If you think it should be legal then you don’t personally oppose abortion.
“I hate abortions, but just could not make that choice for someone else.” – Barbara Bush
What is moral? Moreover, what is morality? Is premeditated murder always wrong? If a man decides to decapitate his wife simply because she annoys him, is that wrong? If someone mugs a priest, is it wrong? You may think I’m asking outrageous questions–the answers to which appear obvious—but they are not so outrageous when we understand that they are simply an extension of a much baser question: Is morality universal, or is it relative? If morality is universal, if we follow a set code of conduct, then the answers are clear. These acts are morally wrong. But if we adhere to the principle of moral relativity, the answers are murkier, because one further question must be asked: Who is the ultimate arbiter of what is right, and what is wrong?
Mario Cuomo, three term governor of New York, died two days ago at the age of 82. He was a vocal liberal, who, as liberals tend to do, contradicted himself in many ways. He opposed the death penalty, yet supported abortion. The New York Times, in their eulogy to Cuomo, praised this aspect of his personality:
“His annual veto of the death penalty became a rite, and he invoked it as a testimony to his character and principles. He was similarly resolute when he defied his church in 1984 by flying to the University of Notre Dame to proclaim that Roman Catholic politicians who personally opposed abortion, as he did, could appropriately support the right of a woman to have an abortion.”
It has always fascinated me that one can proclaim to be personally opposed to abortion—or any moral issue—while publicly supporting it. There is a disconnect in that position that is rarely touched upon but demands examination. To properly examine this seeming disconnect, we must ask the question: is abortion something that one can be personally opposed to, but publicly accept? And if so, what does that mean?
If one is personally opposed to abortion, it means that they believe there is some kind of moral consequence to the action. Given the nature of the procedure, the only aspect of the process that could be considered morally consequential is the perceived taking of a life. If one believes that abortion is the deliberate extinguishing of a life, rather than the simple removal of an unwanted parasite or clump of cells, then one has acknowledged that abortion is the same as murder. Taking a life in a premeditated manner—whether it is an adult, a teenager, or an infant in the womb—is murder. Anyone who is allegedly “personally opposed to abortion” must be so because they believe that the creature inside a pregnant woman is a living human being.
Given the weight of that personal objection, how can one be open to others participating in the practice? It is inconsistent. To publicly accept abortion is to say one of two things:
– I do not believe that the entity inside a pregnant woman is a human life, and therefore, it is terminable without remorse.
– It is indeed life, but I cannot impose my belief on another.
While the first statement is consistent, the second is not. If one believes an act to be wrong, it is their obligation to proclaim it as such. However, there are those who claim that while they believe that abortion is the termination of a life, they cannot impose their belief on others because the science isn’t settled. That’s an intellectually dishonest position to take. If one believes abortion to be the taking of a life, they have based that belief on something. Whatever they have based their belief on has to be sound enough that it has forced them to take a moral position. Whether or not the basis of their belief is scientific, biblical, or otherwise, they have been convinced of its soundness, and as such, must remain consistent in it, personally, and publicly.
However, if one is still unconvinced, the viability argument is the nail in the coffin. If “viability” is the standard by which one is considered human, one must first define “viability.” To the pro-choice lobby, viability is the ability to survive without the nurturing of another, or to survive on one’s own accord. They claim that because an infant prior to a certain number of gestational weeks cannot survive without the life-support of its mother, it is not legally viable, and therefore not human. But if one accepts the idea of viability as the defining attribute of what makes an infant living—and therefore legally human—one must also accept it as the defining attribute of all of human life. There are, however, many fully grown human beings who cannot survive without the support of another. For example, small children cannot care for themselves, and without constant support from their parents, they would die. The elderly and those with severe disabilities would also fall under the same umbrella of non-viable persons if we follow the logical through-line of the viability argument, because many of them cannot care for themselves, and rely on around the clock life-support. If viability is the key to defining what is legally terminable, many disabled adults, and most children up to several years old would be defined as non-viable, and therefore, it would not be morally wrong to kill them if you wanted to do so.
Once the DNA is written at conception, the entity inside a woman is human, because nothing changes aside from the shape of the being from that point forward. A five year-old is certainly less developed than a fifteen year-old, but does that make him less viable? Just as a five year-old is equal to a teenager in terms of viability, a zygote is equally viable to any other stage of human life. And if one believe this to be true—denying the fallacious viability argument—one cannot publicly support abortion.
So, we’re back to basics. If one believes an unborn child is living, how can one publicly accept its murder? Only if one believes in moral relativity. If one believes that morality is determined by culture, and by individuals, one can make the claim that his or her morality is simply not the same as another’s. But this leads us to another trap. If one believes in relative morality, one cannot condemn anything at all because to each his own. Murder may be wrong for you—that may be your personal truth–but someone else may not believe the same way you do. If morality is determined by majority culture, then you must accept that at one time, slavery of blacks was not wrong, because a majority of Americans supported it. You must believe that it onlybecame wrong once it was publicly accepted as wrong. And if that’s the case, what is morality at all but a meaningless flow of public opinion?
You cannot have your cake, and eat it, too. You must take moral stances, and impose them on others, or you must accept that everyone has a different moral standard, and impose nothing. Either murder is wrong, or it’s not.