if you are not in to politics, you may want to skip the rest of this as it will likely seem dull and drone.
My friend and I have been having conversation regarding abortion through his blog and I decided that instead of being a pest I will put my newest response on my own blog. The original article is here, with my first response here (or you can just scroll down to the comments part), and his second post here. The following is my reply to his second post.
because this is one of my favorite songs… and because i am the king of wishful thinking
Regarding point one… a fact claim is not a good idea for any type of reasonable argument because it deflects conversation away from what we are actually trying to discuss. For example, your claim that “abortion constitutes murder” and leaving the burden of proof on anyone who believes otherwise. Just as easily someone could say “well, abortion does not constitute murder” and the other party would have to prove this is false etc. To wax poetic for a second, a man at the north pole would look out at a sunny, 50 degree day and say “boy it sure toasty today!” while the same weather in Los Angeles would draw winter coats. If you asked a person in each place what the weather was like, one would say warm and one would say cold, but the only thing they would agree on is 50 degrees. There is no current consensus on when human life begins, thus there are an infinite number of fact claims one could justly make on when human life begins (and therefore when abortion is murder, morally wrong etc). We can say things like “the heart beat begins at this week” or “the fetus could survive in a hospital outside the mother at this month” or even “the zygote has intact DNA at conception” but even this has holes in it… if a heart beat grants life, does someone with an artificial heart not live? if a zygote has DNA mutations, are they not human? what im trying to say is defining life is hard; we cannot weigh an objects soul on a scale. it is no man’s right to declare as universal when a human life begins unless all other reasonable men can look at the same set of facts and agree, yes that is when life begins. further, claiming abortion is murder simply because it takes a human life is wrong, namely because knowingly taking a human life is not always murder, and even if it is murder it may not always be morally wrong (i.e. killing a maniac on a killing spree is murder but it saves many more lives and thus is not wrong). many bioethicists have spent entire careers (see: peter singer) debating these same topics and we still have no consensus on the matters. further more, staking arbitrary things firmly into the ground as the gold standard by calling them “fact claim” and putting the burden on others to refute them is poor practice because, like i said, there are many points which are just as acceptable. i would venture to guess that since most people in the US do not believe abortion is murder, it is not fair to label it as such knowing that noone can really prove when life begins.
regarding point 2: the last line of your paragraph on this point hit my argument on the head. like i said before, since we cannot really establish when life begins, i dont agree that we can always call a zygote a human. i obviously agree that killing a fly is different than killing a human, the point of that metaphor was to show how exaggeration or non-factual arguments are unfair for argument and can vary from person to person. destroying the viability (aka killing) human cells – for example removing cancer cells in a tumor – is not fundamentally wrong. while some people look at a zygote and see a tiny, but nonetheless full-fledged human, others see a clump of cells hardly distinguishable from any other expendable tissues in the human body. the question many scholars/theologians/normal folk ponder is “when do these cells become something more than just cells, and what is the power that bestows them with this grace?” again, the timeline of this sacred transformation is negotiable, and as a cell biologist i can tell you just how fragile and widely varied the process of human development is (and how impossible it is to medically define life). while i think that this nature of a human zygote is the reason that abortion is not morally wrong, i want to stress that i still believe abortion is a last resort and i will get to that later.
regarding point 3: faith most certainly should play a role in decisions, especially of this nature. but what is often forgotten is that faith is a wild horse unique to every individual. whose faith should have the absolute word on this matter? while i say “your faith is immeasurable to me, and i believe in science, numbers and other things that i can see and feel with my hands” you can just as easily reply “well your science cannot even measure the things i believe are important, and i believe what i think and trust the wisdom of my faith more than these numbers which may deceive”. an unbiased party may say either one of us is right, neither of us is right or even both of us are right! how can we resolve this issue? who gets the final say on this matter – whom owns the moral measuring stick with which all matters must be stretched or squished to fit? i believe the system we have right now, which allows an individual to make a decision about what they believe is right, is most appropriate. and we are truly lucky to live in a society where no one is FORCED to have an abortion, but naturally anyone may elect NOT to have an abortion. In this way, no individual is held to the moral standards of another. Remember, defining whether abortion is murder or takes the life of a human is not universally set in stone like the morality of shooting a 40 year old man walking down the street.
which brings me to my final point, and the point which i believe is most important in this dialogue. in discussing abortion, we are fighting a straw man… neither side wants abortions to happen, likewise both sides would like to see abortions reduced and ideally there would be no abortions. instead of fighting over whether abortion is right or wrong we should look for ways that we can change society to reduce the number of abortions sought – both sides can agree that abortions are not fun. lets make the topic of abortion moot. the brass tacks of this argument is that one group would like to see it reduced because families (or as the case may be, just mothers) no longer have a desire to seek an abortion. the other group would like to stop abortions all together, and hope that like trickle down theory partners would then have more conscientiously steer their sexual practices. any economist will tell you that when you force a ban on something, black markets rise up, and noone wants to see the safety of mother and baby reliant on back alley medicine. it is not a fact, but i think few would try to refute the claim that even if it were made illegal, abortions would happen. that does not then by backwards math mean that abortion is not murder, or even that it should be legal, but it may be the case that if we put the collective safety of mother and child in our best interests, legal abortion may be the safest situation. But there is something we can do about that – namely if we focus on providing safe and reliable birth control to sexually active folks and teach them how to use it properly, we may be able to reduce abortions by 10% or more depending on various cultural differences in populations (see “The Potential Role of Contraception in Reducing Abortion” by Princeton Senior Research Demographer Charles F. Westoff). This is where i think some religions may do bad while trying to do good. lots of people think contraception is morally objectionable, but if it is a lesser evil than abortion… I really believe that people who have abortions are not evil. I do not wish to demonize pro-lifers, but I think there is a lack of compassion in labeling pro-choicers as “murderers” – as if everyones standard must be that life begins at conception and if they disagree they are a murderer. One side could call the other Murderer and the other a Nazi forever but this would get us nowhere. We need to turn down the volume of our argument and turn up the volume on our listening. There is one thing I believe, that no two people will agree completely on everything. There will never be a consensus on whether abortion is murder or a fundamental right. There will never be a consensus. Never. No agreement will ever be met on this, barring some holy intervention or unimaginable scientific breakthrough. I believe Obama’s point (with which I agree) is that we need to stop YELLING about our irreconcilable differences on this matter and start TALKING about how we can fix this situation and LISTENING to why people believe in certain things; i will claim it is fact that all sides want to see more happy families and fewer abortions.