Once again, courtesy of the Republican candidates, female reproductive rights are under fire. One issue in particular that puts bile in my mouth is granting person-hood to fetal cells. There are several reasons why this is a horrible idea that should be squashed immediately. The first that troubles me greatly is that of miscarriages.
I don't know about you, but I have never met a woman who wished to miscarry. Sure, I've known women who had abortions, but abortion is not miscarriage. Miscarriage is something completely different.
Miscarriage is one of those topics very few people are willing to talk about. Women who do miscarry often feel like something is wrong with them. After all, how come they weren't able to carry to term? Could they have done something differently? Were they not taking the right vitamins? Are they just cursed by God? These are some of the questions women will ask themselves after they have miscarried. They become depressed and filled with self-doubt. Often their relationships suffer. These are women who want their babies.
This is one reason I find it so atrocious that anyone is moving to establish person-hood for fetuses. The implications of legally granting person-hood to fetuses are frightening. This would make any woman who miscarries liable for the pregnancy they lost. And that's a problem. Miscarriages aren't something planned. A woman can do everything in her power to carry a pregnancy to term and still miscarry or have a stillborn birth. How shameful for us as a society to suggest that such a woman be further humiliated by forcing her to go through legal proceedings to determine if this was a criminal act!
I've heard some doctors say that miscarriage is the body's way of saving us from heartache later (if there was something wrong with the fetus for example). Perhaps it is true that some pregnancies could have been viable in other wombs. Perhaps other fetuses should not be carried to term (for a variety of reasons). But I am not going to judge women who miscarry. It is not their fault. They should not be punished for circumstances outside of their control.
Of course, this is not the only issue that concerns me when talking about granting fetal cells person-hood. We also have the abortion issue. This is concerning in several scenarios. In the case of rape or incest, I could never judge a woman for choosing to abort an unwanted pregnancy. To be forever reminded of that trauma would be horrific, and I don't feel it is my place to require that woman live with consequences outside of her control. Just knowing that a product of such trauma was out in the world could be enough to horrify a woman with such experiences. Adoption isn't necessarily an option. The self-loathing and depression associated with such a pregnancy could be too much to bear. It is not my place to require a traumatized woman to go through yet another horrible and humiliating experience.
The last abortion scenario would be where the pregnancy is life-threatening for the woman. This could be a tubal or other type of pregnancy (extenuating circumstances, diseases etc). In most situations of this sort, the pregnancy isn't really viable (i.e. tubal) and so I can't understand how a woman should be prevented from saving her own life when it would be impossible to carry to term. In others, the pregnancy might be viable, except we end up weighing a present life with a potential life. A fetus doesn't have relationships. It is not a member of the community. It is a potential community member. How can we weigh a potential with something that is real and present at the current time? I cannot judge a husband and any children for wanting their wife and mother to live. These people should not be held liable.
Of course, if we are going to talk about person-hood of fetuses, then we also need to discuss how to be more responsible about pregnancies. Often those individuals in the pro-life camp are unwilling to discuss contraception. This is irresponsible and immoral. Anyone who has lived through their teen years - which would be everyone over the age of 19 - has been horny as hell. Unfortunately, this is also a time when it is difficult to come by birth control. Add to the mix those lovely abstinence campaigns which research has shown do not work, and we have a recipe for a whole bunch of unwanted pregnancies. This is not even touching the fact that many insurance companies will not cover contraception. This makes it more difficult to engage in thoughtfully planning when to have children. If life is so sacred, why would we place women in situations where they might have unwanted pregnancies and therefore may want to have an abortion? It is counterintuitive.
All of these issues seem to be enough to counter the argument for fetal cell person-hood, but there is one final question that should be raised. By granting person-hood to fetuses, we would be encouraging population growth. Already the world is overpopulated. When we consider the amount of elderly that are continuing to live longer lives as well as the thoughtless people who have more than ten children, our world has come under quite a great deal of pressure. Let's be honest with ourselves - increasing the population size is not a good thing. It is dangerous. Supporting such an idea is immoral, considering we already have resource strain as it is with fuels like oil. Anyone who has visited a country like India knows that a large population is difficult to control and strains infrastructure in addition to resources. Considering the strain on our infrastructure from the economy, it seems additional strains from population growth would be more than unwelcome.
As we can see, person-hood for fetal cells is a personal, political, and moral issue for a variety of reasons. Not only does such a change in law impact women and their families on a variety of levels, but it also impacts society at large by encouraging population growth. We have an obligation to protect women, their families, and our communities from such irresponsible and thoughtless legislation. When considering who to support in 2012, look to those who support women. They're fighting for you and for me.