Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Why abortion is wrong and why it must remain legal

I Had an Abortion by Mike Adams.

I thought that this article was moving. How important that we never stop witnessing the humanity of the unborn and grieving for those who are mindlessly discarded. I share Mike Adams' sadness at their destruction and outrage that some would boast of their abortions.

Two of my children were aborted. There was probably nothing I could have done or said that would have spared their lives (although, I will always live in doubt). You could say that I had no choice, but I did. I didn't have to have unprotected sex with those women. My mistake. I am ashamed.

I freely admit this, but with a strong sense of shame and remorse. I think it's important that I confess the fear I had when I found out I had fathered each child, and frankly, the sense of relief when the responsibility evaporated for raising the child (or, perhaps more likely, paying child support for a child I might only occasionally be allowed to visit). And yet, never would I have made the same choice those women made. Gladly, albeit with some trepidation, I would have shouldered the responsibility had either of them borne the child and let me raise him (or was it a her?). Gladly, I would have borne the child myself were it possible. I certainly had the means, the heart and the stubborn determination.

I am now married, and my wife and I just had our second daughter last week. I cannot imagine intentionally harming her in any way. Abortion? Unthinkable! I cherish my daughters, perhaps more, because I lost two to abortion.

So understand that when I say that I support legal abortion, it is not for lack of reverence for the life of unborn children. I have no doubt that most abortions are cruel and unjustified (let us leave aside discussion of those rare cases where the unborn child threatens the life of her mother or her unborn siblings). I do not support legal abortion because I believe it is a moral thing to do. It usually is not morally justifiable. Full stop.

I cannot entertain the simplistic notion that fetuses are not living human beings. Even John Kerry admits that human life begins at conception. This is scientifically provable. It is unfortunate that neither side ever really homes in on the most important question, the possibly unanswerable question: Under what circumstances shall society extend to these living human beings some of the protections most other living human beings enjoy (most importantly, the right to live)?

Let us also leave aside the questionable validity of deciding the issue via the Courts rather than through state legislature. Roe is a legal abomination as well as a moral one. I believe society should have the power to restrict this behavior. But I can also understand why some societies/states would choose to permit it.

First, this is because I recognize the limits what the law can accomplish. Certain types of even moderately popular "bad" behavior (drinking, smoking, drug use, abortion, speeding) can never be successfully prohibited and to try to do so will only make criminals of otherwise law-abiding people and empower and enrich the criminal class. This has a corrupting effect on the populace -- it rends the social fabric. Laws intended to curb such behaviors must be reasonable and reconsidered from time to time in light of their effectiveness (Alcohol prohibition and narcotic laws are perfect examples of terribly ineffective laws). Sometimes, as hard as it may seem, I believe we must let others do something bad because to try to stop it would cause something worse: a kind of breakdown of society and respect for the rule of law.

Perhaps one might argue that in order to save many unborn lives we can tolerate the slight societal lacerations that occur when women seek abortions illegally (one will never, ever stop some number of women from seeking abortions -- to believe otherwise is naive). So perhaps this alone is not reason enough to permit abortions. But it's a partial justification. We have to face the limits of the power of law.

Second, I would also argue that there is no perfect legislature, nor court system, that would properly decide those few instances when abortion is marginally, but not obviously, justifiable. What about aborting a severely defective child? How defective must the child be? What about Tay-Sachs? Is it not crueler to bring such a child into the world only to suffer terribly and die young? I hope never to need to make such a decision, but I damn sure don't want these decisions made by gov't appointees.

Again, this may not be sufficient reason to permit abortion, but it adds weight to the notion that the individuals who are most affected by the circumstance should make the decision. We have to face the inherent unfairness of our earthly system of justice (though we strive to minimize its imperfection).

There are several other such considerations, I'll only mention one more. Every birth involves some risk to the life of the mother. As of today, it is almost impossible to accurately gauge that risk. Of course it also involves pain, discomfort, inconvenience. These aspects of birth pale in comparison to the ultimate risk, still they are scary as well. I just cannot see how one justifies empowering the state to force a woman to take on this risk.

We do so when we draft men into the army. We also command soldiers, fireman and policemen, volunteers all, to go into harm's way. We punish those who fail to fulfill their duty. We are immensely grateful for those who merely risked their lives, even for a short time, in military or other service to their country or community. And to the fallen, we can never be grateful enough. Why then can we not demand of a woman the much lesser risk of bearing a child?

The important difference is that what we ask of our protectors is done in the name of collective security. We ask them to protect our lives and property and everything about our way of life, including, most dearly, our liberty. I can think of no other circumstance in which we compel someone to risk her life for one other person (or a few other people). We must take into account how extraordinary this situation is when we aim to compel a person to risk her life unwillingly for such narrow benefit (even though the risk may be negligible and the benefit great).

I do not make these arguments with any sense of certainty. In the meantime, we can agree to do all we can to make it clear just how inarguably abhorrent abortion is (in most cases) and hope to prevent abortions one heart at a time. In the end, I believe this is the only truly effective solution.

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