--Walter Bagehot, Physics and Politics
Abortion: A Personal Choice
Abortion is one of the most hotly contested issues in today's society. One of the most basic principles of this country is that each and every human being has certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Abortion seems to violate this most basic of tenets. But if one thinks of the deeper issues that must be addressed, the issue of abortion becomes a very personal one.
The first thing that must be addressed is the basic question of what constitutes life. Is it simply the fact that two cells are reproducing? For the most basic of lifeforms, such reproduction might well be considered life. But humans are not the most basic of lifeforms. Is it the fact that we have a beating heart? If so, then in a situation where the heart ceases to function, there ceases to be life. Is it the fact that we have the ability to think and reason? If so, then those who lack such ability are not alive, even if their body is completely functional. Is it the fact that we have a soul? Such assertion cannot be proven and in fact forces everyone to ascribe to a state determined religious tenet, in violation of the US Constitution. As with other issues of morality, what constitutes life is very personal and individual.
The next question that must be addressed is when life begins. Does it begin when the sperm penetrates the egg? If so, any woman who suffers a miscarriage would need to be investigated for possible homicide to see if her actions contributed to the death of the fetus. (It is already law in five states that women can be put on "civil detention" if they engage in behavior that is "dangerous" to the fetus.) Does it begin when the child is born? If so, then there should be no distinction between early term abortions and late term abortions other than the medical ones associated with the increased risks during late term abortions. But with modern technology, it is possible to keep alive babies born before the normal 40 week gestation. So do we extend to those babies who could possibly survive early delivery the same rights we give to babies delivered after full term? To do so would require that those who suffer late term miscarriages or still births to undergo investigation into possible homicide. Or do we become even more esoteric and say that life begins when the soul enters the body? The existence of a soul cannot be proved and it is not possible to determine when or even if a soul enters or exits the body. Many have come to accept that without the higher brain functions humans are capable of achieving, life ceases to exist. Such consensus has led to the right of family members to terminate life support for loved ones given no chance of recovering such function. But such a consensus does nothing to help determine when life starts. Once again, when life begins becomes a very personal and individual decision.
I cannot answer these questions for anyone but me. I have no right to tell someone else that they must accept what constitutes life or when life begins from my point of view. And no one else has the right to tell me when life begins. This is the crux of the abortion issue. The anti-choice forces are seeking to impose their idea of when life begins on everyone else. There are even those who do not want to allow for any exceptions to the no abortion laws they're seeking to pass. Why is the life of a developing fetus who may not even survive the birth process more important than the life of a woman already alive and contributing to society? Why is such a life more important than the life (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) of a young woman who has been raped and is pregnant as a result? Why is the life of a developing fetus born with severe physical and/or mental limitations more important than the life of the healthy woman carrying such a fetus? (NOTE: This is in no way meant to imply that those who are born with or acquire severe physical/mental/emotional limitations are any less of a person or have a less than fulfilling life. But neither is their life more important than anyone else's either.)
My personal views of when life begins are when the soul enters the body. I don't think there is a set time for this, nor do I think it really matters. Because of my belief in reincarnation and the karma associated with it, there is no way to determine what might be being worked out on a more cosmic level between the soul of a "child" who is aborted and the woman who chooses an abortion. And if there is no karma being worked out now, it willbe worked out later. Would I personally have an abortion? I doubt it. Not because I think it is wrong but because there is such a shortage of children and such a surplus of childless couples seeking to adopt. I do NOT advocate abortion as a form of birth control...it is dangerous and unhealthy for the woman. I neither advocate for nor against abortion, but for the freedom for each and every woman to make such a decision for herself, free from outside pressure.
The decision to have an abortion is, for most women, an extremely excruciatingly painful and emotional one. It is not one made lightly in most cases. For me, or anyone else, to attempt to tell a woman choosing an abortion that she has made the wrong decision is ludicrous. No one is in a better position to judge her ability to take care of a child better than the woman herself. And to tell her she is committing murder is a form of intimidation and harassment and MUST be stopped by law if necessary. The anti-choice groups who picket abortion clinics often use what would be considered abusive tactics in a more intimate relationship— shouting insults and slurs at women entering a clinic (even those not having an abortion, but simply seeking medical care), attempting to forcibly restrain them or physically interfere with them entering a clinic, shoving literature into their faces. Many clinics have begun to train volunteers to act as a human shield around all their clients. Some "pro-life" people have even found a way to justify killing abortion providers or workers in the office. This is a sad commentary on the state of America and the rights of those who claim to be acting on their conscience, yet see nothing wrong with forcing others to adhere to their own standards and moral codes. All the while claiming that using tax dollars to fund abortions is forcing them to support something they find morally unjust. There is more than a little bit of hypocrisy and double standards there.
The truth is that the government has no right to dictate what a woman can and cannot do with respect to abortion. It is in direct violation of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and regardless of our stand on abortion's morality, we need to recognize that any attempt by the government to say whether or not a woman can have an abortion is an attack on the very foundations of our country and our freedoms.