Full of Sound and Fury

The recent protests against the March for Life in Ottawa and against the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States have featured three slogans that represent the core of the pro-abortion position:  “My Body,” My Future,” and “My Choice.”  A realistic analysis of these slogans, however, exposes their vacuity.  In no way do they justify abortion.  Rather, they reveal the ignorance and desperation of those who believe that their slogans have merit.

My Body:  Julius Caesar Aranzi, a 16th century anatomist, was the first to discover that the blood system of the fetus is independent of that of the pregnant woman.  Those who contend that the fetus is part of the woman’s body are six centuries behind the times.  In 1620, Paolo Zacchia, in Italy, and Thomas Fienus in Belgium, working independently of each other, rejected the Aristotelian theory of delayed animation and found scientific evidence that the life of the fetus begins at or very near conception.  In 1644, Pope Innocent X conferred upon Paolo Zacchia the title of “General Proto-Physician of the Entire Roman Ecclesiastical State.”  Considering the accomplishments of Fienus and Zacchia, Hary Blackmun was five centuries behind the times when, in his 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, stated that there is no clear evidence as to when life begins.  Science has shown, consistently and convincingly, and in a variety of ways, that the unborn child is not part of the pregnant woman’s body, but merely resides in her womb until it is ready to be born.

“Resides” is the key word.  A sick person may reside in a hospital for a period of time until he is healthy enough to return to the outside world.  During his stay, though his continued life is dependent on the care he receives from the hospital staff, he is certainly not part of the hospital.  He remains the same person during and after his treatment.  Furthermore, the pregnant mother’s body cannot provide sperm to fertilize her egg that initiates the life of a new human being.  The unborn child may be male, further distinguishing it from his female host.  If the fetus were truly “part” of the pregnant woman’s body, it would remain so long after birth.  No one would contend that a thirty year old person is still part of his mother’s body.

My Future:  No one can correctly predict his or her future.  Nonetheless, it is well-known that a significant number of women who have had an abortion experience a variety of adverse effects, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.  The violent and arbitrary interruption of a pregnancy, which is the essence of abortion, is contrary to nature and cannot be regarded as a valid medical procedure that safeguards the woman’s future.  Abortion leaves its mark and creates physiological problems that affect future pregnancies.  Even doctors who approve abortion have advised against an abortion where the woman has not completed her family.  Abortion can affect the lives of unborn children in generations to come.

To insist on one’s own future at the expense of the future of the unborn child is not consistent with a regard for the future in general, but for only that of one person whose abortion is often followed by regret.  The life and the reality of the unborn child is something that is well-known and is incontrovertible.  One’s future, on the other hand, is unknown.  To assign a greater value to a future life that is unknown than to a reality that is known is essentially unrealistic.  Philosophically, it is to prefer the abstract to the concrete.  We advance toward a better future by caring for the lives that exist in the present.  The present is prologue, not the future.

My Choice:  We live in a culture that preaches “Don’t do drugs,” “Don’t drink and drive,”  “Don’t drive without fastening your seat belt,” “Don’t treat others as sex objects,” “Don’t be judgmental,” “Don’t discuss religion or politics,” and so on.  We are inundated with “don’ts”.  It should be clear that mere choice is not something that is consistently and universally recommended.  In order to choose abortion, many negative choices must precede it:  the unborn fetus is not human, the Ten Commandments are no longer relevant, abortion is basically harmless, the old morality does not apply to the post-modern world, abortion does not adversely affect marriage or the family, etc.  These negative choices (or denials) provide a nihilistic platform for choosing abortion.  The choice to abort, therefore, is often made in a moral vacuum.  Moreover, the pressure society exerts on a woman to have an abortion brings into question how free that woman is to make her own decision.  Not all choice are good.  The object of choice, though a critical factor, is often omitted from the picture.  Abortion, can be less than a choice and more of a shot in the dark.  We often regret at our leisure what we have done in the past under duress.

Conclusion:  The raucous clamor that calls attention to “my body,” my future,” and “my choice” is, as Shakespeare has expressed it, “full of sound and fury” (Macbeth).  But it does not “signify nothing,” as the Bard goes on to say.  It signifies ignorance and desperation on the part of the protestors.  But as slogans, they do, indeed, signify nothing.

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Dr. Donald DeMarco is Professor Emeritus, St. Jerome’s University and Adjunct Professor at Holy Apostles College. He is is the author of 42 books and a former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy of Life.  Some of his latest books, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, and Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, Restoring Philosophy and Returning to Common Sense and Let Us not Despair are posted on amazon.com. He and his wife, Mary, have 5 children and 13 grandchildren.  

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