“Women’s health care” is often a euphemism for abortion. Since no one would want to “deny health care” to a woman, we must support abortion rights and public funding of abortion. Colorado’s Proposition 115, which would have prohibited abortions after 22 months, was opposed on this basis. It lost 59% to 41% last November. In revoking the Mexico City Policy, which stopped foreign aid from supporting abortion, President Biden said during a signing ceremony that his memorandum would "reverse my predecessor's attack on women's health access." The measure "relates to protecting women's health at home and abroad." This “health care” includes abortion.
Biden did not say “abortion.” That is probably because of two reasons. First, Biden supported restrictions on abortions earlier in his career. Until June of 2019, he had supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited the use of Medicaid funds for abortion in almost all cases. His Roman Catholic religiosity once carried some weight for his policies. He may now feel a bit ashamed.
Second, despite all the advocacy for abortion in the United States, the word “abortion” still has a bad connotation. We never use “abortion” for anything happy or planned. A business meeting that is aborted means something went wrong. A military mission might be aborted because it was poorly planned. No one plans or celebrates an abortion of anything. However, some pro-choice women have worn shirts reading, “I had an abortion.” You can buy a T-shirt online that reads, “I had 21 abortions.” The mind boggles.
Those opposing tax dollars for abortion are accused of not caring about “women’s health” or of “refusing health care.” Yet, pregnancies do not typically ruin or even threaten a woman’s health. It is even rarer that a pregnancy poses a life-threatening risk. When that occurs, most pro-life advocates — I among them — believe abortion is allowable as a tragic choice. However, the number of these cases is vanishingly small and good physicians will work to save both patients, mother and child.
Far from being health care, abortion means the death sentence to the living, human being who is killed by it. Word games and obfuscation to the contrary, the fetus is not “potential life,” but life with potential; nor is he or she a “potential human,” but a human with potential. As such she or he bears unique moral value by being a member of our species. But a position paper by the Bixby Center for Reproductive Health says that the “safety of abortion in the U.S. is extensively documented.” Perhaps abortions are safe for the women who have them, but they are never safe for their offspring. Fetuses have no safety — even if they are born alive due to a failed or botched abortion. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) attempted to attach an amendment to a budget resolution that required babies born alive from an abortion to receive the care given to other babies whose births were planned. But on Feb. 4, 2021, the amendment failed. It received only 52 of the 60 votes needed. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.) were the only Democrats who joined all Senate Republicans in supporting this amendment. A 2019 Senate bill, the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” failed to pass as well. Then Senator Kamala Harris voted against it.
Although the term “botched abortion” or “failed abortion” might be used if a baby survives the grim procedure, the proper term is not “abortion,” but “infanticide.” It is a viable infant who survives and is then left to die. Thus, the infant (an innocent human being) is killed, which is morally wrong. The fetus is not a cancerous tumor or a worrisome mole or an internal organ that must be removed for health care. Rather, the fetus has a complete genetic code and the possibility of living a life something like those who make it alive out of the birth canal and are properly cared for. Who are we to take away such a life and such human potential? Even if some pregnancies are unwanted, no human being is without value. Moreover, a child not wanted by the mother will be wanted by adoptive parents.
A kind and just society will care for the health of all its members, especially the most vulnerable and the least able to stand up for their own rights.
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and the author of 14 books, including, “Philosophy in Seven Sentences.” The views he expresses are his own and not necessarily those of Denver Seminary.