The proposed repeal of all protection for unborn children by Michigan’s legislature is bad public policy. In moving to completely repeal Michigan’s protections for human life in the womb, legislators do not, as claimed, merely replace Michigan’s law with Roe. By default, their proposed legislation legalizes unrestricted late-term abortion, partial-birth abortion, and infanticide, now possible due to the passage of Prop 2 last November.
No state interest greater than the protection of human life exists. And no life more in need of state protection exists than that of a vulnerable, defenseless pre-born child. The state’s interest is compelling, and this state ought to use its power to protect rather than destroy life.
Significantly, scientists no longer disagree on when human life begins. The consensus is that we begin at conception. Even assuming disagreement exists as to whether our life begins at conception, the only moral course is to err on the side of protecting human life, not on the side of destroying it.
Any decision about abortion rights presupposes a decision about when we become a person, because a person cannot be killed lawfully—whether by gunshot or exercise of an alleged right to abortion—except in cases of self-defense or a state-administered sentence after a fair trial and exhaustion of all appeals. If the Michigan legislature decides a fetus at a certain stage of development can, in ordinary circumstances, be killed, it has decided that that unborn child is not a person. If it decides that fetus cannot be killed, it has decided that that unborn child is a person. What our state legislature purports to be doing when it makes those decisions is immaterial; it is unquestionably defining our humanity. The only question is how they will do so. Are we to be reduced to mere mechanistic constructions that gain value as qualities are added over time and then lose value when those qualities diminish, or are we to be recognized as human beings, whole and equal by nature? Worse, do some of us have no value worthy of protection at all simply because we are unwanted. Our humanity is a constant. It does not vary over time or under different circumstances.
Advances in science now reveal the remarkable development of a pre-born child from the moment of fertilization. Gone are the days when society can question whether a pre-born child is merely a “clump of cells.”
At twenty-two days, the child’s heart begins to beat. At six weeks, the child begins moving. At seven weeks, scientists can detect a child’s brainwaves, and the child can move his or her own head and hands. The child also displays leg movements and the startle response by that time. At eight weeks, the child’s brain exhibits complex development. The child also then begins breathing movements and shows preference for either his or her left or right hand. At nine weeks, the child sucks his or her thumb, swallows, and responds to light touch. At ten weeks, the child’s unique fingerprints are formed on his or her fingers. At twelve weeks, the child opens and closes his or her mouth and moves his or her tongue. The child’s fingers and hands are also fully formed by twelve weeks’ gestation. By sixteen weeks, the child’s gender is easily detectable, and the child looks undeniably human:
By nineteen weeks, the child hears and responds to noises, even making different facial expressions when listening to music. Thanks to science, the humanity of a pre-born child is more apparent today than in any other time in history. The Hippocratic Oath written during the fifth to fourth centuries B.C. declares, “… I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.” This standard should be a cornerstone of medical ethics. Abortion of preborn children is, and always has been, fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.
The Michigan legislature ought to pause their comprehensive repeal and rewrite the legislation in a way that does not, by default, allow late term abortions, partial-birth abortions, and infanticide. Like those who voted for the fugitive slave act and those who voted against the civil rights act of 1964, this vote is one of those historic votes that defines a legislator and legislature’s identity. They should vote wisely as history will forever hold them accountable.