Sunday, 12 June 2011

My Feelings On.... Abortion

I'm embarked on a project of reflection on my political and moral beliefs and how they fit into my liberal and libertarian beliefs

Abortion is one of those subjects I always try to avoid in just about any situation. The one time I attempted to articulate my feelings in a blog (a post I've yet to unearth I'm afraid, it's not listed by Google anyway) I alienated and upset several online friends, which was never my intention. And so since then I've kept my head below the parapet. But if I am to be honest with myself and open with others on my beliefs, I think it's time to really put down in words where I stand.

I can see where both the pro-lifers and the pro-choice folks come from. The commonly stated views that the pro-lifers are just set on having control over women and pro-choice supporters are supporters of murder are simplistic and unfair. There are good people, with good intentions, on both sides.

Personally, and I truly hope you understand the difference between personal opinion and my feelings on other's freedom, I find the concept of abortion abhorrent. I feel this way for two, very different, reasons

1) Because I have an irrational sensitivity when it comes to life. I come from the perspective of being an atheist who believes there are no second chances. Any destruction of life is final. Just because I also believe life to be utterly pointless does not mean I don't hold an irrational love of it. When a foetus is aborted, who may have been born successfully and lived a full life (or may not, I accept) then it is being denied it's very existence; it's only reason for being. This I cannot accept.

2) More rationally, I believe in individual liberty. Now one can certainly argue that a foetus is not an individual. But I believe, certainly in the later stages of development, it is. And aborting it destroys it's "potential" liberty.

Now both of those points are based on nothing more concrete than "personal belief", which is not a good basis for a political belief. And there other considerations. Thankfully, in the personal realm, I am gay and I am a man. Abortion is an issue that is extremely unlikely to ever require me to make a decision on a personal basis. I'm not the one who has to make the tough choices and I appreciate that does have a bearing on my position.

And what of the personal liberty of the mother? It's all very well having high-minded political beliefs, but our very biological nature makes it difficult for a "one size fits all" political belief, such as individual liberty, to be applied uniformly. Should a woman be forced to accept a future laid out for her by events or should she be empowered to control her own destiny? There's no easy answer to that but I cannot be so heartless as to believe it would be right to use Governmental force to stop a woman having an abortion if that is what she believed was right for her.

And there is the crux of the matter. A woman's body is her own to do with as she pleases. It is not the realm of Government to enforce others morality on to women. I must be pro-choice for otherwise I am nothing but an authoritarian.

So I find myself being a supporter of the right to an abortion.

I still struggle with this position. I feel strongly that there should be limits on when, in terms of development of the foetus, an abortion can be done. If a foetus is, according the opinion of attending physicians, "viable" (a minefield of it's own) then I do not believe an abortion would be justified (except in the usual extreme circumstances). But that leaves us all open to a dangerous situation (and one many less reluctant pro-choice supporters who also believe in this seem not to deal with)  whereby with continued scientific progress this "viability" becomes possible ever earlier in a pregnancy. What then? I really don't know.

It's a moral, legal and emotional maze. There is no easy answer and, realistically, I don't think there is a satisfactory answer for everyone. I am at once pro-life and pro-choice and have so many conflicting caveats in my logic and illogic that I think I could be easily flipped to one side or the other without much effort (and then back again).

Fundamentally, we should keep our noses out of other people's, rather sad, personal business and let those who want to have an abortion have one and those who don't well, not.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

1 comment:

Rosalind said...

My views on abortion are confused. I don't like the idea of abortion, but sometimes it is necessary (for whatever reason). Therefore, the government should not restrict or outlaw it based on personal views, instead on science.

I guess that makes me pro-choice as well.