ABORTION: The most contentious, confused and misunderstood issue that continues to divide us
Abortion: The most contentious, confused and misunderstood issue that continues to divide us.
By Thomas Keane
The volatile and never-ending issue of whether or not a woman has the right to terminate her own pregnancy now seems to be centered on the question of when during the prenatal development the fetus is considered viable or human. For a very long time it was accepted that one wasn’t actually ‘alive’ until they were born and took their first breath. This was even supported in scripture; Adam only “became a living soul” once God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Genesis 2:7). However, now some ultra conservatives actually argue that humanity (life) begins at conception. It’s not hard to imagine these same people grieving over the millions of potential humans that are lost every single time a man ejaculates.
Whether it is more willful to suggest that life begins upon that first inhalation or when the spermatozoon joins with the ovum to form a zygote is all dependant on one’s own bias. As for where the law/government stands on the issue; as is often the case, it is somewhere in the middle. The determining factor seems to be the point at which the fetus can survive outside of the womb. It has been well established that any premature birth can, and often does, result in some sort of negative developmental issue, whether in infancy, childhood or adulthood. The most common afflictions are cerebral palsy, vision and/or hearing loss and learning problems. And yet none of these potential disabilities are taken into account when judging viability. In fact, the main factor that influences whether or not a woman may be allowed to request an abortion is simply the number of weeks of gestation that have elapsed in her pregnancy. In most U.S. states that magic number is twenty-one. If the fetus makes it into week twenty-two, the choice of whether or not it can be terminated is taken from the woman and given to the doctor.
For pro-lifers, the idea that they are standing up for the rights of the fetus, who has no voice of its own, is an inspiring one. But is it also misguided? If it really is about the rights of the fetus and the fetus has no ability to express or even form its own opinion, does it really make the most sense that someone with no connection to the mother or any knowledge of the circumstances should be making the decisions? If the fetus is incapable of declaring an opinion for itself, doesn’t it seem reasonable that the person who should be allowed to decide for the fetus would be the woman whose body sustains and contains it? Is there a more logical candidate? Would this not be the case if we were discussing another living mass of cells residing within someone’s body, such as a tape worm (parasite) or a tumor? Shouldn’t this be the main focus when considering the topic of abortion, not whether or not the fetus is human, not when life begins, but who has the right to make the decision seeing that the fetus has no ability to do so for itself?
If the decision on what can be done with what resides within a woman’s body is to be given to another, who should it be? A stranger? The government? A priest? The church? A parent? A doctor? A Judge? A husband? The ‘father’? Any man for that matter? How can anyone justify placing any of these people/organizations above the person whose body the fetus/tumor resides? And if you were to grant the government jurisdiction over a woman’s pregnant body, at what point would they take control? At conception? Upon first confirming that the woman is pregnant? After the quickening? After the first trimester? The second? If she were a first time mother? If she were a mother of fifteen illegitimate children? If she were an I.V. drug user? A victim of incest or rape? Mentally retarded? Mentally deranged? If she were a Mormon? A Scientologist? An Atheist? An illegal immigrant? Underage? Middle-Class? Homeless? HIV positive? Brain dead? And if the government was to take steps to protect the human rights of the fetus, shouldn’t it also monitor the mother’s consumption of tobacco, alcohol and drugs (both legal and illegal)? Shouldn’t the mother’s very behavior be authorized and restricted based on the perceived effect on the fetus? And why stop there? Why not also allow the government or church to decide who, when and if someone should be on birth control and what type. Why not have the government/church decide who we should be allowed to have sex with. Why make any decisions for ourselves? Why not just give up all control to the government and/or the church? Or should only the decisions categorized as moral be governed in such a way? And who is to decide what is moral? Would a Buddhist have a say? Would an Atheist?
Good Samaritan laws state that a person can’t be forced to save another’s life if doing so would risk or even inconvenience their own except under highly specific circumstances. For example, you can’t be forced to be an organ donor; you can’t be forced to donate blood; if a person struggling to save a panicked drowning victim is forced to abandon their efforts in order to protect themselves, they cannot be charged with a crime if the person they attempted to save perishes. Yet, for some reason, forcing women to carry someone within their own bodies appears to be the exception to the rule. Somehow the rights of the fetus have superseded the rights of the woman to have autonomy over her own body even though the physical use of another’s body for one’s own survival is not, and has never been, a human right.
If we as individuals continue to insist that our particular philosophical understanding of an issue be established as a universal absolute, governing the lives of all, then we will continue to be divided as a people. For if there is only one absolute truth, it is that there are no two people in the world, not Christian, not Atheist, not man or woman, who will ever be in total agreement on all things. No one will ever be so wise as to know what is right and what is wrong for each and every one of us. There will always be choices that we as individuals must be allowed to make for ourselves. Humanity thrives on such freedom. It is the core of the American ideal. We must strive to never forget that.
Please visit my main page (https://doubtingthomas426.wordpress.com/) to gain a better understanding of where I am coming from. There you will find all my observations regarding religion and the bible categorized on the Right hand side of the page. Please feel free to read through them and leave a comment or two if you like.