The Problem with the Abortion Debate

Alright, so while I’m going to kind of dive into arguably the hottest of hot button topics today, I am very much going to talk about the argument process more than the defending or attacking either position.  This is an important distinction for me not only to make to you, but also to keep in mind as I continue writing, because my point is not to try to convert either side to the other, I honestly want us to have the best discussions about the topic because I think it’s the only way to come to the best (although I don’t see a perfect) solution to this.

Where to start?  Let’s start with the language issues, they tend to be my biggest problem, so let’s address them.  For the sake of trying to be honest, I will refer to pro-legal-abortion and anti-legal-abortion, not pro-life/pro-choice or anti-life/anti-choice, which are loaded terms, and very much purposely loaded.

“Life begins at conception.”  This is a massive point of contention, because it’s a factual statement, but it is a statement that both sides have kind of replaced in their own minds.  The anti-legal-abortion side hears this statement as meaning “Human life begins at conception,” or “humanity begins at conception.”  This is a far less factual statement than the original.  The pro-legal-abortion side hears the same statement much in the same way, and disagrees with the implied statement.

Now, by using a factual statement as a stand in for a subjective one is strategically more sound for the anti-legal-abortion side, for the reason of it seems so clinically obvious, and so that side has clung to the argument.  Now, I’m starting to see more and more pro-legal-abortion arguers starting to point out this aspect and reframe, and explain that bacteria, and plants are “life” and that’s not the standard we have for legality.  They’re getting closer to an honest argument, while mostly I have heard the anti-legal-abortion people not address this point.

Now on the pro-legal-abortion side, comes the “my body, my choice argument,” which again sounds obvious so it’s clung to, but again the truth is it’s more grey area.  This one comes down to a couple of problems I think, and I’ll spend a little while longer on it.  So the first problem I see with “my body, my choice” as an argument, is that there seems to be a point pre-birth, where an unborn fetus/child is a baby.  Now, while the pro-legal-abortion side is using the slogan “my body, my choice,” most pro-legal-abortion arguers (in my personal experience I’ve literally only ever met one exception) agree that late term abortion when not due to risk is too far.  So, personally while the catchphrase lives on, the spirit of it hasn’t fully, because there has been some compromise in it.

The reason for the compromise, honestly, is that there are two (maybe you could argue three) clear lines in the process of making a human.  There is conception, when two half DNAs become one whole DNA; then there is the second point which is birth, (the third possible point is viability, the point at which the fetus/baby can survive outside the womb).  The problem with these two clear lines, is that they don’t really answer the question.  Is a clump of cells with no discernible organs, a human?  Is a child which will take its first breath in a minute or two not human?

This lack of clarity leads not only to the problematic nature of the “my body, my choice” argument, but also the problematic nature of the entire debate.  You have one side who is arguing for one of two clear lines: Human life begins at conception; and you have the other side which is not arguing from the point of the other clear line, because the other clear line seems barbaric.  (Alright, I’m going to fail to not weigh in to some degree, sorry).  I think arguing strictly from either clear line is barbaric.  Because arguing from conception typically makes the point argument that the “morning-after-pill” would be unethical, but denying that so any woman (let alone a rape or incest victim) seems horrifying.  To think that a small cluster of cells can take any kind of precedence seems horrifying and dystopian.

The reason I give my own bias on that particular aspect is to dive into the problem further.  When you have a continuum, how do you make a distinction that isn’t on either of those ends.  We’ve all heard the arguments about heartbeats, and fingernails, and all the other developmental milestones, but let’s say at 10:40 tomorrow morning, an unborn fetus/child will have its first heartbeat, how can it be ok at 10:39 to abort it.  This is why the anti-legal-abortion argument gets the support it does, because of the lack of clear line, but it doesn’t make the argument right or wrong, it just makes it seem more rooted in fact, but it’s not fact, just like anything before a fetus/baby takes its first breath is ok to have an abortion, isn’t fact.

That’s the last point of contention I have with the abortion debate.  There’s too much absolutism in attitude from both sides.  This is a super complicated, and I would argue muddy issue.  There is no amount of factual knowledge, known or undiscovered, which will make this issue one of fact, or at least clear to bring the majority of people to one side (I say that because there are people who believe slavery is ok in some respects, or that the Earth is flat, and so instead of trying to get everyone to agree, my bar is general concensus).  The anti-legal-abortioners should stop arguing that the pro-legal-abortioners are intentionally murdering babies, because there is a whole range of points at which pro-legal-abortioners come down on the issue. Pro-legal-abortioners should stop assuming that the anti-legal-abortioners are anti-woman, because, while there is likely some of that in play within the politicians that are pushing for it, and large organizations, the average individual who considers him or herself to be ‘pro-life’ is likely being honest, and if they think abortion is the murder of a human, it is the right thing to try to stop that.

Ultimately, while we won’t necessarily understand, or even be able to agree on some of the points of contention, please try to see (and this really only applies with honest people, not those who would adopt a position based on some outside motive) that most people are behaving based on those points either they think it’s a baby from the start or they don’t.  Very few people are thinking “I’m going to kill this baby” or “I know it’s just a cluster of cells, but I think that woman should have to live with this for the rest of her life.”  Most people are trying to come to the right conclusion, but are coming from different assumptions.

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