Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 07/27/22

“Instead of Pro life or Pro Choice is it possible for us to be Pro Love.” That quote from the documentary below (produced before the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade) suggests an approach for discussing the issue outside the current judgemental finger-pointing paradigm that has gone on for decades and only threatens to grow more intense as abortion battles play out on a state by state and interstate basis. There are so many possible permutations the often uncivil debate that it’s worth considering the possibility that both the Pro Choice argument that every person should jurisdiction over what happens to his or her own body (also, ironically, a point of contention regarding COVID vaccines) and the Pro Life position that an unborn baby is a human life worthy of protection are both absolutely correct. The question then becomes what do you do when two moral truths collide.  As the film asks, “Instead of Pro Life or Pro Choice, is it possible for us to be Pro Love? Is it possible for us to love both the mother and the baby?”

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IMHO: To be clear, I think the Supreme Court made the right decision. It could have ruled that abortions themselves were unconstitutional as they violated the unborn baby’s right to life. It didn’t do that. It wisely turned the question, that is certainly not clearly dealt with in the US Constitution, back to the people to decide.

As for me, I’d like to see no abortions at all but, in all honesty, the right to sovereignty over your own body has merit too. When two basic human rights come into direct conflict (life and bodily autonomy), it seems to me that we need to find a compassionate balance. If one side of the argument completely overrides the other that’s not really sustainable. A little humility on both sides of the equation is called for. Also, having a patchwork of different abortion laws across the country is a recipe for an ongoing battle prone to creating so many interstate subvariants (to borrow a phrase from the pandemic) that the debate could go on for decades or more. As a nation, I think we need to prove to ourselves that we can come to a consensus on even the most contentious issues. Who knows? If we can succeed here, the spirit of compromise could spread to other issues as well. Maybe that’s what those who benefit from dividing us fear.

Personally, I think we need a national abortion law built on a consensus that absolutists on either might not like but most people could settle on. Such a law should  balance the dignity of and compassion for both lives involved. I know as a man I’m not supposed to have an opinion about this issue – or at least I’m not supposed to express it (which renders the right to have an opinion meaningless). But then I’m not a fetus either (although, like all of us, I once was). The issue is that, since none of us are currently fetuses, who is going to speak up for those who are truly the most helpless and voiceless of human beings? I think in a kind society that recognizes science and common law strictures on the taking of innocent human life, at least some of us need to be their voice. Despite their utter powerlessness,  they need to have a seat at the table.

So, what could such a national law look like? For what it’s worth, here’s what I would propose.

First, such a law should empower the woman with a reasonable amount a time to made aware of all the facts, as well as the assistance that she would be provided should she choose to raise her child, give her baby up for adoption or terminate the pregnancy. The Mississippi law that sparked the Roe reversal put that time at 15 weeks. That’s what Justice Roberts wanted to okay (without reversing Roe). It also represents, I think, a consensus regarding what most Americans deem reasonable.

According to at that point in the pregnancy the baby is “forming taste buds, and nerves begin connecting them to the brain…(The) baby’s legs are growing longer than their arms…and they can move all of their joints and limbs. (The) active baby is moving constantly, though (the mother) can’t feel it yet. (The) baby is looking more like a little person, with eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nails, hair, and well-defined fingers and toes. If you could see inside (the) womb, you’d catch (the) baby sucking a thumb, yawning, stretching, and making faces.” While that may be further along than many of us are comfortable with, 15 weeks does seem to be a reasonable time to allow the woman the dignity of autonomously sorting things out in her own mind to make an informed decision. Of course, even beyond that date, a woman must be allowed to terminate her pregnancy if her own life or health were to be in peril. In the end, I believe that nonjudgmentally providing women with that space will remove some of the pressure on them and lead to more of them freely choosing the life option.

15 weeks, BTW, is actually a longer time than the original Roe decision which limited abortion to the first trimester (12 weeks). That ruling also held that the right to abortion is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and prenatal life. It was the Casey decision in 1992 that blew the Roe restrictions aside and really opened to the door the sort of late-term abortions (over 20 weeks) allowed in only six other nations, including Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. Unfortunately, when Democrats talk about “codifying Roe” they’re really talking about virtually unrestricted abortion that does not at all take into account the value and right of prenatal people.

Also, terminating the pregnancy need not be the synonymous with aborting the life of the baby (check out the above film from 10:42 to 12:53). There is the little-discussed option of removing the unborn child from the womb, treating it as as a patient and humbly putting the situation in God’s hands. And, yes, those babies can often survive. The baby, like the mother, should also be provided with appropriate pain reduction medications during the procedure.

Beyond the pregnancy itself, we need to law to hold the men involved to account for their responsibility, to make adoption more affordable and to provide financial and other assistance for women who choose to keep their babies such as a Medicare-like insurance program for their children (we could call it Pedicare) and school choice vouchers so that, no matter how poor, the child has the same right to quality educational options as more financially well-off kids.

As for punishment for illegal abortions (after 15 weeks), it really shouldn’t be the goal and should certainly not be aimed at the woman. To the extent that you must have disincentives, they should be aimed only at the doctors and nurses who choose to violate the law and consist only of financial penalties (the proceeds of which could by used to support pregnancy centers) and loss of medical licenses. Anything harsher than that will become the issue and distract from the mission of convincing people rather than coercing them.

Meanwhile, those of us who think abortion isn’t quite settled, should make it abundantly clear that there is virtually no appetite on our side for relitigating the Court’s rulings on marriage equality or contraception. As I believe Justice Alito made it clear in his majority opinion overturning Roe, that those issues are completely different because they deal with issues of personal autonomy that do not clash with another person’s right to life. Abortion is about the balancing of rights between two human beings both deserving of respect. It’s a tough one alright but I think we’re up to the challenge.

Going beyond that, if I had my way, we’d revamp our entire social safety net system to be geared toward offering Empowerment Income and financial literacy to give all American citizens to give all a greater sense of control over their lives. That would go along way toward healing social unrest in a lot of areas. But, alas, that’s probably a debate for another day.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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