Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On abortion

I have come 180 degrees on the subject of abortion. I have thought a great deal about it, listened to debates about it, considered all the many points of view on it, and even been involved in it, and I now believe that abortion is morally wrong. My position, in essence, is quite simple: Since we do not know and cannot decide precisely when the embryo becomes a human being, we must, as moral people, err on the side of life.

There are those who argue that humanity invests itself at the end of the first trimester, and so, up until that time, abortion is morally unobjectionable. But these people must be required to answer the following question: Why is abortion permissible on the 90th day, say and not permissible on the 91st? Why is it permissible at 11:59 pm of the 90th day, but morally wrong at 12:01 am of the 91st? When called to answer this question, their argument falls apart. Especially in face of the fact that every pregnancy is different, and so, even if one accepts the idea that humanity invests itself at a discernible point in pregnancy, does that point not differ from one pregnancy to the next?

Now, I am acutely aware that pregnancy is a matter more urgently pressing on the woman than the man. From this, it is argued that it is the woman who ought to have the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy. But as a father (and one who holds fatherhood as a sacred obligation), I take exception to this. The father is physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually linked to the new life (or ought to be - if not, he is a swine and not a man), and so should have nearly as much say as the mother. Indeed, I would support any father who insists that an abortion of his child can not take place over his objections. Nonetheless, since the actual burden of pregnancy falls harder on the woman, it seems irresistible that she have the prevailing voice.

Given this, if a pregnancy must be terminated (and the reasons ought to be compelling, even overwhelming), then it seems to me that a convenient point of demarcation would be the presence of a heartbeat, which generally occurs about the fifth to seventh week. I offer this opinion only with the greatest reluctance, out of a need to set some defining limit to the option of abortion that may minimize the possibility of the commission of a grave moral wrong.

However, in general, I do believe that abortion is morally wrong, and ought to be approached only with the utmost caution and careful deliberation. That it is the most common form of elective surgery performed upon women in our country is a disgrace, and utterly unconscionable. One does not counter moral irresponsibility such as unwanted pregnancy by committing a greater moral error such as abortion. This simply multiplies the moral wrong and drags those who commit it into deeper guilt. One does not solve a moral problem by committing an immoral act.

Clearly, taking responsibility for one's sexual behavior is the key to resolving this matter, but since our society does not appear inclined to praise restraint and discourage indulgence (just the opposite, in fact, is usually the case) the primary and most effective solution will probably not prevail. Given that, it seems to me imperative to educate our young people to the moral, psychological and spiritual implications of abortion; not simply to offer it as the first and most convenient solution.

Though at one time in my life (a much earlier time) I agreed with the feminists and the abortion advocates, I now see those who militate for abortion rights as morally blind, degraded and self-deluding people. In almost every case, I am inclined to believe, they have succumbed to the dictates of a political agenda, or of personal interest, or are in the grip of a private guilt which they are trying to assuage by elevating it to the level of civil liberties, privacy rights or gender politics. Whatever the case, they are avoiding the simple moral imperative that, when in doubt on matters of life and death, we must, as moral beings, err on the side of life. The imperative is that we ought to do to others as we would have them do to us - yes, even to unborn others; the fact that our humanity is measured by the extent to which we recognize and reverence humanity in others - yes, even unborn others.

I find it curious that so many of those who advocate abortion rights also oppose capital punishment. Here, it seems to me, the values of such 'progressive' thinkers are characteristically inverted. Such people take the position that innocent, unborn life ought to be destroyed, but that guilty, mature life ought to be preserved. This is backwards. If we are to take a position for and against life, surely it must be that innocent life should be preserved, and guilty life (guilty of the most heinous crimes) should be destroyed. I find the argument for abortion and against capital punishment utterly inane.

The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a heavy and solemn one. One piece of advice I might offer in helping to make this decision is this: Give the fetus a name. Do not refer to it by such politically driven sophistries as "tissue mass" or "non-viable embryo," but name it, if only with a nickname. (In my case, we called my first child Chip in the womb, and the second, Squeak.) Then, in considering whether to abort, use the name in your discussions. Do not speak about "the fetus " or "the pregnancy"; rather, use your chosen name or nickname, and then see if you can as easily decide to abort.

This is precisely the kind of thing that the abortion advocates do not want us to do, but that, as human beings, we naturally tend to do. And in this there is a warning: Whenever we act in contradiction to our natural human tendencies, especially for the sake of a political or personal agenda, we are probably doing wrong.