Although I have strong views about abortion (see www.kendobson.asia/blog/abortion), this set of comments is about logical argumentation. It is probably too much to hope for consistency in a debate that is divided between whether to use logic or emotion to talk about abortion. But I think arguments in recent weeks have now gone beyond silly into the area of the seriously absurd, and here are some examples I have collected.
Every fertilized egg is a human life and to intentionally terminate its development is equivalent to murder and should be treated as such under the law. The most recent, controversial, and radical law to this effect was enacted in mid-May by Alabama, where they also declared that thousands of fertilized eggs stored in fertility centers to assist impotent couples are not to be covered by this “protection” because they are not in a woman’s uterus. The law is absurd. It cannot be both ways. Either every fertilized egg is a human life or it is not yet, and some other criteria must apply. Feminists and their allies recognize this inconsistency is to put the onus on women and to leave men free of culpability.
A detectable heartbeat is the signal for protections to begin. There are now some 20 US states that have enacted statutes to this effect. The law is absurd on two bases. First, there is no solid medical grounds to determine exactly when that heartbeat begins. Most of the laws go on to stipulate that the final date for a legal abortion would be six weeks after conception, which is before women know they are pregnant and are considering abortions. Obstetric experts say that a fetus is too undeveloped at six weeks to have a heart, and the sound is merely a flutter detectable only with highly developed equipment. A heart of any sort is never formed before eight weeks after conception. That is still before most women would begin to suspect they might be pregnant. “Detectable heartbeat” legislation is an attempt to prevent abortions.
The way to prevent abortions is to prevent pregnancies. The reasoning is simplistic: no pregnancy => no abortion. But the states and organizations who insist on this are also working to prevent accessibility to the very things that are proven to reduce the call for abortions, free access to birth control and holistic sexual health and education services. Colorado, for example, reduced abortions by 42% when those services were provided.
Abortion is sin. This makes abortion a theological matter. Numerous churches insist on this ex cathedra and additional ones teach that it is up to individuals to know it is a sin. Abortion is contrary to the unborn-child’s right to life, which (it goes without saying) has priority over the mother’s right to life. Until recently this has not been the case. Leaders in many of these same churches were active advocates of the law that legalized access to abortion and stipulated it was a matter to be left up to a pregnant woman and her physician. That law was ratified in the famous US Supreme Court Decision “Row v. Wade”. As the current Pope has pointed out, the theological issue rides on the question, “When does a person become ‘ensouled’?” For centuries this question was important in order to be able to say whether a still-born child, an un-baptized infant, or a miscarried fetus had souls. Even in Roman Catholic parishes these “un-souled” did not need funeral rites. The consensus was that the soul came with the first breath. “Soul” is a contentious biblical term that is intimately connected with “breath of life”. “Recent technology” has provided in utero images of fetuses that have swung the consensus to a belief that the tiny being seen in the ultra-sound scan can be nothing other than a tiny baby. Soul is not the issue. Common sense is convincing. But it is not theological. It sets aside theology, as “common sense” convictions always do.
A male perpetrator of rape has rights of paternity. Absurdly, this is actually part of the legislation being enacted in some states. It has the appearance of legal consistency, horrible and unconscionable as it is. Since, the argument goes, a male inseminator is a contributor to the fertilization and genetic composition of the fetus he is equivalent to the father. This gives this despicable male right to a role in the life of both the child-to-be and its mother-to-be, even though he has raped the woman, destroyed part of her life, and is subject to legal prosecution as a criminal for having done that. Recent court decisions (being challenged at the moment) have agreed that the male has the right to disagree with any termination of the pregnancy, in states that still permit abortions. I submit that this is the level of absurdity to which this whole topic has sunk.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.