Freedom of expression is one of the most basic rights, guaranteed in our constitution. While constitution enumerates the most basic rights, there are limitations on those rights, too. No right is without limits. For example, your freedom of speech must not constitute murder, violence, rape, hate, harm and infringement on other people’s rights. If your opinion is within these limits, you have all the rights express it. You have a right to protest, but, you do not have the right to impose or force your opinions over the others. Just like you, everyone else also has the right to live anyway they want within the premise of above mentioned limitations. You also have a right to protect yourself from harm and coercion.
Abortion rights are a bit different from many other controversies. The opposition to abortion is not purely based on religion. It also appeals to the basic constitutional rights of respect for life and property. So, the challenge to abortion rights is not merely on religious bases. It is on constitutional bases, too, and need to be at least acknowledged. Being a doctor by qualification, I have been a lifelong pro-choice person. It seriously changed when I witnessed a very traumatic event, while working in a hospital in Reston, Virginia.
A baby was delivered, as and attempted abortion, who was supposed to be ‘non-viable’ at that point. When baby was delivered it turned out to be viable, breathing and alive. As per the wishes of parents, baby, who otherwise needed serious help, attention and life support, was left in room, away from parents, unattended, to die. I was working, and accidentally, went into that room. I saw that little baby dying, without any help being offered. I could not watch it. In spite of being very professional, I ran out of that room with tears in my eyes. I went to the director of unit, and drew her attention to this grave and immoral situation. As the case is, in these kind of situations, I didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Ultimately, baby died.
That was the point which made me realize that the babies are living, breathing human beings that we are killing for our own selfishness. I had no doubt left in my mind that this is murder. If you do not want babies, then, stay away from sex or use contraception. We have no moral authority to kill another individual, even if it’s our own baby. What could be the possible difference between killing your own bay or someone else baby?
Here arises the question of viability. Some people make the argument that it is okay to terminate a pregnancy while baby is still not viable. The difficult question to answer here is, when a baby should be considered viable. I was admitted in medical school in 1983. The baby viability standards have been changing throughout this period, and the babies at much earlier stage are surviving, now. In 1997, the survival of my own 26 weeks daughter was considered a miracle. Now, the babies who are born at earlier stages are surviving on routine bases. So, there is no clear cut definition of viability, and whatever we have today can change tomorrow.
Lots of babies who were aborted in past for non-viability grounds, can be easily considered viable on today’s standards. So, many babies who are not considered viable today, are very likely to be considered viable in future, more explicitly, in near future. From scientific point of view every living cell is a living being. A very large number of uni-cellular or even sub-cellular organisms live and thrive in this world.
Cell is considered the most basic unit of life. Just like an atom is considered the most basic unit of matter. In both living and non-living organisms, an increasing number smaller and simpler units are being discovered, that can exist, and survive and thrive, if living, at their own or as a parasite. In living beings, viruses and prions are such recent examples. So, it is impossible to precisely define the most basic unit of life. In every multi-cellular organism, like human beings, billions of cells may being shed on daily bases, as part of normal wear and tear. Mostly, it is the problem with this natural regenerative process which causes degenerative diseases and cancers.
So, from the perspective of multi cellular organisms, cells may or may not essential units of life. In cases like cancer these may be even detrimental to life. From reproductive point of view the basic cells are sperms and eggs. Sperms are routinely lost in wet dreams, naturally. Eggs are naturally released in every menstrual cycle, regardless of reproduction taking place or not. Plus, every ejaculation, even during hetero sexual intercourse, contains millions of sperms, while only one is needed to make the baby. All the other sperms in that ejaculation, and previous and subsequent ones, are lost in nature, through a natural process.
So, the nature does not intended to preserve every sperm and egg. These can be considered the most basic units of reproduction, but, not life. This argument can be used in the favor of homosexuality, too. Human cells that are lost during homosexual interactions are at the stage where they are still not the naturally essential units of life. Neither nature intends to preserve most of those, nor can we. The large quantities in which they are produced and released in nature, are to guarantee reproduction during a complicated reproductive act. If sperms are not released in very large quantities then the likelihood of conjugation between sperm and egg, may fall to zero.
This, of course changes, after the sperm and egg meet and form, what is called as zygote. Nature takes every possible measure to preserve it. They are not shed and released as eggs and sperms. Only serious anatomic and physiologic defects, accidents and serious pathology can cause the loss of zygote. In other words, only a failure of nature can cause the loss of zygote and advanced stage human embryo. So, from the point of view of nature, a zygote is where an individual and his or her distinct life starts. This is also true from the standpoint that it is at this point where genetic material from mom and dad mixes to for a totally unique genetic makeup, giving rise to a completely unique personality and individual.