The abortion debate has raged on for a long time generating controversy after controversy. Abortion revolves around the sensitive issue regarding the life of the unborn.
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So acrimonious is the debate, that it has attracted the attention of popular figures such as the former United States President Ronald Reagan. In his opinion, Reagan states that “Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born” (Reynolds, 2009). While this seems to be a simple statement, it nevertheless exposes major theoretical weaknesses within the prochoice philosophy.
Reagan’s statement on abortion centers on the term ‘born’. In this statement, Reagan assumes that birth occurs at the point which a child is detached from the mother. Additionally, prolife activists use the terms ‘mother’ ‘unborn’ jointly, to demonstrate the inherent bond between a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
Prochoice activists oppose this and assert that the use of the terms ‘unborn’ and ‘mother’ is quite insensitive and biased. Similarly, some medical practitioners aligned to the prochoice movement argue that using the term ‘mother’ in relation to the ‘unborn’ is technically wrong since a woman technically becomes a mother after birth (Hardin, 1974).
Regardless of assertions made by prochoice activists, the natural dependency between a woman and her unborn child cannot be ignored. During pregnancy both the child and the mother depend on each other for survival.
In his statement, Reagan alludes to the self-centeredness of those who support abortion. Reagan’s statement implies that prochoice activists fail to acknowledge that they are alive because their mothers made the decision not to abort. In opposition to this, prochoice activists argue that the debate is not centered on abortion vs. no abortion, but on abortion vs. coerced motherhood. Every woman has inalienable right to determine whether to be or not to be a mother.
As such, denying women the right to abort a child she is not ready for amounts to coerced motherhood. Additionally, prochoice activists argue that coerced motherhood reduces a woman to a biological slave. This violates a woman freedom of choice and happiness, which effectively reduces the quality of a woman’s life.
In prochoice view, the rights and happiness of the mother supersedes the need to protect the life of the unborn child (Hardin, 1974). However, instead of furthering prochoice beliefs, these assumptions reinforce Reagan’s view on the self-centeredness of prochoice activists.
It is evident that prochoice supporters uphold the need to protect the rights of the mother at the expense of the unborn child. In Prochoice view, arguing that the unborn child has rights and life amounts to illogical use of the terms ‘right’ and ‘life’ in the sense that the two terms refers to human beings (Hardin, 1974). In his statement, Reagan seems to implicitly refute such views and instead maintains that the unborn child has inalienable right to life.
By asserting that prochoice supporters are “persons who have themselves been born”, Reagan reminds prochoice activists that their being alive demonstrates the need to give every unborn child the chance to live. This can only be attained by protecting of the ‘rights to life’ of the unborn.
In sum, Reagan views the unborn child as a live human being, complete with rights. Reagan questions the motives behind the prochoice movement. His statement implies that prochoice activists are blinded by self-centeredness, and fail to acknowledge that their being alive is as a result of decision based on prolife philosophy.
Hardin, G. (1974). Mandatory motherhood: the true meaning of “right to life” Boston: Beacon Press
Reynolds, M. (2009). Epiphany. California: BPP Inc.