Cultural Clashes: Abortion

When one begins to survey those topics which polarize the public forum, there are few that have remained as charged as abortion. Likewise, I don’t think there is such a widely debated issue that is not fully understood by those on either side of the fence. Because neither side understands all of the intricacies involved, it quickly becomes oversimplified and the impact it has upon all those involved is understated. This, in my opinion, is where the greatest injustice has been done in regard to abortion. Abortion is a very complex topic. It involves mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc. Furthermore, it involves many complexities. Some of these are because options such as adoption are available. It also concerns the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the mother and father and those deeply connected and involved with the mother and father.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to address every subtlety due to the vast nature of this issue. Neither is it my goal in this post to argue for a specific position as being more right/wrong. I simply want to bring some awareness to the profound nature of this subject and spark some discussion that will lead to both sides better understanding one another. This is in the hope that we might be able to reach some common ground and quit treating those personally facing this in their life as though they are objective subject matter available to use as ammunition in the continued war which we have created.

How do pro-lifers oversimplify and understate?
This side of the fence is often characterized as the religious, right-wingers who protest and picket in front of abortion clinics. It is certainly true that a great many of those who hold to this position do so for religious reasons. Because this is the foundation for their view, they often make the mistake of painting this as simply a matter of “the sanctity of life.” The war cry was quickly stereo-typed as “abortion is murder.” When pressed about possible instances where abortion would be acceptable, the standard canned response seems to be, “There is never a time where it is ok to take a life—period.” This is a huge oversimplification when considering possible reasons for abortion.

When a woman is raped and then is impregnated by her attacker, it takes a callow individual to tell her she has no option but to carry the child to term and love the child with everything she has. A woman in this instance has gone through something which is emotionally traumatic on a level that those who have not experienced cannot fathom. Hear me out, I am not saying that this is a green-light instance for a woman to get an abortion, but I think those in the pro-life camp are displaying a callous heart when we don’t even consider the woman’s emotional state in a situation like this. Would it not be better to help her deal with the emotional trauma from which she is suffering? Doing so would bring more positive results (adoption?) as well as help her heal. All too often, what seems to be the prevailing story in this situation is those in the pro-life position simply state that she would be murdering this child and sinning if she has an abortion. Now some of you in the pro-life position are getting angry with me as you read this, but stop and take a breath for a moment. I write this because I used to be one of those who would have told her those very things. I would’ve heralded “abortion is not an option under any circumstance.”

I have since softened my approach. I still do not agree that abortion is okay, but I have been able to gain some understanding into the pro-choice position. For example, there are very rare instances where carrying a child to term would place the mothers life at risk. One of those instances is a condition known as a tubal or ectopic pregnancy.” This is where the fertilized egg becomes lodged in the fallopian tube. If left untreated, the embryo will continue to grow and eventually rupture the tube. When this occurs the woman is in serious danger of dying from the hemorrhage. Another condition which would place both the mother and the child at risk is preeclampsia. When a couple is faced with this, it is a hellacious decision. One that I know (as a parent) is not easily made. Why do I say this? Because it is a decision that results in the ending of a life. Either they decide to follow thru on the oversimplified pro-life position and not have an abortion and the mother dies (and possibly the child as well) or they end the child’s life saving the mother’s life. It is a no win situation for those parents and the public sector seems to forget this fact.

However, I also realize that not every person who could be categorized as pro-life hold to the extreme which has been painted. It still remains, however, that the vast majority of the pro-life camp does not give any consideration beyond that of preserving the life of the unborn. We must begin to move beyond seeing that as the only thing at stake here—it is much deeper than just the unborn child; it involves real people, facing real decisions, which affect more than just the unborn.

How do pro-choicers oversimplify and understate?
The biggest way in which those advocating this position have oversimplified the issue is by deeming it simply as a “woman’s choice.” This statement is naïve at best because it is not just the woman involved. There is, at least in the beginning, a man involved as well. It is ridiculous to me that when a child is born the father has rights to the child and the major decision which affect that child’s life, but when the child is in the womb a woman can abort the child even if the father wanted to keep the child. An even greater hypocrisy lies beneath the surface of the “woman’s choice” statement—partly because what is hailed as giving much support to the woman’s choice position is contained in two concurrent decrees from the Supreme Court. In the first of two decisions, Roe v. Wade determined that the fetus is not person and, therefore, not entitled to constitutional rights. This decision also determined that States cannot regulate an abortion during the first trimester for any reason, but could regulate the second trimester to protect the health of the mother and during the third trimester states could regulate/prohibit abortions to promote its interest in the potential life of the fetus (save threatening the health or life of the mother). The second decision by the Supreme Court in Doe v. Bolton outlined what constituted the “mother’s health”. It defined health as "all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age – relevant to the well-being of the patient." This expanded the “right to abortion” for almost any reason.

Consider this. A pregnant mother in her third trimester, one week away from her due date can go and receive an abortion because the fetus is not considered a person as defined in the above Supreme Court decision. However, if she were to wait one week and give birth to the child, she could no longer terminate that life because it is now considered a person. Does one week make that drastic of a difference in the development of the fetus? Of course not, that child could be born a week early and be completely healthy and survive outside of the mother. Here is the oversimplification. It is difficult by any means to try and define the point at which the developing embryo should be considered a person. My opinion is that the Supreme Court did not wish to delve deeply into the matter as they are supposed to interpret the law and not get into ethical considerations; so they simply took the plainest definition of personhood available to them—at birth. That, after all, is when we receive a certificate of live birth and are eligible for rights as citizens.

Even though we have made great advancements in the medical field, we are still learning a lot about the entire process of pregnancy. This is a difficult point, but one which is of extreme importance. We must begin open, honest discussions about when personhood begins. Why is that so important you might ask? Because history bears out that in order to oppress a group or mistreat them in any way, you must first deny them personhood. The slaves in America were not considered to be persons, but property. Native Americans were not considered persons, but savages. The Jews during World War II were denied personhood, leading to their horrific mistreatment. So the matter of personhood concerning the unborn is one to which we must give complete diligence because the unborn cannot plead their case. Before we can begin to move this discussion forward, however, we must remove all of the appeals to emotion, the politically charged language, and our own personal biases from the arena and begin to look at the issue honestly. Only then will we as a society be giving a fair handshake to the unborn. Always remember, you were a fetus at one time as well. Would you have wanted someone to plead your case openly, honestly, and fairly?

Likewise, those in this camp have understated the serious nature of the abortion procedure chalking it up to a routine medical procedure. As anyone who has undergone surgery knows, any invasive medical procedure brings risks with it regardless of how small the procedure. Abortion is no different. In fact, abortion is very invasive and traumatic on a woman’s reproductive organs. If you do not know what is involved in the abortion process during the three different trimesters, please take a look at this video. The video is produced by an OB/GYN to tactfully demonstrate what is truly involved in an abortion. This is also why the Supreme Court made the following statement:
“The State has a legitimate interest in seeing to it that abortion, like any other medical procedure, is performed under circumstances that insure maximum safety for the patient. This interest obviously extends at least to the performing physician and his staff, to the facilities involved, to the availability of after-care, and to adequate provision for any complication or emergency that might arise. The prevalence of high mortality rates at illegal "abortion mills" strengthens, rather than weakens, the State's interest in regulating the conditions under which abortions are performed.”

Both sides of the camp are guilty of making grievous errors when addressing abortion. I’m not claiming that I have the answer, but I am willing to talk about the issue with an open mind and to think through the issues surrounding it logically and reasonably. That is my hope for you after reading this—that you would be willing to modify your opinion as you learn more about abortion from engaging others in productive discussions.
What'd you think? 

2 Response to "Cultural Clashes: Abortion"

  • Anonymous Says:

    Where are the biblical references for this paticular blog on abortion? thank you for your hard work and love of god, pete

  • Mr. Hyde Says:

    Hello Pete,

    Thank you for the complement and for stopping by my blog.

    My goal with this blog post was not to make a biblical case against abortion. Rather, I wanted to spark discussion between the two positions concerning abortion. Since this was my goal, I intentionally refrained from turning to the Scriptures as this would almost certainly guarantee that those in the pro-choice camp would immediately tune out to what I was saying and attempting to accomplish in this post.

    If you delve a little deeper into my blog, you will notice this is something I regularly do. When addressing those who do not view the Bible as a credible source, it is best to argue from reason and logic as I believe the Bible is not at odds with these. I believe it is much more effective to argue with those in the pro-choice arena drawing from scientific and logical points that they cannot simply set aside as "religious" or the like. It is even better when you can draw these points from their own statements; to demonstrate the conflict which I believe is inherent in their position.