Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (40), March 18, 1986

We Should Ask, “Where’s the Baby?”

One memorable line from the 1984 election was Walter Mondale’s challenge to Gary Hart: Where’s the beef? His point was that for all Hart’s verbiage about “new ideas,” he had little substance to say about specific issues.

It’s hard not to apply the same question to the abortion debate, with this difference: Where’s the baby? Thousands march in Washington to defend abortion, and their slogans receive lavish attention in the media. Thousands more write to local papers like the Times. Yet, in all the flood of words, something is missing. They speak of women’s rights, call abortion a “personal choice,” talk of separation of church and state, accuse pro-lifers of insensitivity to the poor, and abuse any male who dares voice an opinion on the subject. Somewhere in the shuffle, the chief victim of abortion, apart from whom there would be no debate, gets totally left out. Where’s the baby?

If mentioned at all, the human fetus is referred to as “tissue.” This “tissue” is undeniably part of the woman’s body. If it were anything else — a cyst or a wart — no one would give it a thought. But between a cyst and a fetus, there is a profound qualitative difference. The fetus is a human being.

Honest defenders of abortion — and there are many — have got to confront this question: Where’s the baby? There are two possible positions. The first is that the fetus isn’t really a human being, and so not entitled to legal protection. If you think that, please look at any medical textbook — not philosophy, not the Bible, not anything to do with personal faith — and learn that human life begins when the sperm and egg unite at conception. While organs form at different points during gestation, the genetic code which determines a person’s unique appearance and personality is set at the first instant.

The second position is that the fetus may, after all, be a human being, but it doesn’t matter. That is the unadmitted view of die-hard pro-choicers. In other words, the fact of life is less important than the value we ascribe to it.

The danger is this: When we stop giving an absolute value to human life, when we take it on ourselves to decide who will live or die according to human ideas of “quality,” then we open the door to Auschwitz.

Is that what pro-choicers want? I don’t think so. Yet by shifting the focus from the unborn to women, by completely ignoring them main concern of pro-lifers, they evade the consequences of their logic. I’d like to see supporters of legalized abortion — including the editors of this newspaper — to give in these pages a straightforward answer to the question: Where’s the baby?

Tom Griffith, 13 Lakeview Road, Essex