Tuesday, 11 October 2011
In the great abortion debate of our time, both sides tend to villainize the other. Pro-lifers see their opponents as those who don't respect life, sometimes treating pro-choicers as murderers akin to Hitler. Pro-choice advocates often see the other side as oppressive; pro-lifers want to force young women into raising children in less-than-perfect circumstances.
I think both sides are generally blind to the arguments of their opponents when they use such extreme rhetoric. For that reason, I'm going to try to present arguments for both sides from a moral/ethical viewpoint.
Abortion Cons: Why Pro-lifers Are Right
-Almost any scientist would argue that a fetus is alive, so the argument that life begins at conception is appropriate. A fetus has the appropriate chromosome number (i.e. its cells are diploid), it consists of cells, it grows, it undergoes metabolism, etc. If anyone were to argue that its lack of independence and awareness prevents it from being truly alive, then one has to wonder if newborn babies and people with certain mental illnesses are truly alive. So in short, fetuses from a biological perspective are alive, and to terminate a life is generally considered murder.
-A man has syphilis and his wife has tuberculosis. They have had four children: one has died, the other three have what is considered to be a terminal illness. The mother is pregnant. Do you recommend abortion? You just killed Beethoven. I have read that this story is slightly inaccurate, but the point still remains: abortion could rob the world of great human potential. When I drive to my hometown, I always pass a billboard picture of a fetus that says "I was going to cure cancer", implying that the fetus was aborted. It is quite possible that we have aborted some of the greatest humans that could ever have been.
-For Christians, you can read verses about God forming a baby in the womb and planning their future. If we can see potential in an unborn child, how much more does God see?
-Abortion can be terribly traumatizing. Apparently studies have shown that such trauma rare, but Google "abortion pictures" and see if you would be okay with calling those mangled bodies "just fetuses". I am not a woman, but I'm sure I'd find it a bit disturbing, at least if I waited until several months in.
-Adoption is a viable alternative that wouldn't rob the child of its life. Many would-be adopters would be willing to pay for the medical expenses, and it would be a blessing for those couples that aren't able to have children on their own.
Abortion Pros: Why Pro-Choicers Are Right
-Life begins at conception, but does that mean a three-week old fetus is the same kind of life as a twelve-year old child? If you aborted the former, it would have had no knowledge of it's existence, no possessions to be robbed of, no joy of life to lose, and no emotional connection with any other being. The latter likely has all of these things. Many people are okay with euthanizing people in comas and most people put their pets down if they're terribly sick, and yet these beings possess more of those qualities than a fetus does. So how is ending the life of a fetus the same thing as ending the life of a child?
-A man and his niece incestuously conceive a child out of wedlock. That baby and a second that follows both die in infancy. They are pregnant with a third child and they don't abort it. That child, in the picture above, is responsible for World War II and the Holocaust. Just as the story about Beethoven shows that we can rob the world of human potential for good, this story about Hitler shows that we're also likely to be saving the world from terrible evil.
-Many Christians believe that God gives a baby its spirit in the womb. They also tend to believe that if a child dies before a certain age of moral responsibility, then they will automatically go to Heaven. Perhaps it is related to Jesus' statement that we should enter the Kingdom of God like little children (Luke 18:17). I'm sure few would argue against that, considering young children are the spitting image of innocence. So by that same reasoning, wouldn't aborting a child send them unquestionably to Heaven? Therefore, abortions could be interpreted as acts of mercy, sending millions of souls to Heaven. I know if it were myself, and I had the choice of a) living a life where I could go to Hell or Heaven for eternity or b) automatically ensuring I would go to Heaven, let's jut say I wouldn't hesitate to choose b.
-Raising an unwanted child, especially if the mother is doing it alone, can be terribly traumatizing for multiple parties. Having children is the single greatest predictor of poverty amongst single mothers. Children who grow up in impoverished conditions are more likely to have difficulties in adult life than those who grow up in better conditions. Children are unquestionably expensive, and certainly the difficulties of raising them would be compounded if the child was unwanted. A 16-year old having an abortion might not just be saving her life from being ruined, but the child's life as well.
Can You See Both Sides?
My personal thoughts on the matter are complex and look at both sides of the argument. In short, I don't ever want to have decide whether or not my wife should have an abortion. It might not be traumatizing, but it may well be. Hopefully I wouldn't feel guilty, but perhaps I would. I'd rather not wonder what my child could have been, but I probably would. I'd rather not have to deal with any of the ethical questions surrounding this.
But there's another side to all of this. I want to have a child or children only when my wife and I are ready. This isn't just for us, but it's primarily for the child. We'd want to do everything we can to ensure that the child doesn't have to experience poverty, gets the opportunity to travel and go to a great school, sees what a healthy marriage looks like, and gets all of the emotional attention that it needs to develop into a healthy adult. So if my wife and I are still in college, still broke, and still learning how to make our relationship healthy with all the other difficulties of life, then I want to do everything I can to keep a child from entering that world.
What I hope others could draw from this is that this is a complex decision for many people who see good points on both sides. For this reason, be careful about passing judgment about others' opinions on the matter. Many Pro-lifers have a very high view of unborn children, and that is to their credit. However, many Pro-choicers do as well, they just see it from a different perspective.
Can you think of any other arguments against abortion? For abortion? For Pro-lifers: do you think people who have abortions are always wrong for killing an unborn child? For Pro-choicers: do you think people who want abortions to cease completely are wrong for feeling that way?