Ever since I have been politically conscious, the abortion debate has been an unavoidable issue in the political sphere, though its importance has waned and ebbed over time. However, recent events have worked to bring the issue back to the fore, namely President Obama’s graduation address at Notre Dame and most recently, the unfortunate slaying of Dr. George Tiller.
Yet, after all this time, I’m still not certain what the pro-life movement seeks to accomplish by abolishing abortion. In my opinion, the whole idea of abolishing abortion is short sighted; the very realization of the aims of the movement simply changes the very nature of issues we are dealing with. It is a move from the abstract to the [sur]real.
Let me preface what follows by stating, perhaps in direct contradiction to my argument, that I do not believe in abortion. In fact, I find the act absolutely reprehensible. I do not, however, condemn those who choose or who have chosen abortion as a viable option.
The choices one makes are more than often dictated by circumstance. And though I might not think much of the choice, that choice is an individual decision; it would be impossible, and perhaps hypocritical, for me to predict what I would do under similar circumstances. Not only that, as a male I don’t claim exclusive rights to make decisions that affect another’s body.
In addition, I see the decision to terminate a pregnancy as a moral decision and as such, outside the purview of government; morality cannot be legislated. When the government begins to legislate issues of morality, it is headed down a slippery slope.
Let’s recall another attempt to legislate morality. Do you recall prohibition? Some morally superior group of people decided that the consumption of alcohol was immoral. And they ultimately succeeded in getting the sale and production of alcohol banned. However, just by outlawing the sale and manufacture of alcohol did not mean that alcohol went away; it just went underground.
Now, let’s make the necessary connections. If we out outlaw abortion, that does not mean abortion will disappear. It just means we will succeed in driving abortion underground.
Have we forgotten the period when abortion was illegal in this country? Even though abortion was illegal, women still managed to get abortions. Except they did not receive abortions under sanitary conditions and the care of trained physicians, but they sought out abortions performed by sometimes untrained individuals in back alleys and backrooms. They sought out abortions performed by unscrupulous and uncaring physicians and nurses simply seeking to earn a dollar. Many died and others were permenantly maimed by the experience. Is this what we wish to return to?
No matter what we feel about the act of abortion, abortion must remain legal. If we want to reduce the number of abortions performed each year, then perhaps we need to invest in viable and efficacious social programs to combat the very root of the problem—unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
Again, to outlaw abortion simply changes the nature of the issue. We move from a personal, moral issue to a public health issue, a surreal and so real move from the abstract to the very concrete. We must not allow emotion or excessive moralizing to overtake rationality.
You weigh in. What is your position?