"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
MarkTwain (1835 – 1910)
"So, what side are you taking in debate class?" Hannah Rose asked softly as she pulled her minivan alongside the curb.
"I plan on defending my point against abortion," Keegan answered promptly, grabbing his roasted marshmallow-cherry flavored Italian soda from the cup holder. "Thanks for the ride, sis!"
"No problem," she replied, but Keegan had already slammed the door and began running toward his classroom.
The sun shined brightly on the ample campus, which was located just within town limits. Elm trees proudly stood on either side of the clean sidewalk. Keegan slowed to a lengthy stride, jamming his straw against his thigh to shove it through the wrapper.
Ahead, he could see the back his good friend Alexander. His vivid Jurassic Park tee shirt and backpack set him aside from most of his peers. Keegan pursed his lips around the straw and gave a sharp blow, sending the straw pinging against his shoulder.
"Hey!" Alexander whirled around and broke into a laugh. "Come on, or we'll be late for class."
Keegan lengthened his strides with a lopsided grin. "So, today's the big debate."
"You know it's only a one-on-one practice drill. And you're lucky most of the students like you," Alexander continued. "Otherwise, you'd be some seriously burnt toast after today."
Keegan chuckled softly to himself and raised his cup. "To speaking up!"
"To speaking up!" Alexander tapped his coffee cup against his friend's. Each paused to take a long drink before continuing toward the corner classroom.
Professor Darius was a younger man than most of his colleagues. His vivid Hawaiian shirt, or rather the personality it signified, separated them in ways other than age. He clapped his hands together with a grin spreading across his face as the students streamed through the doorway.
"Welcome! As you might recall, today is the pro-life, pro-choice abortion debate. We will have one side, Maria Sedona, present her case first.
Keegan darted a glance toward Maria Sedona's expression, which was hardened with the staunch belief in her arguments that had become so revered. Still, excitement bubbled within him as he returned to face the podium and smiled.
"State your argument clearly and efficiently, Miss Sedona, and we will begin."
She gave a firm nod as she cleared her throat and shifted her weight between each foot, as though preparing for battle. Keegan sensed his smile widen.
"No one can be sure about when human life really begins. Some claim that is begins at conception, but honestly, can a fetus walk or play baseball? Certainly not, I assure you. The fetus has no real purpose on this earth. That aside, preventing abortions will only lead to women performing abortions on themselves, thus causing themselves injury. Many cannot afford proper care for themselves or the fetus, and would be bringing their child into a cruel world. Men who attempt to make the decision should not have a choice in this matter, as their body is not carrying the fetus. The woman has full rights to her own body, and should do as she chooses. And what if the woman is raped? Do you honestly expect her to carry the child of a monster? Yet even when given these shreds of logic, there are those, such as my opponent, who use their religious beliefs to disagree."
Keegan chuckled with excitement, then cleared his throat to speak. "The woman may have rights to her own body, but what about the child's body? The heart begins to beat between eighteen and twenty-five days. Electrical brainwaves can be detected by forty-three days. When the baby stops producing them, it is considered dead. Logically, there must be life for it to be considered dead, right? As for the man, I think it is safe to say he had a hand in the creation of this baby, and thus has a say in what happens to its body. He could choose to care for it, or at least put it up for adoption. Short of rape, choosing to ignore abstinence was both their faults, so the baby is both of their responsibilities. In the case of rape, you can't expect the baby to become a monster just like its father. That would be a very risky generalization. You may say my beliefs are founded on religion, but the truth of the matter is that these children are alive and have the ability to make fundamental impacts on this world!"
Maria bristled, her spine rigid. "What my opponent fails to realize is that the fetus is but a glob of tissue. It in no way acts like an actual human being. Along these lines, it is an extension of the mother's body, just as her arms or legs are. There is nothing special regarding this particular part of her body, and there is absolutely no life in this tiny organism we call a human fetus. It is simply the clay, not the creation."
"What my opponent fails to realize," Keegan grinned as he danced energetically in place, "is that tissues can't wrap their fingers around another, suck their thumbs, or sleep. And the baby is no more an extension of her body as I am an extension of my opponent's. See, the child has a different genetic code than the mother. There is the possibility that one could die and the other could survive as two different lives. The laws are also on my side with this one, because the murder of a pregnant woman is considered a double homicide. Besides, she could never give birth to her arm or leg and allow it to lead its own life, so why compare the fetus to a limb?"
"Yet we still have the argument of why the woman is pregnant," Maria continued coolly as she straightened her posture and shot her opponent a glare. "I know that I would rather simply never live rather than grow up in a cruel family. Perhaps my parents couldn't take proper care of me. Maybe my mother was at risk for health issues. And what if my father was a rapist? I could never live like that, unlike my so-worthy opponent."
Keegan remained silent a moment, lips pursed in a sly smile. "I heard a one-liner recently that went something like this: 'Pro-choice? Choose to keep your pants on!' and I must agree. Men and women alike jump into physical relationships daily without thinking of the consequences, such as an unwanted pregnancy. Once the choice has been made and consequences are realized, it is the parents' jobs to accept responsibility- not shirk them in such a way that kills their baby. And again, as for the children of rapists, I can safely say that they are just as much a separate life from their father as their mother."
"Is it not true, then, that the fetus shares fifty percent of the same DNA with each parent? It seems clear to me that the baby is, in fact, a product of both parents. The same genetics that incline the father to rape could easily be passed into the child. Therefore, the baby still remains a scar that will be forever in the life of the mother, a victim of rape."
"The answer to that is evident in your own position- choice. That baby," Keegan jabbed his finger into the podium, "may be the child of a rapist, but I am the child of a former alcoholic. The difference was in the choices I made growing up, and it is safe to say that given the opportunity, that child with make its own choices, be they for better or worse."
"You admit, then, that there is a possibility that this child will make the same decisions as the father, thus bearing the same scars its mother endured? It would be far safer to abort the fetus and abort the problem. After all, what traumatic experiences could we have spared the victims of genocide had people such as Hitler or Stalin been aborted and never given the chance to live?"
"Yes, there may be a possibility that the child will be a rapist- or a murderer. But there is also the chance that this baby may discover the cure for cancer. Perhaps she will be a famous dancer, or he will be a renowned chemist. Who's to say that the answers to some of life's great mysteries will not be discovered by one of these 'globs of useless tissue'? And do we not all have the rights to life, as stated in the Declaration of Independence?"
"If abortion is made illegal, women will only try and induce their own miscarriages or find a black-market doctor in an abandoned street alley to perform an abortion. We have seen this time and time again, even with the alcohol prohibition in New York. You yourself have said that alcohol should not be made illegal because that will only enforce the saying, 'the rules are there to be broken'. Such an illegal abortion will cause harm to them as well as allow an abortion anyway."
"Laws don't force women to make those kinds of decisions. They make them on their own, even if it's not smart. Besides, ecstasy is illegal as well, but that does not stop addicts from obtaining it. Yet no one promotes the idea of legalizing those drugs. As for the example of alcohol, the difference is that a glass or two of Chardonnay does not kill a child."
"Any questions?" Maria scanned the room with a raised chin, but Professor Darius raised a hand.
"We will leave this to be an open forum."
An eruption of voices caused the professor to raise his hands again to silence his class.
"Perhaps I must make myself more clear," he called over the hushing ruckus. "There will be an open forum between the audience and the debaters. Go ahead- challenge one another."
"Maria," said a boy toward the back of the class. "You said something about the fetus being an extension of the mother's body. Please elaborate."
"Well," said Maria, "the fetus has not yet been given the opportunity to lead its own life apart from the mother's body. It is something that has the potential to become a life, but the line has been drawn at the birth of the child- when it leads its own life. Before that, aborting a child is like getting a very uncomfortable haircut."
This final statement was what set Keegan aflame and forced him to squash the angry retort that leapt into his mind. Instead, he cleared his throat and said, "You know, Maria, I have to ask you who drew the line that defines whether or not someone is alive."
"As I said, the fetus has not yet been given the opportunity to lead its own life. It is still being formed within the womb for the potential to lead its own life. Right now, it is part of the mother."
Alexander raised his hand. "Yes, but didn't we already agree that the baby has its own genetic code?"
"But that doesn't change the fact that it is still attached to the mother," said another.
Keegan searched out the member of the audience and asked, "What about twins conjoined at the head or hips? Are they a two-for-one as well?"
"Again," said Maria a little heatedly. "They are living their own lives."
"Which discredits the argument of simple attachment."
Maria chewed her lip with aggravation as she watched him release the smile spurred on by his small victory. "Granted, there are exceptions."
"Allow me the pleasure of asking one last simple question," he said with a lopsided smile.
"Sure," she responded through her teeth.
"Would partial birth abortion, to you, be considered the murder of a child?"
A ripple of chattering and giggling swept across the classroom. Alexander grinned proudly at his friend as Maria recomposed herself.
"The partial birth abortion is different in that the child's skull is collapsed and the brain sucked through as it is being born."
"So how does this differ from the baby minutes before, when it is still in the womb?"
"Morgan, how many abortions do you think occur within minutes of birth?" called Max Commerce.
"All right," said Keegan, "let us compare the similarities between a baby ready to be born and a baby from four months earlier. Both are sensitive to touch, including pain, and light. Each have a fully-functional beating heart, brain waves, blood circulation, digestive system, etcetera. Each and every exterior detail is complete, and ever system is functioning except for breathing."
"So why can't breathing be the line?" called one woman.
"All depends on what life is," Keegan replied. "Some define it as a heartbeat, some a soul…"
"Tell us what the line is," Maria challenged.
"Most people here wonder where they will go when they die," Keegan leaned against the podium. "That is a clear implication of the belief in life after death, which implies that you believe you have a soul. Quite frankly, I believe you have a soul as well, and that soul arrived at conception."
Maria stared at him, aghast, and defined the abrupt conclusion of the debate.
"Well done," praised Professor Darius. "I will declare the winners of each debate at the end of the class."
As Keegan returned to his seat, Alexander pulled him into an embrace and planted a hand in his dramatic auburn curls. "Great job, man. I've never seen it done better."
"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
- George Orwell