People who are pro-choice often demonize people like Brownback who leave no exceptions for abortion (and I'm happy to hop on the bandwagon to criticize their Neanderthal arguments). On the other hand, the pro-choice community often calls it "hypocrisy" when people who oppose abortion make exceptions for rape or incest. I fall into this latter category and would like to explain myself.
For clarity, let me state my position. I believe that abortion should not be legal except: in cases of rape, some incest, where the health of the mother is seriously at risk, and where the child is likely to be born so disabled that euthanasia would be a reasonable option if the child were born. Follow me over the flip to hear me out.
First of all, I believe that the life of an individual does begin at conception and, therefore, the unborn do have rights. Biologically, they are genetically unique individuals that are extremely likely to develop into independent adults.
What about stem cells, you are asking? Personally, I think it's outrageous that fertility clinics can fertilize a dozen eggs and simply throw out the ones that their clients "don't need." I would like to see laws like those in Italythat prevent fertility clinics from fertilizing more than three eggs at a time. Critics say that it greatly reduces couple's chances of conceiving. But last time I checked, there's no inalienable right to have a child. (In the absence of such a law, I’d agree with DarkSyde that it’s better for a blastula to go for research than in the incinerator). For me, the fact that the most strident of abortion opponents aren't trying to reduce the number of fertilized eggs that are incinerated is just one reason why I'm a pro-lifer that generally despises the pro-life movement.
Ok, one more question I know you will ask. Am I against birth control? No. Sperm and eggs are gametes; they are not individuals but parts of the individuals who produced them. Birth control truly is "a decision about what to do with my body" and I believe that the constitution and morality require that people be able to make that decision. (And yes, I believe in assisted suicide)
Anyway, now that I have addressed some likely questions, let me go back to the statement that unborn children do have rights. The fact that they have rights, however, does not mean that their rights trump everyone else's. I think that the snarky suggestion that we lock up pregnant women to ensure that they will take care of their fetuses illustrates the central flaw of the pro-life movement—they ascribe to fetuses more rights than they’re willing to give the rest of us.
Since fetuses have rights, but so do pregnant women, what happens if the interests of the two conflict? I look to the Declaration of Independence, which for me is a moral document as well as a legal one. The founding fathers wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
What happens when the rights of two adults conflict? If I am about to deprive you of your life, you have the right to kill me in self defense. Similarly, I think most would agree that if you are being held against your will (imprisoned under a staircase for a week) you have the right to escape and, if it is the only way to free yourself, kill your captor. On the other hand, if you had signed up for the military, and willingly given up your freedom, I don't believe that you have the right to break your contract. In other words, going AWOL is, and should be, a crime.
Now, the abortion debate is not as simple as these examples. For one, the fetus is certainly a "minor" and doesn't have the rights of an adult. Children don't have the same rights of liberty as do parents, nor can they make their own decisions on medical care. Because of these reasons, everyone should agree that a pregnant woman has GREATER rights than her unborn child.
Now we're finally approaching the kernel of my argument. If a fetus has rights but a pregnant woman has more, where should we draw the line? I believe it is instructive to look at the rights of children. Certainly, the rights of a fetus can be no greater than the rights of a child. If we accept this, we see two areas where we should allow abortion. If carrying the child to term would cause the death of the mother, the mother certainly has the right to abort it (just like a mother would have the right to kill her 13 year old who is about to bludgeon her with an axe). Second, if an infant requires life support to live, it is up to the parents as his or her legal guardians to decide whether to withhold treatment, just as it should be the choice of a mother to have an abortion if the child has a malformed lung and is not likely to live for more than a few weeks.
Once we have established that a woman should be able to have an abortion if her life is at risk, I don't think it's a huge leap to allow abortion if a woman's health will be seriously damaged. Guys, if a man is going around castrating people, which of you would not try to kill the man before he did it? If carrying a child to term would cause irreparable harm to the mother, the mother should have the right to protect her own health. Pro-lifers will argue there is much opportunity for abuse of this exception (women could get a doctor to say that her mental state would be severely compromised by having children) but difficulty in enforcing a law is not, in itself, a good enough justification for making it simpler but draconian.
Finally we must consider situations where neither the mother's nor the child's health are at risk of carrying the pregnancy to term. To address these situations, we must consider rights beyond the right to life. Pregnancy and childbirth involve a loss of liberty for the woman; however, adults have the ability to decide whether or not to give up their liberty for a short time. They may enlist in the military, for instance. When a woman has sex willingly, she is accepting the possibility that she may get pregnant. (I disagree with Choice Joyce that the right to non-procreative sex means that sex is not a contract for pregnancy. Certainly, we do have the right to non-procreative sex, but we do it with the knowledge that it may not turn out as we hoped.) If a woman does get pregnant, she has willingly given up her freedom, just like an army reservist who enlists in a time of peace (expecting no more than one month of work per year) can't get out of it if there's a war. If a female medical student is foolish enough to have unprotected sex, her right to pursue the career of her choice does not override the rights of her unborn child.
On the other hand, if that female medical student is raped, she has not willingly given up her rights. Furthermore, she will very likely be saddled with the emotional anguish of having to carry a rapist's baby. Forcing her to carry it to term would be stripping her of her right to liberty, which is forcing her to bear a punishment that she does not deserve. In these cases, I support the right of a woman to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
Incest is a similar but slightly more complex case. If a minor female has sex with an adult male, that is rape and the child should have every right to abort it. If, on the other hand, the female is an adult, no right of the woman has been violated and I would only support abortion if the child was likely to have severe health problems.
Finally, I just want to add that I do believe that the potential father bears responsibility for their decision to have sex. Due to biology, women are much more likely to be affected by an unintentional pregnancy than men, but I believe that the government should do everything it can to make men pay and support their children, including when the woman is pregnant.
I sincerely hope that those of you who are pro-choice (like most of my friends) will be courteous and respectful of each other and this diary. My goal here is convince at least some of you that it is a valid belief to oppose abortion in general but still allow it in some circumstances.