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Concerning Abortion
Common sense and dumb assertions.

by Barnabas
June 23, 2004

I haven’t written a published piece on abortion for nearly twenty years, and expected never to write another. But yesterday a sentence came up that brought it all back to me - the cliches, the sweeping generalizations, the bitterness, the self-righteousness, and grandstanding on both sides. The expression that got me going, in a formal resolution proposed for adoption, was the serious declaration that every sexual act can end with a conception. 

We can all name several "sexual acts" that cannot possibly end with conception, even among the G-rated readers of this family journal. Even if the words were "every episode of sexual intercourse" the assertion would be a great surprise to all post-menopausal persons.

We have known for some time that "sex" as an ethical issue is not primarily about fertility, but fertility sweeps every other consideration off the page when abortion is the specific topic on the table.

Since I am an equal opportunity pundit, I will point out four more dumb assertions in the abortion debate, from both sides of the issue.

Every fetus has an unqualified right to life. Nobody has an unqualified right to life; what we all have is the unqualified expectation of death. Sex is so prodigal, so wasteful if you will, that miscarriage and spontaneous abortions occur routinely. We mourn the loss of hope in a failed pregnancy. Yet there is a point before which no physician, bio-ethicist, or parent would use extraordinary measures to save the fetus. When is that point? It is determined by every individual instance, not by an arbitrary date imposed from outside.

A woman has the right to control her own body. True enough, if it applies across the board. The abortion question arises as often as it does because fertile women choose to engage in willing intercourse when they neither want babies nor want to practice effective birth control. They had control of their own bodies at that point too, before babies appeared inside them.

My comment does not apply in societies where women are treated as chattels for men. That is not often the case in the society where The Partial Observer is read.

We know when personhood starts, and you don’t. This argument is used on both sides and is invalid on both. It is a matter of faith at best, of opinion at worst. I am offended that anyone would justify an abortion on such terms. I am also offended that a medical decision would be made on such an arbitrary basis.

Respect for life versus quality of life This argument is invalid because we shift our opinions at will. So many folks who are anti-war are "pro-choice" when it comes to abortion. Others who will protect the rights of every viable fetus will put thousands of young men and women into battle to protect "our values."

About the Author:
Barnabas doesn't want to leave the impression that everybody is right. You can work it through and still come out wrong.

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