A curious bystander: thoughts on abortion

Megan Chrisler

North Dakota one-upped Arkansas recently with the strictest abortion-banning bill in the country, according to NPR. Once they detect a heartbeat, a woman can no longer have an abortion, making the chance to abort a fetus as short a time span as 6 weeks (Arkansas allowed twelve).

If you had asked me a couple years ago, I’d say this is preposterous—6 weeks is hardly enough time to know you’re even pregnant (although one might wonder where her period went to). The reason I’d say this is, surprisingly enough, because of a very successful Methodist minister named Adam Hamilton. He’s the pastor for a mega-church in Leawood, Kan. and created a Bible study entitled “Confronting the Controversies: Biblical Perspectives on Tough Issues.” His study focuses on such difficult topics as capital punishment, euthanasia, homosexuality (whose rights he unsuccessfully defended at the most recent national Methodist conference in Flor.) and abortion. Hamilton himself was an unwanted pregnancy, but he does not let this cloud his argument for both the potentiality of a human life and sympathy for a woman in this position.

Here’s another surprise: it was my brother, a mathematically-minded engineer who always refers to science and logic, who convinced me that legalized abortion is contrary to other laws and is even illogical.

A woman’s right to her own body is a huge pro-choice argument, and the statement is absolutely true. A woman can use this right to have sex if she wants to, which is perfectly acceptable. But most women know that a pregnancy may result, even when using birth control methods that only decrease their chances of conception without eliminating it altogether. This is why the famous “violinist” argument made by Judith Jarvis Thomson in “A Defense of Abortion” is invalid. In her argument, she gives the reader a situation where an audience member to a concert of a famous violinist finds herself waking up the next day strapped to the violinist. If he was separated from her, he would die but most would agree that she has the right to defend her own body against others’ demands upon it. What Thomson doesn’t include is the fact that the audience member would have been told that there would always be a chance, if only a slight one, of her waking up strapped to the violinist. If she does not want that, she should not enter the concert hall; if she goes in and it happens, the violinist’s life would take priority over correcting the audience member’s forewarned mistake. Of course, my argument assumes that sex education is of a high quality, which is not the case in all circumstances (particularly among minority groups). This needs further research that this column cannot provide, but how many sexually active people do you know have no idea where babies come from?

Another argument, one that I had previously agreed with, is that the fetus would have a terrible life if born. Why put it through that misery? This is called mercy killing, which, as far as I know, is illegal outside the realm of hospital patients that have low chances of coming out of a comatose state. If it is okay to terminate a pregnancy based on this reason, why not terminate the life of someone who lives in a war zone or ghetto? The law must be consistent if order is to be expected from its citizens; therefore, since the latter is not allowed, neither can the former.

Lastly, the big issue is whether a fetus is really a human being or not. This is irrelevant. It is so absolutely different from a living thing that it cannot be compared. It is both alive and not alive; it is in a dynamic state that is completely unknown and always changing, and we cannot possibly know when it truly becomes a human being. We do know how it becomes a human being, but the ever-present existential questions still remain despite all knowledge of the developing fetus. Therefore, we must give it the benefit of the doubt until we can be absolutely sure of its state of existence (which may very well be impossible).

Hamilton competently argues that pro-choice does not equal anti-life; as a former supporter of pro-choice, I can attest that this is very true. Forgiveness and understanding towards the woman is priority for pro-choice, and no argument for pro-life should ever undermine these two things. The question raised here is not whether to empathize with a woman considering abortion or not, but what legal consequences abortion brings about. Legal consistency should take priority when talking about political issues, for consistency goes along with objectiveness and objectiveness goes along with absolute truth (that is why the church is separate from the state and why Supreme Court justices should not judge with emotion). Abortion is contradictory to current law, and thus should not be upheld.