An extremely popular argument asserts that because a woman has a right to control her own body, she therefore has a right to undergo an abortion for any reason she deems fit. Although it is not obvious that either the law or sound ethical reasoning supports such a strong view of personal autonomy (e.g., laws against prostitution and suicide), this pro-choice argument still logically fails even if we hypothetically grant that its strong view of personal autonomy is correct.
The unborn baby within the pregnant woman’s body is not part of her body. The conceptus is a genetically distinct entity with its own unique and individual gender, blood type, bone-structure, and genetic code. Although the unborn baby is attached to its mother, it is not part of her.
To say that the unborn baby is part of its mother is to claim that the mother possesses four legs, two heads, two noses, and—with the case of a male conceptus—a penis and two testicles. Since scientists have been able to achieve conception in a petri dish in the case of the “test-tube” baby, and this conceptus if it has white parents can be transferred to the body of a black woman and be born white, we know conclusively that the unborn baby is not part of the pregnant woman’s body.
Pro-choice advocates argue, “Every woman has the right to choose what she does with her own body.” Ironically, the choice of abortion assures that something like 530,000 females in the United States each year don’t have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. (That’s roughly the number of girls aborted every year—approximately half of all aborted children.)
Philosopher Mortimer Adler claimed, as have many others, that the unborn is “a part of the mother’s body, in the same sense that an individual’s arm or leg is a part of a living organism. An individual’s decision to have an arm or leg amputated falls within the sphere of privacy — the freedom to do as one pleases in all matters that do not injure others or the public welfare.”
However, a body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body. The unborn child’s genetic code differs from his mother’s. Every cell of the mother’s tonsils, appendix, heart, and lungs shares the same genetic code. The unborn child has a different genetic code, and every cell of his body is uniquely his, each different than every cell of his mother’s body.
A Chinese zygote (a new human in the earliest stage of development) implanted in a Swedish woman will always be Chinese, not Swedish, because his biological identity is based on his genetic code, not that of the body in which he resides. If the woman’s body is the only one involved in a pregnancy, then she must have two noses, four legs, two sets of fingerprints, two brains, two circulatory systems, and two skeletal systems. Half the time she must also have testicles and a penis. (Can anyone seriously argue that a male child’s reproductive organs are part of his mother’s body, just because he resides there?) It’s a clear scientific fact that the mother is one distinctive and self-contained person, and the child is another.
A woman has a right to control her own body, but the unborn baby, though for a time living inside her body, is not part of her body.
Abortion is not justified, since no one’s right to personal autonomy is so strong that it permits the arbitrary execution of others. In this respect this argument also begs the question, because it assumes that the unborn are not fully human.
The new human zygote has a genetic composition that is absolutely unique from itself, different from any other human that has ever existed, including that of its mother (thus disproving the claim that what is involved in abortion is merely “a woman and her body”).
This DNA includes a complete “design,” guiding not only early development but even hereditary attributes that will appear in childhood and adulthood, from hair and eye color to personality traits.
Fetuses feel pain during the abortion procedure. According to Kanwaljeet J. S. Anand, MBBS, DPhil, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, “If the fetus is beyond 20 weeks of gestation, I would assume that there will be pain caused to the fetus. And I believe it will be severe and excruciating pain.”