Abortion: Points of ViewIt is nearly impossible anymore to find someone who doesn’t have anopinion about abortion, and probably a strong opinion at that. Yet the endlessdebates on the topic usually go nowhere, leaving the opponents even morecommitted to their positions and the open-minded observers confused. Both sidesmake a good case. An unwanted child is a pitiful thing, and the attendant socialproblems (single motherhood, financial destitution, child neglect, and urbanovercrowding, 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 mosthard-hearted among us cause for serious introspection.One reason the debate goes nowhere is that each side focuses on adifferent topic. We make no progress because we are not talking about the samething.
The pro-abortionist prefers to discuss choice, and to dwell on all of thesocial problems inherent in an unwanted child. The anti-abortionist isinterested primarily in protecting the life of the fetus. In simple terms, thepro-abortionist focuses on a woman’s rights and the anti-abortionist focuses ona fetus’ rights. Though interrelated, these are basically different topics.Though neither side realizes it, there is actually much more agreementthan disagreement between the opposing views. The majority on both sides wouldagree that social problems like child neglect and urban overcrowding are seriousissues.
Most would also agree that the life of a child is a precious thing thatdeserves the full protection of the law. There would even be nearly universalagreement that it is a woman’s exclusive right to make decisions concerning herbody. So where’s the disagreement? The entire complex issue comes down to onequestion:Is the fetus a person? If you believe it is not a person, then it issimply part of the woman’s body and subject to her exclusive control. From thispoint of view, any attempt to diminish that control is a cruel infringement upona woman’s rights. If, however, you believe the fetus is a person, then you areobligated to protect it, even to the point of delimiting the actions of thewoman carrying it. For you, the suggestion that this issue is a matter ofpersonal choice is like saying that whether or not a parent kills a two-year-oldis a matter of personal choice.
The goal of these pages is to examine the abortion debate from severalperspectives, focusing on the question of when the fetus’ life as a personbegins. Toward that end I have divided my presentation into four areas:History,Medicine, Law, and Bible. History provides insight into how other people andcultures have approached this issue. Medicine discusses scientific evidencerelating to the topic. Law considers how the Constitution bears on this debateand the role of the court in it. Bible examines the teachings in this area ofone of the fundamental moral guides for Western culture.
Throughout each of thespecific areas I have endeavored to honestly reflect views from both sides. ButI make no pretense of being unbiased. No one who spends any time consideringthis issue can be truly impartial. Instead I admit my position freely, but tryto avoid letting it cause me to misrepresent the alternatives. If you feel thatI have missed something significant, please let me know. I hope to refine thecontent of these pages over time to make them more useful.