By the seventh week of pregnancy, the fetal heart has started to beat. What should we call a politician who opposes abortion after the seventh week? Is he pro-choice, because he believes that many abortions should be legal? Or is he pro-life, because he opposes half of all abortions performed in the U.S.? It’s a question that Roe v. Wade has preempted us from asking, and from answering.
Chris Christie captured this in-between viewpoint in an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan. Describing his views in 1995, he said, “I would call myself . . . a kind of a non-thinking pro-choice person, kind of the default position.” But “when my wife was pregnant with our daughter Sarah, who is now 15, we happened to go to one of the prenatal visits at 13 weeks. My wife didn’t look at all pregnant at that point, visibly, and we heard this incredibly strong heartbeat. As I was driving back to work I said to myself, you know, under my position on abortion I would say that a week ago that wasn’t a life. I heard that heartbeat, that’s a life . . . I’ve been pro-life ever since.”
Today Christie holds a standard position on abortion: that it should be illegal in all circumstances except for rape, incest, and a threat to the life of the mother. His story illustrates the power of emphasizing the lives of unborn children as they grow and develop. It appeals to those who want abortion to be rarer, but not entirely illegal.