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Visitor essay

Searching for an ethical
position in the abortion debate

An essay donated by Peter Faulknor

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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 cant 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 nations 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 ethical foresight.

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.

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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 sexual responsibility.

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.

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Home page > Visitors' essays > here

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Originally posted: 2007-AUG-03
Latest update: 2007-AUG-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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