My statement on the abortion issue:
On the ASA LISTSERV, a dialog took place in Nov 2002, and the following is based on that dialog. The original is preserved in the ASA LISTSERV archives:
I had written, in a response to an earlier post as follows: "I refer you to Kathleen Parker's "Abortion is more than meets the eye" article in the major newspapers this week. She and I "belong to that soft-spoken cadre of people who oppose abortion but support choice. We are the bane of both sides of the debate....”
Another poster asked: "Just out of curiosity, what precisely is this anti-abortion-pro-choice position?" My answer, somewhat expanded, follows.
I refer you again to Parker's article. She describes it quite well.
Based on the rather obvious (and agreed to) fact that we really do not know, and will never know, the "exact point" (if one exists) when the developing entity becomes a human being with a soul (indeed, we do not even know if a "soul" exists), I argue (1) the moral ethic that abortion therefore must be considered to very likely be a "wrong," and therefore, in the absence of any other reasons, ought to be avoided.
I also argue (2) that there ARE other factors to consider, such as rape and incest situations, situations involving the pregnant female's health, situations involving mental retardation, and situations involving severe fetal deformities.
I argue also (3) that these factors are such that the possibility of a law regulating abortion (on an individual) is simply not possible to construct. This is a weaker claim; for it may be that some regulatory laws might be possible. All such attempts I have seen, however, necessarily bring the police power of the state into some situations where I can see no moral justification for doing so.
A possible exception to my claim may be a state passing a law that it will not fund abortions. This is, in itself, not regulatory*, and while I might (or might not) oppose such a law, it appears to be morally neutral as far as a state's power is concerned.
It has been argued that a "parental notification" law ought to be permissible. In Colorado recently, such a measure was soundly defeated. At first glance it looks reasonable. But consider the case of a poor girl, raped by her father. To require that she get her father's permission for the procedure is ludicrous. It is this case, and others like it, that make such a law morally wrong.
I argue also (4) that in the case of rape and incest, the female is in a situation she did not herself choose. Morally, this can be argued as the case of the "attached violinist." The case of a mentally retarded female can probably be added to this list.
I argue also (5) that the American electorate is sufficiently split on this issue that any law will do more mischief than it will help.
One part of the issue that interests me is the so-called "Partial Birth Abortion" issue. The phrase seems to have been chosen by the pro-life groups, and it was a good political choice on their part for it so easily polarizes the issue. As I understand, the technical term is "Dilation and Extraction." There is little doubt that the "PBA" term is more easily understood by the average person, however, it is also an inflammatory term. On my web site, page 2, section 9, I have placed the testimonies of six women who testified before Congress about this procedure just a few years ago. For those who favor a government law prohibiting the procedure, I ask them to read these testimonies.
I argue (6), therefore, that bringing a man in a blue suit carrying a large gun into the doctor's office to make sure a doctor and his/her patient are following some law correctly is a moral wrong.
I was chastised for inflammatory rhetoric in the above (even though, below, I acknowledged it) and so I will reword it to be more civil:
I argue (6), therefore, that bringing the police power of the state into the doctor's office to make sure a doctor and his/her patient are following some law correctly is a moral wrong.
Finally, I argue (7) that the pro-life and the pro-choice people both ought to cut down on the rhetoric (I know -- I used some just above) and get together to see what aspects of the issue they might agree upon. Both sides, I assume, favor adoption as an alternative. That much they could work together upon. Contraception is another obvious area of possible agreement. Abstinence before marriage is another.
* On the individual. It is, of course, regulatory on state institutions.
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