Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Abortion- My Take On It

Never one to back away from a controversial topic, I thought I'd throw this into the political discussion.  For the last several days, I've been debating this topic with people on a message board.  Here is a summary of my view.

For me, the abortion discussion we've been having has gotten way too technical. I'm not a medical ethicist.  As Obama said (to great criticism) the question of exactly when life begins is above my pay grade.  I look at it this way.

One can say life begins at conception.  That is a clear defining moment.  It's extreme.  But, it's clear.  If you say that and believe that, you have a clear case against abortion at any time during pregnancy.  The only possible exception I could see would be to save the life of the mother.  That would be a case of one "person" jeopardizing another person's life and the mother would have the right to defend herself.

Some say the Bible supports the view that life begins at conception. I beg to differ. Torah (written and oral) says that life begins at first breath.  It's always been Jewish tradition that while the fetus is potential human life, it is not the same as a person who has drawn a breath.  The penalties for causing a woman to miscarry (accidentially or intentionally) are different than the penalties for killing a person (accidentally or intentionally).  Someone asked me for a scripture reference for life beginning at first breath.  All I can think of is Genesis 2:7. But, to the Jews, Oral Torah is just as imporant as written Torah and this is the Jewish interpretation of their laws.  I am not saying that we should use Torah to make political or medical decisions. Just the argument that life begins at conception is not really supported by the Bible.

The organism that is present at conception in almost no way resembles anything we would call human.  And that organism is a part of and dependent on a larger organism called a woman.  It is a part of her body.  It's inseparable from her.  It's completely and utterly dependent on her.  It most ways it resembles her liver more than it does a person (except it's parasitic).  That makes it different in many substantial ways from a born person.  That is in addition to the functional differences between an embryo or a fetus and a person.  Therefore, IMO, the woman has some say so about what happens with that part of her body.  So, many of us believe, up until a point in time, the mother has some say over what happens with her own body, the embryo being a part of that body.

The other extreme from defining life as beginning at conception is to say that life begins at birth.  This brings up an irony that I find curious. When someone asks us how old we are, we count back to the day we are born.  We don't go back to the day we were conceived.  We celebrate birthdays, not conceptiondays.  However, not many advocate allowing for abortion (except in extreme cases) up until the time of birth.  It can be reasoned that a fetus that has a chance of survival outside of the mother has some rights.

Taking the view that life starts sometime after conception and sometime before birth leaves us with the dilemma of whether abortion should be legal or not.  And, if it is legal, how late in the pregnancy should we allow it?  I see it as totally unacceptable to make abortion illegal. That would drive women back to dangerous, illegal abortions and make them criminals and the people who try to help them criminals.  Abortions are going to happen whether they are legal or not.  And, since no one can definitively show that human life begins at conception and medical science clearly shows that an embryo can neither feel nor think I think it's in society's best interest to allow abortions up until some point in time.  What that point is I'll leave to the medical experts just as we leave the definition of when someone is legally dead up to medical experts.

I'm a bottom line kind of guy.  We're not going to agree on this any time soon (or probably ever).  We've been debating it for decades and where has that gotten us?  I'm not saying the discussions are pointless. But, what can we do in the meantime?  I say we do these things.  Improve sex education.  Give boys and girls (men and women) the tools and the education they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.  Stop all the stupid moralizing and "just say no" crap.  Yes, tell them the only safe sex is no sex and the only 100% effective birth control is abstinence.  I have no problems teaching abstinence. But, let's be real.  People have sex. So, tell them what to do when they do have sex. Make sex education and  effective birth control available.  Let's also improve women's options for what to do if they become pregnant and don't feel they can handle a child.  Put some of that energy spent on protesting outside abortion clinics and hassling women who are having abortions into adopting children and helping women find resources to care for their own children.  Let's all work together to do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions, not by legislation but by education and providing better alternatives.

p.s.- I've realized that a lot of people think a zygote/embryo/fetus is just a teeny tiny baby.  It's not.  Here is a very detailed timeline of the development of a human being.  I didn't post this initially because, as I said, I think the conversation between laypeople can get to technical very quickly.  I don't want to be the one to determine where the line is.  But, clearly (IMO), a zygote does not equate to a human being.  Stages of development from ovum to baby


Anonymous said...

I don't agree that a viable embryo is part of a woman's body. It does nothing to contribute to the woman's digestive, circulatory, or nervous systems. Unlike a liver, a woman can live with or without the embryo.

If you really think about it Brian, a virus or other parasite can exist within a human body and affect it, but never contribute. It can be said that it cannot exist outside of the body, and is totally and completely dependent on the body in order to survive. Are these kinds of things part of the host's body? Wouldn't you say a virus or a germ, or a hookworm are examples independent life fully dependent on the body to survive? Or would you use the same -part of the woman's body- language to describe them?


Don said...

Brian-I tend to agree with you on this issue. Of course, as Bob said, it is certainly a hot-button issue. People generally aren't without a vociferous opinion on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Hello Brian ,
It's been a while since we corresponded last.
I am a fellow universalist (or Christian quasi-universalist)and I am disamyed /saddened and suprised to see that you take something a pro-choice position.

Abortion from an ethical standpoint should only be allowed if the child would be horribly disfigured/and in constant sufferring if carried to term due to deformities et al . , or if it is done when there is no embryo yet (let alone a baby) but only a fertilized zygote .

It never ceases to astound that many progressives who espouse making the earth a more commpassionate/nurturing place then go contrary to that sentiment by supporting something as
UN-compassionate as abortion on demand (and do so moreover under the banner of that bizarre claim that it's the person's body who gets the abortion and she should do what she wants with it and it's somehow supposedly "none of our business" ra ra ).

The notion that it is just part of the person's body and "none of our business" is mystification and , hence, quite frankly hogwash .Just as it would be wrong for someone to intentionally punch a pregnant woman in the stomach with the intent of killing her unborn "proto-child" , it is likewise categorically wrong for a pregnant person witht he help of an abortion doctor to have the unborn life in her killed !

What is the criteria for a person having the life within her aborted . If it wanting to protect some hot to trot, upscale "lifestlye" from being interfered with by the birth of a child then that such is a superfical and, hence, monsterously wrongheaded, criteria to have the unborn life killed .

(Women who are poor and get an abortion due to concerns about being unable to care for the basic necessities of life if the child is carried to turn should be looked at with leniency, though they should be counselled as to other better options than abortion. Women who have enough discetionary income to care for the basic necessities of life and then some for a child if it is carried to turn , in contrast , and choose to have an abortion to protect some superfluous lifestyle are inexecusible and have a reprehensible and quite worthless opinion if they claim it is somehow okay for them to abort a child--- rather than carry it to term and put up for adoption ---merely to protect some hot to trot, yuppie lifestyle from being disrupted ) .

If persons who do not want to have their "lifestlye" disrupted by carrying a child to term a sa result of unwanted pregnancy then there is a simple solution (although the funny deal is even the following would disrupt an aspect of that lifestlye--come to think of it !) . The solution is either find a foolproof 100 % contraceptive and use it all the time OR just have them stop having sex .

A child's lfe is infinitely more worthwhile (or I should state is worthwhile since it makes no sense to say more worthwhile then the following which has no inherent worth) far beyond some sex positive fun . Sex-positive fun/fun from liberated sex has no worth...a child's life has unguessed- at worth !

When should the time be to say that an unborn life has the right to live ? Answer: when the unborn life can process pain sensations . Whcih apparently is somewhere at least in the fetal stage and possibly in the late trimesters of the embryonic stage. Consider the prospect of that unborn creature sufferring pain and trauma from the abortion proceedure before you go along with the crowd that claims , "it is a woman's body and none of out business " ra ra .

Yes, during much of the embryonic stage and fetal stage the unborn life is dependent on the life support systems such as the umblical cord and so on of the mother...does that warrant the mother being somehow being made the arbiter of whether the life within her body is continued ? If so on what grounds ? The notion that the fetus is somehow part of the woman's body is playing fast and loose with language . Yes, it is the woman's body and dependented on it. But to say it is part of her body is palying fast and loose with language . It is *not* like her appendix --an intrinsic part !

Abortion does NOT liberate women. It is not a way of socially empowering women . It does NOT assist in preventing women from being exploited or marginalized. To truly liberate women --abortion is not the solution. One of the solutions --a far better solution---is to denounce the sexist attitudes that wrongly portray women as sex objects , rather than individuals whose lives have significance .

Always keep in mind , so-called "shades of grey" are never a subsitute for accuracy and truth !

Sincerely ,

Jason L .

brian said...


Thanks for your comments. However, first, I find a little inconsistency in your position. And second, it is truth according to you (no offense intended). I take a much more agnostic stance than you do on the issue.

Early in your post you say that abortions should only be only allowed in the case of horribly disfigured children or before the baby is only a fertilized zygote. Many people who are pro-life would disagree with your allowance of an exception for the case of a disfigured or potentially suffering child. They'd say you are dead wrong. But, later you say that abortion should only be done before the fetus can feel pain. That is much, much later than the fertilized zygote stage.

BTW, I made no such claim that abortion "liberates" women. Nor am I "rah rah" about abortion. My point is that that it's debatable, as you've illustrated with your own post because you disagree with the most strict pro-life by allowing any exception other than the life of the mother. And, when you decided to draw a line, you chose two different points. My point is that as long as reasonable people can have disagreements on this issue, we should allow women to have the choice and do everything we can to minimize the numbers because no one benefits from more abortions.


Anonymous said...

Wow Jason, it sounds like you think women who have abortions are rich sex fiends? Where did you find these statistics? You have no idea what process each woman goes through when making this decision, and what her circumstances are. I find your assumptions insulting.

And just a side note... What is "sex-positive fun"? It sounds like you are against it. Does that mean you think that sex should not be fun? I'm not trying to make a point on this particular topic, just trying to figure out what you meant by that.

Brian -- I think your views on this are very well thought-out and well written. I agree with most of it.


brian said...

Hey Debbie,

Thanks for stopping by. Glad you agree with most of what I wrote. Which parts don't you agree with?