I tend to avoid writing political posts like the plague. I consider myself far too simple and cynical to say anything meaningful on issues of government and the economy. Better to close my mouth and have you think me a fool than to open my mouth and prove it. But alas, every once in a while even I feel compelled to say a few words in defense of my own convictions - however ludicrous they may sound.
This afternoon our doorbell rang. Thinking it to be the neighbor I asked Joshua to answer it. He peeked through the window and said there were two men standing on our steps. Hmmmm. I suppose you know what I thought: Jehovah's Witnesses. I got up from the couch rehearsing in my mind the things I (a Christian) tend to say to them.
It wasn't the Witnesses. Rather, before me stood Democratic Senator Mike Moore and a supporter, handing out flyers and hoping to win votes for the upcoming election. I stepped out onto the doorstep, greeting the two smiling men with handshakes and hellos. I must admit I was impressed that one of my representatives was out actually going door to door and talking with the people he hoped to help. In a day dominated by emails and text messages and..umm..blogs, it is becoming increasingly rare to find individuals actually willing to engage in that most ancient form of communication: talking.
Unwilling to lose this rare opportunity, I asked him a few questions about some of the issues of the day. We talked briefly about the economy and jobs. We talked about the size and roll of government. But these issues were just appetizers. The issue heaviest on my own heart is the issue of abortion and what has come to be called "pro-choice."
WARNING- If you are easily offended by those who are persuaded pro-lifers - stop reading now.
I asked my Democratic friend (yes, I'm quite fine calling him a friend) if he could present to me what he believed to be the STRONGEST argument in FAVOR of the pro-choice position. "What" I asked him "is that argument that most convincingly persuades you that an abortion should be a legal option in our society?"
He did not shrink back from the challenge. With a polite smile and calm tone in his voice he gave me not 1, but 2 reasons why he believed that abortion should be a legal option.
Here they are:
1) A baby before a certain age in the womb is not "viable" and therefore cannot be considered in possession of those basic human rights and privileges that we enjoy. Viability determines humanity and rights.
2) A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body. To forbid abortion is to rob a woman of this basic right.
These are fairly common arguments. I'm sure you have heard them before. And I am grateful that Senator Moore allowed me a few moments to present a brief response to these opinions. We didn't agree. But he listened and was willing to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a very important issue to me.
Here is the substance of my position which I shared with Senator Moore:
VIABILITY: The argument that basic human rights of "life" and "protection" belong only to those who can demonstrate "viability" on their own is, in my opinion, entirely gratuitous. First, based upon the word itself, "viability" simply means capable of growth or development. Normal healthy children at every stage following conception are capable of growth and development. But what proponents of the "viability" argument usually mean is the age at which the baby "could survive" if separated from the mother. But here the argument fails too. No baby, either before or after birth, is truly viable in this sense. Can a 6 month old child survive completely on its own? How about a 1 year old...or two year old? Um...I know some 18 year olds for which this might be a struggle! Actually, this argument is quite scary when you think about it. What about those children (or adults) with medical conditions that prevent them from caring for themselves? Are they viable? Without constant help they would not survive, yet no one argues their lives should not be protected. Ultimately, we don't really believe "viability" is the thing which determines a person's rights to life and protection under the law. The viability argument falls apart on every level. As Senator Moore stood and listened, his friend was brave enough to agree, saying "the viability argument is quite a slippery slope."
A WOMAN'S BODY: The second argument seems stronger. Shouldn't a woman have the right to do with her own body what she wants? Is it the job of government (or the church for that matter) to tell her what she may or may not do with her own body? For many, this line of reasoning is the final word on the issue. Does this line of thinking persuade you? Allow me to ask a few questions:
1) Is it her body? Really? The child within her has his/her own head, hands, feet, heart, lungs, etc. In what sense is it her body? Does a pregnant woman have two heads? Four arms? Four eyes? That sounds like a monster. But you would never say she has two heads. She has a head, and the baby has a head. They are 2 people. It is not her body.
2) If it IS her body, then this line of reasoning argues AGAINST the previous "viability" argument. If the woman has a right to an abortion because the baby is HER body, then that right should continue right through the "viability" stage of development. If anything, the baby is MORE her body (since it is bigger) during the 3rd trimester than the first. In other words, both of these arguments cannot be true at the same time.
3) Finally, we all agree that my "rights" to do with my body only extend as far as your nose. I don't have the right to punch you with my fist, even though my fist is my body. I don't have a right to walk into your home uninvited, even though it is "my body." I may not parade myself up and down the street unclothed (thank goodness!) claiming I have the right to do with my body what I please. The "my body" argument only extends so far. I may not use it to harm another or encroach upon their rights. Abortion is the ultimate attack upon the rights of another "body."
BUT someone might argue...that baby is connected to the mother's blood supply! Correct. The baby needs the mother to survive. But, as we have already discussed in the "Viability" argument, that will be true AFTER the birth of the child as well. Anyone who has had a baby knows this full well.
SUMMARY: The life growing within the womb of a woman is a human life at every stage of its development. It must grow, but it is human growth. It will change, but it is human change. It will become more and more independent, but this is part of the process of maturing that every human experiences. As human life, humans should protect it. Every person, whatever size or color or gender or age is made in the image of God. The baby has as much a right to life as the mother who carries it.
FORGIVENESS: I wish to end this brief post with a word about forgiveness. I believe abortion is wrong and should be illegal in a just society that seeks to love God and love our neighbor. But I also believe in forgiveness. No sin....NO SIN....repented of is unable to be forgiven by God. That is why Jesus Christ came and died on the cross. He died for sinners like you and me. The Apostle Paul wrote that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." Jesus saved the chief of sinners. And He offers salvation to you.
P.S. And to Senator Moore, who gave me the privilege of this discussion, I wish to thank you. I cannot, for conscience sake, vote for you. But I do respect you. It would be great if more of our elected officials actually took the time to talk to those they represent. I do not suppose my arguments will change the view of my friend. Were he to move into the pro-life position it would probably cost him his political career. But I think we must, as a society, continue to bring our arguments to the table and discuss them fairly, openly and honestly. People can change. Opinions can change. Whole societies can change. And with respect to the current perspective on abortion in our society, I pray that one day we will change.