America's Abortion Headache

It's complicated.

Those at the fringes of the abortion argument wish to make it simple. At the foundation of the ideological debate lies the civil rights of the unborn child versus the civil rights of the woman. Protect the life of the unborn (is it life?), or sacrifice the child's life in hopes of a better life for the mother. The current data shows approximately 10 percent of Americans support abortion under all circumstances and approximately 10 percent of Americans oppose abortion under all circumstances.

Most Americans hold a more nuanced view, balanced by the obvious conundrums imposed by abortion. Most Americans don't want to make a personal decision for another American, but most Americans also don't like the idea that a helpless victim gets killed due to irresponsibility. (That is, choosing to abort a baby for convenience -- or even worse, for gender -- makes people uncomfortable. In the latter case, it's nearly universally reviled -- 90 percent of Americans are against aborting to select for gender.)

So even pro-choice folks will blanch at the implications of gender selection. But why is that any more offensive than aborting the healthy result of a rape or the genetically undesired child? Matt Lewis writes about this logical gap:

If one believes abortion is murder, they should not take solace in merely seeing to it that abortions are rare or infrequent -- but that they are outlawed. Conversely, if one believes that abortion is not murder, why not celebrate it as a way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and control population? The most intellectually dishonest position one can take -- regardless of where one comes down on the abortion debate -- is that abortion should be legal but rare.

It does seem that the pro-choice folks, or those who are primarily pro-choice but who find abortion repugnant when used to select a gender, are being self-deceptive. Abortion is either taking a life or it is not. And if it is not taking a life, then it should never be offensive. In fact, abortion can really only be seen as a positive, life-affirming thing if no life is lost in the process.

Kathleen McKinley takes aim at the "common ground" argument that President Obama made:

Once again a pro-choicer asks for us to find common ground on abortion. I wonder if Obama would have wanted the segregationists to find common ground with those who wished to integrate. I imagine a speech Obama might have made when slavery was legal. He would have wanted slave owners to find common ground with the slaves. I mean, we couldn't make slavery illegal because that would effect the economy, and the Supreme Court has declared that blacks are not fully human, so we should just find common ground to compromise. Allow slavery, but find ways to make slavery less necessary. We should come together to change hearts about slavery.

The pro-abortion opinion that life begins when a child gasps his first breath is patently ridiculous. Babies are being born and kept alive in less than ideal circumstances now as early as 20 weeks gestation. Often by the time a woman finds out she's pregnant, the baby has a heartbeat. That means that blood, circulating nutrients to the body, is being pumped by the heart. The brain and brain stem are developing.

Scientific discoveries make dehumanizing embryos and fetuses more and more difficult. Here is a picture and 3D ultrasound of a 10 week gestation fetus. When at five or six weeks a woman hears the heartbeat, or sees the baby via ultrasound, it's real. People can argue semantics about embryo and fetus. It's a baby.

And when people think about the moral ramifications of this too much, it gets uncomfortable. So people don't think much about it.