Is Abortion Wrong?

No.  It is not wrong.  Neither is it right.

I am responding partly to a discussion between Pastor Steve Hickey and Cory Heidelberger on the Madville Times blog. Pastor Steve really wants Cory to answer this question; Cory says the question is not whether or not abortion is wrong, but whether or not Initiated Measure 11 (the second attempt at a sweeping abortion ban in South Dakota) is good public policy.

I do agree with Cory that his is a legitimate question that needs answering when we go to the polls, but I don’t agree with dodging the “right or wrong” question because those who believe abortion is morally wrong and a sin do not care how it is outlawed, as long as their crusade is won.  The end, they believe, will justify their means, even if it legally demotes women to second or third-class citizens.

Abortion is not wrong.  Coercing a woman to have an abortion is wrong, and coercing a woman into having a child she does not want is wrong, but that is a matter of coercion–forced agreement–rather than a matter of terminating a pregnancy.

Abortion itself is neither right nor wrong.  It is neither to be banned nor encouraged, and it should be kept safe and legal so that women who seek this option will not endanger their lives by doing so.

Teaching young men and women about safe sex, abstinence as a good option, and the possible outcomes and responsibilities of their choices is a good way to reduce the number of abortions.

Outlawing abortion does not significantly reduce the number of abortions that occur, but it does significantly raise the negative physical, psychological, and emotional effects of those abortions, and those negative effects echo throughout society.

The fact is, women have been making decisions about their reproductive health for thousands of years, and that has always included the termination of pregnancies that are unintended and/or would result in a child that would be an over-taxation of the family’s and society’s resources.

That women have had, for most of recorded history, ways to make and carry out those decisions over their bodies and their fertility is a good thing, and has likely saved many tribes, community groups, and families from starvation and dissolution.

The self-righteousness of those who would deny women this intrinsic right over their own bodies and fertility baffles me.  They want to do something they perceive as good and right and moral–Don’t let those women kill their babies!  God will reward us for our (presumably) righteous cause (or at least not smite us with his wrath)!

But it strikes me as misguided to presume (if you’re a believer) what God wants from women in terms of their own bodies and fertility.  Yes, they say “He wants us to be fruitful and multiply,” but wasn’t that a couple thousand years ago, and does that mean to the point of over-reaching our resources for our families, our communities, our earth that “He” supposedly gave us to be stewards over?

There are those who want every issue, every idea, every thing they encounter to have a “good” label or an “evil” label, and there are those who are quick to affix those labels.  They castigate those who will not engage in this sort of labeling as the ultimate evil-doers: moral relavatists.  I do not see myself as one of those.

I believe that when a women makes a decision to terminate or continue her pregnancy, it is often a practical decision that takes into account her own and her family’s and society’s ability to provide a good life for that child.  It is a decision that takes into account whether or not an additional child will take away from the good lives she is able to provide for her other present or future children.

From an abortion-is-a-sin-and-an-abomination viewpoint, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is always morally wrong.  For a women in uncertain times or without adequate resources, the morally right decision may be to terminate the pregnancy in order to provide for her existing children and family, or to better her circumstances in order that her future children will have better and healthier lives.

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23 responses

  1. I’ve always been of the mind that God (and I do believe in God) has endowed us with logic and free will and a responsibility towards those in our care. A woman down the road is not under my care. I do not have the facts to make a decision for her. I don’t have the right to impede the free will that God has given her. I’m a firm believer in “If you don’t believe abortion is moral, please don’t have one”. Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population who view abortion as murder and thus my position is kinda silly to them, but I believe that since God allowed me a mind to know the difference between an embryo and a child, He expects me to use it in a rational way. I just don’t think that abortion equals murder, though that is something that will always be hotly debated in a religious context due to the subjective nature of religion and the wide varieties of religious beliefs on the topic.

  2. Claire –

    Takre religion out of the mix and abortion is still wrong. An embryo has its own unique DNA thus making it a separate living being that is simply relying on its mother to make it through its first 9 months of life. As it does once it is born. I was also the type of person to think, “Abortion is wrong but it is not my place to tell other women what to do with their bodies”. It seems that most people who have this attitude have never had to make that choice. I can tell you that as a post-abortive woman that people do not realize that when you have a crisis pregnancy you DO NOT think rationally. So many women say that if abortion had not been legal they would not have done it, myself included. I praise God that I found Pastor Steve Hickey who introduced me to the people who helped me find my way to God, forgiveness and healing.

  3. Sperm and eggs have DNA too.

    I did make that choice, and ten years later, I do not regret it. I did not regret it at the time, either.

    People make all kinds of difficult decisions under stress. Are women, in your view, uniquely incapable of doing so?

    I am glad you are finding forgiveness and healing. But to disallow other women, most of whom do not regret their choice, say over their own fertility is not the answer to your own moral dilemma.

  4. I agree, people do make difficult decisions under stress, but how many of those decisions do you think people later regret? I’d like to see a figure and/or statistic on how many women DIDN’T regret the choice to have an abortion. Can you tell me where I can find that information???

  5. The recent APA report is where you will find more information on the numbers. The report states that abortion is common (about 1/4 of women), and that mental health problems do not generally result from a single first trimester abortion.

    Multiple abortions are harder to discuss in terms of mental health, because multiple unplanned pregnancies often co-occur with mental health issues.

    The fact that some people regret a decision that was theirs to make is not a logical reason to remove others’ right to make decisions for themselves.

  6. I was just reading a bunch of the abortion stories linked to from Hickey’s website. I think that most of their trauma was created by the stigma and treatment perhaps more common 30 years ago. I did not see one statement there by a woman who had an abortion more recently than the early 80’s or who had an abortion under general anesthesia. It would appear that abortion has become much more humane in the last 30 years. Perhaps another benefit of the advancement of women’s rights? I guess we’ve earned the right to anesthesia for a medical procedure…

  7. One of the findings of the APA report is that women who have been counseled to re-evaluate the abortion procedure as “a sin” or “killing child” suffer ill psychological after-effects as a result.

    The Post Abortion Syndrome they describe has never been a part of the DSM–individual women do sometimes suffer terribly as a consequence of either the decision they regret, or from the social stigma or counseling that encourages them to consider themselves murderers. Of course, many of those who offer this kind of counseling also offer the redemption. How convenient.

  8. Mahatma Ghandi was once asked if abortion was wrong. He answered that it was as clear as the light of the sun that it was wrong. We do not have the right to do with our own bodies what we want. That is why there are all kinds of laws against things like heroin use, suicide, prostitution etc. We do not allow real gladiator fights in an arena. We have outlawed slavery. An unborn baby is not the property of its mother (or father). To consider killing a foetus as some kind of benefit to the mother or siblings is like saying it would be a benefit for me to go and kill my next door neighbour so that I could take his house and belongings. I have no such right. It is like a nazi saying there is a benefit to killing jews or a slave-holder saying he has rights. If one does not believe in God then abortion is even worse because then when an unborn baby is killed you have murdered him/her and robbed the victim of the only Life he or she had and ever would have. Every woman knows deep down that she has done a truly terrible thing and has suffered a terrible loss when she has had an abortion.

  9. I am going to take two of your statements here and put them together:

    “We do not have the right to do with our own bodies what we want.”

    “We have outlawed slavery.”

    Slaves, by definition, do not have the right to do with their own bodies what they want. Free people own their bodies.

    I appreciate that you want to use sweeping statements like “every woman knows deep down…,” but you are quite simply incorrect.

  10. Wow, this is probably really gonna get me some bastard points, but I actually believe that drug use, suicide and prostitution should be legal as well. It’s just my love of personal freedom I suppose.

    “Every woman knows deep down that she has done a truly terrible thing and has suffered a terrible loss when she has had an abortion.” – This is not a true statement. I’m a woman, I’ve had two abortions, I have no regrets, suffered no loss and done nothing terrible. I know that those abortions were the best decisions I could have made at the time. That is what I know “deep down”.

    I believe in God, but I also believe that a fetus is not a baby until it is born and that a soul enters the body upon first breath and leaves the body on last breath. Again, this is my BELIEF, and certainly not a fact. Beliefs are simply opinions. If it were a fact, maybe then we could actually use religion for public policy, until belief = fact I think the whole separation of church and state is the just and moral thing to do, along with allowing as much personal freedoms as possible.

  11. Let’s try and stick to the Facts and not get side-tracked by beliefs and opinions. Medical science tells us that a fetus is a complete human being, a totally unique individual. I have heard abortionists and clinic staff swear in a court of Law that an abortion procedure kills a human being, there is no argument about this. To say suffered no loss, have no regrets and have done nothing terrible is like an easy-going guy who has killed three or four people, robbed a bank and got himself $200,000 spending money and raped someone just cause it felt really cool at the time saying ‘Oh, yeah man, that was cool. It’s OK as far as I’m concerned’.

  12. August–

    No, it’s not like that at all–if it was, then we’d have the same penalty for women who seek abortions as we do for first degree murderers–death or life in prison. Is that what you think we ought to do?

    I’m guessing no.

  13. The original statement from Flying Tomato was excellent-all the important point written clearly.

    It is sad that women and girls are being coerced-and that some are so unsure of themselves that a man accusing them of murder is truth to them instead of thier own inner voice.
    I pray for strenght to women.
    Until two years ago I called myself “pro-choice, but I could never have an abortion.” How humbly, when at age 44 and a mother of three -one of whom is mentally ill, I aborted a 27-day old embryo. I knew in my heart the pregnancy was wrong-would cause severe hurt to my children an myself.
    We need women strength and women love and a world where girls and women trust themselves and their instincts, and can draw from their own wisdom-not from “pastors” who want to brain wash them to increase their own power.
    Martha Girard

  14. The original statement from Flying Tomato is illogical disjointed rubbish.
    Killing unborn babies is a cowardly, despicable act of unmeasrable EVILness.
    The whole Abortion “industy” thrives on Lies, ignorance and the EXPLOITATION of women.
    The Roe vs Wade court case was greatly funded by Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.
    Abortion is not compatible with wisdom or love.
    More men than women are “pro choice to kill”.
    The number one reason for having an abortion is ….. lack of male support.
    The biggest cop-out a male can come up with is saying : ”I will support you with any decision you make”. On face value this sounds like a really nice thing, but what it really means is often, ”I am not man enough to say that I have any male responsibility here.”

  15. August–

    Your comment betrays not only an ignorance of what constitutes a logical argument (if you were, in fact, trying to make one), but also a deep distrust and possibly hatred of men.

    I find it sad that in your book, a man is damned if he offers support and damned if he doesn’t. The only way it appears he’ll win your favor is if he forces his will (provided his will is to have a child) and his support on a woman, whether she wants it or not.

    The real evil here is coercion and forced submission, which it appears you advocate (provided that coercion and force are applied toward the ends you desire). THAT is not compatible with wisdom and love.

  16. What I desire is not important.
    What is important is that one human being does not have the “right” to deprive another (weaker) human being of its most basic human right, namely; the right to life.

  17. Rebecca is a wonderful mother, a concerned citizen, and a very sensitive and thoughtful person. Her analysis is neither inflammatory nor divisive. She sets the tone for this discussion and makes it such, rather than a debate that usually becomes a verbal jousting match like a blood sport. Strive to reach deep within yourselves to find that state of perfect empathy with the other, and you will not be able to name call or attack. You probably won’t change your mind but you will feel compassion for the views of the other. I believe that, since ultimately NO ONE LIKES ABORTION, we can all agree on what a sad choice it is to have to make. I also beleve we can then feel for the women who must make this choice and acknowledge that they need to be self-determining during this difficult time in their lives, and allow them, in consultation with their doctors, to pursue the course of action that their belefs, conscience, and health dictates. Otherwise our bodies become incubators for the government. That’s just a little too 1984 or Invasion of the Body Snatchers for my tastes. Leave this very private decisions to those best able to make it: the woman and her doctor.

  18. Thanks, Eileen, and what a lovely thing to see your name in my blog comments this morning! It has been a long time.

    I hope you are well.

    –re.

  19. I’ll be better when this vote is over, I think. It never really stops, though, does it? Freedoms must be won every single day. I prefer the peaceful path, and the path that allows for the most dignity and privacy for the individual. I taught Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s majority decision on this issue in an Honors course and heaven knows she was no flaming liberal. And she had to go to church the next weekend after her ruling. I SO would have iked to hve walked beside her. In any case, she explains her position logically and from the POV of someone whose higher authority MUST be the U.S. Constitution. I paired it with Kennedy’s speech on the campaign trail reassuring citizens that he was Catholic, yes, but his FIRST allegience as President would be to uphold OUR laws and represent everyone. A lively discussion THAT day! For those of you curious, get Caroline Kennedy’s book Patriotism. It has a very moving essay in it by John McCain about the flag and being a POW which I paired with Kerry’s explanation for why he was a Vet Against The War. This was almost exactly four years ago. What a country. Ya gotta love it. I do, anyway. And maybe even more in just a very few days. Peace, people. Let it begin with you.

  20. Hello Everyone!

    If abortion is neither right nor wrong, then it implies that we are not ending the life of a human being. (I’m assuming that everyone here would agree that ending the life of another human being is wrong.) So if an abortion is not ending the life of a human being…then I’m curious as to what people think an abortion is. Is it ending the life of a human being? Or is it something else?

    Just a question. Peace and love!

  21. I feel as if abortion should be a last resort, not a first “convenience”, that it should involve counseling, true patient-privacy-rights counseling. I believe it should never be a form of birth control. But at the end of the day, I believe it is a Womans individual right to choice. And I believe it is a moral and ethical sin to attempt to legislate what is a private choice.

    I sincerely grieve for you, August, because you have taken the hook, swallowed it whole, and you are supporting an indefensible position. We treat our abandoned dogs and cats kinder than we do our “Right-to-Life” abandoned children, and that, methinks, is the real sin.

    To my great and lasting sorrow, I had to have an abortion. I was in my second trimester, and was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be a Mother. Her name was McKenzie. But because of several glaringly stupid mistakes by Kaizer Permenente, (one of which involved berium) I began to have problems. After lengthy testing, I was told that my life was in serious jeopardy, and that the tests could not recognize healthy brain waves from my baby. I made the decision to have an abortion.

    I hold that baby in my heart every day, and have for the past 25+ years. And you are telling me that what I did was a mortal vernal sin. A sin never to be forgiven. I pray that you will never have the choice I had to make, between your own life, and your child’s. I made a difficult hard choice. I would never ask another human being to be in my shoes for that terrible decision. But it is my body, my life, my decision, and the ONLY one I have to answer to is myself, and my God. Not the law, not anyone else. And that is how it should be.

    Peace Out.
    >^,,^<

  22. I believe that abortion is dead wrong and it should be illegal. Because there are other ways to give a baby way of life without you being there or having to take care of it

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