Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Philosophy Series: Filling Out the Abortion Discussion

An article from 2008, which I recently saw linked in the comments of a blog I was reading: When Moral Issues Become Political Issues. This article addresses the practical ramifications of making abortion illegal with exceptions, and many of them were things I'd never considered--like the fact that in order to make it legal in the case of rape, all allegations of rape would have to be tried and proven in a court. The two issues I see as the biggest problems with that: 
  • Court cases, even simple ones, usually take several months, and it would be impossible to conclude them in time to perform an abortion. 
  • In order to prevent all women who want abortions from claiming rape, the women whose cases could not be proven would have to be punished. This is problematic for two reasons: one, that rape often can't be proved even when it did happen; and two, that it would discourage even more women from coming forward when they have been raped, because they would be afraid of the consequences if they couldn't prove it. These are not casualties I am willing to accept.
For the record: I believe that forcing a woman to go through with a pregnancy that resulted from rape is a kind of rape in itself.

  • "The Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience," but "allows for possible exceptions for its members."
  • "Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct." Italics added, to emphasize that the Church believes this is a personal decision.
  • "The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion." In its policy of political neutrality, the Church has made clear that they "reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church." This is what the Church did in regard to Prop 8; they have not done it for abortion.
Some things to think about. 

For the record (because it seems to bear repeating): My personal beliefs are identical to those of the writer of the article I linked to--and, incidentally, mesh very cleanly with the Church's stance.

Morally, I believe that elective abortion is very wrong, and in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life, I believe it should be considered seriously first. 

Politically, I believe that it should be legal. Unlike that of gay marriage, the question of abortion is one in which I can understand wanting to involve the law, because we are talking about a human life. But there are too many reasons why it would be wrong to do so; there are too many cases where exceptions would have to be made, and there is no way to legislate those without seriously wronging innocent women. (And for those in the camp of not making those exceptions, there are even more things that are just wrong about what they want to do--like the hypocrisy of being "pro-life" when you would not allow an abortion that would save the live of the mother.) In the end, plain and simple, I believe that the responsibility and choice can lie only with the woman.


  1. your first two points about the law having to be involved if it was rape are really interesting. I am okay with abortion being legal, but not okay with doing it in my own life. I may change my mind if I happen to be raped (oh please no never.) I just don't know how I would feel after something like that. If however I got pregnant by someone I loved or liked and it was all my fault I for one would chose to keep or give baby up for adoption. But my life is mine not anothers so I can't make those decisions for everyone. To me it seems abortion should be legal and people should be educated more about prevention and choices.

  2. Interesting thoughts. Mostly, I agree. However, sometimes we have to protect ourselves from ourselves. In high school one of my closest friends got pregnant. She got an abortion supported by her mother. Granted this wasn't a case of rape. But afterward she said it was horrific and if she had known what it would have resulted in, she never would have chosen that. The effects still haunt her, it was much more traumatic than we visualize or internalize.
    So it would have been nice had it been a little more difficult for her to get one, a little more regulated. And/or maybe a little more steps required to acknowledge what they will see and experience as a result of having an abortion. There are after shocks that have lasting effects. It's not a clear clean cut about yes or no. There does need to be education and intervention. I don't think that most chosing an abortion are getting that to the fullest degree.
    And because my stance that it is a life, I do have a moral stance to say yes the law should become involved. The law should protect life. I do think I can say this should not be a free and able choice to those not including another extensive crime. The choice should about having sex not about the pregnancy.

  3. Well, that article is creating a false dichotomy with the rape issue: legal and easy, or illegal except for rape and have to prove it in court. But legislation excepting for rape is really easy:
    "Abortion is illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment to the mother. In cases of rape and incest, no partner needs to be identified, and no instance must be proven, but the woman must make a written and signed claim that it is true. At that point, she may receive an abortion. No punishment will be levied against those who do not press charges in court or those whose charges are unsuccessful."

    Obviously, I just whipped this out off the top of my head, so in no way is it perfect. The cool thing about laws is you can write them however you want.

    The problem with this legislation? Women could lie and get abortions. But you know what? That's fine. As long as legislation like this would dissuade even one woman from having an unwarranted abortion and regretting it the rest of her life, it's a legislation worth making. And I have a feeling it would dissuade a lot more than one.

    As for morality and politics, we already DO legislate that: partial birth or 3rd trimester abortions. No one is protecting themselves, it's completely moral: "it's WRONG to cause that baby pain." And most people agree that, yes, it is okay to legislate this moral issue (partial-birth abortions).

  4. I agree with abortion being legal, but because it is such a potentially traumatic procedure, I think prevention of pregnancy is the biggest thing we can do to prevent abortions.

    Abstinence only education in schools are recipes for disaster, proper sex ed and birth control needs to be shared with teens who are at the age where they start to become sexually active. Granted, we should encourage youth to not be promiscuous, but we should also be realistic and give them information as to how to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancies when they do make the choice to become sexually active.

    And a decision to have sex, is different than a decision about pregnancy. Or I would have stopped doing it a long time ago. hahahaha

  5. I agree with you 100% and I love the way the writer phrased things in the church article.

  6. You know, Steve, I haven't thought about what all the ramifications would be, but I could probably get on board with that. It would never be approved in a million years, though, because conservative politicians do care if someone lies. And also because I think it's maybe not kosher to write a law fully expecting to not enforce it. (And since the article was operating under the assumption that any legislation would have to be enforceable, I don't think the dichotomy was in fact false.)

    Janeen and Laura, I absolutely agree that women should be educated on what getting an abortion means, and I agree that it's wrong for abortions to just be an easy solution. I think that it should probably be required that women see some kind of information session before they get one. But also, Janeen, carrying a baby full term and then giving it up for adoption is seriously traumatic, too; and if we're talking about a young girl who has been raped, I'm not sure that option is better and in fact might be worse (for her, of course. For the baby... obviously. But we do have to consider the girl, too, and we cannot blame her for her choice since it was not her choice to become pregnant).

    Larissa: Agreed. Teaching abstinence is fine, but refusing to teach anything else is just not smart. Kids need to know what the risks are, and you can't base all of their knowledge on the hope that they will never make a mistake. According to these statistics, anyway, 35% of pregnant teens choose to abort. http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/teenage_women.html Those numbers could go down a lot if we had better sex ed programs, and that's a huge part of the problem.

    Dafni, I really liked how simply written it was. This is a hard issue to discuss clearly and without getting too complicated.

  7. I really liked that article. Thanks for sharing it. It brings up a lot of ideas that you wouldn't think about (like the rape example you gave).

    I agree with the distinction you made about being morally against elective abortion, but politically for it being legal. However, I get so sick of having to explain that in detail. Being pro-choice shouldn't mean you are seen as pro-abortion. The majority of people who support women's choice have not had an abortion and would not choose an abortion for themselves.

    I think that problem stems from the terms we use, mostly pro-life. That's a whole other post, though. :)

  8. Oh, I know what you mean, Megan. Unfortunately a lot of people deliberately misunderstand that issue because they are so rooted in their beliefs that they cannot accept anything "less" as valid. It's a really self-righteous attitude, actually, for a person to believe that their position alone is the correct one (particularly for a member of the Church, since the Church itself says that exceptions are okay).

    It's amazing to me how people are able to simplify the issue, too, and make it the absolute ultimate most important thing in the political arena. I heard so many times in 2008 that a vote for Obama was specifically a vote to kill babies (yes, in those words). Try pointing out that for some people a politician's other policies are actually important, too, and see where that gets you. Basically, presidents have zero responsibilities beyond legislating abortion, so we should all vote for a candidate based exclusively on that factor.


  9. As much as I am personally against abortion, I feel that it is unrealistic to make it illegal. I think the most realistic way to reduce abortions is by education--better sex education for teenagers and educating young women who are considering having it done about the possible risks and consequences, much like any other medical procedure. And for those who decide to raise the baby themselves, or place the baby for adoption, provide resources and support!

    I consider myself conservative on many issues, but this is one where I tend to be more liberal, but I'd like to think that I'm merely being realistic :)

  10. This is one of the few issues on which the liberal view is the more realistic one, as opposed to idealistic. :) So that makes sense.

    Realistically, you cannot stop abortions from happening--you can only take away the more humane options. I would much rather try to make them happen less by taking preventative action, and not have girls driven to stabbing themselves with pencils because they had nowhere else to go. (Sorry for the image, but hey, that's what we're dealing with here.)