Roe v Wade – No

The Right to Live or the Right to Be Silent: Viability and Abortion

Viability, in the world of pro-choice vs. pro-life it is a major buzz word. To the pro-life advocates, it reflects a cold hearted separation of life from its source; yet to the pro-choice, it marks a simple guideline between fetus and infant. Viability refers to whether or not a fetus is only human when it is able to live (with or without artificial measures) outside its mother’s womb.

The controversy around viability concerns why the State has the right to regulate abortions up to and during the period around and following viability. Although this standard seeks to provide fair rights for the fetus, viability is an ineffective standard for determining a fetus’ right to live. 

According to Roe v Wade, abortions, for the first twelve weeks, are legal in all states; after this the fetus reaches the “compelling” point.[1]  This is different from the viability point (which is around twenty-four to twenty-eight weeks), and is used to mark the general time where the fetus becomes “compelling,” a term which marks the point at which the fetus case becomes somewhat controversial or compelling[2]. 

Roe vs. Wade expounds that after the fetus reaches this compelling point and even on to after the viability point, the state may then regulate abortion standards. “If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” 

Some states (Alabama and Virginia among them)[3] prohibit all abortions over twelve weeks unless the mother’s health is in danger. Thus, viability is arbitrary at best.

Viability is marked at twenty-four to twenty-eight weeks at which the fetus is said to be capable of “living a meaningful life outside the mother’s womb”.[4] However, viability does little to protect the fetus inside the womb, and until recently it did not extend its protection to those outside of the womb in cases of failed abortions resulting in accidentally successful births.

In one case of failed abortion, the extremely premature baby, “Hope” (the child was given no official first name), lasted for six hours after the procedure. The baby was examined by doctors, but her lungs were deemed too underdeveloped to sustain life or to permit respiration.

Her death certificate lists “extreme prematurity secondary to induced abortion” as cause of death. The “Born-Alive Protection ACT”, instigated in 2002, was created to protect the infants who were born during an abortion procedure, but due to their lack of “viability”, were left to die.[5]

However, there are scattered cases that evidence that events like these still occur today. Thus, viability does not actually protect life, but rather acts as a legalistic time window of opportunity.

Viability is declared when the child is able to function (with possible artificial assistance) outside the mother’s womb (around 28 weeks). However, abortions are obtainable in the third trimester for cases of handicap including down-syndrome and other survivable mental handicaps. 

It seems that fewer rights granted to these children with handicaps whose abortion would have been illegal if they did not have a handicap. Their “viability” is compromised by the handicap, and hence the right to life revoked. Thus, viability does not respect all of life, only that which seems useful.

Viability marks a point in time when the fetus’ is deemed capable of sustain a meaningful life. This acts as a mere turn of phrase however, because the viability point not only fails to protect all of life, but it does not respect all of life.

Until America can show impartial treatment to her unborn, whether they be thirteen weeks or twenty-nine, sound or handicapped, there will always be citizens to rise up and protect the unborn.


Gallup, (accessed December 18, 2009).

Guttmacher Institute,”Http://” Guttmacher Institute. (accessed December 18, 2009).

Law, Touro.  “ROE v. WADE Decided January 22, 1973”, Touro Law, nd. December 18, 2009)

NARAL Pro-Choice America & NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation,  NARAL, (accessed November 12, 2009)

Planned Parenthood® Federation Of America Inc., .. “Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood. (accessed December 18, 2009).

ROE v. WADE, “ROE v. WADE Decided January 22, 1973”, Touro Law, nd. December 18, 2009)

State of Michigan Legislative Council, Michigan Compiled Laws Complete Through PA 110 and PA 121 of 2009. Legislative Council, State of Michigan, Rendered October 28, 2009. 2002.pdf (accessed November 6, 2009)

[1] ROE v. WADE, “ROE v. WADE Decided January 22, 1973”, Touro Law, nd. December 18, 2009)

[2] Ibid ROE v. WADE

[3] NARAL Pro-Choice America & NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, “Who Decides?”.  NARAL, n.d. (accessed December 18, 2009)

[4]Ibid ROE v. WADE

[5] NARAL Pro-Choice America & NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, “Who Decides?”.  NARAL, n.d. (accessed November 1e, 2009)