(None of the following assumptions or responses is original, although it is uncommon to find them collected together in this way. Much of the debate is normally presented from one side or the other and hence the two sides normally talk past one another. It should go without saying that the two groups are motivated by different concerns. Identify the assumptions that you have not encountered and ask yourself if the suggested answer seems convincing enough to cause those with the assumptions to change their mind.)
Pro life assumption: Life begins at conception with all the information needed in the fertilised egg to produce a fully functioning human being, therefore abortion is equivalent to murder as it is the act of taking human life. Abortion is in direct defiance of the commonly accepted idea of the sanctity of human life.
Pro Choice answer. In fact each cell in the starting embryo is theoretically capable of development but in practice many of these cells break off the embryo and do not implant. We are not expected to mourn their passing because like the millions of cells we lose later eg dead skin etc the separate cells are not functioning human beings. Many early miscarriages are not even noticed by the potential mother to be if they occur naturally near the beginning of the development process.
Pro Choice Assumption Nearly all abortions take place in the first trimester, when a fetus cannot exist independent of the mother. As it is attached by the placenta and umbilical cord, its health is dependent on her health, and cannot be regarded as a separate entity as it cannot exist outside her womb.
Pro Life answer When we know the developing foetus is going develop to a fully functioning child without outside intervention, to impose that intervention is morally unacceptable. The child-to-be has rights just as the functioning child will also deserve rights.
Pro-life Assumption A civilized society prevents one human from intentionally harming or taking the life of another human and punishes those that deliberately harm or murder, and since abortion is no different in intent to the developing baby those responsible should receive the same sort of judgement.
Pro-choice answer. Regardless of what might or might not be desirable, it is a fact that civilised societies often do permit abortions under some circumstances, suggesting that the lawmakers definitely do not see the direct parallel. The Jews for example did not regard the baby alive with human right until it was half way through the birth canal. There is no penalty for abortion mentioned in the Bible or the laws of the Jews in Bible times
Pro-choice assumption: The concept of personhood is different from the concept of human life. Potential Human life occurs at conception, but fertilized eggs used for in vitro fertilization are also potential human lives and those not implanted are routinely thrown away. Is this murder, and if not, then how is abortion murder?
Pro-life answer: Without implantation, there is no genuine possibility of life being produced. Abortion is performed on the implanted fertilised egg or subsequent stage of development.
Pro—life assumption: Adoption is a viable alternative to abortion and accomplishes the same result. And with millions of families wanting to adopt children worldwide, there is no such thing as an unwanted child.
Pro-choice answer: In practice there are many children for whom there is a distinct shortage of potential adoptive parents. For example children of unpopular minorities, deformed and retarded children, children with AIDS, children with foetal alcohol syndrome, severely autistic children etc. Some parents in practice ask for children from the same or similar background as their own, some even specifying intelligence of parents, race, skin colour etc. (even religion of birth parents)
Pro-choice assumption Teenagers who become mothers are recognised as having a future of being much more likely to leave school inadequately qualified; receive inadequate prenatal care; rely on public or extended family assistance to raise a child (typically the teenager’s parents) ; develop health problems; or end up either as a solo partner or one with a difficult family security.
Pro-life answer Killing the unwanted child is a worse alternative.
Pro-life assumption Abortions can result in medical complications later in life. For example there is a measureable risk of ectopic pregnancies. Similarly the chances of subsequent miscarriage and inflammatory disease of the pelvis increases.
Pro-choice answer. Most abortions carried out in modern facilities by trained personnel result in no complications. Although there might be some risk for parent and child, there are also risks if the child is unwanted, or poses a known genetic or health risk to the mother.
Pro-life assumption In the instance of rape and incest, proper medical care can ensure that a woman will not get pregnant. Abortion punishes the unborn child who committed no crime; instead, it is the perpetrator who should be punished.
Prochoice answer: In practice there is often extreme emotion harm to the mother if she is forced to carry a child from rape or incest to full term. Many theoretical alternatives like the morning after pill are often unavailable at the time, particularly as many women or girls are unaware at the time they are pregnant, and on occasion the distraught victim of rape is reluctant to report the incident. In the real world often the perpetrator is unknown or protected from identification by the family.
Pro-life assumption: Abortion shouldn’t be used as another form of contraception. For women who demand complete control of their body, control should include preventing the risk of unwanted pregnancy through the responsible use of contraception or, if that is not possible, through abstinence.
Prochoice answer. In an ideal world, no doubt abortion would not be needed and in most instances this is not the case. But for real life human encounters, wisdom after the event is no protection against pregnancy. Pregnancy can occur even with responsible contraceptive use. Less than 10% of women who have abortions do not use any form of birth control, and from interview responses, this is probably due more to individual carelessness than to the availability of abortion.
Prochoice assumption The ability of a woman to have control of her body is one of the essential human rights. Her reproductive choice needs to be safeguarded because otherwise by the same reasoning other choices too like whether or not to be forced to use contraception or even be sterilised might similarly fall under state control.
Pro-life answer: If she has control of her body, then she choses whether or not to risk pregnancy. However if she choses the possibility ofpregnancy, since human life is important she has no right to endanger the rights of the unborn child.
Pro-life assumption Many citizen who pay taxes are opposed to abortion, therefore it’s morally wrong to use tax dollars to fund abortion.
Prochoice answer. The cost of looking after unwanted children with subsequent problems is many times the cost of the abortion. Should those who accept abortion pay the tax component of abortion, and those who don’t accept abortion bear the entire tax-payer cost of looking after the mother and unwanted child and consequent problems. Remember that for example a severely brain damaged child will cost the heath system many thousands of dollars.
Pro-choice assumption: Abortion is a safe medical procedure. The vast majority of women – 88% – who have an abortion do so in their first trimester. Medical abortions have less than 0.5% risk of serious complications and do not affect a woman’s health or future ability to become pregnant or give birth.
Pro-life answer: Those who choose abortions are often minors or young women with insufficient life experience to understand fully what they are doing. Many have lifelong regrets afterwards. Abortion frequently causes stress and psychological pain.
NOW QUESTIONS FOR THE READER
Thinking of those you know associated with the two lobby groups, pro-life and pro-choice do you believe they have sufficient common ground to be able to hear and understand the others’ reasoning?
Who are typically represented in the pro-life and pro-choice lobbies?
Looking at the above questions and answers do they raise issues which deserve more attention?
What more might be done to reduce the areas of concern and dispute?