from the perspective of someone who does believe abortion is a sin, but is not convinced it must be criminalized
As we go about our daily lives in the United States of America, we really have one right. We have the right to do anything that is not illegal.
Regarding any particular form of conduct, then, the only question is whether it should be made illegal. The burden is on those who would criminalize any conduct to make the case for outlawing it. For any conduct to be made illegal there must be reasons why it must be illegal.
Abortion is the most morally charged issue in this country. As a moral issue within the political process of this nation today, it is about equal to issue of slavery in the 1850’s. For some of the people who want to make abortions illegal, feelings are running high enough to have induced violence. Some of those who oppose criminalizing abortion feel every bit as strongly.
Like slavery, there is a moral aspect to the issue of abortion and there is a material aspect to it. In the case of slavery, the material aspect of the issue reinforced the moral aspect of it: the physical suffering of slaves was material evidence of its moral depravity.
It is important, however, that the suffering of slaves was in a very significant way morally irrelevant. It is morally repellent for one human being to claim ownership of another human being, as a person might claim ownership of a horse or a dog, regardless of how the slave might be treated. Horses and dogs can be mistreated, but that does not call into question as an issue of morality whether they can be owned.
People who want to criminalize abortion make much the same case. They insist that fetuses being aborted suffer physically, but that in the end that is not why abortions should be illegal. Abortion should be illegal, they maintain, because it is morally wrong.
I agree that abortion is morally wrong. It is a sin. Does that mean it has to be illegal?
Confronted with that question, people who want to criminalize abortion claim that abortion is murder, the taking of a human life. For me, a murder entails the killing of a being with a soul, so whether an abortion is a murder depends on whether a fetus has a soul — which cannot be anything but a matter of personal belief. I have no firm belief either way. That is the source of my ambivalence where abortion is concerned: it is a sin because a fetus might have a soul and would in any even result in a being with a soul, but I cannot say it is murder because I am not certain that a fetus has a soul.
People who don’t believe human beings have souls can still be against people wantonly killing other people. Another criteria for murder might be the taking of the life of a separate, independent human being. Whatever status a fetus might have, it is not a separate, independent human being.
One issue that arises with abortion is the cutoff. At what point should a pregnancy be deemed to be too far along to allow for an abortion, and why?
Here is something I honestly believe: it should be legal for parents to kill their own children. That is how far their responsibility for their children’s lives extends. The problem with allowing that would be the further issues it raises, such as parents’ using it to torture their children with the threat of that power or their using it as the ultimate means of preventing abuse to become known. At no point in a pregnancy do any issues of that kind arise. There may be material issues related to the well-being of the woman, but that would be between her and the medical staff involved.
We are free in this country to seek to have laws passed based on our beliefs. For society as a whole, though, no belief, however strongly felt by any group of people, is of itself grounds for criminalizing anything. There are two further issues that must be taken into consideration in this nation: the affects of the conduct in question on society as a whole and the existence of our Constitution.
Laws criminalizing abortion were deemed to be unconstitutional. The basis of that ruling was that abortion is a matter so private that it is beyond the reach of society as a whole. I agree. To say that society should have a say on whether a woman may have an abortion is to abandon any notion of the existence of an inviolately private sphere of life. I cannot see how anyone can possibly think that a woman having an abortion can be any business of any other person whatsoever other than the woman and perhaps the biological father, depending on circumstances. If a biological father is legitimately involved, that makes it a matter limited to the two of them.
That brings us to the affects of abortion on society as a whole. Simply put, there are none.
That distinguishes, in a material way, abortion from murder. If murder were legal, anyone could kill anyone else for any reason or no reason at all. Society would literally be Hell on Earth. If abortion is legal, there is no threat of harm to any existing member of society (or anyone else).
Finally, in this nation our guiding principle is ‘liberty first and foremost’. That why we have the right to do anything that is not against the law. It is also why we want to have as few laws a possible.
To be true to that principle we all have to accept that some people are going to do things that we think they should not do, even that we find to be morally repugnant. Others must in turn accept that we might do things they don’t think we should do. Again, we are all free to seek to make any conduct illegal, but to maximize liberty we must be prepared to allow others to live their lives as they see fit, regardless of our thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.