A woman's right to choose what to do with her body doesn't outweigh the right of the person who's growing inside her to live. If two people have a physically dependent relationship, one doesn't get to kill the other and call it "their right to choose." If you had conjoined twins, the rights of one twin to choose what to do with their body wouldn't outweigh the right of the other twin to live. (I get that it's not a perfect analogy) Plenty of room to disagree about when or if the unborn person attains the rights associated with personhood
. But the concept is not difficult to understand. It's not about telling women what to do. It's about respecting the unalienable right to life of the unborn child, even if that interferes with the rights otherwise held by the mother.
That's the simple nub of the issue. Do you go with
(a) the moment of conception. At that point you have a pinprick of cells which may or may not end up being viable, even if carried to term.
(b) the moment of heartbeat.
(c) the moment the "unborn person" (a description that is itself loaded) is viable outside the womb.
For elective abortions, to me (c) is the only answer that makes any sort of sense. It then has to be made more rigid though to become legislation by the election of a particular point (eg, in the UK, 24 weeks), just as legislation sets other fixed points for things where individuals may vary (eg age of consent, voting age).
For other cases, such as where there is a risk to the mother's life or a late diagnosis of a serious handicap, the argument is more nuanced. Risk to the mother's life presents a classic balance of who do you choose to save? That seems to me to be obviously a decision for the mother: if she wants to take the risk of carrying to term, so be it, and if she doesn't, she should not have to.
FWIW I regard phrases such as "the right to life of the unborn child" to be unhelpful if one wants to have a dispassionate debate about this, highly emotive, subject. Unless the foetus is at a
Serious handicap is perhaps the most difficult one. There, there is no risk to anyone else's health. Yet the balance is between the life of the child and the burden the parents would face. Some parents would perhaps see that as a gift, and not a burden, in which case fine. But for those who do not share that view it is difficult balance between the parents' freedom to live their lives as they choose and the foetus's right to be born.
FWIW I regard phrases such as "the right to life of the unborn child" as unhelpful if one wants to have a dispassionate debate about an emotive subject like this. For me, unless the unborn child is viable ex-utero, it has no "right" to life. The conjoined twins example is interesting, but conjoined twins tend to be mutually dependent, rather than there being one who is wholly dependent on another, and the other being able to survive independently if separated. So I don't think it offers much for this debate.
When our first daughter was born we spent some time in neonatal intensive care. The smallest delivery there was under a pound, delivered at 16 weeks. I don't know what the outcome was, as we were in and out quite quickly. Medicine can make very early deliveries viable these days, but often the resulting child has long term developmental issues.