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  • Paul Stark

Is abortion 'essential'—or is human life?

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and governors began postponing elective and non-essential procedures in order to conserve scarce medical supplies, abortion defenders argued that such postponements should not apply to the practice of abortion.

Why not? Because abortion, they said, is essential. But in what way?

"Here's the thing: The abortions in question are absolutely elective," acknowledges Regina Mahone in a recent article at the abortion-advocacy outlet Rewire.News. After all, in any actual medical emergency, a pregnant woman should go to the hospital to receive the care she needs. That's not what we're talking about when we talk about abortion. We're talking about a procedure that is, by any ordinary definition of the word, "elective." In fact, not only isn't abortion a response to an urgent medical situation—it's not a "medical" procedure at all since it serves no health-related purpose (such as the treatment or prevention of a disease).

Mahone claims, though, that abortion is still necessary. "Just because a service is elective, that doesn't make it any less time-sensitive or necessary," she writes. "When people are forced to delay their abortions, the care they seek becomes more expensive and difficult—or impossible—to obtain."

Of course, to say that something is expensive or difficult to obtain (like, say, a new car) is not to show that it is necessary to obtain. Why is abortion necessary? Why is it essential?

Here's what Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States, says: "We believe all abortions, if women seek them, are essential."

But wanting something doesn't make it essential. Ice cream certainly isn't.

Abortion defenders probably see abortion as essential because of the unwanted consequences of the continued existence and birth of the human being in utero. That is, abortion is essential relative to the objective of ending the life of the unborn child (and preventing all that life may entail). To fulfill this purpose, abortion is indeed necessary.

But a humane and just and healthy society doesn't think that it's important for some humans to die so others can get what they wish. It regards every single one of us as essential.

This article appears in the May 2020 issue of NRL News.


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