Friday, September 4, 2009

Quick Rebuttal on Abortion

A couple of my conservative friends have pointed out that, when I use Thomas Jefferson's proclamation of the right all human beings have to life "as endowed by their Creator", that I am implicitly supporting an anti-abortion position. I would like to clarify this misconception right now:

I respect the opinions of those who believe that the unborn are alive, and would never question their right to conduct their personal lives in accordance with that conviction. That said, there isn't any scientific proof that fetuses are "alive"; indeed, from a scientific standpoint, the very definition of what constitutes "life" (apart from the obvious criterion of having emerged successfully from your mother's womb) is sketchy at best. As such, a government that is focused on guaranteeing its citizens as much freedom as is consistent with the preservation of social justice and security must ask itself this question: What policy toward abortion creates the proper balance between the rights of the individual to do as he or she wishes versus the rights of others to be protected from harm?

The answer, as I see it, is to leave the matter of whether to have an abortion to the discretion of each woman who is forced to make that decision. Pregnancy is a matter of profound significance to a woman due not only to the ramifications having a child will have on the course of her entire life (even if she was to put her child up for adoption), but also to the enormous degree to which it will compromise her sovereignty over her physical body. There are few civil libertarians who would disagree that, under normal circumstances, a matter of such a deeply personal magnitude should be left solely in the hands of the individual women who must make that choice; the only reason some have deemed this situation to be an exception to that general rule is because they believe that another human life is involved. Yet the opinions on whether an unborn child is alive are so diverse that they are fundamentally irreconcilable, whereas there is no doubt that a pregnant human woman is alive. As such, the question ultimately boils down to one of balancing the rights of a hypothetical life versus those of a definite life. When put in those terms, the resolution to that conundrum becomes self-evident.

Unlike many of my fellow liberals, I actually have respect for the anti-abortion position; I see most opponents of abortion as being intelligent, decent human beings who believe that pregnancy termination is a moral wrong because it either takes human life or at least deprives potential life of its right to exist. While I disagree with that position, most of the people who hold it do so with a moral logic that warrants respect instead of the undue vilifcation it receives from many of its adversaries. At the same time, you may have also noticed that I have referred to opponents of abortion rights as being "anti-abortions", as opposed to using their preferred self-designation, "pro-life". While normally I would not quibble with the right of an ideological faction to call itself whatever it chooses, I acutely resent the implication that those of us who support a woman's right to choose are "anti-life". Just as pro-choicers need to respect the honorable intentions and intellectual reason of those who are anti-abortion, so too do those who are anti-abortion need to accept that the pro-choice community isn't composed of "anti-life" serial baby killers, but rather of those who have simply come to a different set of conclusions on a profoundly difficult question.

No comments: