Recent advances in science and technology raise the prospect of a major compromise that could settle the abortion controversy that has raged ever since Roe was decided in 1974.
More and more it is possible for a fetus to be sustained in an artificial womb for a longer and longer time. There are even reports of a viable birth of a fetus that had been removed from the womb at 21 weeks. While at that early age, the likelihood of defects is so high that we must be wary, the legal requirement of allowing abortion before the end of the second trimester specified in Roe might well be obtainable. And scientific advances promise to reduce the age at which a fetus can be removed from the womb and still likely lead to a healthy birth.
These advances raise the question: Why can’t a fetus be extracted from the womb after the beginning of viability to produce a live and healthy baby. That way, pro-life advocates would get what they want: a live, and healthy baby and pro-choice advocates would get what they want: a terminated pregnancy that does not require the woman to bear the fetus to term or to go through childbirth.
So let the science catch up with the politics and end this bitter, polarizing battle with a mutually acceptable solution: A live birth and a terminated pregnancy.
Over time and with further advances in the development of an artificial womb, the odds of a healthy outcome will rise and the procedure will increasingly be medically possible.
This solution still begs the question of whether the mother (and father) would be responsible for the life they helped to create. But the high demand for adoption offers grounds for optimism.
An early removal of the fetus cannot be taken lightly. The pain to the mother, the possible physical and emotional scaring must be considered. But even the most determined abortion advocates will probably agree that the life of a fetus would outweigh such considerations.
Just as Roe specified a standard for viability that was inherently elastic depending on medical technology, so the Court should consider letting the legal age of viability move up as science makes it possible.
There is no legal reason and less and less of a scientific one to equate termination of a pregnancy with the death of the fetus. Let’s separate the two and hope that science makes the possibility of that separation ever more evident.
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