Abortion continues to be a highly-contentious issue, even as this week marks the 40th anniversary since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court verdict was handed down. It’s a never-ending battle, typically colored by raw emotion. While one polar side traditionally argues that life begins at the moment of conception, the other tends to shy away from any recognition that the unborn qualify as human lives.
This pro-life versus pro-choice dynamic often leads to intense clashes in the public sphere, with both sides accusing the other of restricting rights and advocating damaging policies. In a new piece that was published this week, Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, a pro-choice adherent, decides not to steer clear of the “life” issue and asks: “So what if abortion ends life?”
The question, itself, is enough to send anti-abortion advocates into a tizzy. Williams, who identifies herself as pro-choice, takes a divergent route from others on the left who have staunch views about abortion rights. Rather than denying the fact that fetuses are human lives, she, like pro-lifers, fully embraces this ideal. However, Williams differentiates between the rights that the unborn have from those that belong to women.
“Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life,” Williams wrote. “And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice.”
She went on to decry the “semantic power” that is inherent within the modern-day debate, taking particular aim at those who oppose abortion by using the word “life” to win the debate. But rather than cowering to what the writer says are the “sneaky, dirty tricks of the anti-choice lobby,” Williams proposes that pro-choice advocates should not cower when the word “life” is brought into the discussion. Instead, she believes that pro-choicers should double down and explain why women should have more rights than fetuses.
“Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal,” she wrote. “That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers.”
See, Williams believes that a fetus, while it is a human life, does not need to be afforded the same rights as the woman who it resides in. She goes on to say that the woman is the “boss” and that it is her right to decide whether having that baby fits in with her life circumstances and health. In the end, Williams argues that this personal decision — predicated upon a woman’s individual situation — should always take precedent over the fetus that is inside of the female.
As for the semantics surrounding abortion, Williams calls for pro-choice advocates to be less squeamish, especially when it comes to avoiding whether or not an unborn baby should be considered a “life.”
“When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person,” she continued. “Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?”
At the end of the piece, Williams notes that she believes that women’s lives can be saved in certain circumstances and that the life of a mother should always be put before a fetus. In these complicated scenarios, she said the unborn life being aborted is, “A life worth sacrificing.”