To be pro-life is to respect all human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Being authentically pro-life is more than simply being anti-abortion. It includes respecting the dignity of every single person and can be as simple as acknowledging the existence of another person as you pass them in the street.
Science recognises that life begins at conception and the latest technology reveals that the human heart begins to beat 17-21 days after conception. Typically, when a couple announce that they are expecting a baby they rarely exclaim – “We’re having a clump of cells!.” They recognize they are having a baby. Similarly, women do not generally refer to their baby as a ‘fetus.’ Ironically, fetus actually means ‘offspring’ in Latin, which signifies that a child in the womb has always thought to be of significant value and independent from the mother.
The miracle of life has always fascinated humanity and the welcoming of a newborn child is seen as a joyful and necessary contribution to a society. Having said this, it can be puzzling as to why laws and rights to protect the unborn are often seen as absurd and worthy of protest. The reality of the situation should be considered – laws that protect the unborn aim to protect the most innocent, vulnerable and voiceless in our society.
Recently, Zoe’s Law was passed in New South Wales. Zoe’s Law acknowledges the rights of an unborn child to be recognised with an identity separate to the mothers. The official bill from parliament states that the amendment to the law would “recognise the existence of the fetus of a pregnant woman that is of at least 20 weeks gestation so that proceedings for certain offences relating to grievous bodily harm may be brought against an offender who causes the unlawful destruction of or harm to any such fetus as proceedings for grievous bodily harm to the fetus rather than proceedings for grievous bodily harm to the pregnant woman.”
This law comes out of a response to the death of Zoe, an unborn baby who died at 32 weeks as a result of her mother, Brodie Donegan, being hit by a car. At the time Zoe was still in her mother’s womb and under NSW law, her death was only noted as an injury to her mother. The driver who hit Zoe’s mother was under the influence of drugs and was not charged for Zoe’s death but only for grievous bodily harm to the mother.
Australia continues to be divided on this issue. Existing debate over this suggests how indifferent the Australian population is to the rights of the unborn, where many fail to recognise that the right to life of every human should supersede the right to choose whether a life is worth protecting.
The late Pope John Paul II noted that, “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.” American President Barack Obama recently used this fitting statement in his response to the recent Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in late 2012. He was urging Americans to consider how to better protect the children in society. Obama does not, however extend the protection of children to the unborn, unlike, Pope John Paul II who acknowledges that among the most vulnerable in society are the unborn and the dying. It may be said that it makes little sense to suggest that by an unborn child progressing 8 inches down a birth canal warrants it as ‘human’ and therefore worthy of obtaining the right to life.
In Australia, more time should be invested into developing laws that protect the unborn. However, even more time needs to be invested in changing hearts and developing the compassion to understand the dignity and worth of each human life. Life needs to be seen as a gift, not a burden and the unborn need to be protected, not exploited. Our culture has become so accustomed and so comfortable when it comes to the lack of rights of our unborn that the right to choose abortion can be seen as just an important as the right to live. I find it shocking to think that there has been such a strong protest and uprising as a response to the recent passing of Zoe’s Law, which promises to protect the life of an unborn child, should they die in a similar circumstance to Zoe.
The four common arguments for the right to abort is the size of the unborn baby, the level of development, the current environment and the dependency on the mother. A taller person is not anymore human than a shorter person, just as an unborn is no less human than a five month-old baby. Just because a six year-old boy is more developed than a three year-old boy, it does not make him any more human. Humans are always developing and growing; it is a natural process. How developed one is should not determine their level of humanity. Similarly, one’s environment does not determine whether they are human; for instance, if someone moves from Sydney to New York, they are still human. The same goes for the unborn, whether they are inside or outside their mother’s womb they are still human.
It is natural to be somewhat dependent on those around us. Of course, unborn babies are completely dependent on their mothers, just as they continue to be dependent on their mothers to some extent for the rest of their life. It must be noted that our level of dependency fluctuates throughout our lives but to some extent humans are naturally dependent on others. Babies can also survive outside their mothers’ wombs from 22 weeks after conception. It is therefore impossible to understand how a child that can survive outside the womb is still susceptible to abortion under NSW law.
The issue of fetal rights is sensitive, however it shouldn’t be overlooked and for the sake of the safety and protection of the unborn, must be discussed among the public. As a society it is our duty to protect the most vulnerable, the most innocent and in this case, the voiceless.
Mother Teresa once said, “a nation that kills its own children, is a nation without hope.” Let us not be that nation and let us be a nation that recognises the gift and life of each unborn child.