In 1729 Jonathan Swift wrote that unwanted babies might profitably be prepared as a tasty meal. You may think that Jonathan Swift was insane, but he wrote A Modest Proposal as a satire to make a point. The intended message was the opposite of what the words implied. Swift was showing that we cannot place a value on the sanctity of human life.
How would you calculate the value of a human life? One very ineffective way is to add up the price of all the component chemicals, minerals, fluids, and organs in the human body. Doing this you might find that a human life is only worth a few hundred dollars. This evaluation method would be ineffective because it would ignore any potential for a contribution to humanity from that individual.
Job interviews for top corporate jobs often ask applicants who they would save from drowning if they could only save one individual from a group with diverse ages and genders. Successful applicants will argue to let the old people die and save someone who might still bear children. Surely there is no logic in choosing who should live and who should die. The value of human life neither decreases nor increases with age, nor should past accomplishments factor in. The only salient consideration is the heights that person might reach in the future, and that we can never know. A crippled old granny is just as valuable as a new-born babe and vice versa.
Our task in life should be to bridge the gap between the ideal and the real to the best of our abilities. Future generations will build better bridges. That is the lesson of history. In the time being “Do no harm to others” is about as good a rule to live by as you will ever encounter, but that simple maxim is inherently flawed in cases involving abortion since the potential harm to others will exist no matter where you stand on the issue.
Unwanted pregnancy and birth are expensive for all concerned, both financially and emotionally. On the other hand, let’s not pretend that an unborn fetus is not a human being. From the moment of fertilization, the zygote’s entire “programming” is dedicated to surviving and thriving.
In the future the only moral way to prevent unwanted pregnancy will be to prevent unwanted fertilization. Effective preventatives must be readily available. New and better versions of condoms must be invented and encouraged to prevent the sperm from successfully beginning their swim.
Failing that, the sperm must be prevented from finishing the swim. Science shows the best swimmers take about thirty to forty minutes at an inch every ten to fifteen minutes. It is also documented that it takes an additional twenty to thirty minutes for one sperm to get inside the egg. So our windows for preventing fertilization are either before ejaculation or a half hour after. Sometimes the sperm do survive and “wait” for an egg that hasn’t arrived yet. But since we often do not know if an egg is or isn’t available, the half hour deadline is the failsafe timeline.
The morning after pill is too slow. The egg may become fertile before a woman could use it. If unintended sperm cannot be prevented from entering a uterus via a condom, something else must be taken by the man prior to ejaculation or immediately after ejaculation by the woman to curtail the viability of the sperm.
Society’s role is to promote the sanctity of human life, but in extreme cases, such as some rape cases, prevention of fertilization might not be possible. Until better contraception is available, society has a right and an interest in allowing abortions for a brief period of time.