This isn’t an abortion blog, and I haven’t thought that chiming in on this issue would be worth the candle. After all, it’s an issue that’s been chewed over a bit, by other bloggers. But I’ll throw something out there, from wikipedia:
Electrical brain activity is first detected between the 5th and 6th week of gestation, though this is still considered primitive neural activity rather than the beginning of conscious thought, something that develops much later in fetation. Synapses begin forming at 17 weeks, and at about week 28 begin to multiply at a rapid pace…
Okay. Synapses begin forming at 17 weeks. I’m not a neurologist, but I know (again, thanks to wikipedia) that a synapse is “a junction that permits a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another cell (neural or otherwise).” And I know that neurons need to send signals to each other, or else you can’t think. And when are most abortions performed?
In 2003, from data collected in those areas of the United States that sufficiently reported gestational age, it was found that 88.2% of abortions were conducted at or prior to 12 weeks, 10.4% from 13 to 20 weeks, and 1.4% at or after 21 weeks.
In other words, the vast majority of abortions are performed long before a fetus can think or have any kind of self-awareness. Of course my analysis here isn’t going to change a lot of anti-abortion – or anti-choice, if you prefer – minds, is it? But what I hope it might do is change a couple of pro-choice minds. I mean the pro-choice people who nonetheless refer to abortion as a “tragedy” and emphasize how much they’d like abortion to be “rare” and who defend Planned Parenthood by emphasizing how abortion is only a small part of their services.
Of course, abortion isn’t always ethically simple, my argument above notwithstanding. But it seems like those who are anti-abortion act as though abortion were, in fact, ethically simple. But it isn’t and they’re not serious. Do they actually want abortion to be illegal – forced parenthood?
I remember a conversation I had, way back when, with a woman who’d graduated from my high school, a year ahead of me. We were talking about a teacher we’d both had, an older grandmotherly type. I said that this teacher seemed pretty nice. Yes, said the young woman to me, she was more than nice she was really special to me. I asked why that was. Because, she said, I had a friend who was in trouble and she helped her get an abortion.
So, you weigh the various issue involved here. Fifteen week old fetus – no brains. Fifteen year old girl – in a tough situation. And I read stories about state legislators pushing through anti-abortion measures, and I think about how that’s going to affect actual people. It’s a real political football.