Points of View It is nearly impossible anymore to find someone who doesn't have an opinion about abortion, and probably a strong opinion at that. Yet the endless debates on the topic usually go nowhere, leaving the opponents even more committed to their positions and the open-minded observers confused. Both sides make a good case. An unwanted child is a pitiful thing, and the attendant social problems (single motherhood, financial destitution, child neglect, and urban overcrowding, to name just a few) do not have easy solutions. On the other hand, the thought of terminating something that, if left to run its natural course, would ultimately result in the birth of a human being gives all but the most hard-hearted among us cause for serious introspection. One reason the debate goes nowhere is that each side focuses on a different topic. We make no progress because we are not talking about the same thing. The pro-abortionist prefers to discuss choice, and to dwell on all of the social problems inherent in an unwanted child. The anti-abortionist is interested primarily in protecting the life of the fetus. In simple terms, the pro-abortionist focuses on a woman's rights and the anti-abortionist focuses on a fetus' rights. Though interrelated, these are basically different topics. Though neither side realizes it, there is actually much more agreement than disagreement between the opposing views. The majority on both sides would agree that social problems like child neglect and urban overcrowding are serious issues. Most would also agree that the life of a child is a precious thing that deserves the full protection of the law. There would even be nearly universal agreement that it is a
woman's exclusive right to make decisions concerning her body. So where's the disagreement? The entire complex issue comes down to one question: Is the fetus a person? If you believe it is not a person, then it is simply part of the woman's body and subject to her exclusive control. From this point of view, any attempt to diminish that control is a cruel infringement upon a woman's rights. If, however, you believe the fetus is a person, then you are obligated to protect it, even to the point of delimiting the actions of the woman carrying it. For you, the suggestion that this issue is a matter of personal choice is like saying that whether or not a parent kills a two-year-old is a matter of personal choice. The goal of these pages is to examine the abortion debate from several perspectives, focusing on the question of when the fetus' life as a person begins. Toward that end I have divided my presentation into four areas: History, Medicine, Law, and Bible. History provides insight into how other people and cultures have approached this issue. Medicine discusses scientific evidence relating to the topic. Law considers how the Constitution bears on this debate and the role of the court in it. Bible examines the teachings in this area of one of the fundamental moral guides for Western culture. Throughout each of the specific areas I have endeavored to honestly reflect views from both sides. But I make no pretense of being unbiased. No one who spends any time considering this issue can be truly impartial. Instead I admit my position freely, but try to avoid letting it cause me to misrepresent the alternatives. If you feel that I have missed something significant, please let me know. I hope to refine the content of these pages over time to make them more useful.