Abortion

What a topic! It is one of those impossible issues to find middle ground on and I expect it will soon rip this country apart.

My last blog article focused primarily on the politics of abortion and the positions of the political parties, but I held off from disclosing my own views on the issue.

The question that permeates the “debate” (a loosely used word since debate on this subject is rare) is this: Is abortion murder?

The Republican Party, based on their party platform, has answered this question with a resounding yes.

But politics aside, the question is more problematic for most people. A full 20% of the country, agrees with the Republican platform – abortion is “wrong” in all cases, regardless of the cause of conception. I use “wrong” in quotations, since it implies a moral concept that also needs addressing.

Most Americans view late term, or third-term abortions, as “wrong.” This was codified in the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007. The Act stated:

“A moral, medical, and ethical consensus exists that the practice of performing a partial-birth abortion… is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.”

Christian advocates for ending the practice of abortion have long been informed and/or guided by their religious beliefs that a fetus, from the moment of conception, is a human being and therefore has a soul. Ending the viability of the life, at any stage, is therefore the equivalent of murder.

This view actually makes sense, in the sense that the argument is reasoned – albeit, in my opinion misinformed by the “fact” that a “soul” exists in the first place.
If the argument is recast, without the socio-religious presumption that a fetus has a soul, and is therefore not a human being (with the rights and privileges thereby associated) until birth, then when during the process of gestation is abortion not wrong?

Now the issue opens serious debate and interpretation, hinging on growth and stage development. Questions must be asked:

At what point can the fetus survive outside the womb? Generally speaking, there is a 50% survival rate for prematurely born babies at about the 24th week of gestation – is that the cutoff?

Do we need to look earlier in the gestation period? Prior to the transition from a zygote (embryogenesis) and fetal development which normally occurs between the 8th and 10th week?

Absent the soul argument (moment of conception), there are myriad choices to make along gestational development to determine the moral choice of ending a potential human life.

My personal view, which is informed by Humanist understanding and respect for life, along with scientific evidence, is that termination of a pregnancy after the fetal transition is where I draw the line.

Why?

There are two primary reasons why this makes sense to me.

First, medical studies show that nearly one quarter of pregnancies are self-terminated by the 6th week of pregnancy. The human body, for whatever reason, rejects the embryo during this development phase. Most times, this self-abortion is never recognized – chalked up to a heavier period flow which would be attributed to delayed menstruation. If a woman’s body conducts this self-abortion naturally, medical assistance during the same time frame cannot be viewed as immoral.

Second, the transitional phase from zygote to fetus is marked by a singular important development – that of the spinal cord and the central nervous system. Prior to this development, the embryo has no feelings – it is simply a developing clump of cellular formation; however, once the fetus can actually feel pain, the morality of external termination is certainly questionable.

Unfortunately, for those that support a woman’s right to choose, there is no clear cut, definitive answer that approaches the clarity of the position held by the pro-life camp.

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5 Responses to Abortion

  1. SFischer says:

    When does the discussion turn to what happens to the care of the fetus post term? Health care? Head Start? Food?

  2. Randy says:

    This sounds like a mostly religious issue. Therefore there should be no US laws concerning it. It should be left up to the clergy of each persons church as to whether or not to excommunicate anyone receiving and abortion.

  3. seanasbury says:

    Sis – incredibly fair points to bring up, but the subject of a separate conversation. I’ve long held that there is an incredibly disconnect within the Pro-life crowd that cares more about the fetus while in utero vice after it’s actually born.

    Randy – that’s a very esoteric position to take. While a decent stance, it doesn’t apply in 2012 America. There are standing laws on the books governing abortion and there will be more coming as it remains a political debate…

  4. seanasbury says:

    Some good comments I received via the HuffingtonPost:

    Nishnabe on Aug 24, 2012 at 18:22:02
    “Couple of things. One is you are a man. So am I, and so my position is that until I grow a uterus (not likely) I have no right to tell a woman what to do with hers. Secondly, cultures all over the world have delayed naming children in order to see that it will in fact live once the child is born. This led to religious ideas and cultural customs that a fetus nor a newborn was human until a certain period of time has passed, the rule usually being 8 days after birth. Therefore religious right claims that a fetus or even a newborn is human due to religious reasons has no basis in history. Science is an entirely different matter and most scientists seem to say in this matter that it is viability of life outside the womb. As a man I can speculate on science and religion and its impact on my views of abortion and birth control, but I will tread in that area reserved exclusively for women; her right to choose.”

    libwingoflibwing on Aug 24, 2012 at 16:10:26
    “You last sentence in your blog that you linked us to reads, “Unfortunately, for those that support a woman’s right to choose, there is no clear cut, definitive answer that approaches the clarity of the position held by the pro-life camp.”

    Yes, there is. The clear cut, definitive answer that has astounding clarity is that since there is not a simple answer on when a fetus is a person and it’s the woman’s body, it is her decision that matters in abortion and no one else’s. If that’s not clear, Sean, I don’t know what is.”

    Sean: “Thanks for the comment!
    For the record, I’m pro-choice. What I wrote reflects an opinion – not a policy position; however, those in favor of pro-choice, I fear, are losing ground, and the moral argument to the pro-life side. There is a clarity of thought behind their position that is defensible that the pro-choice side lacks. If it were as clear cut as you suggest, and it’s noones business but the woman herself, them technically, she would be able to abort, on her own volition, the day before she were to deliver – no harm, no foul; however, that is not the case – the law says she cannot unless her life were in danger, so there are restrictions in place now that make it not her decision. I’m not suggesting this is right or wrong, good or bad, simply pointing out that a better argument needs to be articulated to counter the clarity of the pro-life argument – and I’m not seeing that.”

    Alex Prior on Aug 25, 2012 at 05:39:55
    “I take your point, but there’s a real “only in America” moment here. Like you, I’m pro-choice, but I live in the “rest of the west” where abortion is not even an issue – it’s simply funded under various government health care plans. The anti-abortion stance has no traction because religion has very little traction in public life – so the scientific view of when life begins is dominant.

    That view, by its very nature, is nuanced and thoughtful – whether making that position simpler (and therefore less accurate) will sway debate is interesting.

    I can say that one very successful tactic that is now a cliche out here is forcing them back on their own argument. It tends to go like this: So when does the bible say that you get a soul? No, clearly, where does it say that? Does the soul develop inside the fetus like the brain? Then you would have no problem with abortion. Does it come from outside? Really? Where does it say that in the bible?

    In other words, exposing their fallacious assumptions is far more powerful than defending a nuanced position.”

    Sean: “Alex – the soul debate I think is a rabbit hole. The fundamentalist position is straightforward, the soul is present at the moment of fertilization – prove otherwise that the soul develops at some other point in the gestation process. It’s the equivalent of the little teapot in space argument.
    I don’t believe in the religious view of the soul, either inserted or developed; but I don’t know how an argument can be framed to prove or disprove what essentially is a mythical development.
    That’s why I looked to “other” measurables along the developmental timeline. Not saying I’m “correct” or that my opinion should define policy – just wanted to throw it out for debate, in the sense that I’m interested in other thoughts and opinions – the comments here are informative 🙂 and I appreciate you all taking the time to read my article – thanks :)”

  5. Frank steele says:

    Bravo, a very good article. One I wish more liberals would read. I like your analysis of where you would draw the line. Religious beliefs aside I use simple logic and the right to human life and dignity in my choice. For those that say the embryo is not a “human” I say, if you left it alone, it would be.

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