Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Abortion Non-debate 07-04-17

The Abortion Non-debate

Mirza A. Beg

Friday, April 19, 2007

Abortion debate is euphemism for a ‘non-debate’. Mostly it is slogan mongering past each other. There are no liberal positions. Both the positions – the pro-abortion and anti-abortion have solidified into an anti-intellectual anti-liberal dogma.

The liberal position is supposed to favor rationality and concern for those suffering the most, especially for no fault of their own. But in this shouting match, the protagonists are shooting from the hip and missing the whole side of the barn.

Let us state the classic adamant position taken by both the sides:

Loud Conservative voices – Life begins at conception. All abortions for any reason are murders. No exceptions for rape or incest. Conception is not the baby’s fault.

An extreme facetious argument could be that the wastage of egg and sperm that do not get to meet is also a sin, desecration of proto-life. It ought to be the responsibility of a caring society to facilitate their union to achieve fulfillment.

Loud Liberal voices - A woman’s body is her own and she has a right to decide. There is no other comparable right. She can have abortion on demand up to the natural birth when the fetus legally becomes a baby. The word fetus is important for legal purposes.

An extreme facetious argument could be that the human babies are absolutely dependent on the mother for at least a few months after birth. During this period it is really a fetus-plus or a pre-baby, leaving room for post-birth abortions. The word birth may be changed to transition from intra-uterus to extra-uterus.

A thoughtful dialogue could take place if all sides stipulate, “we do not know everything”, and decide to take a rational humane view. Let us consider the rights of all concerned.

Woman – She has the burden of carrying the child/ fetus. Therefore she should have an absolute say in getting pregnant. No ifs, no buts. If she is forced, the society will punish the culprits, and will take all precautions for such eventuality not to happen.

Man –The other, not so uninvolved party. Irrespective of denials, with modern DNA techniques, he can be nabbed easily. He is responsible for nurture of the woman while pregnant, and the child, in case of the birth. Many men find abortion a convenience to avoid the consequences.

The Baby – We have scientific definitions and names for the various stages of development from Zygote to Fetus until it is born and declared a baby. The nomenclatures are empirical descriptors. They do not have intrinsic unchangeable scientific definitions.

Society – A social contract, to function with justice. Norms should be based on humane consideration of competing rights and responsibilities – not on power relationships. Therefore the rights of those who are unable to speak for themselves ought to be a very important consideration.

Among the competing interests, the potential babies have the most to loose – their lives. The next party that suffers the most and carries the heaviest burden is the woman. Man and the society come next in that order.

Reflective liberals accept that abortion should be permissible but rare. This argument is generally used in politically charged atmosphere to silence their vociferous critics. No serious thought is given to the methods and consequences.

Most thoughtful people will agree that scientifically, we do not know when life begins. We don’t even have a ‘perfect’ definition of life. Therefore, when society is making binding (legal) decisions for others, they should not be made based on political dogma, but on the best information available.

Science seldom provides perfect answers. It gives us ranges based on the current knowledge. How we use that knowledge is based on our sense of morality. For a law that affects all, the policy should be based on the best information available, and should be re-evaluated as more or better information becomes available.

The paramount principle is – a woman’s inviolate right not to get pregnant. Barring illegal coercion, if taken seriously, with the advancements in medical technology, it is almost fool proof. If she does become pregnant the right of the potential baby, the right of the father and society follow in that order.

Since we do not have a scientific consensus as to “when does life begin”, perhaps a good place to start would be when medically it is viable to keep the baby alive and healthy outside the mother’s womb. This will change with better technology and should be re-evaluated with time. It follows that until the time the baby can survive outside the womb, if the woman chooses, she should have the right to abortion. At this time it is about five months, with better technology it is likely to shrink. This will provide a very good platform for debate to start.

This completely obviates the horrible late term abortions that can only be defended by the partisan battle cry, “not to give an inch lest they take a mile”. This also takes care of the cases of Incest, rape or any other criminal behavior, confining an overwhelming number of abortions from the first three days to first six weeks, when the woman knows for sure that she is pregnant.

If the mother does not want to have a baby, she should have the right to give it up for adoption, so many people want to adopt children, and if the state considers the rights of the baby important it should be the adopter of last resort.

Every one agrees that the life of the mother should take precedence over the resident in her womb. But if her life is not in danger then the life of a viable baby becomes equally important. If at all, the arguments about the health of the mother will hold water only in rare cases and the arguments have not been made cogently. Every one knows that life is not fair. We take our lumps for our mistakes and go on. It usually teaches us responsibility. Life of a being should take precedence over the health of another being.

Those who consider prevention of pregnancy even the next day after a rape are welcome to practice their morality, but imposing it on others is inimical to a pluralistic society. Those who insist on the sacrosanct principle of the absolute right of the woman to choose, violate it illogically when they advocate banning the reprehensible practice of some women in India and China who choose to abort female fetuses, because of cultural mindset, an artifact of male dominated society.

In a pluralistic society the personal morals ought to be advocated, but not imposed. A consensus is needed based on thoughtful discussions not throwing brickbats; “baby killers against women haters.”

Unable to think logically and compromise based on principles; liberals have taken an illiberal dogmatic position in supporting unbridled abortions. This has forced ordinary people to gravitate to single issue rightwing groups and help elect Manchurian candidate for president, to lead the country into serial follies - and the country bleeds, beholden to their inept agenda.

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at mab@yahoo.com

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