Posted: February 23, 2012 in Current Events, politics, Religion

Here’s my attempt to consider the question of abortion without drawing any moral conclusions, but rather to examine the facts and their various facets.  Amoung social conservatives, this by itself may be crossing some line, but an inability to discuss a topic rationally leads to totalitarian thinking.  I’m not trying to present either a pro or anti abortion, but rather some of the considerations that surround the issue.  I’m aware that, near the end at least, the facts tend to lead me in a certain direction.

In the abortion issue there can be three possible perspectives.  The first is that all abortion, regardless of timing or circumstance is absolutely wrong because life and soul begin at conception.  The second would be that life begins at birth and that abortions should be allowed.

The third is that timing and circumstance should have a bearing on the decision of abortion.  It argues that there may be a certain stage of development where it is no longer ethical to perform an abortion, or that circumstances such as rape or personal health should also have a bearing.  Of course the difficulty with this stance is that, since it is not absolute, the actual timing or circumstances are debatable.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on embryonic development, but those who argue in favour of limited abortions would claim that the same standards one applies to a four month pregnancy should not be applied to a two week pregnancy.

Generally, the controversy exists between the first and third perspective.  There aren’t too many people who would support unrestricted abortions, say in the last few months of pregnancy.  The real question is that of absolutism vs relative situations.

And this point is often lost in the discussions.  Pro-life people tend to talk about pro-choice as being in the second rather than third category, creating a “straw man”.  The discussion is always done in absolutes and the pro-life target is often not honestly defined.  Seldom do you hear the discussion of the circumstances or the timing.  Pro life people are opposed to abortion even if it takes place the day after conception (as with a morning after pill) or even in a case where the birth could be life threatening to the mother.  The subtle distinction here is often missing from the argument, mainly because it is in the best interest of the pro-life group to ignore situational factors.  Subtleties are messy when you hold an absolutist position.  As a result, any type of abortion, regardless of circumstances, becomes baby killing, -and while that may be a religious absolute, I don’t believe it is held to be a scientific one.

What is interesting is that the pro-life group also extends its condemnation to birth control.  Birth control pills, condoms and vasectomies are all under fire as well (although the vasectomies get little attention because that has to do with a man’s control over his body rather than a woman’s control over her body).  Similarly, the same group generally regards masturbation and sex education as being evil.

These don’t have anything to do with a pro-life religious theological argument and yet they are often lumped together.  One has to wonder what the real motive is in some of the cases.  Is being anti-abortion actually pro-life, or is it just anti-sex?  The conservative religious stance is that sexual activity should be only for the purpose of procreation, because other sex (and, let’s face it, even marital sex) is evil in the eyes of social conservatism.  (In many religions, sexual activity in marriage is regarded as a duty rather than a pleasure.)  This gets translated into the euphemism of “family values”, but it is pretty clear that the issue at the heat of it all is that sex is bad.

The discussion of abortion during last night’s Republican debate zeroed in right away on teen pregnancy, -as if unwanted teen pregnancies were the result of easily available abortions rather than unavailable contraception and information.  Research clearly states that abstinence only education is positively correlated with increased teen pregnancy and STDs.  The facts are pretty absolute.  It is not the availability of abortions which fuels irresponsible sexual activity amoung teens, but rather religiously encouraged ignorance of sexuality and contraception.

If the anti-abortion, pro-life people believe that they have a theological argument about conception and the existence of a soul, then that, at least, is an arguable point and belief.  It would have to be more than that in order to force it onto people who don’t hold the same beliefs.  It would have to be supportable with some kind of acceptable evidence.  But if the fuel behind the anti-abortion stance is compounded by a religious, prudish aversion to sex, then that has no bearing on any rational discourse.  Unfortunately, the two things get confused sometimes, leading to rather muddled, emotional and deceptive arguments.

I realize that I’ve gotten a little less objective at the end of this, but I think I’m still arguing facts rather than beliefs.  I have no problem with a person’s religious beliefs guiding their own life.  If they plan to guide everybody else’s, they have to have some pretty solid, rational evidence.


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