Although Abortion is practiced throughout most of the world and has been practiced long before the recorded history, it still invokes passion and controversy. Abortion raises fundamental questions such as when life begins and what it is that makes us human. In America, abortion is a highly charged issue that involves ethical, religious and political debate. It continues to be a very contentious issue with few signs of abatement.
It is understandable that most women feel abortion is a moral decision for them and a totally personal decision, given their situation. This includes their religious beliefs, health, marital status, genetic makeup, age and other factors.
If a woman decides to undergo abortion, after consulting with her physician and her spiritual advisor, should the government veto her decision?
The answer to this is a whole lot of debate in the U.S., many times even bordering on violence.
Those who are against abortion say that the government should be able to override the decision of a woman and require her to continue with her pregnancy and childbirth. These people base their stance on the strong belief that human life begins at the ovum and spermatozoon stage. This makes a pre-embryo, embryo and fetus all humans that are entitled to the basic human right to live, along with all other human rights.
One of the most insidious examples of anti-abortion advocates is their argument for “post-abortion stress syndrome” in spite of the fact that there is no evidence to prove this. A proposed law in South Dakota would ban most abortions on the grounds that “an abortion subjects the pregnant woman to significant psychological and physical health risks.”
The Roman Catholic Church and many other religious bodies also strongly oppose abortion.
People who argue in favor of abortion say that it is totally the woman’s decision and the government has no right to interfere, or should limit its interference to only very rare circumstances. She should be able to have an abortion if she wants to. They base their stance on the belief that a human life begins after conception when the embryo’s heart starts beating, or when the fetus begins to take a human shape, or when it is born, or it half emerges from the mother, or is completely disconnected from the mother and becomes an independent human life.
In the United States, abortion has been made legal. Supporters of legal abortion say that this legalization resulted in a huge decrease in women dying from abortion and that’s because abortion is not a dangerous procedure any longer, since women do not have to go through self-induced abortions and they are done by experienced physicians.
If we go back to our ancestors, Aristotle taught “delayed ensoulment,” which meant that a fetus in the initial stages was nothing but a vegetable soul and evolves into a human soul later in gestation. This was even called ensoulment and was believed to occur at 90 days after conception for a female fetus and 40 days after conception for a male fetus. In those days, since gender could not be determined, abortion and contraception were not condemned. It was only in the later stages of pregnancy that a human soul is destroyed. On the other hand, Jewish faith generally opposed abortion, unless it posed a risk to the life of the mother. Over the centuries, different stances were taken at different times.
Supporters of abortion argue that the bible is also completely silent on the issue of abortion. The word “abortion” does not appear in any of the biblical translations. They go on to relate that according to the bible, life begins at birth – when a baby draws in its first breath and the embryo or fetus is not a human being. The bible gives the definition of life as “breath” several times.
However, anti-abortionists show basis in the bible for their beliefs, by citing passages or quotes that actually do not use the word abortion or pro-life. They say there are several scriptures in the Bible where God indirectly shows that he is pro-life.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
As far as the United States Political parties are concerned, they have taken different sides, with the majority of the Republicans being pro-life and a majority of the Democrats supporting a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion.
Belief that a human being exists at conception is purely a matter of faith, not fact. Several Christian denominations and religious groups now agree that the bible does not condemn abortion anywhere and that abortion should continue to be legal.
The general feeling is that it is important to find common ground – not by going completely against abortion or “favoring” abortion as the taking of an innocent life can never be acceptable. This has to be dealt with in such a way that it reduces the number of abortions. Abortions can be legalized as far health risks for the baby or mother are concerned and not in other situations.
The debates and discussions will continue as long as there is conscience and as long as life matters.