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.
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.