Monday, November 17, 2008

Abortion - Black and White?

Abortion is a black and white issue to some people. There are many who have made up their mind – abortion is either always wrong and a woman should never have the option to go through with the procedure – or the woman should always have a choice whether or not she wants to have an abortion; it should be a legal right. In between these two extremes there is of course an infinite depth and variety of views on what is “right.” Some may say abortion is only acceptable a few days after conception; others will see even late-term abortions as acceptable. Some will agree that abortion is wrong, but since there is such a clash of interests that some form of abortion should remain as a legal option.

Roe v. Wade stands as the bar that has been set concerning abortion rulings. That landmark 1973 case said that laws banning abortion denied women the right of privacy granted in the 14th amendment. In the system of checks and balances, the Judicial Branch is meant to interpret law and can deny law if it is found unconstitutional. This is exactly why it is tied up in the courts. Of course, this does not deny Legislatures the right to write up a law that says life begins at conception – I can’t even imagine the debate in the courts if they had to protect the legal right to life of a fetus, yet deal with the precedent in place concerning the right to privacy! With a Democratically-dominated Congress and Executive branch, I don’t really see any legislation passing any time soon that will define life as starting at conception.

I have found abortion to be an incredibly complex issue. I have avoided commenting on abortion on this blog or in any discussions I have recently had. I think I can honestly say I am practically torn on this issue. On the one hand, I have had two people who I respect an incredible amount when it comes to political issues who have said that there should not be a ban on abortion. Then again, there are people I respect very much who are hardcore pro-lifers (including Ron Paul himself). What is this issue really all about? Life, Choices, Murder, and a whole lot more.

The problem with abortion is that there is just no easy answer. One could make the argument that it is similar to alcohol, marijuana, gambling etc. in the sense that it will not necessarily be seen as the “right” thing to do and oftentimes will even be looked down on by many people. But the thing is that people have the choice to do this or that regardless of whether people think it is ‘good’ or not. But the analogy cannot be drawn to abortion – the argument is flawed because when one aborts a fetus it is not just the person who does the aborting who is affected (even though in my opinion they will feel the effects for the rest of their life) but also the fetus, the “life” that is necessarily affected.

One could also argue that abortion is in all instances murder. But again, it is not murder in the sense we know murder as. I think that many Americans see a big difference between an abortion in the first trimester and one that is later (that actually requires the dismembering of their body). Why is that? It is surely different than murder in the traditional sense, since murder of a human being happens when they are already living and breathing on this earth, and it takes much more to murder someone than to have an abortion, or else there would not be the immense amount of abortions as there have been in recent time. I think the argument that there is clearly life, or at the very least potential of life, starting with conception is a very strong case against abortion, though. The problem is that those who disagree do not see any other strong argument in opposition of abortion.

But how far do we go when it comes to abortion legislation? Do we have an all-out ban on any abortions in any circumstance? Or do we allow all abortions? First, I strongly believe that this is a state-by-state issue. If abortion in Minnesota is the same as abortion in Wisconsin, then why is it a state issue? In my opinion the federal government already has taken way too much power from the states, and I believe that the Constitution needs to be respected when it says that all powers not specifically given to the federal government are reserved for the states. That is where my train of thought comes from. But even if it is a state issue, what exactly should be the ruling on abortion? I have a hard time supporting an all out ban. I believe it is more complex than that. The fact that there is such debate over who is right, I don’t believe that the government should be legislating to that extent over a woman’s body. I am opposed to abortion personally, but I also believe in personal rights so I am very much stuck in the middle.

Can I denounce abortion and not be in support of an all-out ban on the practice? I believe so. This is one place where I think the church has become way too involved in politics. Instead of being the first place someone would turn when they become pregnant, the church has become a mortal enemy of anyone who even considers an abortion. I believe the same is true with gay marriage. The ban on gay marriage in California has not caused anyone to rethink their sexual orientation. If anything, it has turned them much farther from the church. I feel as though too much weight has been put on the legislation of abortion. I think that if someone has an issue with abortion, it should be with the doctors and the individuals who are taking part in it. I am not trying to make those who take part in it seem evil, but instead of trying to push this legislation through you should see who it is you are taking issue with. Instead of thinking legislation will end the issue, one should consider investing their time volunteering for some organization that reaches out to women considering having an abortion, or even adopt a child! Maybe donate money to a nonprofit that helps out mothers financially who make the choice to not have an abortion. There are endless options to what someone can do to curb the abortion trend without legislation. I know, I know, it sounds crazy trying to find solutions outside of government! *note the sarcasm*

I will never say I think abortion is “right.” I truly believe it is an extremely complex issue that has many variables. But I hope that this blog will help other people understand why I am not “without-exception” pro-life and in support of an all-out ban. I think there are better ways to address this issue than the millions of hours (and dollars!) spent to advocate legislation that would ban all abortions, everywhere, without exception.


jpberthiaume said...

First of all, the things you suggest for pro-lifers are already being done. I donate money and do whatever I can to keep them from happening. It is also an issue, like anything else, that has political relevance (so it should not be discounted any more than anything else should be).

Second, if we do not know when life begins (which many pro-choicers or issue-agnostic people say), we should take the utmost care to protect it. For what, in this world as we know it, is more valuable than our lives?

Third, the trend in science lends more and more evidence to incredibly complex life even moments after conception, not the other way around.

And fourth, if you do even slightly start leaning toward the truth -- that life begins at conception -- what is the first right of any human being? When someone states that we have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," they do not put them in that order because it is an alphabetical list (if so, liberty should come first).

The abortion issue is not as complex as people like to make it, and that is why Dr. Paul, an extreme supporter of individual rights, is pro-life. He recognizes that life IS our first right, no matter how it comes about, and taking away that right for someone who can't even represent himself or herself in the debate is the worst kind of injustice.

dane said...

Excellent post on an incredibly difficult subject. I, like you, have gone back and forth on this my entire life. On the one hand, I personally hate even the thought of abortion.

In the end, though, I do not want my government making those choices for people. Outlawing something does not make it go away, nor does government have the right or ability to legislate morality. I like your point about doing something about it on a personal level and not leaving it to the government to make laws.

I read "Give Me Liberty" by Naomi Wolf this week. She is a self-professed "Liberal", yet called herself a "closet Libertarian" on the Lew Rockwell Show. (We need to stop labeling people Liberals and Conservatives. Those titles have been so maligned they no longer hold any accurate meaning.There are really only two camps, those for big government and those for Liberty.)

Wolf made some interesting points about how the two sides on the abortion issue are not as far apart as the media would like us to believe. The media needs polarization to make good television. In reality, most Americans are more in the middle, understanding your points that the issue is not that dogmatically simple. She pointed out that we, the average people, only hear the arguments from the two extremes.

I, like Wolf, am Pro-Choice, but because of the complexities of the issue, I hold Ron Paul's opposite opinion in high regard. I have no problem disagreeing with someone, especially if it is obvious their heart is in the right place and their arguments are logical.

jpberthiaume said...

In response to Dane, the pro-choice idea is fundamentally flawed. Even if you *think* that the unborn/fetus (whatever it can be called to make it to be anything other than a human being) is not human life, the burden is on you to prove that (and you can't).

To put it another way, let's create a ridiculous scenario just to make a point: let's say there were two curtains, and firing the gun into either one would cure your worst ailment, but you knew that your closest family member was behind one of them (and would be killed if you fired into him or her). You could not fire the gun, and if you did and you killed someone (knowing you had a 50-50 chance of killing someone) you should be charged with murder.

I'd even go so far as to say that abortion is worse than this scenario because science has proven that there clearly is a better than 50% chance that the unborn is human life (though it's "easier" for people to support abortion because we aren't thinking about a person they know and love -- yet). Yet, even a .0000000000001% chance that it's a human life makes abortion or any kind of killing way too risky. Even if there were a million curtains and a loved one was behind one of them, a person still should not fire into any of them.

It's a good discussion to have because many people have made the abortion issue much more complex than it really is. In reality, it is a black and white situation. Yes, conservatives/libertarians and liberals, alike (and everyone in between except the people who make money off of abortions), want to reduce unwanted pregnancies, though they have different methods for doing so. Still, it is no more acceptable to kill a tiny human life as it is to kill a grown human life. Saying that you don't want government making that choice for its people is saying that government shouldn't make the choice of killing ANYONE for its people.

The only thing that will make abortion acceptable is when you can prove that life does not begin at conception, and all I can say is "good luck."

dane said...

jpberthiaume said:

"The only thing that will make abortion acceptable is when you can prove that life does not begin at conception, and all I can say is "good luck."

You are missing my argument. I am in no way saying abortion IS acceptable. I don't like abortion and I don't believe it is right. (In fact, I spent time during my college days handing out anti-abortion tracts.)

This is a hot button, emotional issue for both sides. Even though my personal view of abortion mirrors your own, that does not compel me to petition my government to legislate MY world view on them. Making abortions illegal will not end abortion. Abortion will end when it becomes culturally unexceptable. Teach YOUR children well and we will change the culture. It is NOT government's job to do that.

The "sanctity" of life argument is very similar to that used by my liberal friends when discussing gun control. (And I find it ironic you mentioned guns in your analogy.) Eliminate guns and you won't have to worry about anyone shooting into the "curtains." Liberals would argue that life is more important than Liberty and that even if there is "a .0000000000001% chance" of saving one life by restricting people's right to own guns, that would morally justify it.

Whether it is gun control or abortion, at the end of the day, people must be responsible for themselves and their own actions. We all want freedom for ourselves, but we need to recognize that in order to insure that we must also respect that not everyone sees the world from our vantage point.

I find your points convincing on a personal level and as it pertains to me and anyone I have any semblance of influence over. And I recognize that I am probably naive in believing that change can be made without having it mandated down upon us by government. But, ultimately, I have faith that, given the responsibility, individuals are capable of doing the right thing. On the other hand, I have such an incredible distrust of government, that I am leery to give them power in this or any other arena.

jpberthiaume said...


Your point about the guns is perpendicular at worst, or less than parallel at best. The gun is not abortion. The gun would be the pregnancy. Some people want pregnancy and some don't (for whatever reasons). Some want guns and some don't want guns. In both cases it isn't immoral to be on either side. Abortion is the murder -- the act -- that is done with the gun if you want to compare these two issues. I know it's simplistic, but the phrase "guns don't kill people -- people kill people" is correct in that the gun, in its simplest form for argument's sake, is a neutral object, no more dangerous than a pillow on its own (probably less so because a gun can't suffocate you while you are sleeping. The gun issue is a little more complex in that there are varying degrees of "gunship," ranging from hunting rifles to assault weapons, and there actually is a middle ground that might make most or all parties happy. In the case of abortion, though, it's binary. You either are okay with the killing of a human being for your convenience or you aren't. The only way, then, for you to be consistent is to say that it is anyone's free choice (without legal consequence) to kill any other human being for their convenience. If not, where does that "right" end? Who's to say we shouldn't be able to legally kill children up until the age of 5? Or, maybe even up until we are 33 (the so-called perfect biological age).

So, I guess the question I have for you is, should we legislate against the killing of any human being? If so, and you don't think we should legislate against abortion, why against other, older people? If not, what good is any other law?

Budsy Jean said...

I agree with you, Dane. The decision should come from the home and not the government. I personally would prefer that one not choose abortion. However, I know that making something illegal will not prevent it from happening. My mother is 88 years old and was a registered nurse for 40+ years of her life. She saw many examples of the results of ‘back alley’ or self-abortions when abortion was illegal (the old ‘coat hanger’ joke was no joke).

I think that many anti-choice people believe that if we simply outlaw abortion, they can wash their hands of the issue. All done; clean and simple. However, it will only drive people to go to the ‘back alley doctor’ or attempt the procedure on themselves, running the risk of a plethora of other physical and psychological problems, compounding the already very agonizing choice.

I also think that many anti-choice people think that would be okay, because those people are dirty, rotten, soulless people anyway, and who cares what happens to them. Their unforgivable sin of abortion is just going to put them in hell anyway. If they die of infection, uterine punctures, etc., it will just make the world a better place.

I believe in keeping the government out of my religion, and keeping the religion out of my government. I believe them to be separate and distinct. If I wanted to live in a religious state, there are many countries from which I could choose where government mandated religion is pervasive into every aspect everyday life.

You guys also won't like this very much, but bear in mind that I know Dane (very well) and DC (pretty well), and, based on what I've read of jpberthiaume, I think he would fall into the same category. You guys are responsible and if you fathered an unplanned pregnancy, you would do what you could to support the woman.

On the other hand, I know women who have had abortions and they were not in stable relationships where the sperm donator was available for physical support. I do find it ironic how men purport that women need to carry the pregnancy to term, no matter what. It is very easy and moralistic to say when men will never know what it would be like, and can never even imagine to put themselves in that place. You will never, EVER know, and to paint all women with that broad moralistic brush when it is really such an individual choice is ironic to me when men can simply walk away to donate their sperm to someone else.

dane said...


Thank you for the engaging and educational discussion.

I want to address your statement that “you either are okay with the killing of a human being for your convenience or you aren’t.”

I really am not trying to complicate things, but I don’t see the issue quite so “binary” when “convenience” is NOT the issue. What about the black 13 year old from South Central LA who finds herself pregnant after being raped or involuntarily involved in incest? What about a mother whose life is in danger if she follows through with an unexpected pregnancy? The issue is not quite so “binary” for them, nor is it an issue of “convenience”.

What do you envision the government “allowing” in the way of choice for these people? How would the over-turning of Roe vs. Wade effect people in like situations? Who in the government will decide their fate and what qualifications do these government bureaucrats have to preside over them?

I believe your arguments on the abortion issue are intellectually accurate, but disagree with you on your governmental solution. I am a libertarian-leaning anarchist. I never see the government as the solution for ANYTHING. In my opinion, it is wrong to think that making something a law (especially when half of the population thinks it is ludicrous) is going to solve anything.

You may see this as immoral (or at the very least, ammoral), but I must emphasize again, individual choice is more important to me than using my government to legislate my morality onto others. I hate abortion. I hate guns. I hate marijuana. I hate that the Iraqis don’t have democracy. I hate that there is genocide in Africa. But government is too inept to resolve ANY of these issues. Creating laws (outlawing marijuana, for instance) never resolves the issue (and even less-so when half of the population thinks the law is ludicrous). We, the people, as a culture are the only ones capable of making those changes, and we can only do that by allowing people to be responsible for themselves.

I am not “okay with the killing” of any human being, I just don’t see the government as the solution to stopping it from happening.

Let me sum up by saying, I believe you to be absolutely correct in your views about abortion, but I disagree with you on the idea that outlawing it somehow “solves” the issue. Mandates from government generally mean nothing to me and I can guarantee they mean even less to those who actually disagree with them. We must seek a higher solution, which I believe can only be found on the individual level, changing culture, and not by changing who is, on any given day, in charge of the government.

(Although, I understand most people will never comprehend my complete distrust of government, I want everyone to understand that I totally respect jpberthiaume’s position on this issue. It is well thought out, logical, and unemotional, and because of that I have truly learned something from this discourse.)

jpberthiaume said...

Thanks to all for a healthy discussion. I'd like to point out something that I have pointed out more than once but that keeps getting pinned on me:

I do not consider the government a ***solution*** for ANYTHING other than protecting us from outside and inside danger and maintaining infrastructure. I do not pretend that any law will stop anyone from doing anything they *really* want to do. They have free will, and I don't wish to take free will away from anyone. As a Catholic, I desire for everyone to choose the moral and just option when it is a situation with two distinct sides, and I see taking someone's free will away not only removes the opportunity for them to choose wrongly, but it takes away their opportunity to choose properly. I want them to be able to choose between something moral and immoral. That does NOT mean that the laws we do have in place should not be properly ordered. I do believe we should have a law against killing another human being. We shouldn't need one, in a civilized society, but we unfortunately do need one and there needs to be repercussion for those people who kill other human beings. We cannot afford that "choice" to ANYONE, regardless of circumstances (EXCEPT in cases where there own life is in danger -- and I'd say the same thing for abortion). So, let it be known that I do not see government/law as a means for ending abortion. It is only one dart on a very large dartboard. It, neither, will eliminate anyone's free will. Just as you say I can move to a place with a theocratic government, so can someone move to a place of freely available (and probably tax-supported) abortions.

At this point, I don't feel like either of you have done well to separate why it is okay to kill an unborn child but not okay to kill any other human being. Because you continuously fail to answer that question, your argument cannot advance. I don't even think that your argument can advance, because it is an imperfect, corrupt position to take (and I've taken such positions until I've met the truth that I was wrong and then I've changed my mind, so I don't mean this to sound personal). I think, with any liberal position, you are always dealing with shades of gray instead of seeing things as black and white. On issues of life and death, you can only choose black or white because you cannot bring back the dead (at least yet). Simply put, we cannot afford to be wrong when dealing with other people's lives.

There is nothing more important to me than religion. On those things that religion applies, I see EVERYTHING through the lens of my religion, and if you are Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, you are called to make every decision with God in mind. (Abortion, by the way, is not one of those things -- my basis is scientific, just as the basis government has for making any killing of human beings illegal.) Most of politics should not be influenced by religion because religion doesn't know any better than the general population (God does, but humans don't). Religion should NEVER be affected by politics, and that was the true intention of separation of Church and State (much has been written on this and it is easily accessible -- I'm not going to regurgitate anything for the sake of my time and yours).

As for being a man and being pro-life, Budsy Jean, my wife has given birth, will give birth again in a little over a month, and she is pro-life, too. So is my mom, my family who happen to be female, and most of my friends who happen to be female. All of these people think that it should be illegal to have an abortion, and they also think we have other duties to make sure that the people who would otherwise have abortions be supported in a proper manner such that they do not need to have an abortion. Is the pain and suffering of childbirth unfortunate? Of course it is. You cannot rectify that at the expense of another human being, simply said. That's not how a civilized society works.

To stay with the analogy, one should never be allowed to take a gun they rightfully own and shoot it at something that might be a human being. Under our government, if we don't have life we have nothing. You cannot have liberty without it. (And I do consider myself a libertarian, which seems to be the way each of you leans.)

jpberthiaume said...

I happened to run across this in Facebook (which I recently rejoined for particular reasons I don't wish to divulge):

I don't know if that link will work -- I've never linked to anything internal to Facebook -- and if it doesn't, let me know and I'll explain how to get to it. I don't want to copy and paste it and break any copyrights, etc. It's titled "The Libertarian Case Against Abortion." (And, the "case" is a political one.)

Budsy Jean said...

Believe it or not, there are people who live in this country who do not see a fetus as a viable living entity. Polar opposite of what you believe, whether moral or scientific.

Your procreation is well noted. That is what your religious beliefs require you to do. Happy that your wife has the same religious beliefs that you do.

My point was that I generally disregard what men say about abortion because men cannot get pregnant. I never said that I would disregard what your wife or her female friends say.

jpberthiaume said...

Budsy Jean-

If you want to come right out and demonstrate that you are an ignorant fool and tell me that I don't have permission to argue with you on that, it will tell me and all the other readers what they need to know: you are not credible.

Until you or whoever "disagrees" with me can prove that life does not begin at conception, it is outright irresponsible and dangerous to kill what might be human life. It's as simple as that.

Also, my religion is a result of my beliefs and vice versa. If I didn't believe what the Catholic Church stood for, I would not be a Catholic (and it would be mutual as the Church wouldn't accept me not accepting Her). My argument is beyond my religion. My voting conscience is not, but I don't need religion to tell me that life begins at conception and for all of the people who make science their religion, their religion is on my side in this debate, too.

So, consider my argument representative of my wife if you are too ignorant (and unqualified) to argue with a man.