Abortion, Sacred Principles and God-Given Rights—Part 4

A Higher-Wisdom Resolution
The 19th century English writer Samuel Butler wrote:  “Truth ever lies/In compromise.”  An anonymous wit added:  “Now what could be subtler/Than the wisdom of Butler?”  Those two couplets describe the situation facing both Pro-choice and Pro-life advocates.  Each side of the issue has a profound truth on which they’ve based their position, and those truths are, with regard to abortion, diametrically opposed.  An extreme faction of the Pro-life group has resorted to dynamite and sniper fire as a form of vigilante justice outside the legal arena, with a consequent destruction of lives and property of Pro-choice people who believe, rightly, that they have a moral basis to act as they do.  

It is not a “lie” for either side to recognize the sacred principle on which the opposing group has based its position.  Rather, it is a greater truth if the opponents will compromise in recognizing a law—namely, no abortion after the second trimester or the time of fetal viability—which can abate the social dissension now raging in our land.  Political compromise is by definition less than completely satisfying for the parties involved, but it does provide a greater good for opposing factions than continued warfare.  It is, I maintain, an enlightened approach—a practical higher-wisdom compromise.  Moreover, this idea of a greater good is not my own creation.  The principle of “the greater good” is recognized in both spiritual and political traditions; it applies when opposed “goods” produce situations such as I’ve described above.  I am simply recognizing its appropriateness here.
The essence of freedom is having a choice.  A person is free to the extent that he or she can exercise choice.  In America, that freedom of choice is regarded as an inalienable right.  We Americans speak of the right to choose our destiny, to live our lives as we choose.  
However, rights always carry responsibilities; otherwise, liberty becomes mere libertinism.  Choices must be responsible choices, ethical choices, moral choices so that their consequences do not produce harmful effects for others (such as choosing to drink and drive or to dispose of toxic waste improperly).  In many cases, probably most, abortion is not a responsible choice; it is merely the last in a series of irresponsible choices.  
Incidentally, we should work and hope and pray for the day when the medical community is able to remove an unwanted fetus without killing it and then implant it in another womb.  On that day the abortion issue will be settled by women (or their technological surrogate, an artificial womb) who voluntarily have a fetus implant, carry it to full term and then give birth to a wanted baby. 

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Abortion, Sacred Principles and God-Given Rights—Part 3

The Fetal Viability Solution
The solution I propose is a compromise based on the recognition of fetal viability—the basis of the Roe v. Wade decision.  But it is a compromise which is a higher-level integration of apparent opposites.  It is a resolution which acknowledges the truth of each party to the dispute while eliminating their errors.
Medically speaking, a fetus cannot live outside its mother before the third trimester.  During the first and second trimester, medical resources cannot sustain the life of a fetus if it is removed from the womb; the mother is the only resource capable of sustaining its life.  By the third trimester, however, the fetus has developed enough as an individual so that modern technology can sustain it artificially, outside the womb.
I propose that the third trimester be accepted by both sides as the legal dividing line in the question of allowing or prohibiting abortion (and if medical technology succeeds in lowering the limit for fetal viability to an earlier time, the legal dividing line should move with it).  There can be no question that if a baby can live outside its mother, it has legal status as a citizen, with all the rights inherent to that status.  Its foremost right is the right to life.  Abortion in the third trimester must be considered a violation of that right (with partial-birth abortion, which involves sucking out the brain of a infant while it is being born, as the most heinous form of premeditated murder of an innocent person).
Prior to that time, it should be legal for a mother to abort a child.  She will have to live with her conscience about it, but she should not be forced to bear an unwanted child by prohibiting to her the medical procedures which can remove the condition.  Her reasons for abortion may be utterly superficial and selfish, ranging from vanity to inconvenience to unwillingness to take on parenthood; they may also be more serious, such as rape, incest, or danger to her own life or the well-being of her family.  Those reasons, however, have no bearing on the situation because the mother does not have an obligation to explain her decision to anyone or submit to anyone’s authority over her, so long as she is of legal age.  She would be exercising her fundamental right under American law to dispose of her property, however much she might later regret her decision (and research shows that most women do indeed experience deep regret over having an abortion.  
At the same time, Pro-life advocates should continue their programs of education and providing alternatives to abortion.  The slaughter of millions of unborn babies is an enormous tragedy with consequences bearing on the very existence of America.  Life cannot be held so cheaply as to murder babies.  All that infanticide could be easily avoided through simple measures of voluntary birth control (including abstinence in the case of unmarried women) by people whose consciences are awakened to the sacredness of life, so that no unwanted children are conceived in the first place.  
There is an effort in Congress to end abortion by legislatively defining unborn children as persons from the moment of conception and who are therefore entitled to constitutional protection.  The strategy is to make an end run on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.  In that decision, the Court acknowledged:  “If…personhood [for the unborn] is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amendment.”  The Fourteenth Amendment reads:  “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” 
Such an end-run effort is, from my point of view, misguided and retrograde.  It is misguided because it ignores and overrides the sacred principle of a woman’s right to her own body as private property.  It is retrograde because it is as unworkable as the Eighteenth Amendment attempt to prohibit liquor and will result in an abortion mill industry equivalent to the stills and speakeasies of the Roaring Twenties.  

(To be concluded)

Abortion, Sacred Principles and God-Given Rights—Part 2

The Pro-Life Case
Opponents of abortion can claim the same ultimacy for their position because of the same tripartite concept of an individual’s right to life, liberty and property.  The right to life is fundamental to our society, and no one may unlawfully deprive another of life.  There are degrees of homicide recognized, ranging from accidental to deliberate.  Murder, or taking an innocent life, is the universally condemned and premeditated murder is worst of all.  This has been recognized since the time of the Old Testament (“Thoui shalt not kill/commit murder”, and the Bible was the principal basis of English civil law which, in turn, became the basis of American civil law.  
That principle was melded into the tripartite concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  Moreover, that principle is the foundation on which Pro-life advocates base their position.  For surely there is no more innocent a human being than an unborn child, and aborting a child can therefore be defined on Biblical and legal grounds as premeditated murder.  (“Choose life—your mother did.”)
Sacred Rights in Opposition
Thus, Pro-choice and Pro-life advocates are at loggerheads, with each convinced of the moral soundness of their position.  And each is right!  
On one hand, it is a woman’s sacred right to own herself and, if she chooses, to remove from her body an unwanted fetus because that fetus is her own property, an extension of her body.
On the other hand, it is a woman’s “wrong” to remove a fetus from her body via a process intended to be fatal to that fetus because, regardless of its size, it is a human being endowed with personhood from the moment of conception and therefore also endowed with a sacred, inherent and inalienable right to life.  
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?  That is the situation in America today with regard to abortion.  

(To be continued)

Abortion, Sacred Principles and God-Given Rights—Part 1

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains one of the most divisive social issues in America today.  Pro-choice advocates uphold the right of the mother to do with her body as she wishes; Pro-life advocates declare the fetus is an innocent human being and therefore has a right to live.  Each side proclaims its superiority and no resolution has been found because neither side wants to compromise on what it considers to be a fundamental matter.

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