The Debate Surrounding Abortion

I had meant to do only two posts on this issue of abortion, but this second post became so long I decided to split it up into two posts, which means there will be three posts altogether concerning this issue of Abortion.

In my last post on Abortion I outlined the legal status of abortion to help better understand where America is politially on the subject of Abortion. In this post, I wish to comment on the nature of the debate that surrounds abortion.

To understand any debate it is best to take a step back and really try to understand the position of both sides. When it comes to abortion this is even more important. Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in America, and each side is extremely passionate about their position and is in a state of war against the other. 

What makes abortion even more complicated is that it is not merely a yes or no answer that is at stake. This can be seen merely by looking at the most recent poll concerning abortion. The question is not merely asked if abortion should be legal or illegal but it gives four options. The poll states:

Which comes closest to your view on abortion: abortion should always be legal; should be legal most of the time; should be made illegal except in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life; or abortion should be made illegal without any exceptions?

As the question on this poll reveals even when abortion is legal the question still must be asked under what conditions should it be legal. What month of the pregnancy? What health conditions of the baby or the mother? What specific reasons for the aboriton? And even how should the abortion be done, as can be seen by the ban on partial-birth abortions in 2003. (Poll could be found at http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm).

And even if abortion were illegal there could still be exceptions. Should it be illegal no matter what or should the woman’s health, rape, or the baby’s health be exceptions to the rule? The answers to the poll show just how divided American’s are:

Always
legal
Legal most
of the time
Illegal except
rape, incest,
mother’s life
Illegal
without
exceptions
Unsure
 %  % % % %
 26

19

42 10 3

52% of Americans think it should be illegal, but most of them think there should be exceptions to this. 45% of America think it should be legal, but some would also make exceptions to this.

So no matter how the issue is solved legally, debate will continue to rage as to the nature of the practice and the exceptions of it.

Like so many debates, especially modern ones, the reason for the large gap is that the people are talking right past each other and are concenred about two different things. For those who believe abortion should be legal the fundamental issue is the right of the woman to do whatever she wants with her body. These people cannot stand that someone, especially a man, could ever tell a woman what to do with her body.

For those who think abortion should be illegal, woman’s rights are not even an issue. For them, the matter is much more simpler: the baby is alive and therefore its life cannot be taken. Nobody has the right to take a life (save for the exception of self-defense), so how can this even be a women’s rights issue?

The Pro-Choice movement has countered the charege that the baby is alive with the only arugment that can be given if their position is to remain moral: the baby isn’t alive. This speaks to the issue the Courts have been trying to deal with when they set the limit on “no-reason” abortion at the time of viability. Once the baby is viable (it could live outside of the womb) then this seems to make it harder to argue the baby is not alive.

Pro-Choice uses arguments from science to support their case. They allow science to define life which is usually connected with consciounness and pain. Thus, science can try to show that a fetus most likely does not feel pain, is heavily sedated, and does not have the brain structure capable of consciousness until near the time of viablity.

Pro-Life advocates have countered this with the argument of “Potential Life.” Regardless of when the child is actually “alive” by scientific understanding, the fact that this child has the potential for life and is the first stage that all of us that are now alive went through shows that terminating the process is the same as taking a life.

But some Pro-Life people would even counter with other scientific facts such as the developmental stages of the fetus which shows that by merely 9 weeks 90% of the body structure in full-grown humans is already present and by 11 weeks the brain and spinal chord are formed.

But even the use of science to decide this is questionable. Why should science be allowed to define life, what it is, and when it starts? Why do people mourn when thy have a miscarriage? My wife, who works in an emergency room has told me how tramautic it is for the nurses and the mother when a miscarriage happens at an early part of the pregnancy and the baby comes out.

When my wife and the others look down at this “fetus” it is hard in that moment to believe it is just a piece of tissue. At that moment, all the sceintific theories and court opinions don’t seem to matter. And many mothers go through feelings of mourning and loss when the child they had been carrying for a few weeks dies. What of mother’s intuition and common sense to help discern the truth?

Surely the reason for the complication of this matter is the sensitive nature of the issue. Many female Pro-Life people fight with the tenacity of a mother defending her young. And many female Pro-Choice people fight with the same tenacity of someone fighting for their own freedom. And this fight will continue with the same maternal, religious, and political zeal in which it has been fought for some time now.

In the last post on this topic of abortion, I will attempt to delve into the worldview and underlying assumptions that make abortion an issue, and how this issue is actually connected to a larger theme of American culture: civil liberties and the religion of secularism.

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