Defenses for abortion come in three varieties: medical, philosophical, and emotional. The first two are fairly easily dealt with, even if people do not amend their positions. The arguments are either true or false, sound or unsound. The last however, is much more problematic. Emotional arguments utilize feelings rather than reasoning in order to sway their opponents to concede the ‘need ‘ for elective abortion. An emotional argument can move someone toward or away from a position regardless of the rationality or soundness of an argument. I personally find emotional appeals to be unpersuasive because how we feel about a particular reason is irrelevant to whether or not the reason offered is a good one. There is one emotional argument in particular I find rather obscene. It is couched as a medical appeal, but fails in its medical accuracy and has an ulterior emotional motivation underlying it, and a rather repugnant one at that.
What makes the argument that the developing baby in the womb is a parasite so loathsome is the underlying intention to make the baby to be an affront to the mother, an invader, an attacker, an enemy. It is designed to replace feelings of nurturing and love with hostility and resentment. The instinct of motherhood is quite strong and not easily abridged, therefore creating a mere indifference is insufficient.
The argument goes roughly like this: The embryo attaches itself to the mother, utilizing the mother’s bodily resources for nutrition. It’s basically a type of living organism which uses its host for its survival, most often – but not always — to the detriment of the host. I suppose if we were to use an overly vague and generalized definition of parasite, the developing child might fit. But those who offer this charge overlook significant distinctions between actual parasites which include mosquitoes, tape worms, ticks, etc., and a human in gestation.
The first distinction is parasites are of a different kind than its host. Mosquitoes and ticks feed off mammals, for example. The Hookworm does not live within another hookworm, and the deer tick does not feed off other deer ticks. The fetus is of the same kind as the mother. In fact the mother was necessary in bringing into existence the fetus. This is not the case with parasites. Mammals are not biologically the cause of parasites like they are for their offspring.
Second, though a parasite may rely on its host for survival, the host’s body was not designed – so to speak – for its parasite. In other words, the host’s body does not develop with a biological expectation of being a host. The human body, while able to adapt to handle a tape worm, does not have built within its DNA a genetic preparation for becoming a host. Blood, for example, is used as food by the parasite, but blood’s purpose is to oxygenate the body, not feed mosquitoes. Conversely, the womb is the natural intended environment for the fetus. The woman’s body is specifically genetically intended to and prepared to aid in reproduction, and biologically anticipates the attachment and nourishment of the fetus. The uterus is solely intended to grow and nurture the mother’s child, it has no other purpose.
Furthermore, the fetus is exactly where it ought to be. It’s not as though a human embryo can grow just anywhere and happens to find its way to some unsuspecting woman’s uterus. A thing is only an invader if it is where it isn’t supposed to be. Let’s use an analogy. My dogs are not invaders to my home, because they live here; but they would be invaders to my neighbor’s home. In this way, the fetus is not in an improper place, and it is not foreign. Though genetically distinct from its mother, it is a product of its mother, it is her child. It’s not that just any dogs are in my home, my dogs live in my home. It’s not that a child is growing in her womb, her child is growing in her womb.
Lastly, if the mere feeding off the mother makes the fetus a parasite, it is the only commonality between the two. Moreover it justifies taking the life of a new-born baby. Women who breast feed do so for about six months, give or take. Remember, if expelling a parasite is the justification for the elective abortion, the new mother coming to regret giving birth should be morally able to take her baby’s life in virtue of it being a parasite. It is on this point where the insistence of parasitism as a valid justification for abortion belies the one making the argument. A breast-feeding new-born is a parasite in the same way a fetus is a parasite in that it is feeding off the mother’s body. To argue against killing the new-born but not the fetus is an inconsistent appeal in this discussion. It would show that the pro-choice advocate does not take seriously his own argument.
It should be obvious to anyone thinking about the nature of the developing child and what elective abortion actually accomplishes that something is amiss. The line between a parasite and a developing child is clear and bold. This is why I find this false appeal of parasitism to be so repugnant. It implies a mother has no inherent moral duty to care for her own offspring. She must talk herself into — or be talked into — believing her child is anything but. It attempts — often successfully — to break down the natural relationship between mother and child and she is convinced to ignore one of the strongest instincts a person can have: Protect and love your child.