You give rights to a fetus, you take them away from the mother

BROOKLINE — Anyone who describes abortion as “killing unborn children” is not likely to be swayed by argument. Nevertheless, I must respond to Erica Walch.

There is obviously no compelling state interest in killing unborn children, to answer the question posed in the headline. What there is a compelling state interest in is preserving and protecting the right of pregnant women to decide for themselves, without interference from the government or from any church, and without the imposition of any moral code other than that which they themselves possess, whether or not their pregnancy will result in the birth of a child.

If you consider a fetus to have the same rights as a human being from the moment of conception, then you take away the rights of pregnant women to determine their futures. You compel them to carry a pregnancy to term and have a child, whether they had any choice in the matter or not, whether they are equipped to have a child or not.

Are the lives of fetuses sacred, and therefore worthy of protection by the state, but not the lives of fully grown women? You give rights to one, you take them away from the other.

The state also has a compelling interest in helping people avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place, so that as few women and couples as possible are faced with this horrendous moral quandary. This means encouraging comprehensive sex education, both in the home and in schools, and encouraging the use of contraceptives for anyone who is sexually active and making them widely available and free.

Unintentional pregnancy happens all the time and for a variety of reasons. Birth control methods are not foolproof, especially when not used correctly. Young people especially are apt to not know how to use them, or think they're not necessary, or aren't thinking about it at all. Perhaps there is miscommunication about who's using what or misjudgment about the time of the month. Perhaps a woman has sex forced upon her, giving her no chance to protect herself.

Whatever the circumstances, there are simply times when carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth to a child is unthinkable. Nevertheless, the choice to abort a pregnancy comes easily to no one. It's not something anyone would wish to go through or be a partner in.

But it must be allowed as a last resort. And the thing is, it will always be available somewhere. Even if it is criminalized in one place, it will be allowed in another. People of means will simply travel to wherever they need to to have it done.

Meanwhile, the not-so-fortunate will avail themselves of whatever unsafe, unregulated, and possibly lethal methods they can find. Or they will be forced to have children they don't want and can ill afford to care for, children whose chances for a decent quality of life are severely compromised from the start.

If you think outlawing abortion makes Vermont a more morally superior state, what exactly is the point of that if the real-world consequences for women and children are abominable?

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