Life, Death, and Politics: A Run-Down Of The Abortion Debate.

Few issues have fostered such controversy as has the topic of abortion.
The participants in the abortion debate not only have firmly-fixed beliefs, but
each group has a self-designated appellation that clearly reflects what they
believe to be the essential issues. On one side, the pro-choice supporters see
individual choice as central to the debate: If a woman cannot choose to
terminate an unwanted pregnancy, a condition which affects her body and possibly
her entire life, then she has lost one of her most basic human rights. These
proponents of abortion believe that while a fetus is a potential life, its life
cannot be placed on the same level with that of a woman. On the other side, the
pro-life opponents of abortion argue that the fetus is human and therefore given
the same human rights as the mother. Stated simply, they believe that when a
society legalizes abortion, it is sanctioning murder.
In today's more industrialized societies, technology has simplified the
abortion procedure to a few basic and safe methods. Technology, however, has
also enhanced society's knowledge of the fetus. Ultrasound, fetal therapy, and
amniocentesis graphically reveal complex life before birth, and it is this
potential human life that is at the heart of the debate.
In order to form an opinion on this matter, we must first question and
define several common factors which are numerously debated.

I. When does human life begin?

Scientists identify the first moment of human life as that instant when
a sperm cell unites with an ovum or egg cell. The billions of cells that
collectively make up a human being are body cells. Unless manipulated, these
body cells are and remain what they appear to be: skin, hair, bone, muscle, and
so on. Each has some worthy function in life and performs that function until
it dies. Other rare cells, known as germ cells, have the power to transform
themselves into every other kind of human cell. The sex cells are the sperm
cells in the male and the egg cells in the female. It is only in combination
that these cells can create a fetus. The merger is complete within twelve hours,
at which time the egg is fertilized and becomes known as a "zygote," containing
the full set of forty-six chromosomes required to create a new human life. It
is at that point that life begins and should be respected with the same laws
that apply to us all, whether we are dependent on a womb or not. Conception
creates life and makes that life one of a kind.

The opposition would argue otherwise. To be a person, there must be
evidence of a personality. Animals contain biological characteristics, but
that does not qualify them as a person. It takes more than ten days after the
fertilization for the conceptus to become anything more than a hollow ball of
cells. During the first week, it is free-floating and not even attached to the
uterine wall. Not until the beginning of the fourth week does a heart begin to
beat, and then it is two-chambered like that of a fish. Not until the end of
the fifth week is there evidence of the beginning of formation of the cerebral
hemispheres, and they are merely hollow bubbles of cells. The possession of
forty-six chromosomes does not make a cell a person. Most of the cells of your
body contain these forty-six chromosomes, but that does not make a white
corpuscle a person! If possession of forty-six chromosomes make some thing a
person, then it would seem that possession of a different number would make
something else. A personality is formed when a baby has entered the world. It
acts and reacts to situations it is put upon and forms its opinions in that
manner. It is only then that we can consider it a unique person with a unique

II. Is abortion immoral?

Pro-life activists would argue that the taking of a human life is wrong
no matter what the circumstances or in which tri-mester it is done. The
controversy over abortion has avoided the real issue facing today's woman - her
need to grow beyond stereotypes. Whenever an individual or group realizes it
has been treated unjustly, the first reaction is anger, but often the anger is
first expressed as aggression. People outgrowing oppression have so much
stored-up bitterness, so many memories of powerlessness and so little knowledge
of how to make themselves heard, that violence toward others is the result.
The women's movement has been caught up in the same process. American men and
women are among the most fair-minded on earth, but have slowly begun to feel