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Is the Fetus a Person?:

It is nearly impossible anymore to find someone who does not have an opinion about abortion, and probably a strong opinion at that. Yet endless debates on the topic usually go nowhere, leaving the proponents of both sides even more committed to their positions and the open-minded observers confused. AThe most important effect of the legalization of abortion on public health has been the near elimination of the deaths from the procedure.@(Bergen) This is why we must help patients who need an abortion. If we aid in legal abortions then women will have fewer illegal ones and, in turn, it will save lives. We must help these women because they face enough hardship from society. Some examples of these hardships are mandatory waiting periods before an abortion can be performed, biased counseling sessions, parental consent laws and, limited public funding for those who cannot afford the procedure. Both sides make a good case; however, I must agree with pro-choice advocates. In today=s society, there are difficult situations which people encounter and have no choice but to abort. Giving the mother of a child the choice of whether to abort or not can increase the chances of a legal abortion. Some of the debates that take place over abortion are is the fetus important?, Should the public fund abortion? And, should partial-birth abortion be legalized? The argument over whether abortion is just or unjust is outdated.

I believe that at this point in time the question is not whether or not abortion is just, but

rather if it is accepted in a given situation. These arguments listed above are the topics of most modern debates of abortion. The most important of these issues is the question Ais the fetus a person?@ This is such an important issue because it branches off into all parts of abortion. The reason why this is such a difficult question to answer is stated best in this quote AThis patently illogical(sic), relying on the one hand on the idea that life=s beginning is the determinate and on the other hand on a definition of when meaningful life begins.@(Gilbert) Until there is a definite answer to the question Is the fetus living or non-living?, this issue will be argued for years to come. This question especially stresses the most controversial issue today which is partial-birth abortion. Unless the mother=s life is in jeopardy partial-birth abortion is murder and should be illegal. Determining whether or not the fetus is a person is truly difficult but, during a partial-birth abortion the child is delivered and clearly has its life taken away. Partial-birth abortion takes away the most beautiful thing in this world, which is the commencement of human life.

The question Ais the fetus a person?@ is being argued continually between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. The reason why there is so much debate over this question is that there is no one answer to it. Not even doctors can give a definite answer to this question. Despite there not being a definite answer to this question, I believe that it is the mother=s choice to determine whether the fetus is a person or not. The bearer of the child is the only one who, in my opinion, can really tell in her heart if the fetus is alive. AAs essential to American freedom as our right to choose how we think , vote, worship, work and, marry, is our right to make decisions about our own bodies. This very basic and necessary right to choose means having access to safe and legal abortion, effective contraceptive options and, quality reproductive health care.@(Bergen) This

quote shows that no matter if the fetus is living or non-living, the woman involved has control over her own body. We must give women their rights or we will be going against what this great nation stands for. The argument that the doctor cannot determine if the fetus is a person is used by both parties of the debate. The pro-choice advocates use the doctor=s indeterminancy to show that if there is no way of knowing whether or not the fetus is a person, then there is no reason why the fetus cannot be aborted.

The pro-life advocates use the doctor=s inconclusiveness to argue that there is no reason why the fetus is not a person and therefore a person should have the right to live. The party for abortion is backed up as well from this quote ABeing biologically alive does not, in our modern view, make the fetus legally a person.@( Gilbert ) Even if the fetus is proven to be biologically alive, then this still does not mean that the fetus is a person. However, anti-abortionists argue that AUnlike the sperm or egg, the diploid zygote possesses unique human genotype and the power of full differentiation, without which no human life can be expressed.@(Henshaw) Basically what anti-abortionists are trying to say here is that the zygote is indeed a person and has traits that can distinguish it from other people. One reason the debate goes nowhere is that each side focuses on a different topic. I believe that if there is no clear evidence that shows whether or not the fetus is a person then no one can make a valid argument. There is no progress because each side is talking about a different thing. Pro-choice advocates tend to focus more on future ramifications rather than the immediate effect on the child, while pro-life advocates focus more on the life of the child. This constant confusion and argument bring both sides to no agreement or conclusion. From my point of view, even though no one can come to a conclusion to this question it is still the key debate over abortion today. Despite the doctor=s argument, that the fetus is a person I still believe it=s the mother=s decision. The only person who has total understanding of the feeling is the mother. She, in my opinion, is the only one who can determine if the fetus is living.

The second question that is debated constantly in society today is whether or not abortion should receive public funding? I think that if we do not fund abortion, then women will have an abortion anyway. Besides the fact that women will have an abortion anyway, they will most likely under go an illegal abortion as anyway. Illegal abortions could also lead to an increase in women abandoning and killing their babies more often. Anti-abortionists look at funding in a negative way because they believe it promotes murder. Not only do they believe that it destroys a human being, but they also believe that it is morally wrong and it is against the church. A doctor by the name of Martin Haskell puts it best in this quote, AFunding to stop abortion will decrease both the amount of abortions and partial-birth abortions.@(Haskell) On the other hand, the pro-choice believers think that there should be funding because abortions are imminent whether there is funding or not. In this quote, the pro-choice stance is represented by AThere is a social cost associated with forcing some women to bear children when they are not prepared to be mothers or when parents are unable to support their children.@( Haskell ) The argument here is that if there is no funding for abortion then it will be done in an illegal manner or cause an unwanted birth. The ramifications of an unwanted birth are grave because they usually end up in the abandonment of a child which in turn usually means that the child will become a problem to society. Being a problem child means that the child will probably turn to crime to somehow find a way to survive. Both of the sides prove some good points. But what I believe really

exemplifies the whole dilemma is this quote by Jeff Gilbert :

Most people agree that abortion should be a rare procedure. To accomplish

that ideal, our society must probatively, by providing resources and support,

offer pregnant women the hope that carrying their babies to term is not the

end of their hopes and dreams. Then their difficult decisions would really

be true choices vice acts of desperation. After all it is just as much Apro-

choice@ for a woman to take charge of her life and courageously carry her

baby to term as it is for her to abort.( Gilbert)

This quote really shows how important of an issue it is for a woman to make her own decision on abortion and also how important it is to fund abortion. The question of whether or not to fund abortion is one that must be answered soon because it is planting the seeds for more problems in society. We must support our women and not ridicule them in their time of need. I believe funding abortion is one of the best ways we can support them.

The third question that has been debated recently on not only a state level, but a national level as well, is whether or not partial-birth abortion be legalized? On May 24 1999, The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was instituted and is the most recent national abortion bill passed. This bill in congress would ban performance of partial-birth abortions between 20

weeks and birth of the child, except when it is the only way to save the mother=s life. The bill defines partial-birth abortion as Aan abortion in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the

delivery.@(The Partial-Birth Abortion Act (s.928) ) On this issue I stand with the pro-life advocates because partial-birth abortion is murder.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Act passed this year clearly exemplifies my opinion on this issue. There cannot be any other valid argument for partial-birth abortion except if the mother=s life is endangered. The argument is pretty clear for the pro-life believers because this procedure goes against everything that the anti-abortionists support, such as killing a live fetus and abortion of the child in the first place. Brenda Pratt Shafer was once a pro-choice advocate, but

is now a pro-life advocate because of first hand witnessing of a partial-birth abortion. She states this change of opinion in this quote AThe difference between partial-abortion and homicide is a mere three inches(meaning the size of the infant=s head)@(Gtd. In haskel) Mrs. Shafer=s

experience is traumatizing and shows how vulgar partial-birth is. Another reason why anti-abortionists believe that this bill is invalid is put best in this quote AI have performed partial-abortions many times and in most cases the mother is not dying and eighty percent of cases are purely elective.@( Haskell ) This quote shows why the government needed to pass the abortion act.

There are too many partial-birth abortions taking place and therefore the public needed this act to put a stop to this. On the other hand, pro-choice advocates say that just because the bill is not enforced strictly enough, that does not mean that it should be completely terminated. The bill was made to protect mothers and not to kill live children. The National Abortion Federation(N.A.F.), claims that AThe Partial-Birth Act was made to protect mothers during labor however, the abuse of this act is to be blamed on the enforcers@(N.A.F.) This act has created great controversy between both respective sides of the argument. The abuse of this law has also put a lot of pressure on the enforcers to pursue strict regulations. The only way that I can support the issue of partial-birth abortion is if the mother is endangered. There is no reason why a child should be killed because of last minute decisions.

Both of the respective sides have valid arguments and show their points of view clearly.

Whether or not Aa fetus is a person@ is one of the biggest questions today and will be in the future as well. As a pro-choice advocate, I believe that it is the mother=s choice to abort. I do believe that not giving a woman the choice alienates her rights and also goes against what this nation stands for. Everyone in their own lives encounters a difficult decision to make and all they can do in that situation is try to make the best decision possible. I believe that in giving a mother the choice she can make the best decision in her respective situation. What society is looking at here are not just laws and acts but human life. Both sides of the argument must take that into consideration. AReal freedom of choice means having the best information possible to make the decision that=s right for you. Education about sexuality and the choices involved begins at home and in the schools.@(Bergen) To really cut down on the amount of abortions, which would make everyone happy, society must attack the problem from the root. We must educate our youth both at home and in schools. This is the only way to really cut down on abortions and benefit everyone=s well being. But the real problem here is that both sides are arguing the question from totally different perspectives. The pro-abortionist prefers to discuss choice, and to dwell on all of the social problems inherent in an unwanted child. The anti-abortionist is interested primarily in protecting the life of the fetus. In simple terms, the pro-abortionist focuses on a woman=s rights and the anti-abortionist focuses on a fetus= rights. Though interrelated, these are basically different topics. Jeff Gilbert says it best in this quote AWe make no progress because we are not talking about the same thing.@( Gilbert ) Before anyone takes a side on the issue of abortion, they should carefully examine both sides because abortion is a serious issue.

Works Cited

Bergen, Polly. AAn American Right at Risk@ 1998.

Gilbert, Jeff. AForeword@ 1996-1998.

Haskell, Dr. Martin. ALecture Series@ 1996-1998.

Henshaw, S.K.. AA Different Perspective@ 1996.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Act(S. 928). APartial-Birth Abortion@ 1997.

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