Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rights of the Living and the Unliving

Abortion is a sticky topic.  Major groups opposing abortion consider fetuses alive from the moment of conception.  To them, abortion at any stage of pregnancy is tantamount to murder.  Those in favor of abortion are probably more numerous because of the varying stages of abortion they individually accept.  Many of the pro-abortion (renaming themselves the family friendly "pro-choice") don't believe this is a political issue.   They believe it is a personal choice.   However, determining whether something qualifies as murder is certainly a legal and political issue.

Bringing the argument to a different  issue reveals some of our collective ethics about protecting life.  We have obligations to lives that aren't human.  Most people agree that being cruel to animals is wrong.  In fact, torturing and killing them is illegal in most states.  Even though it is not "murder" to kill an animal, it's  punishable.   Even if many of us aren't willing to claim abortion is "murder," we can at least admit that it is possible under our current legal system to make ending a non-human life illegal.

Compromise is key to the longevity of the United States and vital to avoiding violence.  Pro-choicers  need to appreciate that compromising views on murder is difficult for the anti-abortionists (renaming themselves the family friendly "pro-life"). First of all, we need a legal definition of life. This will not be the same as the biological definition, because the biological definition requires an entity to be self-sustaining.  I find this a tricky definition to begin with, because kids aren't self-sustaining until they're able to walk around and scrounge for food.  I know, I know; that's not exactly what "self-sustaining" really means.  It means something that is capable of self-sustenance without additional biological support.  In that sense, some people believe that fetuses don't meet the definition.  I would disagree.  Some babies are capable of sustaining life in as little as 22 weeks of pregnancy.  I would say an abortion after that point, called "partial-birth" abortion, is undisputedly wrong, whether or not the baby meets the standard definition of "alive."

We should all agree that terminating a pregnancy after 22-24 weeks is despicable (unless the mother's life is endangered). In the United States, we can keep a baby alive after it has been prematurely born at 22 weeks.  Most die, but it is no longer a fetus, it's a baby, a functioning human.  To perform an abortion this late into the pregnancy, a doctor must perform a "partial-birth abortion."  It is basically a technical term to escape the questions of murder.  They don't pull the fetus all the way out of the womb.  They pull everything out except for the head and neck.  They reach with scissor-snips and sever the baby's spine directly under the brain stem.  This process kills a human that conceivably could survive with aid.  After 26 weeks, I would consider it first degree murder and the perpetrators should be considered for life imprisonment. Yes, even if the mother has been raped. It's disgusting.

Other people have different views on when an abortion is ok to perform.  Fundamentalist Christians obviously believe that at the moment of conception indicates a soul is placed within the womb.  This always struck me as odd because they have no way of knowing.  They frequently state they cannot know Gods will and they chalk up tragedy as "everything happens for a reason" or "God works in mysterious ways"--other than a few exceptions, it seems.   With issues such as abortion, they have no problem reading God's mind. They're just guessing the intentions of their God, who hasn't said anything to them in about 2000 years.  I just ignore them.  At the moment of conception, a sperm and an egg are just biological materials that have clashed. They are items that have no life force.  In fact, nothing even resembling the form of a baby is present until about two months, and then in form only.  Based on what I've read, I can't consider a mass of tissue comparable to a "baby."  I don't consider a fetus to be anything other than biological material for the first trimester.  After twelve weeks, I don't think we should allow abortion.  But this is all debated.

It's an issue that needs to be decided by courts and legislatures.  I think we should start with some common ground and prohibit partial-birth abortion.  We must also fervently ignore religious arguments.  They are based on nothing more than feelings and hunches.  They have no idea what their god's will is, which has no place in our laws anyway, so we must ignore their opinions.  Laws based on religious views are unconstitutional. If we research, we may be able to determine up to what point it is acceptable to terminate.

2 comments:

  1. A very insightful and realistic post. Extra credit is deserved considering how redundant abortion arguments can be.

    It's funny how the churches claim so many things that they cannot know for certain, yet they have so much world influence.

    I have no opinion as to when life truly begins. So that makes me pro-choice by default. What I do feel strongly about is that every future child should be in capable hands to be raised responsibly. Too many children are born unwanted yet stay with their biological parents. They deserve to be loved and given a fair chance to become productive citizens. If the odds of that happening seem low, it's probably best not to try. Otherwise, we might just be creating another body to take up space in our already crowded prisons.

    Having said that, if an abortion dilemma ever falls upon my shoulders, I don't know if I would have enough gumption to see it carried through. It's easy to understand why this topic pushes so many buttons, especially for those that have stronger doubts than me.

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  2. I thought most states had laws prohibiting abortion after the first trimester (12-13 weeks). Perhaps my views are bias due to being in Virginia and Virginia having such laws, but I thought this was the time-frame in most states.

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