Fetal Life Has Value, Yes — But Not Equal to the Woman Carrying It

Sorry, but it’s not even a close call

Tim Wise
6 min readMay 9, 2022


Image: Phil Pasquini, Shutterstock, standard license, purchased by author

Perhaps my title here strikes you as harsh and the subtitle as mere hyperbole.

But they are neither.

And if you think about it logically, you’ll know that I’m right. A brief story will illustrate the point.

My wife and I have two daughters, both of whom are adults now.

Neither pregnancy was easy (and anyone who says a pregnancy was easy is probably a man), but the first one was especially stressful.

Throughout the first two trimesters, my wife had breakthrough bleeding.

She also, at one point, had a kidney stone.

Then her labor lasted around 14 hours, our daughter resisting birth for as long as possible before a C-section became the best available option.

During most of that time, my wife experienced a piercing headache from the epidural, making whatever numbing effect it was intended to have seem pretty worthless by comparison.

Finally, though, our daughter was born.

When I saw her for the first time, I was overcome with the most profound full-body joy I had ever, to that point, experienced.

It would not be matched until our second daughter came into the world two years later.

If there is a God, those moments were the best evidence I have found to suggest it.

And yet here is what I know to be true beyond all doubt.

Despite the overwhelming love I felt for our daughters the moment I saw them…

…and despite the great affection we both felt for them and the incredibly high regard in which we held them throughout the 40-plus weeks of their gestation…

…and despite the indisputable value they possessed, even before birth — a value rooted in the miraculous potential of all life from its earliest moments of existence…

…they were at no point during that gestation the moral equivalent of the woman in whose body they resided, waiting to be born.

Not. Even. Close.



Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)