I mean, I’ve been able to ignore it the rest of my life. I don’t recall ever actually discussing it. Not once. In high school speech class, the teacher said we weren’t allowed to give any speeches on the topic because it was too controversial. With my strong aversion to disagreement, that sounded good to me. I only had a vague idea of what it was anyway.
Abortion never came up in college, either. I do recall discussing with a friend how people should have to take a test to prove they’re smart enough to have babies, and wouldn’t it be great if we had some way to sterilize everyone at birth and then they could only get pregnant if they could prove that they’d be good parents – the world would be a much better place. (I shudder as I recall that.) But I didn’t think much about abortion.
After all, people had to face the consequences. If you had sex and got pregnant, you shouldn’t be able to just get rid of it. You needed to pay the piper. Tough luck, young pregnant woman – you shouldn’t have been such a whore and had sex before you were married.
That was my viewpoint. I would call myself marginally pro-life. So I don’t have any amazing story about going from being vehemently pro-choice to passionately pro-life. I always knew that sex could equal babies. My self-righteous self was certain that irresponsible girls needed to face consequences and learn their lesson. Oh, and for those women who were raped or whose lives were endangered, abortion was fine. (Did you know that’s only the case in 7% of all abortions?) My ideology was completely focused on the mother.
And actually, ideology is a strong word for my view. I was more indifferent than anything. Abortion had never been an issue for anyone I knew. It was something that happened in back alleys of big cities to delinquent teenagers. It was something I could completely ignore.
So when I became Catholic earlier this year, I knew that their social teachings on abortion were something I didn’t want to think about much. Yup, abortion’s bad, let’s move on to the next topic. Sure, I can be pro-life, but don’t think I’ll be one of the crazies who only votes based on that. Let’s move on to something that actually affects me – contraception!
But the connection between contraception and abortion just kept coming up. I don’t even really need to cite the correlation between the rise in both over the past 40 years – I can just quote the Supreme Court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey ruling:
“In some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception… for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the even that contraception should fail.”
Great. So since we have contraception, we’re allowed to have all the sex we want, and if that doesn’t work we always can have an abortion.
But what is really turning me more and more pro-life is a shift in focus. I’ve realized that my focus (and that of the Supreme Court) was in the completely wrong place. Abortion isn’t about the mother. Abortion is about the baby. You know those bumper stickers that say “It’s a child – not a choice”? They’re right.
The more I contemplated this, the more I realized that the key to the whole abortion debate is determining when life begins. (I know, other people have known this for a long time.) Turns out, this is an extremely complicated question, and people can use scientific knowledge to argue just about any time they want. The pro-lifers can argue it begins at conception. The pro-choicers can argue it doesn’t begin until birth. Everybody else (including many Christians) reasons it’s somewhere between there.
The response to a baby’s death is based on intentionality. Unwanted fetus terminated at 10 weeks – good for the mother and society. Desired child miscarried at 10 weeks – a tragedy. Which was a life?
I honestly don’t think we’re ever going to be able to come to an agreement on when life begins. We have to hone in on an even more important question – when does God imbue a human being with a soul? “Life” has become a theoretical scientific question, wrenched apart from God. But a human life and a human soul go hand-in-hand.
When is a soul created? That has to be our litmus test. And since that is something we will never know in this life, we have to play it safe and say at conception. Abortion is wrong because it kills a child who was already given a soul.
I’ve gone on long enough for this morning, and haven’t even gotten into the dehumanizing of “fetuses”. (Please do read that link.) But I’m going to stop now, because I’m interested in your reactions. I’m still working this all out in my mind, and wanted to share it in the hopes of fruitful discussion. What are your views on abortion? When do you think life begins? When do you think a soul is born? Do you have a different angle?