By Sarah Terzo
The following is from feminist Karen Houppert, in response to an article by Gregg Easterbrook. Easterbrook claimed that unborn babies should not be aborted in the third trimester because their brain patterns at that stage are similar to that of adults. Houppert supports third trimester abortion. She says:
“According to Easterbrook’s new science, at 24 weeks the fetus’s “cerebral cortex becomes “wired,” and “fetal EEG readings begin to look more and more like those of a newborn.” Easterbrook contends that the “hopelessly confusing viability standard should be dropped in favor of a bright line drawn at the start of the third trimester, when complex fetal brain activity begins.”
It is at this point that feminists who’ve been around the block once or twice might fight the temptation to take this earnest neoliberal by the hand and lead him gently back to the point of contention: What does it mean that this fetus acquires “personhood” inside the body of another?
Memo to Gregg: Yours is that same tiresome argument about when life begins. Randall Terry [founder of Operation Rescue] and his minions call them the “preborn.” You’ve simply modernized, adding the intellectual’s imprimatur by invoking science to define “signs of formed humanity.”
But get this. Most of us feminists don’t even disagree with you. We might quibble with the notion that “personhood” is bestowed at precisely 24 weeks when the brain waves are first detected on an EEG, because, in general, when a pregnancy is a welcome one, we women tend to bestow “personhood” immediately. (We change the way we eat; “You’re eating for two now.” We pass around sonograms and coo at those 10 little “signs of formed humanity.” We mourn when we miscarry.)
… Our jaded feminist gives a weary nod and says, “Remember, this fetus is being carried inside a woman’s body. The question,” she reminds him, “is not, “When does life begin?” But, “Can it ever be moral for a woman to be pregnant against her will?”
Karen Houppert, “The Meaning of Life,” The Nation vol. 270, March 13, 2000. P. 7.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Clinic Quotes and is reposted with permission.