11.20.2008

Abortion and Shades of Gray

Facebook is a wonderful thing. I've been able to reconnect with long-lost friends and we've been able to have long-distance, adult conversations surrounding this recent election and the issues associated with it. One of these friends, a fairly conservative evangelical Christian, posted an interesting article/blog from a conservative site defending evangelicals who voted for a Democrat Presidential candidate and who are pro-choice. The responses from his friends have been interesting, to say the least. Until earlier today, things stayed polite and on-topic. Then, one of his friends (whom I do not know) posted three responses that were very emotional, argumentative, and ultimately off-topic, and it reminded me that abortion is not a black and white issue.

This commentor (we'll call him Rob, not his real name) criticized those of us who are opposed to forcing our morals on someone else through legislation. He argued that we HAVE to legislate morality, as the antithesis of such legislation is anarchy. Hence we have laws opposing murder, rape, theft, etc. To this point, I don't necessarily disagree with him, although I don't think anarchy is the opposite of morality. But he went on to the tried-and-not-quite-true NeoCon argument of "how is killing a baby in the womb any different than killing one outside the womb?"

Our nation's forefathers, in their wisdom and uptight Puritanism, decided that religion had little place in politics. We call this the separation of church and state. Yet we also have to consider science, which is neither a religion nor politics. When it comes to abortion, the battle is really between science and religion, with the "winner" (or loser, depending on your stand) achieving legislation to support their views/research/opinion. Here enter the shades of gray.

I don't know of anyone who wants to challenge laws on murder. Those who support a woman's right to choose are sometimes called murderers, and people like Rob ask questions like the one posted above. Enter science. Murder is the killing of a human being, a living person. At what point does a zygote become an embryo, the embryo a fetus, and this fetus become a living person? Ultimately, when does life begin? The stand of many religious people is that life begins at conception. Scientifically, this is true to an extent, as the cells of the zygote/embryo are alive. So are tumors. Both are comprised of living cells that cannot live outside a human "host." Now that's a pretty picture... but true.

Legally, a fetus becomes a baby, a living human, when it becomes viable. The current legal date for that is the 24th week of pregnancy, or the beginning of the third trimester. Only 10-20% of fetuses are actual able to survive outside the womb at this point, even with significant medical intervention. True viability occurs at the 28th week, or around the 8th month.

So is it really murder if it isn't a human being yet?

That is just one shade of gray on the matter, the whether or not it is actually a life, a person, that is being aborted. It's actually a technicality, in the grand scheme of things. People on either side of the argument have their own "conditions," yet they seem to think that folks on the other side of the argument only believe in the extremes. Confused?

People who are anti-abortion (pro-life) come in variations. Some are totally and completely opposed to any abortions. Some do support abortion in certain cases; for example, when the mother's life is in danger, when the child is a product of rape, when the child has been confirmed to have a condition that will not allow it to live outside the womb... but these people are opposed to "voluntary" abortions. My parents actually fall into this category, the "there are times abortion is appropriate, but abortion is not birth control" thought. There are also those who vote pro-life because while they are not morally opposed to abortion, they don't want their tax dollars supporting the procedures. But pro-choice people often lump all pro-lifers together under the "no abortion ever" banner.

People who are pro-choice also come in variations. Some believe that a woman has the right to choose to end her pregnancy at any time. That is the extreme. Others believe that a woman has the right to choose as long as the child is not viable, and some of these folks want to see an increase in education and opportunities for the adoption of "unwanted" babies, including revisions of the adoption laws. Many of these people also believe that abortion isn't birth control, but they acknowledge that people make mistakes, circumstances change, and sometimes people don't know about any other option save abortion. This is the camp I fall into, and I have been "attacked" by pro-lifers who assume that because I am pro-choice I therefore believe in all forms of abortion.

How can I, a Christian, support abortion? I am asked. How can I morally support the ending of a life? Morals, like the abortion debate, are not black and white. Morally, I believe helping my fellow human and giving them options and support is more important that telling them they are a murderer. Morally, I probably would never choose to have an abortion myself, although I could never make that decision unless I was in that situation. Morally, I don't think forcing my beliefs on someone else, someone whose shoes I haven't walked in, is the right thing to do.

I personally believe broad and total anti-abortion laws say, "*I* believe abortion is wrong, so I am going to deny ANYONE the right to have one." THAT is what I don't believe is right. I support laws opposing third term abortions, once the fetus is viable. So does this make me pro-choice (since I'm not opposing ALL abortions) or pro-life (since I'm denying abortions to some people)?

I ask everyone out there engaged in such conversations to not assume anything about anyone based on a simple title. Democrat. Republican. Pro-life. Pro-choice. Christian. Evangelical. People do not fall into boxes, and those who don't want to be put into a box shouldn't do the same to others. Even our laws on murder and other crimes have shades of gray: justifiable homicide is one example, murder as self-defense is another. Why can't our abortion laws have the same shades of gray?

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