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Abortion: Points of View
It is nearly impossible anymore to find someone who doesn’t have an
opinion about abortion, and probably a strong opinion at that. Yet the endless
debates on the topic usually go nowhere, leaving the opponents even more
committed to their positions and the open-minded observers confused. Both sides
make a good case. An unwanted child is a pitiful thing, and the attendant social
problems (single motherhood, financial destitution, child neglect, and urban
overcrowding, to name just a few) do not have easy solutions. On the other hand,
the thought of terminating something that, if left to run its natural course,
would ultimately result in the birth of a human being gives all but the most
hard-hearted among us cause for serious introspection.
One reason the debate goes nowhere is that each side focuses on a
different topic. We make no progress because we are not talking about the same
thing. The pro-abortionist prefers to discuss choice, and to dwell on all of the
social problems inherent in an unwanted child. The anti-abortionist is
interested primarily in protecting the life of the fetus. In simple terms, the
pro-abortionist focuses on a woman’s rights and the anti-abortionist focuses on
a fetus’ rights. Though interrelated, these are basically different topics.
Though neither side realizes it, there is actually much more agreement
than disagreement between the opposing views. The majority on both sides would
agree that social problems like child neglect and urban overcrowding are serious
issues. Most would also agree that the life of a child is a precious thing that
deserves the full protection of the law. There would even be nearly universal
agreement that it is a woman’s exclusive right to make decisions concerning her
body. So where’s the disagreement? The entire complex issue comes down to one
question:??Is the fetus a person? If you believe it is not a person, then it is
simply part of the woman’s body and subject to her exclusive control. From this
point of view, any attempt to diminish that control is a cruel infringement upon
a woman’s rights. If, however, you believe the fetus is a person, then you are
obligated to protect it, even to the point of delimiting the actions of the
woman carrying it. For you, the suggestion that this issue is a matter of
personal choice is like saying that whether or not a parent kills a two-year-old
is a matter of personal choice.
The goal of these pages is to examine the abortion debate from several
perspectives, focusing on the question of when the fetus’ life as a person
begins. Toward that end I have divided my presentation into four areas:??History,
Medicine, Law, and Bible. History provides insight into how other people and
cultures have approached this issue. Medicine discusses scientific evidence
relating to the topic. Law considers how the Constitution bears on this debate
and the role of the court in it. Bible examines the teachings in this area of
one of the fundamental moral guides for Western culture. Throughout each of the
specific areas I have endeavored to honestly reflect views from both sides. But
I make no pretense of being unbiased. No one who spends any time considering
this issue can be truly impartial. Instead I admit my position freely, but try
to avoid letting it cause me to misrepresent the alternatives. If you feel that
I have missed something significant, please let me know. I hope to refine the
content of these pages over time to make them more useful.
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