The Unborn Child is Never the Aggressor
August 14, 2021
Note on the Text:
This essay was originally published by Ethika Politika at this page. Le Nouvel Esprit was given permission to republish it here.
The Unborn Child is Never the Aggressor
In the abortion debate there is an underlying principle that drives the thoughts and emotions of several Americans today: the notion that the unborn child is somehow an unjust aggressor. Some thinkers have attempted to justify abortion in precisely these terms, that abortion is a mode of lethal self-defense resulting in the death of an unjust aggressor, i.e. the fetus.
Judith Thomson compares abortion to self-defense: “A woman surely can defend her life against the threat to it posed by the unborn child…” John Noonan, as well, assumed this as fact” “Abortion is never right except in self-defense.” Mary Ann Warren compares abortion to defending oneself against an attacking wild animal. Jane English assumes the self-defense model as well: “If the threat is on par with a serious beating or the loss of a finger, she may kill the fetus that poses such a threat, even if it is an innocent person.” English further remarks that there are rare cases of pregnancy wherein the unborn child is like “an attacker brandishing a switchblade.”
In these arguments the unborn child is an unjust aggressor because she is the product of an unwanted pregnancy. The unborn child is a usurper, who forced the woman to become pregnant, and thus inflicted upon the woman all the difficulties associated with pregnancy. The mother is unjustly giving life-support to someone without consent. In short, a woman has body rights and she is not necessarily committed to sharing her body with another. According to this view the woman has the right to an abortion against her unjust aggressor.
There is a slight of hand here. The unborn child is depicted as the threatener, the one who is responsible for this “unjust” situation. But, in reality, the man and woman engaged in sexual activity implicitly consent to the unborn child’s existence and, by logical implication, her dependence on the mother’s body for her own vitality. Separating sex from babies, as culture does, severs parental responsibility and portray the situation as if the unborn child could be the aggressor. Parents are no longer held responsible.
Some consider the unborn child in the case of a rape victim who becomes pregnant to be an unjust aggressor. The unborn child is seen as a collaborator with the rapist against whom the woman needs to defend herself against. Therefore some reason that abortion is a morally acceptable solution: the child, either explicitly or implicitly, is viewed as an unjust aggressor associated with the rapist’s crime. On the contrary, the unjust aggressor is the rapist: it is illogical to punish the unborn child for the rapist’s crimes because an unborn child ipso facto can never become an unjust aggressor. Punishing the unborn child introduces a new injustice to an already unjust situation.
To accept the proposition that an unborn child can be an unjust aggressor is to accept in some way the culture of death. The words of St. John Paul II must be reechoed, that an unborn child can never be an unjust aggressor. An unborn child can only become a victim because the state of their existence is one of total dependency and innocence. Their only demand is love. It is the man and woman who engaged in sex that have the duty to respond back with a loving fiat.
We must emphasize in the abortion debate that the unborn child is never the unjust aggressor; rather, he who lives by or promotes such an attitude is the unjust aggressor and the oppressor perpetuating a grave injustice. When this principle is widely accepted into a society, it surrenders all pretense of liberty and justice to become a totalitarian state because if unborn children are seen as unjust aggressors by the community at large, then the logical consequence is that unborn children must be punished as criminals. Abortion and contraceptives thus become prescriptive, a legal solution. Both become institutionalized.
The government would see it as a need and duty to promote both, especially since the government would appear as unjust if they failed to do so. By accepting the notion that the unborn child is an unjust aggressor, the consequence is the legalization of abortion and its institutionalization within the legal framework of any society. The ultimate result is that an innocent class of people becomes the target of systematic punishment and removal at the federal level, academic, public, and finally within the domicile. In short, a totalitarian regime results which suppresses unborn children who are its future, analogous to the serpent that kills itself by eating itself from the tail up.
Madonna in Glory with Saints by Pietro Perugino