The girlfriend of someone I know very slightly recently had a late abortion for purely social reasons: in plain English because neither she nor the father are people anyone would trust as parents. Actually, I don’t know her, but I certainly wouldn’t entrust any baby of mine to the father and I suppose that any woman who would fall in love with him has shown deficient judgment.
My own position on abortion is that I am against late ones for precisely the reasons that I am in favour of embryo research. I think that a baby is certainly a human being, deserving to be treated as an end in itself, at the moment of birth, and just as certainly certainly no such thing at the moment of conception, even supposing you could pin down such a biologically ambiguous moment. Somewhere in between those two dates, things change so that an operation which ought to be freely available in the early part of a pregnancy should be very restricted in the later parts. After all, if a woman really doesn’t want a baby, she can always give it away for adoption. I know this is unpleasant and possibly traumatic, but so, by all accounts, is being killed. And at some stage — shall we say an arbitrary 18 weeks — a foetus becomes something that can be killed.
Now, when I have said this in the past, some women have replied that it is really unfair and brutal of me, since I cannot imagine what it is like to love a baby which has grown in your own stomach, and then to have to give it away. The case I mentioned at the start has crystallised why I feel this is unsatisfactory reasoning. It’s very simple. If the thing-in-the-womb has attained the state where it is truly lovable (and I take on trust that this can happen before birth) then it has also acquired an independent value. It should not be extinguished just to spare the mother pain.
Every week there are cases where parents kill their children rather than allow them to leave, or be taken by another parent in the aftermath of a divorce. We don’t call that love, though no doubt the murderer does. I think that any divorced parent must have heard the faint whisper of that temptation. But it isn’t love, and it isn’t right. If a foetus has grown to the point where the mother really does think of it as a baby, then she should grant it its own autonomy and let it make its way in the world with other parents if she can’t be a mother herself. Sometimes loving someone means letting them go.
Note that this is not an argument that all babies should be born or anything like that. It is directed against the specific, narrow instance in which a late abortion of a healthy foetus is defended because the alternative of adoption would be more painful for the mother. Phooey, I say.