Abortion is a right that should not be interfered with by government. There are innumerable facts as to why this is true.
The truth is and remains that the people most interested in talking to you about restricting the ability of a woman to obtain an abortion ardently want your vote. They want your vote to establish and entrench their own power. They do not care about the children they profess to desire so strongly to save; if they did, they would follow every legislative act that restricts abortion access with acts that enable more children born into unfortunate circumstances quality access to healthcare, to good schools, to daycare so that their parents can work, and so on.
“Ahh”, you can hear them say. “The government should not be in the business of supporting those who make bad decisions!” Did the children make bad decisions? Why do you, who profess to love them and cherish their right to exist, insist that that existence be squalid and intolerable?
Ask yourself, why do people who so ardently support restricting access to abortion on the basis of preserving life tend also to favor capital punishment? Is it only the unborn fetus whose life is precious? What about the person awaiting their execution, that waits falsely accused, convicted wrongly? Even if this was a fact that occurred one time in 1,000, it would be too many - to condemn a person to death who was innocent. What horror! What tragedy! You would think that those so desperate to protect life at all costs would occasion a thought for this country’s use of capital punishment!
No, no thoughts are given. A consistent, logical approach to the issue would require that they position themselves both against the act of abortion and against capital punishment, but this is a position that you will not find in our politicians. It is useful to them to appear to be “tough on crime” by supporting capital punishment, just as it is useful to them to appear to be “pro-life” by opposing abortion. The truth of the matter is, these people who would strip useful rights of the citzenry care little about either topic. They only care about leveraging self-righteous moral superiority to convince you to vote for them.
Religious Morality as Law
The second issue is the dangerous precedent of laws based on concepts of religious morality. Abortion is an issue because there are those that would define something not even science can adequately describe - the moment that a collection of cells becomes a thing with an essence precious enough to demand defending. To kill a person is a crime because it deprives them of the liberty of being, and denies them the right to succeed or suffer as their efforts allow. If the unborn is a person, then killing them is a crime akin to murder, or so goes the thinking of those ascribing to anti-abortion views.
The trouble is in the truth - no one knows when, during the gestation period of a baby, the child is magically imbued with that essence that makes them a person. No one knows when, during construction of the infant human, humanity enters the collection of cells. Is it when there are two cells? Four? Implanted in the uterus? Countless anti-abortion websites will attempt to describe in detail how human-like a form the unborn fetus takes at various weeks of gestation, but they neglect simple facts - these creatures are terribly fragile, barely formed, absent most of the complexities found even in a newborn. A fetus at twelve weeks gestation has fingers, and toes, and an ill-defined abdominal cavity, and nearly transparent skin. It appears more like a fish than a human. It’s humanity is entirely subjective, and it would not survive for a moment outside the womb.
Adding to the complexities of the appearance of humanity in an unborn fetus, there isn’t even agreement among the religiously fervent. A Jewish friend of mine once mentioned that Judaism doesn’t believe a person has a soul until they take their first breath; close relatives insist that a person is a person at the moment of conception, when the sperm impants itself in the egg. Determine for me who is correct, and both groups turn to their religious texts.
So then, should we construct laws based on the contents of religious texts?
We should not. We should endeavor to restrict our law making to ensure individual liberty. The liberty that should be ascribed to the unborn is an incalculable measure; we do not and cannot know the start of it. When we begin to write laws based on our religious moral principles, and not on the principle of preserving individual liberty, we begin to integrate our religious views into our legal frameworks. This is dangerous because while you might be aligned with the religious principals that underlay a law today, you might find later the shifting sands of religious pluralism leave you in a place where the laws are counter to your religious viewpoints. This is why laws based in principal on the theology of life are inherently dangerous. Today, it’s abortion, and you’ll cheer. Tomorrow - perhaps a law is passed that restricts access to transfusions, or restricts the drinking of coffee, or pork products, or requires that men wear hats. Religions are fickle things, a great many of them believe in a variety of things that are as deeply held by adherents as they are strange and foreign to us.
In other words, if you oppose abortion on moral grounds, do not obtain one. Guide your actions by your moral principles, from whatever source they are derived, and I will guide my actions by own.
We cannot allow our laws to venture far into sourcing their principals in religious dogma. The notion of our country as a “Christian” nation is fanciful at best - the founding fathers constructed our republic during the “Age of Englightenment”, and most were little more than deists if not outright athiests. The religious fervor that infects our politicians is almost always theater, meant to appeal to your passions.
No, our laws should be restricted to preserving the rights of individuals to exercise personal judgement over their affairs, according to their own moral and religious beliefs, and to preserve our individual and unambigous rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness from interference by others. To secure ourselves from interference by others. There is no conflict here with abortion access, when considering this framework. “Ahh”, you hear them say, “but you said right to life! Does the unborn child not have a right to life?”
To answer that question, let me ask another - do I have the right to force you to give me your blood?
It’s an incidiary question, I know, so let me clarify my asking it. Let’s suppose that I had a terrible disease, and for some theoretical combination of events, you were the only person in the world who could save me. Some magical element of your blood would preserve my life. Without it, I will most certainly die. Can you be compelled to give me your blood against your will?
No, you cannot. The liberty to do with your body as you see fit is yours and yours alone, even if that inaction will lead to my absolute demise. No one, not the government, nor the courts can force you to give me a transfusion of your blood to save my life. It doesn’t matter if it’s safe, it doesn’t matter that it’s effective, it doesn’t matter that I will die without it. I cannot take from your body anything without your consent.
Take the scenario of a person who dies with useful, usable organs for donation. If that person did not consent prior to death to donate their organs, their organs cannot be taken and used. Consider this - bodily autonomy extends into death itself!
This concept of bodily autonomy is inviolably attached to our concepts of individual freedom. If I do not have supreme control over my physical manifestation, I am not free. Subsequent to this thought, a fetus is in fact attached and dependent upon the body of the mother, and the mother, through the rights of bodily autonomy, should have the right to restrict or remove such a dependency at will. A troubling thought, isn’t it?
Take heart. Despite what politicians might have you believe, the number of people using abortions as simple birth control is shockingly small. The number obtaining “late-term” abortions is smaller yet. And in almost every case, their is tragedy at the heart of it. No one is in a good place when they seek an abortion, and any attitudes that the crass might make that imply they are cavalier to the whole affair are protecting their own emotional fragility, like a boastful person protecting their insecurities.
Where your opinion drives your passion, challenge them with facts. And when it comes to abortions, we have ample facts. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reports that there were 623,471 abortions in the United States. This is 11.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 - or in other words, less than 1.1% of child-bearing women obtain abortions. Of those abortions, 91% of all abortions were performed at less than or equal to 13 weeks gestation, 7.7% at 14-20 weeks, and 1.2% greater than 21 weeks.
Someone who attains an abortion when they are six months or more pregnant does not want the abortion. They have carried this child to near term. There is a tragedy at play, almost certainly medical in nature.
The truth of the matter is, the exact underlying cause of these abortions are none of your or my business. The woman is exercising bodily autonomy after having consulted with a medical professional about her health and safety. The fetus, the unborn baby, the unborn child, does take a secondary role against preserving the rights of the living, breathing, walking and talking mother. It must. One is a human by certainty, the other is indecipherably human.
Reflections on Justifications
Why does any of this matter?
It matters because abortion is a medically necessary procedure that is incredibly difficult to obtain. Plied by politicians to convince you of moral superiority in seeking additional political power for social elites, the entire issue is silly and contrived. Politicians wield the issue of the preciousness of life strangely inconsistently, applying the principles to the unborn where there is open debate on the nature and start of humanity while denying those same principles when considering the protection of the falsely accused, of which there is ample, statistically signficant evidence.
I would acknowledge the zeal and rigor of thought of a politician that at both times stated their opposition to abortion, while also condemning capital punishment and pushing for an extensive social safety net to care for unwanted children of poor parentage. I would be in disagreement with their policy position on the principals of the thing, but I would think themselves principaled and consistent. As it is, I survey the field of candidates and office-holders and I despair at the gross irregularities in their thinking, the cherry-picked ideologies that can serve no possible purpose but to wield the electorate to their own office-securing ends.
Finally, it matters because securing the rights of a woman to obtain an abortion is an incredibly compassionate act. At the heart of every abortion is a tragedy of epic proportions, one that we as individuals outside the situation cannot and should not judge. We should support these women, we should implore our children and young people to avoid unprotected sex, and we should ensure access to contraception so that unwanted pregnancies happen with great irregularity. Lastly, we should pray that women have healthy pregnancies that do not require termination for their own preservation.
We should be unafraid of taking a stand, of fighting ignorance with facts.
Most importantly of all, we cannot allow ourselves to be pilloried by the unjustified moral rhetoric of the power-seeking.