“The abortion debate is the ongoing controversy surrounding the moral, legal, and religious status of induced abortion. In English-speaking countries, the sides involved in the debate are the self-described “pro-choice” and “pro-life” movements. “Pro-choice” emphasizes the right of women to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. “Pro-life” emphasizes the right of the embryo or fetus to gestate to term and be born. Both terms are considered loaded in mainstream media, where terms such as “abortion rights” or “anti-abortion” are generally preferred. Each movement has, with varying results, sought to influence public opinion and to attain legal support for its position.

For many people, abortion is essentially a morality issue, concerning the commencement of human personhood, the rights of the fetus, and a woman’s right over her own body. The debate has become a political and legal issue in some countries with anti-abortion campaigners seeking to enact, maintain and expand anti-abortion laws, while abortion-rights campaigners seek to repeal or ease such laws while expanding access to abortion. Abortion laws vary considerably between jurisdictions, ranging from outright prohibition of the procedure to public funding of abortion. The availability of safe abortion also varies across the world.”

The recent birth of Molly has reignited the debate over frozen embryos. When Molly Gibson was born in October of this year, it was 27 years in the making. Her embryo was frozen in October 1992, and stayed that way until February 2020, when Tina and Ben Gibson of Tennessee adopted it. Molly is believed to have set a new record for the longest-frozen embryo to have resulted in a birth, breaking a record set by her older sister, Emma.

There are an estimated one million frozen embryos in the United States alone right now. If you’re somebody who believes life begins at conception, you might see a potential tragedy. If you’re somebody who has long been struggling with infertility, you might wish that someone, somewhere, would send one your way. If you’re a clinic or storage facility, you might see a logistical struggle. And if you’re a former patient of IVF to whom one or more of those embryos belong, you might see indecision, an unyielding maybe that you can avoid dealing with for the not insignificant cost of approximately $1500 per year.

The options with leftover embryos are to use it themselves (an option that might now really even be on the table for those scrambling to raise other kids). Donate them to another infertile couple. Allow them to be used for scientific research. Or simply thaw and discard them. This has raised the debate over whether destroying them is abortion. Those that believe that life begins at conception argue that this should be criminalized. In the US the recent appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court has raised concerns among pro-choice advocates because of her previously expressed opinions. 

“Barrett signed newspaper ad in 2006 sponsored by St Joseph County Right to Life, an extreme anti-choice group

Barrett signed newspaper ad that called Roe v Wade ‘barbaric’
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Thu 1 Oct 2020 13.45 BST

Amy Coney Barrett publicly supported an organization in 2006 that has said life begins at fertilization. It has also said that the discarding of unused or frozen embryos created in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process ought to be criminalized, a view that is considered to be extreme even within the anti-abortion movement.”

“So, what then? When might we reasonably say that personhood begins?

“A starting point that is far more consistent with the facts of biology is not conception but the emergence of the human brain. We declare persons dead when their brains have lost the capacity to govern the core functions necessary for life—breathing, excretion, and the like. When a fetus has developed a brain that can support its basic biological functions, probably at around six months of life, it can be reasonably argued that personhood has begun.

Those in the personhood movement in the United States have let their animus toward abortion blind them to the facts that have emerged about human embryology over the past fifty years. And scientists, sadly, have been unwilling to correct them. Conception is the start of something, but it is more the start of the possible rather than the actual. It is not until a being emerges that has the traits necessary for individual existence that we can and should say that a person has begun. How law and public policy want to handle that fact is still debatable. But to ask the law to treat embryos as persons from the moment of conception is to head down a path where the facts ought not permit anyone to go.”

Beyond the moral, ethical, political, and legal issue about when does life begin, with the answer to that then affecting abortions, for me it is a very personal argument. 

My son, Christopher, was born in 1970. My daughter, Heather, was born in 1977. Both wonderful kids. The loves of my life. Sometime after Heather was born I noticed that my ex-wife was not getting ready as usual to go to work. When I asked what was going on she responded that she was going to Toronto with her mother to Sick Kids Hospital to have an abortion. Needles to say I was shocked because she hadn’t said a word to me about being pregnant. My first reaction was to question why she didn’t need my agreement before aborting our child? She said it was her decision alone and did not involve me! Admittedly I didn’t know the law but I just knew this was wrong. She obviously wasn’t giving me any choice in the matter and it was too late to challenge her decision. It was very upsetting to say the least. One thought that I did have was that this was a clear indication that my marriage was over.

After the solarium company went down I just had to get away. I left home with no idea where I was going but when I got to Dryden I realized that I was half way across Canada and could keep going to see my parents. Shortly after my son and daughter came out for a three week vacation. The best time of my life until the day they had to go back to Brampton. Heather told me to stay out west. She said she had never seen me happier and knew that I had tried so hard, but my marriage was over. It broke my heart, I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving her so I drove back home. A big mistake. Then in 1991 I got a phone call that changed my life forever. My mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given less than a five percent chance of surviving more than six months. Having been apart for more than twenty years I knew that I had to go to BC to be with her. I took a flight out the next day. Miraculously they caught my mother’s cancer before it reached her lymph nodes so she was given more time. Finally after even more stress in my marriage I realized it was time to leave. I had left home a year earlier but I was still paying for everything and my wife wasn’t even working. I told her we were done. I also wanted to spend whatever time my mother had left with her. In June of 1993 my parents drove down to Brampton with me. The house was sold and my Dad was going to sell off all my tools and things. The day I left my daughter was one of the toughest days of my life, but the plan was for her to come out and visit me again so I didn’t know that it would be the last time I would ever see her again. The following year after talking to her I drove across the country in the dead of winter to see her but my ex and her new husband hid her away from me and wouldn’t let me see her. It broke my heart and I cried all the way on the drive home to BC. That was twenty-six years ago and my daughter refused to respond to me despite numerous attempts to contact her. I saw my son briefly back in 2009 and we made plans for me to meet my three granddaughters but that fell apart after three months of waiting and he blocked me on Facebook and sold his phone.

The point in all of that is that I can’t help but wonder about that possible third child. Would that son or daughter be the one who loved her father? Would we have had a life together? Would she maybe have gone with me on my travels? Maybe they would even be able to mend my broken relationships with my kids and grandkids. Would I still have a family that I cherished so much? 

Quite obviously it changed my feelings on abortion when it became personal. Before that I agreed to abortion in cases of rape, incest or when there was an danger to the mother. I also agreed with pro-choice that it is a woman’s right to control her own body; however, in cases like mine I also believe that it should be a mutual decision between a man and wife. I don’t know if I had the right to object before my ex had the abortion or what the result would have been if we had not agreed, particularly given that our marriage was in big trouble at the time. Her killing our unborn child has obviously had brutal consequences for me and raised many other issues had she not gone ahead with the abortion. Still, I live with huge regrets and the unknown.