It's a tough question, and one where nearly everyone has an opinion. However, it seems to me that most of the responses have not been carefully considered. Is abortion right, whether it is legal or not? Or is it wrong? A sin? Even murder? Or is it just another choice? And whichever side you come down on, why?
If you have easy, immediate answers, you probably need to think longer and more carefully. This is a very important question, because the answers we give affect many other parts of our lives.
And if the answers are easy and you oppose all abortion, then what do we tell a young girl who is pregnant as the result of being raped by an older family member? Or what do we tell the woman whose baby is anencephalic, who in effect has no brain, and will die within hours of birth?
And if you support virtually unlimited abortion on demand, how do you justify taking the life of a baby who is weeks (or less) from birth, and doing so for the convenience of the mother? Can you really argue that it's not taking the life of a human being?
I have discussed the question a number of times with women who favor abortion. A couple stand out in my mind. The first was a young woman who argued against taking any form of life. It was morally wrong, she said, to take any life: to kill a cockroach, or even a mosquito. All life was of equal value. A horse equals an ant equals a fish equals a baby girl.
At the end of this hour-long conversation, I said, "If all life is equal, and it is never justifiable to take a life, I conclude, then, that you oppose abortion. Right?" Wrong. End of discussion.
Part of my problem with these conversations is that they are so often dominated by contradictions, stereotyping and refusal to consider evidence that doesn't support one's preconceived ideas, on either side. If someone argues for abortion, that person is automatically deemed by the opponent as a radical left-wing, liberal humanist. But if someone takes a position against abortion, he or she is instantly labeled a Bible-thumping, fundamentalist bigot.
Neither is fair or conducive to civil discussion, even if the characterization may be true.
The other woman I remember was a student in a class I taught. She was writing a research paper defending abortion on demand. As she presented her research before the class, to my surprise, she said the process of research had forced her to change her mind about abortion. She no longer supported it except in rare circumstances. So now she had to change the entire premise of her paper.
So now, let it be known that I oppose abortion, with rare exceptions. Here are some reasons, none of which are from the Bible:
First, there is the matter of justice.
In America, every person is entitled by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution to due process. That means nobody can legally inflict arbitrary penalty or punishment on another person, without going through the courts. And, by any reasonable definition I have seen, a baby - even before birth - is a human being, and hence a person. What else could it be?
In any other circumstance, Americans are disgusted and dismayed by the killing of an innocent human being. A sense of justice runs deep in our culture. But not in the case of an inconvenient pregnancy. So, on that basis, I am against nearly all abortions. Killing someone without some establishment of guilt is simply wrong.
Second, there is radical individualism and its cancerous fruit.
America is plagued by radical individualism, the idea that me, my wants, my needs, are of prime importance. There is little sense of commitment to community or responsibility for the welfare of others, even at the cost of the life of another. An entire generation has never learned about social responsibility, deferred gratification, or putting something off for the sake of something better. We are becoming in large measure a nation of children. And the end of it is devastating.
Research shows that most abortions are not done for medical reasons, nor are they truly to "protect the life of the mother." Under current law, just about any inconvenience is considered a threat to the life of the mother. Most abortions are done for convenience. And though the mother is nearly always blamed, a great many abortions are done after the mother is pressured by the father or others, and yields to those important to her.
A third reason is the slippery slope.
Like the newest model of small, economical auto, rationalized justifications for behavior tend to expand. After a few years, an econobox car will have a larger engine, a larger body, and more luxury. And with that, of course, a higher price. So it is with rationalized behavior.
If one justifies killing a baby before birth, it's a small step to say it's also acceptable after birth. After all, it's the same baby, and the difference is little. And in fact, we are seeing that in American society now. We don't have to look far to find news accounts of babies and young children horribly abused and even killed.
These rising numbers of child abuse, of children killed, and of other indications show that a significant segment of our culture takes human life as something of little importance. I live in an area where that happens often, and is in the news several times a week. There is, indeed, such a thing as a slippery slope.
So, what would I say to the mother of the anencephalic baby? Speaking as one who has never experienced that appallingly painful situation, I would say abortion is not the preferred solution. However, after reading accounts from medical doctors of the great suffering involved, I would reluctantly agree to ending the pregnancy by abortion.
Then what about the girl who was raped? This, to my thinking, is much different. The first priority is to remove her from the environment where it happened, and take strong legal action against the man. This girl needs to be in a loving, supportive environment. Then, given that environment, I think she should carry the baby to term, and offer it for adoption. She has a heavy load to carry in dealing with the emotional effects of rape. It will not help to add to that the effect of killing her baby.
I am certain not all who read this will agree, and that's okay with me. My intent here is not to persuade readers, but to provoke thought, both about abortion, the immediate topic, and about our attitudes, the underlying problem.