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 personality.
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...