetus, when considering personhood. Shaw and Lee ask the question,”If you do grant full personhood rights to a fertilized ovum or fetus, than at what point do these rights take priority over the rights of another fully established person…?” (Women’s Voices Feminist Visions 386). Although the legislation has set forth responsibility for fetus protection, there are not nearly as many rights regarding the protection of minorities. Lauren Zuniga exposes the hypocrisy our society has set forth when defending “personhood.”
In April 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act into law. This law gave a zygote, embryo, or fetus the same legal rights as a person, which in turn, prepared the groundwork for further restrictions on abortion access. Wording is key in this statement and demands an answer to what exactly are a “person’s legal rights?” The right to affordable health care? Not for everyone. The right to feel safe when leaving their house ? Not for everyone. The right to a sustainable amount of food? Not for everyone. The right to an education? Not for everyone. Scenarios that are deemed a person’s right, are not always offered to our societal minority. Without these basic human rights set in place, being alive is not synonymous with “living.” It is one thing to bring a child into this world, but to support the child with emotional, economical, and social stability is another. When will government see that fighting for the rights of a fetus is not enough?
What Does “Pro Life” Truly Mean?
So what does “Pro Life” mean? The movement is quite clear in their intentions to fight for the right of a fetus and protect the possibility of what “might have been.” But what might have been of the multiple lives that are also affected by this legislation? Mothers who are forced into unwanted pregnancies due to a limited access to affordable healthy care, child prevention services, abortions or other preventative methods, are not always met with beneficial aid from the government. Depending on a woman’s economic situation, the mother and child could be in low financial stability and forced to lean on the government for the help needed. This would lead to a poorer living situation for the mother and child (along with any other children she may have) and a higher dependence on governmental funding. On the other hand, this woman may be extremely lucky and still be financially stable after the birth of this child, but with the extra responsibility of care, her life will never be the same. This mother will face educational and job related struggles, which will inevitably lead to a lower income, housing in a poorer neighborhood, less qualified schools for the child, etc. This vicious cycle creates strife in our economic stability, however, is perpetuated by the government. How can we expect these women and children to reach their full potential when they are not given the choice and resources needed to succeed in our society? These lives (the mothers, the child, the tax payers who must fund the inevitable welfare) are dramatically affected.
We also must consider the lives that are being effected by unsafe pregnancies or abortions or the lives of women who are put in danger when seeking help from a clinic. The Anti-Abortion Clinic Across the Street reveals a startling statistic on the Choices Medical Clinic. Kathryn Joyce writes that the Feminist Majority Foundation found, “32.7 percent of clinics located near a CPC experienced one or more incidents of severe violence…” (428). Joyce goes on to define “severe violence” as: clinic blockades and invasions, bombing, arson, bombing and arson threats, death threats, chemical attacks, stalking, physical violence and gunfire. Not to mention the danger held to the physicians that provide these surgeries or other preventative measures. With the acceptance of the heartbeat bill, doctors who decide to perform an abortion to women past six weeks are charged with a fifth degree felony. That is not even considering the fear, threats, and actual death doctors face because of their work.
Wendy Davis, a democratic representative in the Texas Senate and 2014 governor candidate, held an eleven hour filibuster to block Senate Bill 5 by delaying the passage of the bill before its midnight deadline. This bill promotes more restrictive abortion measures in one of the biggest states with an already inadequate amount of clinics. She was successful in her tactics, unfortunately however, this bill was later passed in the legislation’s second session. Sadly, Davis was also beaten by Rick Perry in the 2014 Texas governor election, which opened more doors for reproductive restrictions. In January 2014, Texas offered 25 abortion clinics to women looking for a safe abortions. Due to Perry’s signage of the House Bill 2, these numbers have quickly dwindled down to a mere 8. Davis has stated that she is “pro life,” exposing the hypocrisy within our current governmental standards. She explains that her definition of “pro life” is fighting for every child that is facing poverty, food insecurities, educational disadvantageous, poor health care, and homelessness already in the U.S. America continuously turns a blind eye towards the injustice that occurs in our cities, our streets, our neighborhoods. The problem is always “there,” some mythical land, far, far away. Whether it is a different country, a different religion, or within a woman’s body, these issues are a dilemma outside of “our” realm. America will graciously meddle with the issues happening in other areas before facing the hard truth that these exact same dilemmas plague our very own country.
Written by: Anna Farris
Bassett, Laura. “‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Ban Advances In Ohio.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
“Lauren Zuniga’s “Personhood”” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Shaw, Susan M., and Janet Lee. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.
“Tracking Texas Abortion Access – RH Reality Check.” RH Reality Check. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.