Abortion is a highly contested topic, like many other human rights issues (there are arguably two, if not three humans involved). Here’s my summary of the issue, from a moderate conservative point of view.
But we need to ask ourselves, would Jesus support aborting babies?
1. In any pregnancy, there are three individuals with limited rights
No one has unlimited rights. An individual’s rights are limited at the point where he is infringing on another’s rights. For example, the right to free speech is limited at slander – one can not knowingly lie about someone else in the media. Similarly, a woman’s right to her body is limited when her developing child has rights that could be taken away.
a. Woman’s Pregnancy Rights
A woman has the right to practice birth control in any legal manner she chooses, including abortive methods up to the Point of Personhood of the child. However, abortive actions are limited by the father’s rights.
b. Father’s Pregnancy Rights
The father of a child has the right to contribute to the decision-making about the welfare of a child. A father can not force a woman to terminate a pregnancy, and a mother should not be able to terminate a pregnancy without permission from the father, unless the father has abdicated his rights [these conditions to be developed].
This permission or abdication does not have to be legally documented, but may be documented through the notarized signature of a Release of Pregnancy Rights form, or if a court has determined that a father has otherwise abdicated through criminal activity or abandonment.
c. Unborn Child’s Rights
After the point of personhood, the child has the right to life and protection of that life under the law.
2. The developing fetus has human rights after a defined point in a pregnancy – The Point of Personhood
There are many possible ways to determine when a fetus becomes a person with rights. Many have argued forcefully for defining the starting point based upon genetic uniqueness (fertilization), by discovery time(giving the woman ample to time to discover her pregnancy), by viability (can the fetus survive out of the womb), by actual birth, and by other ethical and moral teachings and standards.
I believe those arguments to be insufficient, and believe that the beginning of human life ought to be defined by the same measure I use for the end of life. However, even this is controversial.
- Presence of Blood – At around 18 days, the heart begins to beat (see below). But blood forms just before that, so many argue that at around 14 days, I should consider the unborn child a person
- Heartbeat – Today’s technology can detect a baby’s heartbeat 18 days after conception. That is only four days after most women miss a period and begin to suspect they are pregnant.
- Brain waves – 6 weeks after conception signals from the fetal brain can be detected. Dream patterns have been discovered around the 8th or 9th week
- Independent movement – At about the 6th week, the baby in the womb can move spontaneously: Kicking, swimming, jumping and stretching.
- Sensory Response – A baby in the womb is capable of responding to touch and sound by about the eighth or 10th week. A child at that age will move away from painful stimuli.
- Breathing – By about the 14th week, a baby’s lungs are functioning and he or she will practice breathing. Vocal cords are formed by the 13th week.
- Ability to Cognitively Experience Pain – Recent studies may indicate that although a fetus withdraws from painful stimulus much earlier, the part of the brain that makes them able to consciously experience pain does not develop until the 26th week (this point is, however, contested)
I believe that good persons can disagree on which or how many of these conditions need to be present before I believe the unborn child has rights. I propose that the presence of brainwaves and heartbeat at 6 weeks sets the latest limit of the abortion timeline, and I should discuss moving it back to 3 weeks, which is when the heartbeat begins. This 6 week upper limit is a compromise, and not an absolute.
3. Terminating a Pregnancy Based On Physical Attributes such as Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, or Treatable Medical Conditions is Not Acceptable
Pregnancy termination based on basic physical characteristics amounts to killing for convenience (at best), and at worst, genocidal murder.
Regarding treatable medical conditions, the threat of a child’s potential suffering, physical or emotional, does not justify terminating its life via abortion.
I also understand that science is still debating the physical origin of sexual orientation. However, if a proposed physical or statistical measurement of the possibility of same sex orientation is used for fetal testing, the results of such a test could not be used as justification for terminating a pregnancy.
4. Terminating a Pregnancy for Severe, Untreatable Fetal Conditions Must Be Preserved as a Parental Right, but Not Required by Law
Some conditions are not treatable by today’s standards. Untreatable medical conditions that cause intense suffering AND death within the first two years of life (arbitrary?) may be candidates for abortions throughout the term of a pregnancy. However, terminations should not be mandated by law in such cases.
5. Terminating a Pregnancy Based on the Means of Pregnancy (Rape, Incest, Artificial Insemination, Natural Insemination) is Not Acceptable
Beyond the point of personhood, an unborn child has the right to life, and the method of its creation does not diminish these rights.
It is understood that a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy due to rape or incest is under extreme duress, but I propose that abortion will not in any large measure cure her anguish, and may actually create new emotional suffering of its own.
I believe that the best way out of a woman’s emotional duress is for her to make ethical and moral decisions in her pregnancy-related decisions. These include:
- allowing the child to live
- working through her anger and hurt to a point of healing and forgiveness of the perpetrators (if any)
- the pursuit of justice against the perpetrators in a court of law
- providing or helping the child find a good home where it is wanted and loved.
I also expect that other means of support, both private and public, will be brought to bear to help such women with pre- and post-natal care, adoption services, counseling and other services.
6. Terminating a Pregnancy to Protect the Life of a Mother Must be Preserved
There are some medical conditions where the abortive methods must be used to preserve the life of the mother. However, mental anguish over a pregnancy, and any resulting physical problems from the mental anguish, are not justification for abortion.
7. Abortion as A Medical Procedure Should be Protected and Taught In Medical Schools, but Should Not Be Mandatory
Due to the remaining cases of early term abortions and rare but necessary late term pregnancy problems, many of the current abortive techniques should be taught in medical schools, at the discretion of the faculty. However, practice of these methods should not be a requirement for graduation or certification in any medical specialty.