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abortion

Abortion

(Topics: Society & Culture | Back to Home)

I cannot think of a more deeply personal, contentious issue that is part of the national dialogue than the question of abortion. It has been with us forever, dating back to the earliest days of recorded history. It is mentioned in the Rāmāyana, an ancient Indian text from roughly 2500 years ago. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle wrote about it. Abortion appeared in English law in 1803 and the United States in the 1820s. And the debate continues, up through Roe v. Wade in 1973 all the way to today. The question of what it means to make and protect life and the rights of the living—this question has always been with us.

And the issue is inescapably intensely private. It is a topic which is not about some people or some bureaucracy far away, but about each of us. Because each of us was born, and each of us has wondered about the different path our tiny slice of the world would take if we had not come into it.

Because abortion is embedded in our own understanding of the course of human life, it is almost impossible to discuss without emotion, without spirit, focusing solely on logic and facts. Some people feel that only female-bodied persons have a right to an opinion, as abortion is ultimately a medical procedure performed on a uterus. Others feel strongly that all of us have a right to an opinion, as abortion is about society–about future generations.

The arguments are numerous, but they all seem to lead to one of two perspectives. Some insist that life is most important and that even potential life must be protected at all costs—no matter how it might impact others. Others claim that rights are most important and that a person's right to their own body must be protected at all costs—even if that right might impact others.

These two positions cannot be reconciled, because they both have exceptions. Those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice, almost universally, acknowledge that there are rare cases beyond abortion where what they hold most dear must be set aside.

There is no answer to this age-old philosophical conundrum. On the moral question, the sides will never agree.

But there is hope in the pragmatic. There is agreement on one point: we would all prefer fewer abortions—even if we cannot agree on the best method to pursue this course. Which is something we all should know: Extremes make a bad template for political arguments. And if we can begin with where we agree, we can make progress. We can change the conversation. We can add incentives and remove ineffective barriers.

But we have to listen and collaborate. Because they only way forward is working together.


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