Abortion supporters often claim that a baby’s inability to survive outside the mother’s womb should automatically justify abortion. The issue is that the child is still fully dependent on the mother, or, as it is sometimes explained, the fetus is not “viable.”

There are major problems with this line of thinking. First, if the standard for being worthy of life is the ability to survive “on our own,” when do any of us really become independent? Children at later stages of pregnancy and even after birth are still completely dependent on their mothers for protection and food. People with disabilities or certain illnesses are also dependent on caregivers, medications and machines.

Second, the assumption that a mother can choose to end her baby’s life simply because of the baby’s degree of dependency presumes the mother’s absolute power over the baby accords her the right to do what she wants with him or her. This harkens back to the “might makes right” rationale that dictators and tyrants have used to oppress and slaughter innocents throughout the ages.

Personhood is not imparted to us when we gain the ability to care for ourselves, nor do we lose our personhood when we age and become dependent on the young to care for us. The very young, the very old, the very sick or the very weak are no less human than those of us fortunate enough to be healthy and strong. We cannot make a determination about people’s value based on how dependent they are at a given moment. The baby in the womb—regardless of degree of dependency—should be allowed to live.

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