If ever there was a universal “right” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a woman’s right to choose must be it. Only women can become pregnant and give birth. Since pregnancy involves a woman’s body, it would seem reasonable that carrying a pregnancy full term should be a choice a woman makes freely.
Listening to the Vice Presidential debate, you would be forgiven if you thought otherwise. Describing abortion as murder, as some pro-lifers do, is to use hyperbole as a tool to obscure a difficult moral choice. But when the speakers are men, or even worse members of the clergy, hypocrisy rules.
If one goes back in history, even just back to the birth of our country, full term pregnancies were the expected outcome simply because “society” said so. Pregnancy out of wedlock did present some complexity and back alley abortions of course occurred. Society saw babies as helpful in growing the population and minimizing the detrimental impact of mortality due to early childhood diseases and birth complications.
Going back even further, families, tribes, and countries with large populations usually won wars. So if one did not want to end up a slave, staffing a large army was considered a good outcome. Authority figures reinforced superstitions around the need and duty of women to produce as many babies as possible.
In the modern world, these conditions no longer exist. Therefore, it is no longer necessary for clergy to spread superstitions around the woman’s duty to give birth often. Yet, many religion still do.
The abortion debate is very simple at its extremes and excruciatingly complex in the middle. Those who hold a woman has the right to end a pregnancy for any reason, and those who hold a woman must go full term, even when her life is at risk, are easy to understand. Their positions are absolutes.
But what about a young woman who has an unwanted pregnancy? This person has a full life ahead and plenty of time to have a family. What about a person who may have wanted the pregnancy but experiences a life event, like unemployment, disease, and serious injury, and decides the timing is not appropriate for giving birth. It is possible this woman already has children and feels economically or emotionally it is not wise to go full term.
For the absolutist, these situations are cut and dry. Yes or No.
In the real world, however, there are also some who exercise no personal responsibility. In this day and age there is little if any excuse for a woman unwillingly becoming pregnant. Family planning and birth control measure are readily available. Never the less, the spur of the moment (or plain disregard for ones reproductive health) leads too many women to unwanted pregnancies.
For the absolutists, this is again a black and white situation, yes or no to ending the pregnancy.
In Pennsylvania, the US Senate race could help determine the Senate leadership control. If Democrat challenger Katie McGinty beats incumbent Republican Pat Toomey, Democrats may regain Senate control. Toomey is quoted as opposed to Planned Parenthood and abortion, and has said he would support jail for medical persons who perform abortions. This sounds pretty “absolutist” to me.
With Senate control, and/or a Hillary Clinton victory, Roe v Wade will be safe for probably enough time that the nation’s demographics makes its reversal impossible.
The abortion absolutists (both yes and no’s) do in their own ways, all women a disservice.
Medical experts have advanced the science of determining when it is medically safe to end a pregnancy and what would be the consequences if the pregnancy went full term. Making the subject a litmus test with innuendos of “murder”, removes the discussion of the middle ground where morality and ethics meet.
It is time for pro-lifers to expand their definition of life and include some notion of quality of life as well as the woman’s right to choose.
By the same token, it is time for pro-choice supporters to advocate for responsible sexual behaviors and emphasize the responsibility a woman incurs if she becomes pregnant.
And its high time that both sides of this divide to recognize that a woman who ends her pregnancy because of rape, incest, and medical health of the pregnant woman are exempt from any condemnation.