Searching for an ethical
position in the abortion debate
An essay donated by Peter Faulknor
Would it be fair to ask if
there is an ethical position to the abortion debate?
I am a Christian and on
the pro-life side of the debate.
However I can understand
how those on the pro-choice side of the debate would see my pro-life
position as religiously rooted and motivated -- therefore subjective and
biased and consequently unfair to those on the pro-choice side of the
debate. Especially since they may not believe as I do. And even if
someone one the other side does believe as I do, without a doubt I know
there are pro-choice positions with in the religious ranks as well. The fact
that the abortion debate is a divisive one within the "churches" of America
is proof of this point.
This divide of pro-life
and pro-choice, which reaches across most cultural, religious and national
boundaries, often results in heated debates because – I believe -- it deals
with one of the most sacred thing to us all -- life. Whether it is the
life of the mother and the quality of it if you be pro-choice -- or the life
of the fetus and its quality if you be pro-life. For this reason – I
believe-- the debate is a very personal one and deeply subjective. It
reaches down into some of what we view about ourselves and the various
situations and experiences we go through.
To take a few examples to
explain this point: For the pro-lifers some may say -- what if it were me
who was aborted? For the pro-choicer some may say -- what about the life
of the mother and the potential quality of life she may not be able to
provide for this soon to be person. I am sure each side can give a myriad
of reasons based on strong convictions that find its roots in the very deep
and very personal experiences of our lives.
But one thing is certain;
religion is not the best way to determine the direction of this debate.
For the simple reason being that my religion is not your religion -- on any
level -- whether it is inter-faith, intra-faith, or extra-faith. And
wherever way this country heads regarding this debate – that direction will
change the country. I think we can all agree that the “Roe v. Wade”
decision was land mark and decisive in the affect it had on America. We can
debate the degree of affect it has had; however for the pro-lifers it would
be preferable to see things go back, -- but conversely for the pro-choicers
“Roe v. Wade” was progress and going back would hurt the nation.
So my question is -- would
it be fair to ask if there is an ethical position to the abortion debate?
Not so much whether it is right or wrong, since we all can see the impasse
that this question in particular leads to. Even before we ask the question
– whether abortion should be legal or not -- since all the legal buffs know
the complexity of asking such a question; even if we consider cases or
situations besides abortion. Is there an ethical perspective? What I mean
is -- Is there a question that seeks to determine the level of social
responsibility that comes into play when dealing with the topic of abortion?
In other words does an
abortion in any way or in any of its form add to or detract from one's
meeting of their social responsibility?
I think this is a fair
question, because, as I see it, regardless of where we stand religiously, or
morally on issues related to lifestyle, sex, behavior, family, prosperity,
etc. we must agree ethically if we are to be a society (which in a sense is
a bigger more organized version of a family that have something in common)
and live together peacefully. An ethical question can’t be relegated to
any particular religion, personal morality or preference. Ethics is the
area where we must agree if we are to move forward together. Without
ethics, there can be no law or stable society.
But I would have to also
argue that such ethics have to be influenced by a good look into the future
and a good look into the past. Basically what is this ethic taking us away
from and where is it taking us to?
At one point in our
nation’s history it was a limited ethic that said Negroes were not persons
and women could not vote. In other parts of the world such as Rwanda it was
a limited ethic that said it was ok to behead your neighbor if they were
from a rival tribe. In each case things are different today and
understandably so if one examines each case with ethical reflection and
I believe that in the
debate on abortion there is an ethic, one that (if we allow it to be
influenced by foresight and reflection) both sides can meet on; an ethic
which will produce a decision that helps us understand where we are going
and what we are leaving behind.
A suggestion by the Webmaster:
The pro-life and pro-choice factions share one goal: a very
strong wish to reduce the abortion rate. That goal can only be achieved if the
number of unwanted pregnancies is reduced. Perhaps the pro-choice groups and the
Protestant wing of the pro-life movement could join forces to promote
comprehensive sex education in schools, to make contraceptives more easily
available at zero or low cost, and to create a culture that emphasizes personal
Unfortunately, it would be unrealistic to hope that the Roman
Catholic wing of the pro-life movement could join in such a program because of
their moral reservations concerning the use of contraceptives.
Such a joint effort could result in a major drop in the abortion
rate in the U.S. to a level achieved by other industrialized countries.
Originally posted: 2007-AUG-03
Latest update: 2007-AUG-03
Author: B.A. Robinson