CONFUSED, frightened, tearful, a 15-year-old girl watches her boyfriend walk away in disgust. He called her stupid for getting pregnant. She thought they were in love.
A woman is filled with despair when she realizes that she is expecting her sixth child. Her husband is out of work, and the little ones go to bed hungry every night. How can they possibly care for another child?
“It couldn’t have come at a worse time,” explains a smartly dressed woman to her doctor. She has finally earned her engineering degree and is about to begin her new career. Her husband is completely absorbed in his law practice. Where would they find time for a baby?
These people live worlds apart and face different dilemmas, but they choose the same solution: abortion.
Abortion is one of the most explosive issues of the decade, igniting raging debates in political, social, medical, and theological fields. In the United States, pro-lifers march for the rights of the unborn. The pro-choice camp stands on the grounds of freedom and a woman’s right to decide. Crusaders battle freedom fighters in elections, in courtrooms, in churches, even in the streets.
Millions are caught in a tug-of-war, torn by the impassioned arguments of each side. The very terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” were carefully chosen to woo the undecided. In this age where freedom is idolized, who wouldn’t favor choice? But then again, who wouldn’t be for life? Pro-choice groups brandish coat hangers to dramatize the deaths of oppressed women who undergo unsafe illegal abortions. Pro-life advocates wield jars of aborted fetuses as a grim reminder of millions of unborn dead.
This whole death-dealing tragedy is aptly described in Laurence H. Tribe’s book Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes. “Many who can readily envision the concrete humanity of a fetus, who hold its picture high and weep, barely see the woman who carries it and her human plight. . . . Many others, who can readily envision the woman and her body, who cry out for her right to control her destiny, barely envision the fetus within that woman and do not imagine as real the life it might have been allowed to lead.”
While this moral war rages on, from 50 million to 60 million unborn casualties will this year fall on the battlefield of rights.
Where do you stand on this emotional issue? How would you answer these key questions: Is it a woman’s fundamental right to decide? Is an abortion justified under any circumstances? When does life begin? And the ultimate, though seldom-asked, question: How does the Creator of life and childbearing view abortion?
Abortion has a long history. In ancient Greece and Rome, abortion was a common practice. In Europe during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it was considered allowable until quickening, that is, when the mother would feel life in the womb. With the sexual revolution came the consequence—millions of unwanted pregnancies.
The 1960’s marked the rise of the women’s movement, of which so-called reproductive right is a foundation stone. Some clamor for abortion rights for pregnant victims of rape or incest or when the mother’s health is at risk. Medical technology has opened a window on the womb to spot possible birth defects and the baby’s gender. Pregnancies are ended on the strength of a doctor’s pessimistic prognosis. Women over 40 years of age may be anxious about deformities.
In poverty-stricken lands, many women who have limited access to contraception feel they cannot provide for more children. And stretching the definition of pro-choice to its limit, some pregnant women choose to abort a fetus because they feel that the timing of the pregnancy just isn’t right or because they learn the sex of the unborn child and simply do not want it.
Many volleys fired in this conflict deal with the question of when life begins. Few will argue the point that the fertilized egg cell is living. The question is, living as what? Mere tissue? Or is it human? Is an acorn an oak tree? Then, is a fetus a person? Does it have civil rights? The wrangling over words is endless. How ironic that in one and the same hospital, doctors may work valiantly to save the life of a premature baby and yet end the life of a fetus of the same age! The law may allow them to kill a baby inside the womb, but it’s murder if the baby is outside the womb.
The loudest demands for legal abortion come from “liberated” moderns who have unlimited access to contraception methods to prevent pregnancy in the first place. They vehemently lay claim to something called reproductive rights, when in actuality they’ve already exercised their capacity to conceive and reproduce. What they really want is the right to undo that reproduction. The justification? “It’s my body!” But is it really?
Mother: “It’s my body!”
Baby: “No! It’s my body!”
Abortion—A Citizens’ Guide to the Issues states that in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, “the tiny amount of tissue in a gelatinous state is very easy to remove.” Can abortion rightly be regarded as “removing a blob of tissue” or “terminating the product of conception”? Or are these sugarcoated terms designed to make the bitter truth palatable and put troubled consciences to rest?
That unwanted piece of tissue is a growing, thriving life, complete with its own set of chromosomes. Like a prophetic autobiography, it tells the detailed story of a unique individual in the making. Renowned research professor of fetology A. W. Liley explains: “Biologically, at no stage can we subscribe to the view that the foetus is a mere appendage of the mother. Genetically, mother and baby are separate individuals from conception.”
Nevertheless, with free access to abortion, many have felt no pressing need to guard against unwanted conception. They prefer to use abortion as a safety net to do away with any “accidents” that come along.
Statistics show that the age of puberty has dropped in this century. Hence, younger children are capable of childbearing. Are they taught the weighty responsibility that accompanies that privilege? The average American loses his or her virginity by age 16, and 1 out of 5 before 13 years of age. One third of married men and women are carrying on an affair or have done so in the past. Abortion finds ready clients among the promiscuous. Much like the occasional call to legalize prostitution in order to stem the spread of AIDS, the legalizing of abortion may have made the practice somewhat safer medically, but it has done more to create a fertile environment in which moral disease can and does flourish.
Victims of Violence or of Circumstance?
Interestingly, studies show that pregnancy from rape is extremely rare. One survey of 3,500 consecutive victims of rape in Minneapolis, U.S.A., yielded not a single case of pregnancy. Of 86,000 abortions in the former Czechoslovakia, only 22 were for rape. Thus, only a tiny portion of those seeking abortions do so for these reasons.
What of those frightening predictions of terribly deformed babies with irreversible birth defects? At the first sign of trouble, some doctors are quick to urge abortion. Can they be absolutely sure of the diagnosis? Many parents can attest that such dire prophecies may be unfounded, and they have happy, healthy children to prove it. Others with children considered handicapped are just as happy to be parents. Indeed, a mere 1 percent of those seeking abortion in the United States do so because they are told of some possible defect in the fetus.
Nevertheless, in the time it has taken you to read this article, unborn babies have died by the hundreds. Where is it happening? And how are the lives of those involved affected?