This post was written in connection with a larger post, Why I am voting third party, so I’m going to take a decidedly election-centric approach here. Sorry if you stumbled upon this looking for a more generic discussion. This is a long post that you may not agree with, so here is your trigger warning. Read at your own risk.
Everyone oversimplifies the issue of abortion. One side says it’s simply an issue of women’s rights while the other says it’s straight up murder. From my point of view, it’s actually an incredibly complicated issue, and one that has very little real middle ground. This is the result of years of attempting to come to terms with it and to try to find some middle ground. First off, let’s start with some of my basic assumptions. People support or oppose abortion for a variety of reasons. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to assume that individuals on both sides are actually being forthcoming with the reasons they state. I’m going to assume for the sake of this discussion that a woman’s right to control her body and make her own choices is the foundation of the pro-choice argument and that a desire to avoid the killing of a child is the pro-life argument.
Despite what people say, this is not always the case. I’ve had conversations with lots of people on both sides. I’ve read hundreds of posts on the internet. There are pro-choice individuals who argue for abortion because it’s a women’s rights issue, when they really support it as a form of population control. Some say they support access to abortions for poor individuals because it’s a women’s rights issue, but they really support it because they believe it will prevent crime and poverty. On the other side, there are plenty of “pro-life” people whose primary objective is to press women towards chastity or punish women for making their own independent decisions. It’s obnoxious and disgusting. All of these are noble goals in the minds of those who support them, but they are also paths that lead to complex conversations independent of the issue of abortion. I’m going to touch on them at times, but they’re not going to be the primary focus here.
So, having gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the foundations of both sides’ arguments. The pro-choice arguments rely upon the assumption that until birth, a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is not a human child and does not therefore have any rights. This viewpoint is clearly spelled out in-depth on the ACLU website. If this is true, it proceeds that the fetus is simply a part of the woman’s body, and as such, she should have full rights to do with her body as she pleases. The pro-life arguments, on the other hand, rely upon the assumption that a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is actually a human child even before birth and should have its own rights.
Any situation where the rights of separate individuals come into conflict is very complicated. It is for this reason that we have a government…to determine who should have rights and whose rights should get precedence. Sitting atop the legal system are the courts. Even if a law is proposed by the legislative branch and signed into law by the executive branch, the courts still have the ability to declare it unconstitutional. It makes sense, then, that the battle over rights has been fought primarily in the courts. It also makes sense that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, is seen as the key to any significant legal challenge to abortion. Giving the multiple potential vacancies that could occur during the next presidency, the issue of abortion has taken center stage this election cycle. So, having laid out the foundation, now it’s time to do some digging into where I land on it.
I’m about to say a lot of things that a lot of people disagree with. I realize this, and I just ask that if you read the following, you continue past it and read the rest. I promise it gets better. 🙂
I believe that from the moment of conception, a new human life is formed. Given the right conditions, this human zygote will develop into a human embryo, a human fetus, and then be born as a baby. I believe that at every stage, this human should have inalienable rights. I believe that this means everything possible should be done to nurture, preserve, and develop this life.
I have a variety of reasons that I hold these beliefs. One main reason I initially developed this belief was that I saw so much conflicting information and conflicting opinions on the issue. I’ve met multiple women who aborted an unwanted fetus early in life and then mourned over losing a baby to a miscarriage later. Despite mostly rulings in favor of abortion, even the courts are still confused on it. I’ve seen cases of criminals who attack pregnant women and cause them to lose their pregnancy charged with murder. At some point I had to wonder why something is a human with rights worth defending and mourning if it is wanted and simply a part of a woman’s body if not. This confusion is what the ACLU is attempting to combat via its opposition to fetal rights.
Everyone seems to agree that a newborn baby has rights. Walking back through the process of pregnancy from there, I cannot see another point other than conception at which one can argue with logical consistency that this organism becomes a human with rights. If it’s a human with rights when it exits a woman’s body, why isn’t it a human with rights 15 seconds before it exits. If it’s a human with rights before it exits, why isn’t it a human with rights at any point after it could survive viably outside the womb? If it’s a human with rights when it can viably survive outside of a womb, why isn’t it one when 10 more minutes of development would make it able to do so? Can one be a human without a heart? How about without a brain? Well, what if with another 10 days it could get a brain or heart? Back and back I go, until I arrive at fertilization, in which a zygote is formed with a unique genetic code. In-vitro fertilization, in which a zygote is created by humans, kept in a growth medium for a few days, implanted into a woman’s uterus, and then carried to birth can lead to a human being born. So, why stop anywhere before then? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my Christian faith plays into this to an extent. However, it mostly plays in through the fact that I believe that every human has intrinsic value given by a loving God. I believe denying the value of any life not only has consequences for the life in question, but for the lives of many others. I don’t believe in exemptions for rape or incest, because I don’t believe a child born out of rape or incest has any fewer rights than any other. I am hesitant to support exemptions for health of the mother, because pregnancy can be a dangerous thing and from what I have read, determining when the mother’s life is at risk is complicated.
Yes, I know all this this sounds like lunacy to many people. It sounds like lunacy to me sometimes. You see, I’m also a strong pragmatist, and I realize that this is a nearly impossible standard to hold to. Aside from its legal effects on abortion itself, it would have far-reaching consequences. It would make IVF incredibly complicated legally. It would eliminate the possibility of supporting any birth control methods that prevent implantation by thickening the uterine lining or damaging the zygote. It would bring into question a woman’s legal responsibility for smoking or drinking during a pregnancy. I keep returning to the fact that a lot of policies and laws put in place are impossible to uphold. Take speed limits, for example. These laws are put in place to protect people, but everyone goes 5 over. As I’ve sat and thought about this issue, I’ve asked myself which pieces of this belief are bend-able. Which are practical? Which are enforceable? How do we get as close to this goal as possible, if this is my gold standard (this is a figure of speech…I don’t support the gold standard…that is dumb)?
The current reality
I’ve studied economics, and I have a very healthy appreciation of consequences. I have studied public policy, and I have a healthy appreciation for the challenges of implementing laws and policies. In 2012 in the U.S., there were an estimated 700,000 abortions performed. I’m not a woman, so I can never fully understand the pressures that come with pregnancy. Having said that, being raised by a single mother, I got a firsthand view of how incredibly hard that was. Having watched many of my friends go through pregnancies recently, it’s an incredibly difficult experience, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and professionally. Each of those 700,000 abortions represents a woman facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, trying to determine how to continue living her life in light of it. She could have the child, taking on a decades-long financial and emotional commitment. She could put the child up for adoption, but that means going through a long, challenging pregnancy, often without the support of the “father” who ditched her. She could have an abortion and deal with any emotional consequences down the road.
I wonder sometimes how many pro-lifers really understand the full impact of their beliefs and what their coming to fruition would do. How many really sit down and spend time thinking about those 700,000 women, or to make it more realistic, one of them. I wonder some times how many actually care about that woman or that child, and what they would be willing to give up to stand behind their caring. The pro-life movement has so often thrown its energy and resources to the courts, and I honestly think it’s hard to see them as unjustified in doing so. Most oppressed groups can at least speak out on behalf of themselves, but pro-lifers like myself believe each of those 700,000 fetuses were actually humans that can’t speak or advocate for themselves. If we truly believe it is the taking of a human life, then shame on us if we don’t speak out. However, I can’t just turn my back on the consequences of what a legal victory would bring. Sure, I think some of those unwanted fetuses would become incredibly loved children after their mother met them. Sure, I think there are some women who probably make the decision without seriously considering the implications. However, that does not in any way take away from the fact that many, and more likely most of those women sat down, measured the costs, and found that abortion was their best option.
The sad part is there’s really not a whole lot of middle ground here. Take Hillary Clinton’s statement that an “unborn person” has no constitutional rights. She pissed everyone off. It’s either a person or a fetus. If it’s just a fetus, then any restrictions on abortion are oppressive, unnecessary, and even tragic for women. If it’s actually a person/human with rights, then any allowance for abortion is oppressive and tragic.
So, where does this leave me?
I wish every day that there was a freely available and highly effective method to transfer a recently-conceived human zygote, human embryo, or human fetus from one woman to another. I would pay hundreds of dollars in taxes or donations to that. There are so many women and couples facing infertility, aching for the chance to have an infant, and I have seen significant numbers of additional families who would be willing to adopt infants. However, I haven’t seen anything yet that shows that as a possibility any time soon.
It seems to me that we’ve had serious problems in the past in our country with people trying to decide what was a full human based on their own interests and needs. At one point, we essentially decided some people were only worth 3/5ths of other people based on how they looked, and that “compromise” didn’t really work out so well given that we now see it as a tragic time in our country’s history. I think we can all agree that humans in general are really bad at seeing past our own interests, so I think the only way forward is for us to have some honest conversations and be willing to put some things on the table.
I think the court battles need to continue to happen, because I think they’re necessary. However, I don’t think that’s the only hope for decreasing the number of abortions that take place. In fact, I wonder sometimes if it’s even a good hope. Look at Brexit. Everyone thought it was a good idea until it happened, and now everyone is sitting around wondering if they really wanted the change they voted for. In the meantime, I wish people from both sides get together to try to come up with a plan to simply minimize the number of abortions that happen, because I think that’s the only middle ground available at the moment.
I depart from many conservative Christians in that I think a good starting point is funding sex education and ensuring availability of contraception for all people. However, I realize beliefs have some effect on that, as even I take issue with most non-barrier methods due to them preventing implantation. As much as it bothers me to do so, I think I just have to give in on this one. I think conservative families have to step up to the plate on adoption, especially from foster care, to prove to the world that we’re serious about this. Until these things happen, I don’t think the pro-life movement can be taken seriously. Perhaps these things make me a hypocrite. Perhaps I’m not standing strongly enough for what I believe in. However, I’m looking for a path forward…motion…progress…something.
I think liberals need to ask themselves how much they’re willing to risk here. If there was a true, strong moderate/conservative running for president this cycle, there is a decent chance, through supreme court appointments, that the legality of abortion could be challenged and even overturned within the next 4 years. Just sit back and think about that. Seriously, do it. Are you ready for that eventuality? That’s really the only option on the table at the moment, and for the first time in decades, it has potential. Now, realize this. This one, single issue, might turn out enough voters to get you President Trump. Assuming ya’ll are really for women’s rights, let’s sit down and talk about how serious you are about it. What are you willing to give up to make sure those are maintained? Would you be willing to negotiate a sex-ed curriculum with people who have a fundamentally different approach to sex as you? Would you be willing to give up federal funding of Planned Parenthood and make up that funding yourself? Yes, I know abortions are only 1% of what they do, but you’re sitting across the table from people who believe that 1% of some of their taxes are going to murder. Yes, I understand you feel the same way about some of your taxes going to a military that sometimes accidentally bombs civilians. Hey conservatives, come sit down. Let’s talk about military funding.
Yeah, that’s kinda funny, but it’s the truth of the situation. This isn’t easy, and I don’t think it should be, but I think we’ve come to a time where we have to get serious about this issue and try to find a way past the impasse that’s held it steady for years, because we’ve gotten incredibly close to it shifting via the courts.
How does this affect my vote?
I don’t feel that I can ever support a candidate who outright endorses abortion. I ache over the issue of abortion. I pray and am brought to tears by it. I honestly wish for it to be made illegal. However, I also don’t feel that I can support a candidate who is willfully blind to the consequences that making abortion illegal would create.
How does this affect my faith?
For the Christians out there. I trust God. It’s hard to write that, because a lot of times it’s not true. However, believing in God demands trusting God, and as much as I try, I cannot escape believing in Him. Here’s something I’ve learned over the years. I prayed for years for revival, for thousands to believe the gospel. I prayed for it, I fasted for it, I ached for it. I wanted others to know the hope that I had found. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the church isn’t ready for revival. So, I turned my efforts to asking what it would take to prepare for revival. We’re told over and over again to prepare the way of the Lord…to prepare for His coming. Well, I think the same thing is in play here. I don’t think we’re ready for abortion to be illegal. As much as I ache for it, I have turned my efforts towards preparing for it. I’ve tried my best to understand the plight of the poor, those who are struggling with the question of how they can support a child. I’ve donated to friends adopting children. I’ve set it in my heart to consider foster care and invest in communities in need as I can. Yes, I know many of us do that already, but do it with renewed vigor, knowing that it could prepare the way for that which many of you have ached for.
I don’t believe that me choosing not to vote for Donald Trump dooms millions of children to death. I don’t believe it makes me a bad Christian or conservative. I don’t believe it makes me a supporter of abortion or means we’ll be losing the country. I believe the situation is far more complicated than that, much more is at stake, and I earnestly hope and pray that the single choice I make in a booth will be eclipsed by hundreds of decisions I make on a daily basis for the cause of Christ. I trust God.