Political columnist Froma Harrop makes the odd and offensive suggestion in this column (entitled “Akin’s Consistency is GOP’s Real Problem”) that fingernails are equivalent in human value to an early-trimester unborn child:
I believe that abortions should be easy to obtain early in a pregnancy and progressively harder to get as time goes on. The issue isn’t when life begins, but when “personhood” begins. Sperm, unfertilized eggs and fingernails are all life and human. The point of development at which the fertilized egg should be considered a full-fledged person is determined by theology or philosophy, not science.
Basing when human life begins on the nebulous idea of “personhood” leads to the kind of fallacious thinking that equates a fetus with sperm, eggs, and (weirdly) fingernails. Yes, a sperm and egg constitute the ingredients of human life, but taken separately they aren’t human life. Combined, at the moment of conception, the ingredients form a human being.
Where do fingernails fit in? No idea.
The chief ethical challenge for supporters of abortion-on-demand is defining when “personhood” begins. For pro-lifers, that decision is easy. It begins at conception. Abortion supporters, however, must choose another arbitrary date, at which point basic human rights and constitutional protections are conferred.
From the paragraph I quoted above, it’s obvious that Ms. Harrop struggles with that decision. Why should an abortion be more difficult to obtain as the pregnancy progresses? Is an unborn child becoming “more human,” while not fully human until after birth? From a moral standpoint, is a third trimester abortion wrong (or more wrong) than a first trimester abortion? If so, why?
Those are the challenges of abortion-rights advocates. Most in their camp feel comfortable defining “personhood” as beginning at birth, when the baby can be sustained apart from the mother’s body. The trip down the birth canal makes the difference. (The reality, of course, is that a newborn baby is just as reliant for survival on the mother as he or she would be while still in the womb.)
Pro-life conviction based on the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death is the most consistent position to take in the abortion debate. Those who fall into the other camp are routinely reduced to comparing unborn children to fingernails.