If you tuned into ABC’s evening news last Friday, you would have made an alarming discovery: Subway’s footlong subs are in fact sometimes only 11 inches long. The March for Life, on the other hand, an annual protest of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which drew several hundred thousand protestors to Washington, received no mention.

Braving 20-degree weather and falling snow, we were among 25 Yalies who attended the march to protest 40 years of legalized abortion in the United States. In an eddy of protesters, most of them young people, the blue “Choose Life at Yale” banner bobbed down Constitution Avenue, making its way toward the Supreme Court. It was a day of joyful sorrow, as marchers celebrated the beauty of life while lamenting the silent and institutionalized murder of the unborn.

Abortion is the issue that Americans avoid. Media outlets often ignore it. Presidential candidates talk around it. And we are blind to the stunning reality — a third of our generation is missing. Since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, abortion has claimed the lives of over 55 million unborn children in America. That means over 3,000 children a day have been taken from our midst — children who from the moment of conception are biologically unique human beings, with their own DNA distinct from their mother’s, with the color of their eyes already determined, many of whom have a beating heart when they die.

But what we do not see does not disturb us. We do not grieve for the missing third. Instead, we focus on apparently more important political issues like the debt ceiling. Why is no one asking what happened to the millions of absent children? They were not merely lost. They were with us for a time and were actively taken and destroyed. They haven’t been annihilated, disappearing into thin air without a trace. They’ve been taken — violently, forcefully ripped from the womb.

At the rally, we joined mothers who had suffered through the procedure — mothers who had watched their children emptied through a tube into a waste bin, as a vacuum several times stronger than a household cleaner had to remove all “products of conception.” In a later stage of pregnancy, they might have had a procedure involving forceps-facilitated dismemberment. An abortion survivor shared her story about how she survived a concentrated saline injection into the womb. After thrashing for her life for several hours in the womb, she was born as what her mother thought was a stillborn child. But a nurse later discovered her whimpering, still alive.

These are not merely potential children. These are people. To deny that unborn children — biologically unique human beings — are not people is to imperil the foundation of our society. If personhood is predicated on secondary characteristics of human beings such as their intelligence, viability or productivity, what is to stop us from eliminating those people who do not satisfy society’s definition of a person? To claim that personhood is anything other than an intrinsic characteristic of a biological human is to threaten the most vulnerable members of society — the physically and mentally handicapped, the elderly and the unborn. For if society can grant personhood, it can just as easily take it away.

If you think there is even a possibility that the embryo is more than a clump of cells, we should be giving far more attention to abortion and its implications — for society, for the family, for the mother. Our responsibility is to the child and the mother.

The choice of the pro-choice movement is no choice at all. To abort one’s child is not an act of empowerment. To be truly pro-choice is to offer a supportive option for a mother in crisis to bring her child into the world, to offer dignified alternatives to abortion like compassionate adoption. We need to provide more material, emotional and spiritual support for women before and after they give birth, so that never again will we call a child unwanted.

Ryan Proctor is a freshman in Saybrook College. Contact him at ryan.proctor@yale.edu . 

Dan Gordon and Courtney McEachon contributed writing.

  • Yalie16

    I respect your position, but your article is very blind to the pro-choice side. Rather than admitting that there is a more systemic problem leading to abortions (too many teenage pregnancies and pregnancies by single mothers, etc.), you merely focus on inflammatory phrases such as “institutionalized murder.” Your point about society defining personhood is a very different and unrelated point – unborn children are different than living and breathing handicapped humans.

    • jorge_julio

      what does this “systemic problem” have to do with it? should a single mother kill her toddlers if she can’t take care of them?

      • Yalie16

        The “systemic problem” to me means that there are ways of reducing abortion and still giving the choice of abortion. As Bill Clinton said, “Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.” We can all agree that reducing abortions is a good thing; to me, that means determining other root causes and solving those rather than implementing a blanket ban on all abortions.

        • Bijan Aboutorabi

          I’m glad we agree that abortions should be rarer. Do you understand why those who think abortion (as the intentional killing of a human being) is homicide also think that making abortion illegal is a no-brainer?

        • yale1414

          Advocating finding “ways of reducing abortion and still giving the choice of abortion” completely misses the issue. If abortion is okay as long as the mother chooses it, it is okay in all scenarios where the mother chooses it. There is nothing about the disturbingly high number of abortions that has suddenly made it a problem only now. Your and Bill’s argument is like saying “there are ways of reducing rape and still give the choice of rape.”

          Abortion, like rape, is immoral and should be prevented. It certainly should not be celebrated as “taking control of one’s life.” We don’t let other types of murderers go to the government and say, “I am going to kill this person anyway, so please kill him for me so I don’t get hurt in the process.”

  • candide

    I am very much pro-choice, but I’ll read any arguments believing otherwise, and I often find aspects of them very compelling. What I do not respect, however, is heavy reliance on disturbing imagery to try to convince people of your point. That, frankly, is just cheap. There are a thousand things you have not touched upon in your piece that are critical to the abortion issue. It’s more complicated than what you have breezed through here, and it isn’t fair to try to distill it into such an oversimplified stance lacking proper nuance.

    • Bijan Aboutorabi

      Isn’t the statement, “There are a thousand things you have not touched upon in your piece that are critical to the X issue,” true of almost every ~750-word op-ed about any issue worth reading about? On the contrary, I find Ryan’s article remarkably rich given its (necessary) brevity.

      Moreover, what you call “disturbing imagery” is simply an accurate description of the facts. It’s certainly possible to overemotionalize the abortion issue. But it’s also possible to overrationalize it by turning a blind eye to facts that a sane person rightly does find disturbing. If you honestly find the facts disturbing, perhaps you should reconsider your position.

  • habsburg25

    why is the YDN publishing stock abortion articles? About 10,000 identical pieces exist elsewhere on the internet. editors, please be more imaginative.

  • Édouard

    Beautiful, concise and comprehensive. Makes me have a little more faith in Yale 🙂

  • whatsup

    I’m pro-choice, but I’m also open-minded. However, if an article is mostly comprised of emotional fluff and fun buzzwords (and consequently not particularly informative), I’m naturally going to discount it. While I can appreciate your message to some degree, I think it does little more than preach to the already pro-life choir. If you had been less concerned with eliciting some sort of emotional reaction, and more concerned with giving me some detailed scientific/health-related/sociological information about the advantages of restricting abortion, then I might have been more convinced.

    (However, I can probably find all of that on Wikipedia, so ultimately I question the reason behind an article like this. Perhaps you’re not actually trying to make a proper case for or against abortion. You’re simply trying to appeal to as many readers as possible and to “signal” your beliefs in a more public space–which is what all humans, including myself, love to do.)

  • Anon94

    Ignoring the moral aspect of the argument for a moment, how would you expect the government to feasibly implement “compassionate adoption”, to set in place all the institutions and infrastructure to care for all these children? It’s been 40 years since Roe v. Wade. Taking a very rough estimate, at any given time (were all the 55 million “lives” not taken) the government would be supporting about 20 million kids- do you really think that’s implementable?

    Now coming to the moral perspective. You seek to establish that fetuses are people, with no solid data to back such a heavy claim. “Personhood” is such a hotly contested keyword (even in matters like Voluntary Active Euthanasia ) that you can’t just throw it around between stories of botched up abortions (and mark you, there’s going to be far more gruesome botch ups when you insist on giving birth to all those kids and watch them grow up in your environment of “compassionate” adoption). You need to tell us why fetuses are persons, and if they are, then why not zygotes and sperms and ovaries? By a general extension of your implied notion of personhood maybe protected sex should be made a crime too.

    At the outset, I will concede to this. People do love to turn a blind to areas of moral grey, and you do a noble job by championing your opinion and demanding that society face the ugliness of its decisions. However, it may be advisable to be a bit more verbose about your stance and why you choose it.

    • Thomas Hopson

      I’m sure Mr. Proctor would respond that logistical concerns are not a sufficient basis for dismissing a moral tragedy. Surely, if abortion is akin to murder, you would rather our society accommodate some additional human beings rather than kill them for the sake of convenience.

      The only relevant issue in the abortion debate is the nature of personhood.

      • Anon94

        A moral tragedy from who’s perspective really? The mother who didn’t want the child, or the child who didn’t have consciousness of it’s existence?

        I respect your viewpoint and see where you’re coming from, and the personhood definition is my main point. However, the prudential aspect does matter too-accomodating some additional human beings is not the same as accomodating 55 million. The question of whether they are better off not having been born does seem cold,tasteless and void of humaneness, but that does not make it less pertinent.

    • yale1414

      This is typical pro-choice nonsense. Lets use the most aggressive assumptions and pretend that all 1 million children who would otherwise be killed through abortions of convenience are 24 weeks along, the latest age they could be legally killed. If we were to rule out abortion of convenience tomorrow, we would have 15 weeks, nearly 4 months, for the government develop programs for these fellow people. The government botched Katrina relief in many ways, but they help support the estimated 1-1.5 million people displaced by that unforeseen disaster in a much shorter time period. Imagine what they could have done with 4 months of prep time. But that is using the most aggressive assumptions. Spread out over an entire year, there would only be 3,000 more children born per day and, given we already have systems in place to take care of babies put up for adoption, these programs simply need to be scaled up.

      The other thing you assume is that women who go through birth will still decide to put their baby (which is just a fetus who has gone through birth) up for adoption. Many mothers who had decided to give up their babies for adoption change their mind when they first see their child. Even women who wanted to get an abortion but were denied because they came in too late often keep their baby. It simply isn’t going to be the case that the country is going to be overwhelmed by children needing adoption. Even if it were, we pay billions of dollars for medical care for others in need of help. The only difference is the people we are currently helping can vote. Moving forward, we will also prevent the conception of children by women who are only having sex because they can have an abortion if they get pregnant. Even she is using other types of birth control, any woman who is having sex because she could get an abortion if she became pregnant is using abortion as birth control. Previously using other types of birth control doesn’t make abortion any less of a birth control method than women who used no other types of birth control and had sex knowing they will get an abortion if when they become pregnant.

      A girl or boy fetus is unique person in every sense of being both human and being biologically alive. Pro-lifers have no need for personhood when every person is given it by virtue of being a living human. Pro-choice “thinkers” have used the idea of personhood so they could then define who qualifies for it. Science goes against the pro-choice argument, but pro-choice “thinkers” can define personhood and “life” as anything they want — having the ability to speak a language, responsibility to another person, or experiences the philosopher deem “life giving.” The problem is pro-choicers start at the position they want, abortion is morally permissible, and then work backwards to try to justify it. Pro-choicers define personhood specifically to eliminate the unborn from the group of people receiving personhood.

      The author did say why fetuses are persons. The fact that you don’t understand why a sperm and an egg are not persons shows you, like many other pro-choicers, have no understanding of biology and, worse, seem to have no desire to understand. You even ask why ovaries are not persons! Neither a sperm nor an egg is considered a human because they do not have the full genetic material and do not meet the biological conditions of life that define living persons. But even if you were right that sperm and eggs (and ovaries) are people, then fetuses would still have the right to life! Pro-choice definitions of personhood are literally the only thing that can, and unfortunately have, strip the unborn from claiming a right to life.