The term garbha-pāta refers to ‘miscarriage’ and it would not be proper to extend it to the act of abortion. Rather, precisely to accentuate the choice involved in the process, the neutral sounding term ‘abortion’ should be replaced by ‘foeticide’ (garbha–hatyā) in the hope that perhaps language may give the perpetrators reason for pause.
My argument against abortion is very simple but hopefully good enough to hold water (no pun intended). It is so: if it is not moral to kill a person outside the womb, it cannot be moral to kill a person inside the womb. Conversely, if a moral argument can be made for killing a person outside the womb, then the same reason should be valid for killing a person inside the womb.
My premise is that it is simply a matter of convention that persons are held to be born only after they have exited the womb. In truth, they are just as much alive inside the womb as outside and therefore the value of life is equal in both cases. The moment when a life begins can never be determined with objective certainty any more than it can be said, with equal assurance, when a life ends. Both birth and death are in reality slow, gradual and organic processes, the moment of occurrence fixed merely through arbitrary fiat. Hence, my argument that if it is not moral to kill a person outside the womb then it cannot be moral to kill a person inside the womb.
The debate on abortion raises various ‘what if’ scenarios and in each case I would urge the application of the foregoing principle:
(1) What if a foetus is diagnosed with a severe defect? Response: we wouldn’t kill a child outside the womb because it contracted a severe defect, ergo …
(2) What if a foetus was the result of a rape? Response: we wouldn’t kill a child that was produced by rape, once it has exited the womb, ergo …
To kill the foetus in these circumstances would be wrong because if it somehow made it outside the womb, then we would not do so. It would be unfair to penalise an offspring just because it is yet resident in the womb. On the other hand:
(3) What if a foetus endangered the life of a mother? Response: if we would condone the killing of a psychopathic child outside the womb, by the parent in self-defence, then …
For me, this moral argument is good enough to shape the regulation concerning abortion and I expect that the objection would not so much be an issue with its internal logic but that contemporary society does not want to be bound to live by a moral code at all.
The pursuit of happiness has now become the supreme goal and inter alia this demands the elimination of all forms of inconveniences that may curtail the scope of future pleasure, such as unwanted children. Of course, one cannot kill children once they exit the womb for then their personhood becomes unassailable as that moment is officially recognised as ‘birth’ but if their life-status can be denied prior to that moment, then their destruction cannot be regarded as murder.
It is common knowledge that cultures which assert their excellence based on their recognition of the worth of human life, justify their enslavement and genocide of other humans by first de-humanising their victims. The same tactic is employed by the pro-foeticide lobby when they deny the personhood of the foetus. If that was recognised then the ‘choice’ of the foetus, which seeks life, would have to be placed on an equal footing as that of the parent, who wants to snuff it out.
While the pro-foeticide lobby does not really seek to abide by a moral code and give priority to felicity, they may pretend to make moral arguments to also enjoy the felicity of appearing moral. Hence, the “but it’s her body” spiel as if the foetus within her has no body of its own. To argue against this point is like removing weeds – the more you pull out, the more will grow.
The main issue is with the soil itself, the underlying discourse of liberalism that seeks to make one feel like a prudish loser for upholding obligations and a conscientious rebel for seeking one’s own happiness above everything else. Unless this is breached, any victory will be pyrrhic and temporary. Whether one wins or loses the battle against garbha–hatyā, one should not lose sight of the war.