Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just Abortion

Here is a question that's come up as J has been covering abortion in his "Contemporary Moral Issues" class.

Many Christians will defend (to the death, literally) a theory of "just war."
So why won't they even consider the possibility that there could be a "just abortion?"

My first response was that the fetus is innocent so you're murdering an innocent. To which he responded that the majority of casualties in most wars are also innocents (in fact, he believes the soldiers are innocent too, because the war is actually not theirs but their government's - which would make pretty much all the deaths in war the murder of innocents).

Good point.

J has decided, after all his research for the class (including a history of how abortions have been performed from ancient times, and how they weren't actually illegal until less than a century ago), that abortion is always morally wrong for a Christian, due to our morality coming from Jesus (who wouldn't have an abortion - or Mary, if you like - so therefore we don't). But that doesn't necessarily mean it is morally wrong for non-Christians when the situation merits it being the best choice.

Or should we call society to our standard?

[One thing that's important to know is that the scope of the class isn't dealing with politics or laws at all. He's dealing purely on a moral level. So arguing about legality isn't the point - the point is whether it is morally wrong or right.]

So here is my question and I'd love your feedback. Is there a situation in which abortion could be the least wrong of many evil options (as people say war is)?

Or to put it more provocatively, can abortion be, not a good choice, but still the right choice?

18 comments:

The Bro said...

I'm learning that what Jesus recommended was truly what was best for mankind. I seem to find the teachings of Christ have logical arguments that ultimately lead to the most fulfilling life and healthiest choices - for anybody.

If that's true, when we recommend Jesus' teachings to those who aren't Christians, we would in fact be advising the best course of action.

Personally, I'd rather be killed than kill. I'd rather be harmed than harm. And I'd recommend that to everyone as the best course of action because as far as I can tell right now, that's what Jesus would advise.

For me it applies to war, abortion, death penalty, etc.

Chris T. said...

Well, Paul is pretty clear that we shouldn't force our standards on society. It also makes sense from the perspective of our faith. We are called to be leaven, salt, not the police or the moral authority. We change society through our lives, not our power. So the answer to that is no for me.

I actually do not believe abortion is always morally wrong for Christians. In any case, if one defends just war, one accept that some casualties can be justified. If one believes abortion is wrong because Jesus or Mary would never have made that decision, one must be a pacifist as well.

In any case, it is a different issue for clergy. We have to balance our call to teach with our call to pastor. I think clergy too often come down on the side of teaching a general moral law (which is harder to discern than we care to admit) when we could do the most good, and even further the Christian ethic we've discerned better, by simply caring for someone who is in deep turmoil over this decision.

Just my $0.02.

L. said...

Funny -- I`ve often likened abortion to war.

I`m Catholic, but going through pregnancies and having babies made me even more pro-choice than I was before. No woman should be legally required to do that unwillingly, though many heroic women do, and carry even pregnancies that threaten their physical well-being, and even pregnancies conceived in rapes. These women are heroes -- some are even martyrs. But criminalizing abortion in all circmstances means legislating heroism and martyrdom -- and it just doesn`t work that way.

Elizabeth said...

Do we really know that Mary wouldn't have an abortion? If I recall the story correctly, Mary consented to the pregnancy. Do we really believe God would force her to offer up her body that way against her will if she were not ready?

And do we really believe that every single conception (even if produced through rape or even if occuring in a child or a mentally ill woman) is God's declaration that a woman is ready and capable of going through a 9-month pregnancy, going through the entire process (even if forced) of creating another human being, and becoming a mother? Do we believe that a woman should have to go off her medication - for cancer or mental health or any other treatment - because the only moral option is for her to die or go insane to possibly successfully complete the hard work of creating a new person?

See, I see conception as a much more human act, not always God-ordained. So I can see it being morally permissible for a woman, in her relationship with God, to determine that this is not the time or place for her body to be used in such a way. Mary said Yes. She had a choice.

November In My Soul said...

One of the problems with abortion is that it tends to be a very polarizing issue. Most people have been taught to believe (by both sides of the issue) that you are either for it or against it. This excellent discussion demonstrates that this belief is ludicrous. Abortion is an issue best decided in the heart of the woman facing the decision. The Christians who say every woman must have every baby no matter the circumstance are often the same ones who carry signs saying "God Hates Fags" or some othet vitriol. We are admonished by the Master to love unconditionally and to judge not. I don't understand how this gets so distorted so often.

kim said...

My thought is that war is always evil, but sometimes it is a necessary evil. Abortion is the same way - sometimes it is better to allow something that is morally wrong because the alternative is a greater injustice.

e. said...

I like the lucid responses to this post.

I really like how you framed the issue, Stasi.

My vote goes to 1) discouraging abortion, but not legislating it. 2) preferring abortion when the mother's health is in danger. 3) advocating war only in defense of the helpless and poor (as is NOT the case in our current global situation), and 4) eliminating political issues from our gospel presentations

November In My Soul said...

Amen, and amen.

Songbird said...

Sometimes the moral question is not as simple as one life. Did your professor discuss prenatal diagnosis and the offer of termination in the case of genetic abnormalities? Many, many women and couples choose a termination when faced with certain prenatal diagnoses. They are weighing factors that go beyond one life, however innocent. Other innocent lives will be impacted as well.
It's difficult to reach a conclusion about abortion in a vacuum. As a mother of two young children, with an unreliable husband and a bad prenatal diagnosis, I chose the termination, because I found I could *not* choose the life that almost certainly lay ahead for all of us, and for the baby, too. I was influenced by the attitude of society toward people who are limited by mental handicaps and by the trend of fifteen years ago to move services into the community, where they appeared to be inadequate. I've reached the conclusion, fourteen years later, that the decision was ethical in the situation but morally ambiguous, which is not to say that I would not make it again in those same circumstances.
It was a choice I never imagined having to make. I was a one-man woman. My sexual activity had taken place only in marriage. I had an attitude about people whose sexual choices did not meet my moral standards. And yet I found myself facing the choice that many other women have faced, for a different set of reasons, and suddenly having a heart filled with compassion for them.

towanda said...

When I lived in Tucson I volunteered at a clinic that primarily served Central American refugees. I personally knew 2 young (late teens I think) women who were raped by their "guides" and became pregnant. One chose to have an abortion. The other chose to have the baby but refused to show it any affection after he was born. If it had not been for the intervention of the clinic staff and volunteers, (therapy, coaching, etc.) that baby would likely have never have known love from his mother. Many women would not be so lucky to have that support. So who made the "right" choice?

My problem with the abortion "debate" (and I'm pro-choice) is that it does not deal with such nuances.

Marshall said...

Elizabeth, I have often discussed the Blessed Virgin Sophie. That is, we don't know how many young women God offered the opportunity and turned it down. To me, that is an entirely serious consideration.

Also, reflecting on your second paragraph: I was reminded when watching the National Geographic Channel last night that perhaps 50% of fertilized ova do not make it to birth. One has to ask what that information suggests about God's perspective on the conceived ova as moral person.

To the topic: I've been doing some reading in The Anglican Moral Choice, edited by Elmen (Cowley Publications' Anglican Studies series from the '80's) in preparation for a weekend in January ( I need to start early!). There is a distinction made in Timothy Sedgewick's chapter between Christian Ethics and Moral Theology - with a suggestion (one I think Sedgewick rejects, but I haven't finished the chapter) that moral theology follows ethics, and not the other way around. As I react to this, I concede this point: it makes a difference between standing in front of the patient and having the discussion in the academy. And so I frequently say that I'm a pastoral theologian and not a systematic theologian.

Surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy is an abortion - it is the termination of a conception. It is the termination of a conception that can only end, without intervention, in the loss of both the fertilized ovum and the mother. Now, this is an extreme situation, but is simply the most clear of a category. There are in fact instances where the child cannot be saved, but the mother can also be lost. While I don't know whether we should require a mother to accept intervention in those circumstances, I can't imagine it moral to refuse it to a mother who desires it.

LutherLiz said...

I've always struggled with my abortion stance due to the fact that I am politically pro-choice but could never think about abortion as a real option for myself and would prefer that it was not needed or supported in the world. Idealism aside, I recognize that there is a need for healthy and well thought out options rather than back alley procedures and I recognize that it is a woman's right to have that option.

I have never thought about the concept of "just abortion" and although it seems parallel in some ways to just war it is an inadequate answer to me. Partially this comes from the fact that I think "just war" is an excuse as much as a rationale. I think it is impossible for a war to be just given the very nature of war. I think that there can be good causes, persuasive arguments and peace-driven reasons for war, but ultimately I cannot ever claim that war is just, but that it is the best route to seek justice and peace.

I think of abortion in the same way. Can it ever be just? No, because the decision itself is not one with just-ness inherent to it. Choosing between a mother or a child is not a just choice, it is an uneven one. There is never a right answer because each is inadequate. Each option means that someone loses: mother or child or father or family or society or whomever.

So no, I guess I don't think there is "just abortion" but I don't think that there is "just war" either. We are merely trying to do the best we can in the world. And that is why I'm pro-choice. What would be an obvious answer for myself is not so for others. I cannot step into their shoes (or wombs) and make that choice. All in all, we "just" try to do what's best.

Daniel said...

It's an interesting link you suggest between just-war theory and abortion... Personally I think war may be 'necessary' for nations (whatever that means), but I think Christians should never participate in such wars (the bro seems to have latched on to this Kingdom ethic).
Songbird raises an interesting point however (and thanks for the touching story by the way), and that's that there are prenatal diagnoses to be contended with. Some severely debilitating diseases (I'm thinking of something like Tay Sachs disease--look it up if you don't know what it is) raise the question of whether it may be more humane NOT to bring a pregnancy to term--sometimes even for the sake of the child!
In any case, I'm glad we seem to be remembering that there are two questions here: the moral question, and the legal question.
Cheers,
-Daniel-

loosedchains said...

I have always said that abortion is morally wrong. Having said that I have to state that the morallity is the churches and it is the church that is in the wrong.
I think it is impossible to read scripture and be anything but pro-life but that means we have to be just that, pro-life. When a teenager, a rape victim, a homeless person or for that matter any one finds themselves with an 'unwanted' or, as is more often the case, 'unexpected' pregnancy, it is the responsiblility of the church to nurture, support, counsel and care for that person. If after the birth of the child the parent does not want raise the child themselves then the church needs to help in the foster care and adoption process. Unfortunately what usually happens is a pregnant teen is pushed away from the church, shunned, and put down by the church... that is morally reprehensible.
Until such a time as the church takes up its responsibility to care then abortion needs to remain, a sad and tragic, option in our society.
But lets not point the finger to quickly at those who have the abortions, lets look at ourselves first.

Christal and Craig said...

It makes me so sad to think about terminating any pregnancy. There are so many couples waiting to adopt and that is a very real option I think. Also, in reference to teminating because of test results saying the child won't live as good a life as possible, so often those test results are wrong. False positives do happen. Even if it is positive, there have been cases where by birth, the child is ok. As a mom of a 14 mo. old and pregnant with my 2nd, I can't imagine terminating for any reason. As a Christian, I can only think of the blessing from these kids that'd I'd miss out on, whether they're mentally/physically challenged or what. Also, I don't think God is setting us up for failure if we do conceive a child that will require more than we have financially and emotionally. That's when God shows us who he really is and how BIG he is. I'm not one to say God can't make it work. Of course it's not going to be easy...being a mom isn't easy no matter what child you have! But I have more faith in God that he'll provide and not give more than I can handle. I don't think I felt as strongly about this as I did before I became a mommy. Kids are precious...all of them.

the bro said...

Jesus was political.

He made jokes about rulers. He did political street theatre (triumphal entry). He had zealots for disciples, and you better believe when he spoke out against violence, he was condemning a political way of life.

To be fair to our constitution, which is based on man-invented basic human rights (a religion unto itself), we cannot legislate based on our religion. We can however certainly make logical arguments and demonstrate research that supports what we feel is moral.

As far as "using our power" we don't have much choice in the matter. This is a democratic republic, you already got the power when you became a citizen. Even not voting exerts your power.

peace

aus blog said...

Over 3,500 terminations per day, 1.3 MILLION per year in the United States alone.
50 or 60 MILLION per year World Wide.

I am a pro-lifer who has no religious convictions at all . I didn't need the fear of god or anything else to come to my decision, just a good sence of what is right and wrong.
You see we were all once a fetus. Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that when your mother first learned she was carrying you, she may have considered her options? What if she had decided to terminate? Would that have been OK?
You would not exist, if you have children they would not exist, and your (husband or wife) would be married to someone else. You would have been deprived of all your experiences and memories. In this day and age with terminations being so readily available and so many being carried out, if you make it to full term
you can consider yourself lucky. Lucky you had a mother that made the choice of life for you. Don't you think they all deserve the same basic human right, LIFE?
I'm all for contraception, prevention is certainly better than termination.
Did you know you can get an implant that is safe, 99.9% effective, and lasts for three years? Just think girls not even a show for three years, wouldn't that be great? I think too many people rely too heavily on the last option (abortion), I think if abortions weren't so readily available people would manage their reproductive system far better resulting in a fraction of the number of unwanted pregnancies.
World wide there are over 50 MILLION aborted pregnancies each year. In America 3,500 terminations carried out every day, that's over 1.3 million every year, 50% of all cases CLAIMED that birth control had been used, 48% admitted they took no precaution, and 2% had a medical reason. That's a stagering 98% could have been prevented had an effective birth control been used. Don't get me wrong, I suspect the percentages in Australia would be much the same.
Just a lot of unnessessary killing.
I am convinced that in the not too distant future, people will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror.

At the point of conception is when life began for you. This was the start of your existance. Your own personal big bang. Three weeks after conception heart started to beat. First brain waves recorded at six weeks after conception. Seen sucking thumb at seven weeks after conception.

Have you checked out (abortionclinnicdays)-the reality show.

ausblog

aus blog said...

UPDATE- At this point in time there are 1.3 million couples in America looking to adopt...(thats scary)...