City of Brass

City of Brass


abortion and moral ambiguity

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The abortion debate is utterly irreconcilable because the basic disagreement – whether a fetus is as “valuable” as an already-born and breathing human being – amounts to an arbitrary line drawn in the sand. For pro-lifers, it is at conception, for pro-choicers, it is at birth. Both sides are far from consistent in their principles; pro-lifers are highly corrrelated with conservatives who tend to see spending on postnatal care, public education, universal preschool, etc as socialist claptrap and a waste of money, even though these things all make a tremendous difference in health and education outcomes for a child. Pro-choicers, meanwhile, extrapolate their concept of abortion as a right, leading to horrific things like selective reduction (even for viable twins) and an unreasonable opposition to education about options to abortion, including ultrasounds, parental notification for minors, and childhood counseling on abstinence. The very terms pro-life and pro-choice have become ironic.

In theory, the conservative position is the easier one to understand, in many ways. If you believe a fetus is a person, then abortion is murder, full stop. However, the liberal position is a but more nuanced, though no less (or more) intellectually consistent. This is why i was pleased to see this comment on an abortion thread at LOG which I thought explained the liberal reasoning perfectly:

Author: conradg

Comment:

First, the left supports abortion rights because it identifies with women as the underdogs in this case, since they are forced by the state to undergo forced pregnancy and childbirth, as if their own bodies do not belong to them. I know of no such laws that apply to men.

The left doesn’t support the unborn because it doesn’t see them as being actual human beings with rights. If it did, it would be against abortion. As it is, it sees freedom from state control over women’s bodies as being the more important issue at stake here. Which doesn’t mean the left likes abortion, it just feels that it’s up to the women to choose to bear a children, and not for the state to force her to.

That’s it in a nutshell. Pregnancy is really hard. It’s not just a minor burden, but one that amounts to a major affliction that can indeed be life-threatening. Outlawing abortion outright consigns women to the status of machines, and denies their humanity. In abortion debates, its important that this point be made, because without it the pro-choice argument has no moral foundation.

Now, personally I don’t agree that a fetus after conception is a person, and neither do I agree that a baby just hours from birth is not a person. The truth obviously lies in between, which is why I generally am very much in favor of Roe vs Wade’s grand trimester-based compromise. There is indeed room for common ground on abortion, so that it can be “safe, legal, and rare”. A world in which every child is a wanted child is one in which abortion is obsolete.

Related – the ongoing series on abortion at LOG, including a very insightful musing on the hypocrisy of the pro-life movement, which echoes and complements my own earlier posts about collateral damage and the death penalty.



  • Lauren

    “A world in which every child is a wanted child is one in which abortion is obsolete.”
    Absolutely. For many, the one of the main difference between pro life and pro choice movements is how to go about reducing abortions performed in this country. Many pro lifers favor making it illegal, while the pro choice side favors making the procedure obsolete by addressing the reasons women seek abortions/have unwanted pregnancies.
    What sounds better for women and children to you?
    I implore the pro life movement to remember that a culture of life is not only one in which abortion is illegal but one in which life is supported and nurtured…. for example, supporting legislation that would make health care a right, not a privilege of each American citizen.

  • Sarah

    First of all I know everyone does not believe in God,so for those I say just remember,if your not a creation of God you might ask yourself,who created me,where did I come from? and even if your parents alone created you,,they had respect and did not abort you. I do not lean on my own wisdom,but the wisdom of a great creator(God) and to prove when a life becomes a life I give his words; God said to Abraham: I knew thee before thou was formed in the womb and I pre-ordained thee to be a prophet to the nations. On this scripture I give you evidence that life begins when God says it begins and he preordains us to our purpose in this life and all future lives we shall or shall not live.I would like to think that upon the point of time when I think to grow a flower that life begins in the spiritual sence and then when seed and nutruients meet the physcial life with the spirit one begins. I would not want any harm to come to my creation,but would want to nurish it to the full extent of it’s life. If a person does not want children,,then the time to prevent having them is before the action,,not after. For those who are raped,give the child to someone who wants children,God will bless you,,if you do not believe in God,the child and the new parents will respect you and I would think you would feel much better about yourself than if you had killed this life.Surely you can relate to how great it is to have been given a chance to live. Because I believe in God may he bless each person reading this blog with wisdom to refrain from sex or to acept responcibility for the life that comes from it with respect for it(the innocent one). Sarah

  • Ameenah

    As a Muslim and a JR. High School Teacher in a public school, I encourage my students to focus on abstinence. As a health teacher, I try hard to help them understand the health implications and the human side of this issue. I discuss all sides of being sexual too soon and outside of marriage. My personal feeling is that we should focus on minimizing unwanted pregnancies.We must also understand, that abortions should not be used as a form of birth control.
    Talking to our children and listening to them will help break the cycle of child explortation, unwanted children and the abuse of the innocent!

  • Nadia

    First of all, I love that Clinton quote of “safe, legal, and rare.” I absolutely agree. And understanding that there is no black and white when it comes to life is also so important.
    In light of the recent murder of Dr. Tiller, one of two reputable doctors who was willing to do therapeutic abortion/late term abortion makes this question even more relevant. And the fact that he was murdered in his own holy house, this past Sunday in church, is completely ridiculous. Kill life to preserve life? How could people support that and yet not support therapeutic abortion that saves the mother’s health/ends a pregnancy that would have died in utero or probably shortly thereafter? Hypocrites and idiots.
    Going to either extreme forces people to ignore facts and pretend that the grey area is really just propaganda for the opposite side, or not up for debate when they can choose to use it to support their own side.
    And in response to the health teacher who is teaching abstinence: you take the time to tell them why abortion shouldnt be used for birth control, but are you actually talking to them about birth control so that they arent ignorant enough that their choices because no sex vs unsafe sex.
    And when we are in a society where people DO have premarital sex, I find that people who ignore this fact and refuse to fully educate children to be prepared for the world is ridiculous.
    If you don’t have sex before marriage, you know of people who do. Why can’t we support full spread of knowledge to make the informed decisions that everyone has the right to make as an independent human being!
    And even though I wouldn’t have an abortion, I am pro-life. Forcing a woman to go to a dangerous doctor for invasive surgery is completely ridiculous. Forcing a women to have a pregnancy is completely ridiculous. And even though there are extremes (as in any situation) of women who use abortions for birth control, that in no way should reflect on the legality and creation of safety in the availability to any women.
    Example: Just because there ARE drunk drivers, does not mean that driving should be illegal. There are people who have killed other human beings, and other lives because of car. There have been millions of deaths because of driving accidents. And yet it has never come into anyone’s mind to make driving illegal because of the extreme individuals who abuse their rights as drivers to be unsafe and reckless.
    I am beyond angry about Dr. Tiller. I am beyond angry at people who have no empathy or understanding for people in different situations with different needs. I am beyond angry that ignorance is supported through abstinence only education.
    But I’m always hopeful that things will change for a more informed, free society that supports the individual rights of every person.

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