Today I came across “Abortion Foes Tell Their Journey to the Streets,” a remarkable article in the New York Times by Damien Cave, which (though not entirely sympathetic to the pro-life cause, as the title suggests) nevertheless provided a truly useful and balanced account of those who consider themselves pro-life. Far more balanced than I would have thought possible in the New York Times, frankly.
The commentary is predictably negative: (a) denial (no such thing as absolute truth), (b) demonize (those with religious convictions just want to oppress women), (c) distraction (why aren’t pro-lifers doing more to help children already born?). However, there was one response that struck me as being one of the few that truly invited discussion and further reflection, and I wanted to post it here.
“When does life begin? Is it when biological processes are initiated? When consciousness is reached or is it a spark of the divine that creates a “living soul”? Is a comatose person on a ventilator truly alive? Are individuals that died and were resuscitated dead while their heart stopped beating; or when brain death occurred? With medical science pushing further and further out in it’s abilities to sustain life, even prenatal life, where do we as a culture decide life begins. Should abortions be stopped beyond the time of medical viability?
“When is medical viability? Could it be considered after the first trimester when the majority of spontaneous abortions cease or 28 weeks when a child may survive outside the womb with medical assistance? From the perspective of genetics a baby is separate and individual, though dependent, from the moment of conception. Some might say that yes, a fetus is genetically individual but then so is a tumor, so what separates a baby from a tumor? Is it merely someone stating that the baby is of benefit or desirable? How do you decide when science has not been able to define these answers? Religion and philosophy are left to fill the gaps.
“It is unfair to ask young women to make decisions about someone else’s life, without making them aware of the complexity and psycho-social ramifications of this issue. Some people would say that her choice was made when she chose to have sex, supposedly possessing the understanding, maturity and forethought to understand the consequences. I tend to believe that the typical teenager or young adult if woefully ill prepared to deal with the consequences or the choice of abortion. They may have been taught about birth control or STD’s, but has anyone introduced them to the differing philosophies on life; reality of the power and responsibility inherent in the ability to create more life?
“My public school education was woefully lacking in those areas and only when I became a health care professional did I begin to understand the complexity of the question, and the weight of having someone else’s life in my hands. Since we cannot define life or abortion in merely scientific terms it is reckless in the extreme to try and exclude philosophical viewpoints from individuals making adult decisions whether they are offensive or not. Instead I am in favor of an educational program that addresses all viewpoints on life secular and religious; with a foundation in scientific understanding as we know it, as well as experiences that expose women and men to the realities of birth, life, death, pregnancy, and parenthood. What a great alternative that would be to the shallow selfishness of “it’s my body and I can do what I want to” of which some people seem to be so fond.”