Abortion: Debate, Ministry

There came a time a few years ago when I began to reflect deeply on the reasons a person might have for being pro-choice. Reflexively – instinctively? – I had always believed it was a misunderstanding, maybe a case of callousness which simply needed a proper, heart-rending appeal in order to spark a conversion. If only I could find the right words, the definitive and undeniable perspective which would change everything, then the debate would disappear.

It’s tough to deal with perpetual failure like that. A few years ago, I began to wonder why such an approach was doomed to fail, even with people whom I believed were intelligent and compassionate.

The closest I’ve gotten, by the way, is something like this: Abortion must be the most terrible fate a person can face. In your most vulnerable state, with nerve endings as fresh as they’ll ever be, in the place which is supposed to be the safest in all the world, in come the brutally dispassionate instruments of death. You have committed no crime, been given no defense. You will endure, arguably, the most intense pain possible, and you can’t even scream. Does anyone deserve this? Of all the very serious reasons people give for not wanting a child, can any justify this action?

Plenty of people – some reading this, perhaps – could respond that there are reasons, that it’s not as bad as I’m making it, that I’ve conflated the suffering of the fetus. (Please, don’t come near me with that truly stupid argument that we are only talking about a bunch of cells clumped together).

My breakthrough came when I doubted a quality intrinsic to the question, “How can good people justify abortion?”

In other words, since abortion does not seem justifiable – in that it is tantamount to murder – it must be that good people don’t justify it.

There’s a lot to get angry about there, and before you do, let me pull the pressure valve on one point: There is no one good who opposes abortion, either, except for God. We all, on both sides of this and every debate, are fallen and sinful. That sinfulness is manifest, for some, in a pro-choice stance.

This will not solve the debate, I understand. I’m just trying to understand it. There is a whole other angle, a set of people who does not believe in God who may or may not acknowledge the personhood of the fetus, and yet they defer to the woman and her opportunity to abort. Such people might be as likely to say that we still, as part of the social contract, must protect life at all stages.

Perhaps – and I’m beginning to believe this more and more – a debate is not the proper field for this competition of values and fundamental beliefs.  At least not in an academic sense, which might ultimately produce a consensus among the enlightened which trickles down to common folk.  Rather, since we are talking about real persons who will live or die based on decisions made in a real human mind, according to quite specific circumstances, efforts ought to be focused on those minds, and on amending those circumstances.

If one life can be saved in this way, it must be better than perpetual failure in the grand debate.

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