The Destruction of Motherhood

Mother and Child, by Mary Cassatt, 1890

As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, I saw an interesting response to a pro-life Twitter thread. The pro-life tweet had pointed out that the baby had separate DNA and was not part of the mother’s body, and therefore was a separate life that needed to be respected. An abortion supporter agreed that the baby was indeed a separate body, but then proceeded to say that abortion was still acceptable because the baby’s body was dependent on the mother’s body. Did she have a valid point? Let’s work through that today.

While the baby is obviously dependent on the mother during the pregnancy, it’s also worth noting that the baby is still very dependent on the mother (or some other human substitute) for quite a while after birth. Hopefully, abortion supporters would not go to such an extreme as to support infanticide. In fact, dependence doesn’t really take away a person’s rights. The person with kidney failure dependent on a dialysis machine doesn’t forfeit their right to live. The person needing a ventilator while awaiting a lung transplant shouldn’t be killed for that. You don’t lose the right to your life when you are on the operating table, with your life in the hands of a surgeon, very much dependent on an anesthesiologist to continue breathing. In fact, not only do you not lose that right when you enter the operating room, but protecting your life while you are dependent on the surgery team’s expert care is of utmost importance. Caring for those depending on them is a huge responsibility for the doctors, both professionally and ethically.

This raises the more essential objection to the pro-abortion reasoning presented earlier- one that is especially noticeable this time of year as Americans celebrate the sacrificial nature of mothers. It’s true that not every mother embodies that ideal, and some may not have had an exemplary mother to remember fondly; but when we celebrate Mother’s Day, that loving, sacrificial character is, I think, what we tend to see as an essential motherly virtue. Mothers nourish us when we can’t provide for ourselves. They teach us how to live and prepare us for adulthood. And anyone who’s ever seen a mama bear and her cubs has seen similar devotion to how our mothers protect us when we can’t protect ourselves. They invest so much time and hard work in raising us, and we often don’t appreciate the sacrifice of that investment until we have kids of our own who need our constant help to live, grow, and flourish. That unconditional, committed, sacrificial love is an essential part of what it means to be a mother. Whether a particular woman exemplifies that ideal or not, we still instinctively recognize it as the essence of that noble calling of motherhood. Sacrifice, selflessness, love – these are virtues we celebrate and respect.

Yet, the abortion industry teaches women pursue vices rather than virtues, and to discard that innate sense of loving duty and see children as only an inconvenience to be scheduled into a busy life (if she wants). Bearing children changes from a privilege — difficult, yes! but a blessing nonetheless — into an oppression to be avoided if at all possible. And with elective abortion, it can nearly always be avoided. But in the process, motherhood is destroyed. And for what? The vast majority of abortions in America are unfortunately done for socioeconomic reasons: a new baby would be a financial strain (40%); not the preferred timing (36%); partner and/or familial issues (36%); a perceived need to focus on other children (29%); or the resulting newborn would interfere with academic or career advancement or other goals (20%) [1]. I don’t point out these reasons to condemn these women, but rather to point out that these are all very bad reasons for killing another human if that is indeed what the unborn human fetus is. (If you doubt the fetus is a human life, see last week’s post.) These may be good reasons for making different decisions before the pregnancy began, or for putting the resulting baby up for adoption, but not for killing it. We don’t kill another adult because they would get in the way of our career goals, or because they might cost us money, or because they came into our lives at the “wrong” time, and we shouldn’t do that to those needing our protection and love the most.

If you’d like to hear this point addressed more thoroughly (and eloquently), check out Stephanie Gray’s talk at Google:

[1] Biggs, et al, BMC Women’s Health, 2013: “Understanding Why Women Seek Abortions in the US”, available here: This was a 2008-2010 study of 954 women surveyed at 30 abortion facilities across the US. Multiple reasons were allowed as answers, so results will total to more than 100%. Only the responses gaining 20% or more are listed here. See the article for the full survey results.

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