Over this past weekend, I felt compelled to get involved in an ethical debate on abortion in the comment section of Gil Milbauer’s weblog A Reasonable Man. The discussion has been mostly cool-headed with a couple stimulating comments from others. For me, I knew before hand that I was not going to change anybody’s opinion. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and internal dialog that has stressed me out.
Be forewarned to any religious readers who may feel tempted to add a comment at Gil’s weblog. Gil is a “reasonable man” in the fact that only reason is the acceptable form of debate. Any claim or justification to an external authority like the Bible or any other religious reference will be shot down in flames, and you will loose all credibility in his eyes.
Here are a few additional comments of mine that are tangential to the discussion at Gil’s. Besides, most of these violate his rules of engagement.
Libertarians like Gil believe that the rights of the individual are the most important thing. Issues like abortion (and suicide) become a collision between the values of human life and the right of an individual to choose. Gil wrote:
To me, valuing human life entails valuing an individual’s right to choose. I think that’s an essential part of being human and if I didn’t respect it, it would be far less meaningful for me to claim to value human life.
I see Gil’s point. There must be a balance between individual liberty and the need to preserve human life. Gil wondered, does the government have the right to force an individual to do something in order to save a human life? A medical example would be to force an individual to donate his or her bone marrow for a cancer patient.
Gil extrapolates this analysis to the choice of abortion—Does the government have the right to force a pregnant woman to preserve the human life developing inside of her? In other words, does the woman have the right to choose abortion? He and other commenters say no for two reasons: 1) They conveniently do not classify a fetus as a human being, and therefore it is not murder. 2) They absolve the woman of any responsibility for the effects of her choice to engage in sex.
On the first reason, sadly, there is no changing their opinion. But on the second reason, I find it ironic for someone that values the right of an individual to choose does not expect said individual to be held responsible for the effects of his or her choices. Where is the accountability?
If a woman (and a man) choose to engage in sex, they must be held responsible for any effects of their union. Sex for recreation does not negate the biological function of sex for procreation. If you do not hold them accountable for their choice, then you must absolve responsibility to other individuals for their choices. (I know of some chemical companies that are looking for someone to help them skirt their responsibilities of dumping toxic waste into the environment.)
Upon rereading the debate at Gil’s, I was appalled at how cold and calculating the comments were, including some of mine. There was no heart in the debate. No concern for others except for their rights. Where was the compassion? Where was mercy? Where was the morality of the issue?
Unwanted pregnancies is a difficult social issue. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers. But abortion is not the solution. The souls of everyone involved, from the mother, the father, to the doctors and nurses, are tainted by this choice. You can rationalize abortion all you want, but your soul will still be scarred. Just the mental and emotional turmoil a woman has to go through to face this decision should be enough to tell you that this is wrong. (People used to call this your conscience talking to you.)
Libertarians like Gil forget that the individual is part of a community. (No man is an island.) And as part of a community, an individual must think of others first. Thinking of “me first” is one of the biggest shortcomings of our modern society. There is not one single (significant) choice an individual makes that does not affect someone else, especially choices involving human life.
If one has the opinion that the rights of the individual supercedes everything, then the value of human life is diminished. And I am suspicious of how truly committed that someone is to the value of human life.
Life is a gift. Do you have the right to refuse it for yourself? Do you have the right to refuse it for someone else?
Addendum: Read this quote about choices.