Abortion Rights: Foetus Is A Person But The Woman Carrying It Is Not?

In Alabama, destroying frozen embryos- accidentally or on purpose- can lead to facing criminal charges like murder or manslaughter. Because of the fear, the clinics in Alabama are reducing the IVF services leaving the patients to seek help somewhere else.

Rudrani Gupta
New Update

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of Alabama opined that frozen embryos used for IVF process are equivalent to an unborn child. The judges said, "An unborn child is a genetically unique human being whose life begins at fertilization and ends at death."  The ruling came in the wake of a mishap that happened in a hospital in which a patient dropped several frozen embryos on the floor due to a freeze burn on their hand. The Wrongful Death of a Minor Act of Alabama allowed three couples who were affected by the incident to file a lawsuit against the clinic. 


If we go by the ruling, it can easily be interpreted that in Alabama, destroying frozen embryos- accidentally or on purpose- can lead to facing criminal charges like murder or manslaughter. Because of the fear, the clinics in Alabama are reducing the IVF services leaving the patients to seek help somewhere else.

Texas Supreme Court prohibits woman from seeking abortion 

Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas prohibited a woman from getting an emergency abortion temporarily. The 31-year-old woman, named Kate Cox, had a life-threatening pregnancy for 20 weeks in which her fetus was not viable. The child would either be stillborn or die within minutes, hours, or days. She was forced to leave the state if she wanted to pursue an emergency abortion. 

Cox's fetus is suffering from a rare genetic defect called full trisomy 18 that causes severe abnormalities and organ defects. If abortion is not conducted, there are chances that her uterus might rupture. However, the court vehemently denied her the right, forcing her to leave the state if she still wanted to pursue abortion.

Texas has one of the strictest abortion laws on abortion in the world. It prohibits abortion even in cases of rape or incest. It also has a law that allows private citizens to file legal suits against anyone who pursues abortion. Physicians of Texas, if found guilty of performing abortion will face imprisonment of 99 years, a fine of up to $100,000 and revocation of their medical licence. 

A foetus is a person, but the one carrying it is not? 


It is sad that even legal frameworks are influenced by gendered, religious and conservative beliefs. According to these rulings, a foetus inside the uterus is assigned the status of personhood which means it has a right to life and choice. But the person who is carrying the uterus is not seen as a person because her life, choice and privacy are not counted as valid. 

Many people believe that aborting a child just because a woman has to go through pain for a few months is not right. According to them, giving up a life is more painful than bearing physical and emotional pain for a few months. To those people, the idea that motherhood changes a woman's life entirely- from priorities to employment status- doesn't weigh as much as the life of the unborn. 

But just because a woman can produce a child, does it mean her body is open to social criticism? Just because a woman has a uterus, is it necessary that she should undergo the pain and trauma of pregnancy? Just because a woman is carrying a child, her personhood ceases to matter? 

Pregnancy is not just about giving life to a foetus. It is about sacrificing your own body system along with the passion for which a woman lived for so many years and devoting herself to raising a new human. In most cases, pregnancy leads to life-long health issues. And sometimes it becomes so fatal that either the child or the mother could be saved. In such a situation, whose personhood will be valued? 

A personal anecdote

I remember my mother underwent a fatal pregnancy while giving birth to my younger sister. She gave into the stereotypes that women must work in the house, pregnant or not. Women around her made her feel ashamed for resting during her pregnancy. As a result, not only did the baby become weak but my mother too suffered from health issues. Her intestines got intertwined. For months, she couldn't walk and was in immense pain. My father was being advised to remarry as there were little to no chances for my mother to survive. But Universe had other plans. She survived but retained the health issues till today. 


This is a classic example of how women are just seen as baby-producing machines. Even before my mother breathed her last, society was ready to discard her by asking my father to remarry. 

Lots of things in play when a pregnant woman's body is policed

There are a lot of things in play when society decides whether a woman should keep a baby or not. Of course, the foetus is breathing. But does that mean the woman who is carrying it should give up everything she earned (and I am not talking just about the money)? If a woman is not willing to undergo the sacrifices, how will the child coming out of it will ever stay happy? Won't the child just be a reminder of how the mother was not given the freedom to choose for her life? 

It is assumed that when a woman becomes a mother, he life should revolve around the child. More than her life, the child's life is valued. It is as if the woman's existence was all about giving birth to that child. But do men make any such sacrifices? 

"Women are strong", "Women are god-gifted" statements like these only place women on a pedestal from where they are forcefully pushed down if they try to be 'deviant'. But please understand that women have rights over their bodies. They get to decide whether they will undergo pregnancy or not. If you really care of about the unborn's life, why not begin with saving the lives of those who are born and then trashed or sent to orphanages?      

Views expressed are the author's own. 

Pregnancy motherhood abortion