Although the question of abortion in the U.S. seemed settled in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, with conservatism gaining more visibility since the Trump election, the issue of abortion has again become a contentious issue. It is posed as a Yes or No question and both sides are highly emotionally charged so it is difficult to engage in rational discussions of the issue.
Much of the objection to abortion revolves around the question of ‘when is the fetus to be considered a human being?’ . . . is it as soon as the egg and sperm come together? . . . or is it with the first detectable heartbeat? . . . or is it when the fetus is viable—able to survive on its own outside the mother’s womb? Law and science alone can’t give a definitive answer.
Another important issue at the core of the debate is ‘who has the right to make the decision concerning the use of a woman’s body?’ The woman? . . . the medical profession? . . . the Church? . . . the government? The answer to that seems obvious—it is the woman.
If we give careful consideration to that question, we see it as being influenced by the long-standing patriarchal perspective—a system of society or government controlled by men—wherein women have no voice, and all aspects of their lives are under the control of men. That attitude can still be seen in the unwillingness to allow women to make their own choices.
More than a yes or no answer to abortion is needed. Rather, what is needed is a deeper respect for life in general . . . unprotected sex can yield babies and babies are more than just today’s inconvenience. We are all part of the flow of life and babies are the future generation. Seen in those terms, abortion should never be a frivolous matter. Women, being the carrier of life, hold a heavy responsibility . . . yet there are circumstances that can justify a choice to abort. Girls need be educated to protect their life-giving privilege and only in dire circumstances choose to eliminate a developing life in their body—but it is and must be their right to choose.
Let me bring up a point involving males that also concerns the ‘taking of life’. There is a commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ . . . all of civilization agrees that killing is wrong. Yet since the beginning of time there have been wars—and they are even glorified in many ways. It is almost exclusively men who initiate war and men who engage in war. The world, having developed under patriarchy, has made no outcry—until recently—that war is immoral.
The point I make here is two-fold: 1) men have not been restricted by law or Church to not engage in the killing of war, they have always been free to choose how to use their bodies; and 2) under a patriarchal system women’s freedom had been controlled by men. Historically, their freedom of movement was curtailed (needing male approval); their freedom to be educated, to choose professions, to own property, to vote, was withheld etc. Slowly women have fought to be free of male control and make their own choices—the abortion issue is part of that fight.
I want my position to be clear on this issue. I oppose abortion as simply a way to ‘solve the problem’ of an unplanned pregnancy; I believe it is a moral issue and should be resorted to only in a real crisis, but I recognize that there are circumstances that justify it. This is a decision that only the one directly concerned can make—as are all moral decisions. This conflict is a gender-freedom issue. The long-standing patriarchal control strives to take away woman’s authority in this very sensitive matter—we again and still fight for our freedom.
I do believe there should be reasonable legal limits to the time allowed in which to abort and a limit to humane methods used, but ultimately the decision pro or con regarding a woman’s choice should be in the hands of the woman concerned.