The mariner lives with a number of neighbors who advocate every aspect of the abortion issue from “no abortion under any circumstance” to “no one owns my body but me.” As he visits with one neighbor or the other, he must remember to whom he is talking regarding their conservative/liberal stance on any number of social issues.
The fetus is emerging as a viable living being about which more and more can be determined before birth; medicine is on the verge of applying gene therapy for certain genetic deficiencies. The increasing ability to interact with the fetus reinforces the pro-life idea that the fetus is indeed a living being. The pro-choice side believes that no one has the right to impose physical use of a female’s body against her will. It may be that violating a woman’s use of her own body is tantamount to torture or slavery. In recent decades, the use of birth control devices and pharmaceuticals has become more acceptable than in the past but religious advocates and pro-lifers still cast a wary eye lest conception occurs first. The use of contraceptives eases the situation of women who choose not to be pregnant. A significant majority of unexpected pregnancies occur in situations where contraceptives are not considered necessary, e.g., younger girls or older women presumed not to be fecund, rape of any kind, ignorance, or negligence.
It is the treatment of unexpected pregnancies that is an issue all its own. Hard line pro-lifers refuse any interpretation other than carrying the fetus to full term. Less adamant but still pro-life, some may allow abortions for the mother’s life, rape or, for a few pro-lifers, extreme deformity or incest. At first glance, the reader may think that the definition of exceptions may offer a better opportunity for negotiation; this is unlikely. Pro-lifers will claim that any exception can be stretched. In the gay marriage debate, it was popular to suggest that humans could legally marry a plethora of non-human animals and even non-living objects. Pro-choice advocates will raise social and economic arguments, e.g., “Who will pay for raising unwanted or unaffordable babies?” “Must a woman carry a fetus she does not want?” A recent case where a stepfather raped his 10-year-old stepdaughter is a classic example of social circumstances. A pro-life friend of the mariner would not consider any solution except full term delivery citing the fetus was innocent and had standard human rights to exist. Many who have less extreme views on both sides wrestle with the future impact of the heinous event versus abortion of the fetus. The mariner was asked, “Do two wrongs make a right?” Definitions of right and wrong are sorely overlooked. The oblique question shows that a logical foundation for debate is missing.
One argument the mariner will cast aside as irrelevant is the case where a fetus was considered for abortion but in the end was not aborted. “This person grew up to be [insert a wonderful leader].” Had the fetus been aborted, some other wonderful leader would play the role. This argument is both hypothetical and unpredictable.
That the abortion issue is irreconcilable is a shame. There is prejudice on both sides that has nothing in common with the opposite side. Then there is the law, which is inadequate to mediate differences. Abortion or no abortion is an intimate event. Yet, it is important to many people as a prerequisite to deciding church versus state issues, growing population, personal and government expense, medical and insurance policies, and class privilege.
Eventually, it may be that a legal procedure will be developed that assures the best interest of the fetus before abortions can be authorized. Such a procedure will require endless haggling over the wording but it moves the debate away from the “all or nothing” standoff between pro-life and pro-choice; it also lessens the tendency to mix church and state. In the end abortion, like euthanasia, will become a case-by-case court issue – or if one can afford it, a discreet arrangement.