ABORTION: Let's Apply More Reason and Less Emotion to the Public Debate

by Ken Wear, Posted Nov. 1999

Emotions have run at such a high pitch that reason often suffers in the abortion debates. Attitudes vary from utter permissiveness to absolute rejection. If we are indeed creatures of reason, then we ought to set aside emotion in the abortion debates and recognize where our differences lie so as to narrow the public divide. It is questionable if a simple yes-no about abortion reflects our ability to illuminate the topic with the light of reason. There is a ripple effect into each life touched by an abortion decision; if we can't apply reason, we ought at least examine each life with humane sensitivity.

Our sense of morality lies more in intent than in result. Such as the heinous crime of killing the victim of a mugging versus the heroism of the intended victim killing his assailant. A death: but we cringe or applaud because of intent; our view is colored by the humanitarian concerns of a civilized society. Overlooking the question of intent, ought we take an up-down, yes-no, view toward abortion? Are there medical, moral or humanitarian concerns that ought to be weighed? (Such as expected quality of life of survivors, or whether a person is a real object of someone's affection, or a woman's freedom of activity after the sex act or time elapsed between intercourse and discovery of pregnancy?)


Between the generation of living cells within the female and male bodies and the nurturing of a life to a self-sustaining person, there is a wide range of concerns. Our need is to sort out these concerns and narrow the range of disagreements about what is benign, what is a violation of our moral or civil code, and what is irrelevant. There are questions that have long divided us, and I am not sure I can define the line between acceptance and rejection, but let us begin and see where the exercise takes us.

There is nothing uncommon about the death of cells in the human body; it is a part of life itself; in the ordinary self-maintenance of our bodies, cells die and the body discards them. To set the stage for discussion, let us grant that the cells that unite to form a new life, since cells from the female and from the male are quite different from each other and since they together comprise the stuff from which the new life grows, are special and warrant consideration from a special vantage point.

Let us dismiss as patently ridiculous any thought that sperm from the male, taken either collectively in a single discharge or singly during their life span, are eligible for any consideration whatever; except where a pregnancy is sought, it is something to be disposed of. Likewise, the ovum from the female is scarcely a commodity recognized in moral discourse as worthy of note; securing the ovum against its death is certainly beyond the reach of moral judgment. In the ordinary course of celibate life these cells die and exit the body. And in copulation and its aftermath most cells, both male and female, suffer the same fate of death and discard and, parenthetically, it is often cause for rejoicing that this is so.

I am utterly opposed to using abortion as a substitute for responsible sexual behavior. But it is not my intent here to discuss what is or is not responsible sexual behavior. I simply note that, if we limited our population to only those individuals whose progenitors weighed the consequences of sexual behavior and thinkingly, knowingly, approvingly, lovingly accepted beforehand the possible outcome, our numbers would be greatly reduced. And we as a society are diminished in moral stature when a pregnancy is imposed with inhumane or criminal intent or when sex is practiced with utter abandon with no thought whatever for its consequences.

It should be obvious, in using abortion for birth control, that there are physical risks to the woman. Abortion is a surgical procedure; all surgical procedures must violate the body, carry with them risk to good health, and leave their scars. And repeated abortions accumulate damage.

Without pregnancy, there can be no abortion. Our concern here is for pregnancy, the union of egg and fertilizing cells once they have joined together and begun their multiplicative process, securely anchored in the female body. So let us bypass questions of the morality of interposing either time or physical barriers that hinder or assist the union of ovum and sperm; discussion of use of contraceptives or surgery to prevent pregnancy belong in a different forum. As does artificial insemination. And a 'morning after' pill. And sperm maintained in suspended animation at low temperatures, or an ovum artificially maintained outside the body; these are property in the sense that they belong to someone who is accountable to no one else for their maintenance or demise. And 'test tube' or petri dish fertilization, as long as the fertilized ovum is not implanted in the woman's body, cannot produce pregnancy and therefore does not belong in this discussion.

There is the matter of practicality that there is considerable elapsed time between anchoring the fertilized ovum in her body and discovery by the woman that she is pregnant. Should we argue that a woman is morally bound to nurture the blastocyst (or zygote), once anchored in her body, and avoid activity that might be harmful to a presence unknown to her, we argue in effect that from the time of intercourse the woman is a prisoner of her sex because of the possibility of pregnancy. As a matter of practicality, discovery of pregnancy is the point at which abortion may become an issue, either public or private; before discovery there are the ordinary concerns of good health and happiness; discovery is the time of acknowledgment that the concerns of life are changing. 3(For footnote, click here. Your BACK button will return you here.)

Despite the obvious link between promiscuous sex and abortion, 'Sex education' in our schools, both public and private, and in our churches is, again, an issue apart.4 (For footnote, click here.)

And, let us summarily dismiss issues of cloning or other manipulations of ova that artificially simulate fertilization and thus stimulate the cell's multiplicative process. I have no doubt that in time medicine will succeed in nurturing cell divisions and their differentiations to produce, outside the female body, what appears to be a new, unique human being. But that likely lies in the far distant future. While cloning is becoming a matter of public discussion, that is the antithesis of abortion. (Parenthetically, I hate to see medical research driven from our country; cloning will be undertaken because there is demand and making it illegal here merely requires people go elsewhere to develop their skills.)

Let me dispel early-on any questions about my own inclinations. I want to present a number of points as objectively as possible. I am hopeful readers, knowing the author's stance, can then use these discussions one by one to help them arrive at views that are internally consistent and compatible with their own background and experiences. My view is two-fold:
First, I would not have wanted my wife to carry to term a youngster she resented, regardless of its normalcy. That is not to say she should have sought to avoid pregnancy or that she should not have carried a child unless she had, before having sex, weighed the consequences and made a willful decision she wanted to become pregnant: There is a vast middle ground between aggressively seeking a pregnancy and adamantly opposing the disciplines necessary to nurturing the unborn and the born.
And, second, we should, as a matter of public policy, apply economic sanity to questions of preservation of a human life. That is, we should not automatically in all cases bring to bear the ultimate in medical capabilities; it is economically ruinous and morally questionable to do so.
But these are personal views; I will not pursue either.


We may run afoul of differences between the moral and the legal. Whatever personal moral stance we reach, there may be practicalities that limit our ability to impose, or even reach consensus on, what ought to be. That we may run against such a barrier ought not deter us from the intellectual exercise. That said, let us proceed.

There are a number of collateral issues. But let me first remind you that prohibition of abortion should not be, cannot be, absolute. It may seem pedantic, but an absolute denial of abortion is the mentally lazy route. It is far easier to say "no abortions under any circumstance" than it is to wrestle with issues and arrive at a reasoned attitude. Our species is allegedly endowed with intelligence that makes it possible to consider cause and effect in both the immediate circumstance and their long range consequence.

In abortion discussions "Pro-Life" and "Pro-Choice" are inappropriate terms. The antithesis of "Pro-Life" is obviously "Anti-Life" and no one can conceivably argue for that. Again, the antithesis of "Pro-Choice" is "Anti-Choice," which is the philosophy of fatalism, or the concept we are merely actors playing out a script that has been pre-determined for us. We should be honest and boldly use the correct terms Pro-Abortion and Anti-Abortion, rather than attempting to erect an emotional smoke screen through the choice of terminology.

Some say 'abortion is murder.' That's a snappy punch line, but it is overly simplistic. If I destroy a living thing that does not have the mental capacity to recognize itself (say, a squirrel or a cabbage), what have I destroyed? Can it be murder if the victim is not recognized as a human person? And how must we define 'person?' In this context, how best can we describe the ovum, the zygote, the blastocyst, the embryo, the fetus, the infant? A proto-person? An incipient mortal? Possessor of a soul? (Does a cabbage or a squirrel have a soul?)

We commonly accept the idea that the fetus can be sacrificed if the mother's life is medically threatened by the pregnancy. (Should her life be ended by the pregnancy, the odds are that the fetus will not then survive anyway. She can try again; loss of the fetus is part of the balance of choices.) And we generally accept that a pregnancy should be terminated in cases of incest -- a father impregnating his daughter, or a son his mother, or a brother his sister. In both cases, we find it wise to relax the prohibition.

While an abortion renders a decision about the value of the life that is lost, it is also true that the decision whether or not to abort is based on a comparison of values of the known (the carrier) and the unknown (the fetus).

Some debate the wisdom of abortion in cases of criminal rape, but let me present a scenario that haunts me: Visualize an attractive young woman -- bright, talented, with an enviable future -- who chances to be seen by a ne'er-do-well, who stalks her and takes her unaware, rapes her at, for her, the wrong time of month. As a result she is pregnant. She had no choice but had forced upon her, against her will, possibly violently, a pregnancy by a man to her unknown and best described as scum-of-the-earth. Does anyone feel that she should commit her life to nurturing the child thus imposed upon her when, by the time that child reaches majority, she will herself be near middle-age and will have largely passed the possibility of husband and family? (Some have pointed out the possibility of adoption of the youngster thus spawned; granted; it is still true that she would of necessity commit most of a year to nurturing that hateful presence.) I have difficulty believing there is anyone so callous, so insensitive, so blinded by the rhetoric of "pro-life," that he would insist this innocent young woman should carry to term a youngster conceived under these circumstances when her own life will be so wretchedly turned around as a result. Insist that a woman carry for the eight months from discovery to delivery a hateful presence that has been cruelly imposed on her? Our sense of humanity cries out against an absolute prohibition of abortion. It isn't a question of whether but, rather, a question of circumstance. Denial of abortion cannot be absolute because of the inhumanity denial may impose on an innocent victim.5 For footnote, click here

"Date rape" is a much more delicate matter because it is on the fringe of irresponsible sexual behavior. Sexual intercourse should always be a matter of mutual consent, but partaking with the attitude, "Well, if there is a pregnancy there can be an abortion," is utterly irresponsible on the part of both participants. "Sex for hire" is not rape but is a commercial activity and the risk of pregnancy, as well as exposure to sexually transmitted disease, is an ordinary part of the transaction; I choose not to wade into the thickets of law or of the implications of a sense of responsibility on the part of either supplier or client.

"Life begins at conception" is a poorly defined idea. It takes life to create life. The ovum is the product of life; should all ova be protected and nurtured? Many fertilized ova pass on out of her body, and many embryos are spontaneously ejected due to a deficiency her body recognizes. Doubtless medical research can produce chemicals that reduce the incidence of both, but ought we seek such chemicals since they would introduce more bodily weaknesses into our species.

Our religions teach us that each individual has an immortal soul that departs the body upon death and continues its life on some other plane. But it is uncertain when that soul takes up residence in the body. Perhaps at birth, maybe later. Perhaps at conception. Perhaps when the proto-brain reaches a certain stage in development of the fetus. Perhaps a soul hovers while a man and woman engage in sex even if a vehicle for that soul will not result. The human soul apparently has no mass and so its arrival and its departure cannot be measured on a scale; I choose not to offer speculations in the religious argument of when the soul joins an incipient person. Suffice it to say I do not consider a soulless entity to be a human being. And we must tread carefully on things that damage the mortal house of the soul.

Nature, left to its own devices, will limit the range of weaknesses of body and mind that it will allow to exist. If we examine our current medical practice, we recognize that one result is to enable individuals of a lesser survival potential to survive long enough to propagate. Thus whatever flaws exist in their genes become mixed in our general gene pool. And with increased medical sophistication, still weaker individuals will survive; I have difficulty seeing how, over the generations, degradation of our species can be avoided. But that discussion belongs in a different forum. Cruel as it may seem to utter such a thought, there is the chance we err in our sense of humanity when we apply our medical knowledge to make it possible for certain selected weaknesses to survive. I won't -- and can't -- undertake to catalog weaknesses at either end of our life span -- I'm not knowledgeable enough -- but it presents many moral and ethical dilemmas and is well outside the limits of discussion here.

When the abortion issue first surfaced as an item for public discussion, I had great difficulty arriving at a point of view. Although it may skirt many issues, I finally rationalized that it is not the man's body that is host to the unborn and therefore it is not fundamentally a man's issue. Since then, two concepts have taken form in my mind and they have had significant impact on the evolution of my thinking. Let me call them 'quality of life' and 'object of affection;' I will later attempt to clarify my view of both. To me they are central to the humaneness of many life-and-death decisions; and I am hopeful a sense of humanity can always be near the center of focus. (As an example, I feel the prospective quality of life is a vital consideration in any decision of degree of medical intervention to preserve a -- any -- life.) You may feel either or both are irrelevant.

Is "abortion" part of a larger "culture of life?"2 (For Footnote, click here.


Should any man 'play God?' Emphatically, NO!! Certainly not! Unthinkable!

But we are stewards. This is a certainty it is impossible to avoid. Stewards. Responsible. Perhaps this is the line of demarcation between the human and the non-human -- in the mature, a sense of responsibility, an awareness of cause and effect and the insistent demands that awareness creates for responsible behavior. We are human and therefore we are stewards. Stewards of what we inherited as a result of the stewardship of our grandparents and parents. Stewards of the world we bequeath our children and grandchildren -- and their grandchildren. What sort of world will that be? What kinds of people will populate it? What values will they practice? What is our proper role as our stewardship plays out? Can our practice of our stewardship be devoid of the thinking process?

And we are what our genes decree.

In those choices between degradation of our species and improvement of our species, I favor improvement. 'Playing God;' "stewardship;" these ideas are not in opposition; we are agents of whatever gods there be. Unless our possession of the power of reason was an evolutionary accident, we should be expected to practice reason. Including any and all decisions, even those regarding the future genetic characteristics of our species. Does this affect attitudes toward abortion? It ought to.

Eugenics has gotten a bad name for reasons that escape me. Partly, I suppose, because Adolph Hitler espoused the idea in his book Mein Kampf and then botched it in application; because he was evil many people feel that all his ideas are also evil. But reason tells us 'truth is where you find it;' whatever ideas Hitler had that were good should be recognized on their own merit and not evaluated in the same light as their author. You might view eugenics as history, the gradual change toward larger bodies, toward higher intelligence. When you select a sex partner you are, because of selectivity, practicing eugenics, since any resulting offspring will possess a combination of traits representing the both of you. Is or should the personal practice of eugenics be devoid of the thought process?

Our abhorrence of incest is based on eugenics, the fact that a life originating from parents whose genes are too similar gets a double dose of genetic faults. 'Inbreeding' we call it. It seems odd that in this one instance of incest we accept the teachings of eugenics but in others reject it as tampering with life after the fashion of God.

This will infuriate some, possibly because of the recognition of where we place, but no serious observer of life can deny these facts: One of the most damning consequences of war is the reduction in genetic stocks that produce the personal qualities for which we have the highest regard. Any nation engaged in war that does not send into combat its most capable is doomed to defeat: Simple fact of warfare. It is the genetic stocks that are not destroyed in war that produce the ensuing generations, so one effect of war is a reduced concentration of individuals possessing those qualities for which we have the highest regard. If you can imagine a conflict spanning two or three generations, it is obvious that there will be a serious depletion of the more desirable genetic stocks; it is not that our species will recover in a generation or two; these genetic stocks have disappeared and among those remaining these personal qualities are of increased rarity.

I would argue, without presenting proof, that those qualities for which we have the highest regard are also the qualities that lend to survival of the individual, to progress, and in general to the enrichment of society. So as a society we suffer irreplaceable loss as a consequence of any large scale process that selectively depletes our best genetic stocks or selectively encourages proliferation of weaker or less fit genetic stocks. I think the correspondence between medical intervention and the effect of war is obvious.

Allow me to leap forward a large number of generations. Suppose through some genetic accident conceptions become imbalanced, with, say, less than 1% males. Or that 90% or more depend on some medication or surgical procedure for their continued viability. Likely by then the arts of medicine will have progressed to the point that introduction into the body of gene-altering substances can correct most specific flaws in individuals possessing certain known inherited factors. Could it be possible to mandate, regulate or deny medical or surgical interventions? Could we become involved in the selection of personal qualities? Personal eugenics??

Quality of life

Let me try to set the thinking apparatus into motion on 'quality of life.' It should be possible to arrive at some sort of differentiation that will allow a ranking from high quality to low quality -- perhaps no quality at all. As to what will figure into it: 1) Mental activity, which is a hallmark of our species; 2) Physical control of the body including flexing of arms, locomotion, etc. 3) Activities that are meaningful to that individual 4) Surroundings that can be appreciated b that individual and 5) Presence, and ability to use, the various necessities of bodily sustenance.

Granted, quality of life is something each must assess for himself (should he have the ability to assess it). For yourself, on a scale of zero to ten and upon examination of your own life, a value of six to nine would likely seem appropriate, there being something evidently lacking you would wish to add. Upon reflection on the life of a friend, you can make some sort of comparative assessment based on the desirability of your assuming the burdens and joys of the friend's life; by extension you can arrive at guiding principles by which to assess the life of a stranger. While it is fraught with difficulties, it is not unreasonable to suppose that some sort of qualitative yardstick can be advanced, a yardstick that can be applied equally to the young and healthy, to the elderly and to the victims of accident and disease, as well as to the newly born and the unborn. And we may assign a value not only to the quality of life as it exists today, but as it may reasonably be projected to exist after the passage of weeks or years.

As I view the five elements of quality of life, it seems to me there is a common thread in them all, and that is the perception, the mental image, the assessment: It is the perception that is important, not only of the subject but also of the assessor. Thus assessment of quality of life reduces to being a product of mental activity, that is, without at least mental awareness, activity or surroundings reduce to nothingness. Without quality, quantity loses appeal.

In cases of accident or serious illness we generally leave assessment of expected quality of life, and a decision to expend resources, to the attending physician and/or affected loved ones. But we there deal with a person we can observe and measure; for the unborn we seem limited to informed speculations. But we are not doomed to total ignorance; in many cases there are tests and other reasonable bases for determining if there are severe mental or physical abnormalities or other factors in estimating prospective quality of life of an unborn. My point is that prospective quality of life ought to be a prominent consideration in decisions to abort, just as it is in cases of accident or illness.

Object of affection

If someone has emotionally bonded with you then you are to him an object of affection . It matters not whether the bond is reciprocal; it is someone who cares about you and you are important to him. Not just an abstract caring, but an involved concern for the costs and rewards of maintaining and encouraging the on-going processes of that life. I avoid the term 'love' here because someone who loves you in a compassionate or charitable way, or again in an erotic way, may have no emotional link to you. For the most part I think such emotional bonds arise from familial ties or extended intimate contact, but even among spouses or siblings the bonds may weaken through friction or neglect. I use the term 'object of affection' to indicate a current bonding, a bonding in existence at the time under consideration.

Let me give some examples of quality of life and object of affection. Perhaps your experiences include other examples.

I knew of a 20-something-year-old who was so severely retarded that he had not progressed to the one-year level. His parents were ashamed of their offspring and he was consigned to a hospital ward that specialized in the retarded. I ask you how much that life meant to itself; how much it meant to others. Object of affection: No. Quality of life: Zero. Expectation: More of the same. That was over a quarter century ago; what in the name of humanity has been the purpose of maintaining that individual for over 45 years? Would not an abortion 46 years ago have been a better choice.

I knew a youngster of mental capacity of a 3-year-old; faltering speech, poor muscular control, excellent rote memory, barely able to dress himself with modest assistance. His mother loved him dearly; I was never sure of his father's affection because of his own embarrassment at having sired a defective human. But he was an object of affection; despite his limitations and rather poor quality of life, his life served a purpose for his mother. Unquestionably his mother's life would have been easier and likely happier had he not survived and she had had other children of more normal abilities; but life presented her with this challenge and she accepted.

I knew a couple, she of IQ around 45 and he of IQ below 60; she became pregnant by him. Neither singly nor together were they capable of seeing to the needs of an infant. What quality of life can be forecast for the product of that pregnancy? Can we assume the youngster would be an 'object of affection' as we of normal mentality understand affection?

I ask this question: If you are lacking in mental capacity sufficient to make an informed choice, and there is no one to care, what is the purpose of continuing life? Merely to increase Earth's population by one? Or delay the peace of death?

If you arrived here from another essay, you may read the entirety of this one by clicking here, or use your BACK button to return to your point of linking.

Beyond Quality of Life and Object of Affection

It is an ordinary expectation that healthy people will have an opportunity to try again. If one pregnancy is lost because it seems unwise to proceed to term, it is not unreasonable to expect a future pregnancy to have a better prospect for a satisfactory conclusion. I have tremendous empathy toward parents who have been required by law to underwrite astronomical costs in nurturing an abnormal or severely deficient child. And I weep for the marriages that have been destroyed because of the emotional price such care involves. It's unnecessary; we have the tools to assess early-on an expected abnormality. Perhaps we should consider the 'carrying capacity' of the couple and compare the burden of care for a deficient youngster with the (future) burdens of nurturing normal children. Does not a sense of humanity suggest that the effect of an abortion decision on father, mother, proto-child and marriage be part of a balanced judgment?

Perhaps I err in assessing quality of life or again in concluding whether a person is an object of affection. Perhaps either or both are irrelevant. But to me either of these is adequate reason to protect the life of a victim of illness or accident or aging, and, by extension, of an unborn. If neither exists then perhaps we should rethink the humanity or wisdom of reaching for medical miracles to support that life.

There are those among us who will aggressively seek advantage over their fellows, both for themselves and for their offspring. Our generation has seen the use of chemicals to enhance physical performance. And we have witnessed the beginnings of genetic alteration through the selective introduction of DNA. You can safely bet all that you own, and all that you will ever own, that, once intelligence can be improved with a shot or simple operation, the procedure will overshadow all others in popularity. Eugenics?

I note, sadly, there are still those among us who would impose their religious beliefs on others, no matter the cost to the others, so long as there are neither costs nor unpleasant consequences to themselves. For instance, the man who would require that a sexually active woman conduct herself at all times as though she were pregnant and nurturing a fetus. His justification is that his religion tells him personhood begins at conception and that no one person should violate another. In consequence, he diminishes the value of the woman to less than that of the unknown since he would insist she must at all times subordinate herself to that being that just might be present. Imposing his values on others at no cost to himself!

I think it instructive to realize that, throughout history until recent times, abortion was a common experience without moral overtones; whether that was due to inadequate knowledge of physiology, to moral blindness, or to pragmatic acceptance of the unavoidable I cannot guess. We have seen the effects of prohibiting abortions. It is an industry because there is demand. Make that industry illegal and its practice will be carried out by the untrained in unsanitary settings and lives will be unnecessarily ruined or wasted. (Even with abortion freely available and no moral stigma attached, many young girls are fearful of confronting parents with the fact of their sexual misbehavior and resultant pregnancy.)

In the larger sense society is the sum-total of its individual members, and promiscuous (irresponsible) sex is making its contribution of individuals. There is a consequence, in the viability of society, of our willingness to bring the powers of mind to bear on the practice of sex, alike in the mature and immature. There can be no doubt that there is a link between sex and abortion, just as between genetics and abortion.

There are undoubtedly other concerns dealing with abortion. Such as teen pregnancy and notification of guardians -- certainly important but, compared with the Yes-No of abortion, a side issue. I have not intentionally deleted other issues to favor my own biases; I have dealt with what is on my mental horizon; other issues simply have not entered my mental mix.

I make no apology for rejecting an absolute prohibition of abortion, as in favoring it to preserve the life of the mother, or in cases of incest and criminal rape. (I disagree with requiring it as a matter of law since there are those who find abortion for any cause repugnant based on their religion.) I feel abortion should be a medical and/or parental choice based on an expected degree of abnormality or deficiency and its likely effect on 'quality of life' and 'object of affection.' While a girl under the legal age for marriage should be automatically and promptly aborted at public expense with no questions asked 1 (To view footnote, click here) , a welfare client or entry level worker (married or not) should have abortion available to her at public expense in order to avoid a lapse into dependency. And abortion should not be undertaken for convenience nor flippantly. Other controversial conclusions, whether or not ground work has been laid, are:

Contrary Arguments

There are medical risks in the procedure; there are economic consequences. There is no question abortion is a messy business. There is an emotional aftermath of having an abortion just as surely as there is an economic aftermath of not having an abortion. How much better would it be if we could avoid situations where an abortion decision is necessary!

Some point to the effect on growth or shrinkage of population; my response: No question it has an effect, but that is too abstract a consideration to be part of the immediate concerns within the family.


Where a pregnancy is hateful to the expectant mother, I am torn since there are others to be considered; I would have bowed to my wife's feelings.

Where choices can be humanely made, we should cull from our gene pool a number of flaws such as a proclivity for criminal behavior.

On balance, a sense of humanity, including quality of life and object of affection, requires consideration of all parties affected by an abortion decision.

The transitions from gamete to zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to infant to person -- from proto-human to human, from possibility to reality -- are gradual over many months. At some point it becomes a person; at some point it acquires a soul. To me it is the person in possession of a soul that is due the protections of the law.

"Abortion on demand" may be a necessary evil because denial will assuredly result in a medically unsound industry. Abortion is certainly not an adequate substitute for responsible sexual behavior. While it may be difficult to insist that one mistake must redirect a person's life, it is a part of life itself that one event may drastically alter, even end, a life. Let us make a balanced judgment when viewed in the context of the possible impact of other choices we are forced to make.

It is worth noting that, although pressure toward ethical behavior likely would have arisen in the absence of religion, societal attitudes toward murder, assault, rape, burglary, theft, . . ., are ultimately based on religious values; even atheists have their ethics. If your attitude toward abortion is rooted in religious conviction, please grant to others the right to hold whatever religion they choose and therefore whatever teachings grow from that religion.

Some acts are universally recognized as repugnant; beyond those it is morally repugnant for one person to impose his beliefs on another, no matter the cost to the other, so long as there are neither costs nor unpleasant consequences to himself. Essentially living in a moral vacuum by imposing his values at no cost to himself!

Medicine is moving toward the ability to correct genetic flaws; the ability to alter genetic make-up will naturally follow; it is a trend impossible to reverse. Those who, as a personal decision, wish to improve the relative standing of themselves and their offspring among their peers, will aggressively pursue genetic improvement. There will be mistakes, but those who do it right will advance and the rest of society will eat their smoke. This belongs in a discussion of abortion if you wish future generations of our species to be improved or strengthened.

Mankind's range of choices is being widened; we can be victims of circumstance or we can apply our intelligence in matters affecting the future. In life, as in the jungle and athletics and war, it is the strong who will prevail and we can ill afford to foster losers.

I question if evolution has reached its end point. If our species, as presently constituted, is the ultimate product of evolution or of God's aspirations for us. With no further changes. We need to apply what mind we have to separating the crucial from the irrelevant in matters affecting the future. While we are creatures of emotion, ultimately reason must prevail.

To sum it all up, considering where we are and where we're going:
Abortion for the wrong reasons should be denied;

abortion for the right reasons should be endorsed.
Our differences are rooted in enumerating the 'wrong reasons' and the 'right reasons.'
Our debate ought to be centered on understanding and evaluating the right reasons and the wrong reasons for abortion.

For those who wish to explore the subject in greater depth I have sought links that can help them arrive at a balanced stance.
pro-choice (not "pro-abortion" or "anti-life")
http://www.balancedpolitics.org/abortion.htm undertakes a balanced presentation.
http://www.dmoz.org/society/issues/abortion/pro-choice presents a list of web pages.
http://www.plannedparenthood.org presents discussions in keeping with their basic theme.
anti-abortion ("pro-life")
www.dmoz.org/society/issues/abortion/pro-life presents a list of web sites.
I have sought but not discovered a search string that produces web sites offering rational comment on the 'pro-life' position other than discussion of the emotional traumas abortion creates, which is discussed by Wikipedia as Abortion and Mental Health.
The Catholic Information Network declined a reciprocal link with the comment, "We appreciate your intentions but disagree with your conclusions."
A highly ranked site presenting a Bible-based view declined to respond to an offer of reciprocal links.
Excepting recognized debilitating defects, there will always be that nagging question of what sort of person it might have been. As the poet said, "Saddest words of tongue or pen are the words 'It might have been'." But we move beyond 'what might have been' in rejecting proffered friendships, in selecting prospective mates, in other choices we make.

As promised, you may access what I know of Terri Chiavo's history by clicking here.

Under our Constitution, matters of sex and its consequences are not properly the domain of our Federal government and its court system. It was entirely inappropriate for our Supreme Court to become involved in a matter that ought to remain of state and local concern. As a citizenry we need to craft laws and institutions to retain the balance of power closer to home. I endorse our Federal government formulating model legislation for consideration by state and local political bodies, but I oppose using Federal power, either police or budget or the courts, to impose that model legislation. I have proposed a constitutional amendment to restore the balance of power as it relates to sex and its consequences, which may be viewed by clicking here.

10-8-05: As time goes by I become more and more firmly convinced that the public debate -- or, more correctly, harangue since so many people's positions are frozen in stone -- is misdirected. Politics has been described as "the art of the do-able." Public debate needs to be restricted to the politics of a situation. Within the church we may debate such issues as "when life begins" or "when a soul descends on the individual," but that eschews practicality. In the realm of the do-able the question turns on discovery, when it is learned that there is need to give attention.

2-7-06: What is the connection between abortion, infanticide and population? Admittedly population is the cumulative result of individual decisions over the years and world population is truly one of the most explosive issues facing the international community. We know in principle that we shouldn't allow the burden of unchecked population growth to leave our world so sterile that life is simply not worth the adventure. Neither do we wish to see our genetic base so weakened that individual survival requires repeated medical or surgical interventions. I have heard of statistically significant reductions in birth rates brought about by television programs that display the advantage of birth control, religious objections notwithstanding. My wisdom is not adequate to present solutions; I am content to suggest that individual decisions by educated people will prevail.

5-14-07 That "M" word: I have often wondered how many unwanted teenage pregnancies would have been prevented had the stigma among boys about masturbation been removed. Would it not be prudent for coaches to comment to their charges that this form of release would be preferable to trapping and violating a girl friend. You can't ignore it: Hormones do get stirred up.

3-29-09 There is no question that an ovum, once fertilized, has the potential to become a person. We must be careful in evaluating the comparative worth of that incipient person and its host. Apart from denying the woman sovereignty over her own body, categorically denying abortion is demeaning to the woman in that it insists the unknown is of greater importance than she. I speak only for myself, but there is no way I could have told my wife, regardless of what differences we may have had, that the fetus was of more value to me than she.

To offer an opinion or seek further comment, you may send an e-mail that will pass my spam filter if you use as Subject -- I read your post about abortion and reason -- exactly as you see it here. Click here for the e-mail form.

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A further essay, The Social Contract may be viewed by clicking here. As of today (12-22-05) that essay does not include comment on abortion, although (2-11-07) a discussion of the fertilization process and development of the embryo may be viewed by clicking here.

I have found statistics (11-25-09) on reasons for elective abortions (not rape-, incest- or health-related):
immaturity of mother 32%
economic reasons 33%
avoid adjusting life arrangements 16%
single mother, poor relationship 12%
enough children already 6%
Whether these statistics are reliable, they do reflect reasons given for the procedure.

I have, since composing this essay, moderated my thinking. There are those so adamantly opposed to abortion that they are willing to underwrite the financial costs of a life that otherwise would be aborted. Should a responsible person with the prospect of having adequate means step forward and guarantee -- with legal teeth, perhaps adoption or a binding contract -- the financial costs of supporting the incipient life, then that alters the weight of other considerations. But to impose a lifetime of poverty on mother and child, as a matter of public policy, defies rationality, as well as violating personal freedom and possibly personal values. Religious values (including their economic consequences) of the individuals involved ought to be a pivotal point in an abortion decision. Where personal religious values and economic reality come into conflict, then a reasoned consideration of prospective 'quality of life' and 'object of affection' should overwhelm other considerations.
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Footnote 2 (3-31-05)
The recent death of a young woman, for 15 years in a coma, has occasioned public anguish that has produced the statement that abortion is part of a larger issue that may be termed the "Culture of Life." In that light issues of both the beginning of life and the end of life -- the sanctity of life -- fall into the divide between ethical and religious issues. I deal with that in an essay, The Social Contract, which may be viewed by
clicking here. What I know about Terri Schiavo's history may be accessed at the end of this essay.
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Footnote 3
Since composing this essay I have studied the physiology of conception. Ordinarily the union of ovum and sperm occurs in the upper reaches of the Fallopian tube. It takes many hours, sometimes days, for the multiplying mass of cells to descend to the uterus. Upon reaching the uterus it may or may not become implanted there. In any case, by the time of discovery of pregnancy in the ordinary course of events, the mass of thousands (or millions) of cells has begun differentiating into specific bodily structures.

The time between the sex act and the discovery of pregnancy ought not be part of the public debate. Making it so requires constraints on the lives of sexually active women and thus renders judgment on the relative values of the certainty (the woman) and the unknown (the possibility of an incipient being).

A more complete description of the pregnancy process appears in a section of The Social Contract, referenced above. To read that section, click here.
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Footnote 4 added 12-10-05
Sex education has been a bugaboo for years. Let me present a thought or two for your consideration. Somewhere around grades 3-4-5-6 it is appropriate to teach personal hygiene in such things as germs and sanitation, bodily cleanliness, brushing teeth, elimination of bodily wastes, selection of foods, . . . Some measure of biology and bodily structure is appropriate comment and should be universal though it need not include detailed discussions of male and female genitalia and reproductive systems. Later, at or near puberty, there is need for frank discussion of what sets male and female apart, the female menstrual cycle, commencement of sperm production and 'wet dreams,' and the details of sperm and ovum and their union. Age, and whether boys and girls should be separated, are issues for the local educational system. But I think it would be appropriate to furnish to parents a brief outline of course content and allow parents to select topics from which they wish their child to be excused as well as an age at which the school should undertake that instruction. Today it is nearly impossible to shield children from discussions and observations about various aspects of sex. While I have no knowledge of current teaching practices, there is a brutal necessity to be realistic and provide youngsters factual information and guidance.
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Footnote 5 added 5-21-09
I have received a note from a correspondent who was raped at age 18 and discovered she was pregnant. Intent on suicide, she purchased rat poison, but a spontaneous abortion occurred before she 'found the privacy' to carry out her plan. Whatever else you may wish to say, rape has damning consequences and cannot be treated lightly. (She later married, had children, so her loss would have altered history. I am grateful she is still among the living.)
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