Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thoughts on Abortion

With the inauguration of President Obama, the conservative message boards I read have erupted into a flurry of comments on his stance on abortion, the hottest issue for many conservative voters. In fact some friends of mine who are Catholic and are teachers in a state college would vote liberal on most issues if it didn't also mean supporting the Pro-Choice agenda. For many of us the issue of abortion is akin to the grief we feel over the deaths in Iraq and the massacre at the World Trade Center.

For weeks now I have wanted to write out some of my thoughts on this important issue, to clarify my beliefs, not in an emotional way, showing pictures of mutilated babies or giving death counts like so many random numbers. I want to explain why I believe what I believe in some sort of coherent fashion if I can and refute some of the Pro-Choice arguments I have heard, not from politicians but from liberal voters who are my friends, whose blogs I read, who defend abortion as a good thing. I believe it's a very bad thing for our nation; in fact it makes me sick to my stomach if I think about too long. Writing this post makes me slightly sick, but it is something I feel compelled to do.

A fetus isn't human, so it is ok to terminate the bunch of cells, rather like cutting out a cancer.

The fundamental argument in favor of abortion, especially abortion as birth control is that it is perfectly justified, as though the body has suddenly produced a bunch of unwanted cells and that taking it out of the body seems natural and normal.

The thing is, it's not. For one thing, cancer cells are made by one person's body; a baby is made by two people who generally chose to engage in the act of sex (rape being the exception, of course). Cancer is not preventable, but a pregnancy is. Even if a couple doesn't believe in birth control, they do not have to engage in a sexual act in the first place. There is such a thing as self control. Beyond that, they can use a wide range of preventatives which usually work pretty well when used correctly. To continue the cancer analogy, cancer is destructive to the host. A baby generally is not. In the handful of cases where there is threat to the mother's life, I'll cover that later.

Then there is the issue of the fetus's humanity. Beyond the obvious fact that a fetus or embryo or whatever has human DNA and is growing into a viable human being, look at the timing. An abortion is considered legal up to 24 weeks gestation. So a 24-week-old fetus can be terminated. Yet the Guiness Book of World records (I googled it the other day) holds that the youngest baby to survive was only 21 weeks when he was born. He is now 18 years old and is a perfectly healthy high schooler. By abortionist's logic if he was lying in his incubator at 21 weeks, someone could "terminate" him if they wished. Only in the real world they would be convicted of manslaughter if they did. I guess (read intense sarcasm here) that location is everything. Locate this little guy INSIDE his mother's womb and he could be aborted. Locate him OUTSIDE the womb and killing him would bring a life sentence. Ironic, no?

Viability is also an issue. Because a fetus isn't viable (read: cannot survive on its own) then it isn't human. But there are disabled people who cannot survive without the help of certain machines. Does this mean their viability is compromised? Should they also be terminated? Christopher Reeve, for example, could not breathe on his own after his accident. Did he lose his rights as a human being because he was partially supported by something other than himself? No? Well, then should a fetus be denied rights as a human being while he or she is supported by the mother's placenta? Absolutely not.

The mother's health might be at stake

As promised, I continue my "bit of cancerous cells" analogy here. There are a few times when doctors determine that continuing a risky pregnancy might result in harm to the mother. In these cases a doctor might suggest ending the pregnancy. Those who support the rights of a mother to choose invariably bring this possibility up, saying that anti-abortion legislation would endanger women who are placed in such life-threatening circumstances.

I have two answers to this. For one thing, anti-abortion legislation almost always allows for such circumstances. Murder laws make an allowance for self-defense. It's still killing a human being in favor of rescuing another human being. But it is to be very carefully used and never abused.

The other response I have to such rhetoric is this: Out of the millions of fetuses we have killed in this country, how many were terminated to save the mother's life? What percentage of the abortions performed are actually done out of legitimate, life-threatening need? I'd hazard a guess that it is significantly less than 1%. If those were the only abortions performed in our country as opposed to the booming industry it is now, I'd be thrilled. Not to mention the women who were told they could/would die if they continued their pregnancy and because of personal conviction chose to continue. Needless to say many of these are fine today.

It's all about choice. I don't like abortions for birth control, but it's the mother's right to make a choice that I defend.

I actually read this on an ardent liberal's blog recently. Generally the answer I have heard in response to this from the Pro-Life side is "What about the baby's right to choose?" The problem is, this answer doesn't satisfy me. Obviously, an abortion supporter who believes a non-viable fetus is no more than a bundle of cells doesn't care a bit about the baby's right. As a not-yet-human, the baby has not yet acquired the inalienable rights that we in this country believe humans possess.

So I take a different tactic. This blogger believes passionately in the right to choose. She believes that people are basically good and when given the choice, a future mother will make the correct one. There is no need to draft legislation to regulate her choices whatsoever and in all actuality such legislation is not only unnecessary but it could be harmful in the event described above where the life of the mother is threatened.

That sounds all well and good, but the problem is, liberals don't actually buy this line of thinking on a consistent basis. For example, the environment is in a deteriorating state and the solution of most liberals is to support legislation that regulates people's use of the environment, from laws governing the use and sustainability of wilderness lands to chemical outputs from manufacturing plants. Obviously we don't trust our fellow humans to make the right decisions regarding the environment so we'll take away their right to choose by making all sorts of laws. For the common good, of course. Land developers in the Amazon rainforest don't deserve the right to choose because when given this choice, they choose to cut down trees. Commercial fisherman who choose to decimate the salmon must be stopped by public education and legislation. They cannot be trusted with the right to choose. But when it comes to the sanctity of human life in pre-birth form, the mothers should be given carte blanche, despite their dismal track record.

Not only do they not actually support the right of humans to choose, but the FOCA is a new piece of legislation taking away the doctor's right to choose whether or not to perform abortions. Even though someone looking for an abortion can easily find a healthy, sanitary clinic, new laws are being promoted that would force a Pro-Life doctor to go against his conscience and perform an abortion when asked to do so. Choice is not an option.

It prevents Down's Syndrome or Spina Bifida.

Here is another inconsistency in my mind. Liberals are the staunchest supporters of civil rights for people who have disabilities. If they really think so much of them (which anyone who knows me knows I do too), why kill them before they are born? People who have Down's Syndrome, Spina Bifida and a host of other "abnormalities" have plenty to contribute to our world. Killing them before they are born seems reminiscent of Hitler's "cleansing" practices that so horrify most freedom-loving Americans.

It's been going on for millenia.

So has genocide, homicide, pedophilia, rape, abuse... the list goes on. No justification there.

Anti-abortion rhetoric uses poor logic.

I heard this the other day from a friend who is taking an ethics class from a satellite college of Washington State University. One specific argument goes like this:

1. Fetuses are human beings.
2. Human beings have the right not to be killed.
3. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

This was listed as poor logic, not because abortion isn't killing, but because according to the ethics textbook, the term "human beings" is redefined between the first and second tenet. Hmmm... not according to some!

How about this:

1. Fetuses are underdeveloped human beings.
2. Underdeveloped human beings have the same rights as fully developed human beings.
3. Fully developed human beings have the right not to be killed.
4. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

I have to admit, to my dismay, a lot of anti-abortion arguments out there are, in fact, illogical. The people who wrote them probably would not know logic if it rose up and bit them in the face. Yet as I have pointed out above, the Pro-Choice camp has some glaring problems of their own that they might want to tidy up before they go pointing out the illogical arguments of the Pro-Lifers.

It prevents babies from being born into unwanted and less-than-desirable circumstances.

I concede. Abortion does do that. Should we, like Hitler, determine the ideal circumstance for every person to be born and then regulate the ones that don't fit the bill? Is poverty a crime? How about ethnicity? Biracialism? A baby that is not wanted should not be born? I will not even dignify that with an answer, except to say that many of the most loved children were "surprises". 'Nuff said.

A baby born of rape just causes more anguish to the victim.

This can be true. Rape is a horrible crime. It is never justified. At the same time, one crime doesn't justify another. Abortion is murder and murder is a crime. (See section on logic. How did I do? Poorly? Go jump in a lake.) It is true that a pregnancy resulting from rape can bring anguish. It can also bring healing, something wonderful out of something terrible if viewed from another angle. Although I don't like to use personal vignettes as supporting arguments since they seem pretty weak, I still have to mention one child that I know who was conceived through rape who brings daily joy to his family who loves him dearly. Even in the middle of a horror such as rape, life can still bring healing.

These few points could never address all of the facets to an issue as complicated as abortion. I have not even touched on Christianity's viewpoint on life, on conception, on the spiritual bondage of a nation that causes wanton murder. All that is fodder for another time since this post is plenty long enough. All I can say in conclusion to this post is that I really don't hate the liberal agenda. I'm for saving the environment and the salmon. I'm for education and civic responsibility. But I am also for saving the humans, even the unplanned, undesirable, unwanted ones. After all, those are the people that America has historically embraced.


  1. Good arguments. The thing that confuses me about Pro-Choice, is that (aside from rape) people do have a choice whether or not to have sex in the first place. They have a choice to use birth control; they could choose to use more than one form of birth control. There are multiple choices to be made before a baby is conceived. I think the bottom line is, you can't legislate morality.

  2. Very well said! Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down.