BY KATY FRENCH | JULY 29, 2013 AT 1:15 PM
TOPICS: FREEDOM OF RELIGION OP-EDS
My little sister was once a pro-choice, vegan animal-rights activist. She believed we shouldn't kill bees for their honey. To try to convince her that a fetus was a life as worthy of protection as a honeybee, I used the magical vaginal fairy dust argument on her.
It goes like this: The vaginal canal is only a few inches long — is there magical fairy dust that is sprinkled on a fetus as it passes through the birth canal that confers humanity? A few inches higher, before the fairy dust, killing okay. A few inches lower, after fairy dust, killing not okay. Magical!
Sis came around eventually. The magical vaginal fairy dust argument is powerful because it highlights the semantic contortions necessary to reconcile abortion with the widely (though not universally) held idea that you shouldn't kill humans.
Similarly, the pro-life movement seeks to focus attention on partial-birth and late-term abortions, and, more recently, the post-birth "abortions" of the Gosnell case, even if those situations represent a minority of abortions.
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It's because they challenge the it's-not-a-baby moral cover for all abortions by forcing us to address the killing of beings that look an awfully lot like babies. Which brings me to the Royal Birth.
I am a bit embarrassed to say that I have taken a gleeful delight in following all the details of His Royal Tiny-ness. In my web-surfing on the subject, I came across the happy anecdote that the Duchess of Cambridge had nicknamed her unborn bundle "Grape" because that's how small he was at some point in the pregnancy, long before he looked much like a baby at all. I suspect she was reading one of those pregnancy sites that tell you, "At week X, your baby is the size of a grape."
The fact that the pop-culture media were so charmed by the "Grape" christening reveals the true fairy dust. It's not contact with a few vaginal inches. The real fairy dust is being wanted.
Because this Royal Heir was so wanted, hoped for, fawned over, delighted in, he was treated in the womb — even when he was as small as a grape — with the same loving protection and attention that he now will have outside it.
Not just his mother, but the whole world thought of him as a person, spoke of him as such, gave him a nickname. Why? Because he was wanted.
We see this on a less grand scale all the time with our pregnant friends and family. We coo and fuss. We ask them if it will be a girl or a boy (words we usually reserve for humans).
We ask them what they'll name their baby. We want to know if the baby is kicking yet. We never ask a pregnant woman how her fetus is doing.
But the other side goes to extreme pains to avoid using the b-word. The semantic difference is a moral necessity if we are to condone the killing of one and the doting on the other.
A baby is wanted. A "pregnancy tissue" isn't. But is the longing or lack thereof of one's mother truly an acceptable basis on which to confer or deny humanity?
After all, you can't kill a person already outside the womb for being unwanted by her mother, or because her dad was a rapist or a relative. But inside the womb, your fate as either a human to be fussed over or a "thing" to be disposed of is entirely dependent on what someone else thinks about you.
Would Prince Grape have been a non-human if the Duchess of Cambridge had not wanted him? Aborted him at six months -- not really the little prince just yet? Talk about unequal protection under the law.
Blessed Mother Teresa once offered a powerful challenge to the idea that being unwanted was sufficient reason to kill the unborn. In front of President Clinton and the assembled Washington illuminati at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, she pleaded, "[P]lease don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child."
In other words, if you can kill the unwanted but not the wanted, then how about if Mother Teresa wants them? Is that a sufficient amount of maternal wanting to call them humans again and let them be born?
The new prince's grandmother, Princess Diana, died on the exact same day as Mother Teresa, just three years later (a fact the humble nun would have loved, diverting attention away from herself).
Here's hoping that one day every unborn baby will be wanted. But until that day, I'd settle for every unborn baby being considered as human as His Royal Grapeness.
Katy French lives in Washington, D.C., where she is an epidemiologist who works on anti-malaria programs in Africa.