Apropos of the big news of this week — the leak of what is presumed to be the Supreme Court’s position (if only in draft form) that it will overturn Roe vs. Wade and return the issue of abortion to the state legislatures — here are some excerpts from the chapter on Abortion in my book, American Conservative — Reclaiming Conservatism From the Right (2016).
A snippet from the conclusion:
An embryo or fetus with the higher cerebral functions not yet engaged – pre-sentient and without the consciousness from which may eventually emerge self-awareness and free will – has the potential to become human not the quintessence of humanity. In my areligious worldview, with no faith in some revealed and ancient catechism to instruct me on whether or not a soul exists independent of corporeal sentience and on when such a soul might manifest, I cannot justify surrendering to government unfettered authority over a palpable liberty that already exists in the defense of some ineffable essence that may yet come to be.
And yet, I must agree with the religious conservatives – not out of any theological insight but out of a humanist and libertarian respect for human dignity – that such potential for ineffable essence has value. And, therefore, I equally cannot countenance the view that discarding such potential is an act utterly without moral import. Nor can I countenance the view, extreme but seemingly common on the far “left” and particularly among the feminist fringe, that such ineffable essence somehow suddenly and miraculously materializes at the emergence from the birth canal and not an instant before.
It seems clear, to me at least, that at some point, after the cerebral cortex begins functioning and prior to full-term birth, the potential of a human fetus transforms into the quintessence of a human baby. It seems equally clear that by exercising one choice – to carry a pregnancy to that point of quintessence – a woman, herself, circumscribes other choices including, in particular, the choice to have an abortion thereafter.