A recent letter writer raises the perennial question of fetal rights ("What about the rights of the fetus?" Readers Write, Sept. 19.) This is not a question that can be answered by repeating "an unborn human baby" at every opportunity, as the writer presumes. Nor are any empirical facts of much use, for the issue is one of valuation. The Roe v. Wade decision recognized a balance between the privacy rights of the woman and the state interest in preserving the life of the fetus. In that balance, the state interest advances with fetal development. The preservation of tiny mass of barely differentiated cells does not fall within state authority, but the preservation of a viable fetus does.
This Roe formula for determining fetal rights provides only blurry delineations along the gestational timeline, but the writer's total denial of choice at any time in pregnancy would deprive women of the reproductive autonomy needed for extremely consequential decisions — consequential not only for herself and her support group, but also for her children. If, for example, her life plan includes only one child, prohibition of abortion may mean that child is born when its parent is unable to provide adequate material, social or emotional support. That child's life may be enormously enriched by being delayed. Only the mother is in a position to make that decision.
George Francis Kane, St. Paul
The Sept. 19 letter writer correctly depicts the wrongness of abortion when she states that individual rights end when they infringe on other people's rights, just as in the many ways that we attempt to limit the spread of COVID such as using masks and getting shots.
The following letter in support of abortion includes these gross errors:
"I know of no laws that rule men's bodies." Truth: Abortion laws permit unborn men's bodies to be killed by abortion, just as unborn women's bodies are killed by abortion.
"No one is pro-abortion. The correct term is pro-choice." Not possible. Abortion permanently denies choice to the babies that are killed. Therefore to be pro-choice is to be against abortion. To be pro-abortion simply means to support its legality, therefore pro-abortion obviously correctly describes many people. It would be wonderful if nobody was truly pro-abortion.
The second letter writer totally overlooks the adoption alternative to abortion; vast numbers of people are seeking to adopt.
I know that there are other arguments in supporting abortion. I ask that those who support abortion do so with honest reasons rather than using word games.
Ted Larson, Chaska
A recent letter writer respects her neighbor's rights to choice about landscaping but would prefer to dictate the same neighbor's rights to choices about their own medical care. What she fails to recognize and respect is that we do not all share the belief that embryos and fetuses deserve all the legal protections of a born person. Beliefs about when life begins come from a combination of philosophy, values and faith. My philosophy, values and faith lead me to a pro-choice perspective: I oppose forced birth, and I oppose allowing the government to mandate anyone's personal medical decisions. I fully respect the writer's right to choose the best way forward for herself should she find herself pregnant, and I ask her to do the same for me.
The answer to her question "Where does a mother's rights end and the unborn human baby's rights begin?" is subjective and individual. The position that a fertilized ovum deserves all the legal protections of a citizen is not logical from my point of view and can be explained by the influence of some religions that hold that a human body does not begin without a human soul. That is religious dogma, and if the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment means anything at all, religious dogmas must not be imposed with the force of law on Americans.
Erica Klein, Richfield
Two clarifications are overdue.
Being pro-life is more than opposing elective abortion. Some policies supported by many Republican leaders actually endanger the lives or well-being of people. Let it suffice for now to point out that a synonym for "well-being" is "welfare" (not "welfare state").
For pro-life people, the ultimate question is whether or not an unborn child, a fetus, is human and deserving of protection. If it is, the primary issue becomes not power over a woman's body, but power over another person's life itself. Please let me explain. I and many others are convinced that human life begins at conception because it can be determined as the true beginning. Conception is immediate. Even a detectable heartbeat or a state of viability fluctuates depending on scientific changes. Devices could advance so that a heartbeat could be detected even earlier than it is now. Viability has definitely shifted earlier in pregnancy because of medical advancements. Conception stays the same. It's the one constant.
Human life begins. That premise has led to the pro-life perspective.
Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
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