I was teaching my Church & State lesson to the high school Sunday School class and we were going along pretty well. We looked at the Constitution and the Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) and talked about Charitable Choice and Bush’s “Faith based initiative”. Then I asked them what they thought about various issues like stem cell research, and voter guides, the Ten Commandments in court houses and abortion.
Then one young lady looked me straight in the eyes and asked me “What do YOU think about abortion?” I was rather caught off balance by that one because my feelings about abortion are not that well thought out. I answered her truthfully, “I don’t like it.” She then expressed a concern that a woman should not be forced to bear the child of rape. I then said something like “my dislike of abortion plays itself in the support for rape prevention, prevention of teen pregnancy, sex education, adoption and family planning programs.”
But how do I feel about abortion as a matter of whether it should be prohibited or not?
First, I don’t think “rape and incest” matters. [hear me out] If a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy then it should be her decision as to what factors should be considered in that termination. It is not my aversion to rape that decides that it is OK to abort a fetus of rape and not for some other reason. If there is a right to choice, then the pregnant woman exercises the choice, not me and not the state.
What is different about rape? Is a rape fetus less human than a concentual fetus? I think that the motivation underlying an exception for abortion in the case of rape is to put it bluntly, “carrying the child to term is the punishment for irresponsible sexual conduct” but rape is not the woman’s fault so she can avoid punishment and have an abortion.
So I believe that someone that would make an exemption for rape is really saying that their views on abortion are not about the sanctity of life, but about taking the responsibility (or suffering the consequences) of one’s actions. And this is why Conservatives (who are defined by this concept of personal responsibility) oppose abortion so strongly. This is also why conservatives have no problem with the death penalty.
Here I think the Catholic position is more consistent, no abortions, no death penalty. I won’t criticize Catholics for what they believe about abortion. I will, however, criticize Catholics for their position on birth control. I believe I understand the Catholic rationale pretty well, but I think it’s really a theological smoke screen covering the underlying view dating back to Genesis that the pain of childbirth is the price for having sex.
So I guess I remain where I started. I don’t like abortions, and I think public policy should be geared towards preventing abortions (through reduction of unwanted pregnancies, and support for adoption), but not to the point of restricting a woman’s right to have one if she chooses for whatever reason she chooses.