Abortion is issue with no simple answers
To the editor:
In a letter published July 18, George Fisher responds to local pastor William Weary who decries abortion as a moral outrage. Mr. Fisher agrees that a moral outrage exists, but identifies it as the restriction on free will imposed on a woman by any societal questioning of abortion rights. Mr. Fisher couches his position in analytical terms and raises some points deserving of further discussion.
Appropriately, Mr. Fisher’s analysis begins by referencing something verifiable — a statistic — a public opinion poll of support for Roe v. Wade (a statistic seemingly acceptable as approximating public support for abortion, including from women who would never have one). The statistic indicated that the public backs Roe by about 2 to 1. In considering the significance of this statistic, it seems appropriate to note that recent presidential elections (even the president himself) have cast the reliability of public opinion polls into doubt.
It seems at least equally appropriate to question whether, as a matter of right, the majority defines morality. Morality shaped by public opinion is, by definition, moral relativism, a concept with which Mr. Fisher himself may take issue. Without attempting to define “morality” it seems a safe bet to say that it always based on truth. While current political figures urge us to consider “alternative truths,” for purposes of deciding whether a human life exists or not, the one truth is what is needed.
To assume the power to abort is to assume the power to define when life begins, and finding a truthful definition is a complex task. Mr. Fisher takes issue with Fr. Weary’s observation that a problem’s complexity does not justify inaction against it. Mr. Fisher proposes an elimination of the question by the simplification of the answer — a determination that life begins with the “first breath.” Period. End of debate. In other words, he is saying that life begins when any only when we say it begins.
However, since we did not invent life, what qualifies us to make that judgment? The truth is that we do not know, and if we acknowledge that we do not know when life begins, then we acknowledge that we don’t know what the procedure of abortion might be killing. In other words, by enabling abortion, Mr. Fisher’s majority is quite literally shooting first and asking questions later.
Mr. Fisher questions whether Fr. Weary thinks it is the church “business” to provide input to the government regarding the abortion controversy. Fr. Weary’s central point is that it is everybody’s business, not something to be left abandoned at either the doors of the church or the doors of the state. If it is the state’s business, then (as no doubt Mr. Fisher would agree) truth in governing is paramount. If truth in governing is paramount, and the truth is that the government does not know when life begins, then by enabling abortion and thus implying that it knows what it is doing, the government is not telling the truth.
This leaves us with the church. The church’s jurisdiction is over matters of the spirit as Mr. Fisher would surely agree. Based on matters of the flesh such as a baby’s emergence from the womb, his letter and “first-breath” proposal necessarily can address only matters of the flesh. Unless he denies the existence of the human spirit, he cannot say that his proposed solution truly addresses the “whole problem.” If he acknowledges the existence of the human spirit, then his solution is little more than a convenient proposal, as it fails to take into account the unanswered question of when the zygote/embryo/fetus/baby of whom he speaks obtains its spirit.
Morality is based on truth, and the truth is that human beings do not know when the body is imbued with its spirit. The pro-life position is that body and spirit come into existence together at the moment of conception to form a human being. Mr. Fisher recognizes certain stages of development of some form of “being” in the womb, but buys into the argument that the being does not become “human” until sometime later than its conception.
If Mr. Fisher’s “first breath” hypothesis is not a known truth (as even abortion advocates appear to understand), then his convenient proposal cannot be hawked to the public as a known truth. If the position of Mr. Fisher’s “majority” regarding abortion is based on a guess (however educated), and if morality is simply a distinction between truth and untruth, then surely a moral outrage occurs when our entire society is being deceived by the majority’s unverified, alternative truth that life does not begin at conception.
To put it another way, in this state, it is a crime for a hunter to shoot at game without having positively identified it first. To deny a human being the same protection would certainly seem to be a moral outrage.
If abortion is deemed to be acceptable by society (through its majority or otherwise), that acceptance is based on an untruth. Mr. Fisher appears to be a seeker of the truth, as Fr. Weary is and as we all are. It is the human spirit to seek the truth.
For better or worse, the truth is that we as human beings do not possess an understanding of the formation of a life or the gift of a soul. As Mr. Fisher points out, all too often in our society, a new life formed is unwanted or inconvenient, and we do not know how to deal with a brand new soul that does not appear to us to be much of a gift.
The truth is that there are no simple answers, and to pretend that there are by quoting passages from the Bible is to give the devil a voice to quote scripture for his own purpose. A society blithely ignoring a moral outrage by comforting itself with passages from scripture would seem to be a society that does not have the courage to deal with the truth.