Circulating on The Plainsman social media pages recently was an opinion piece from the editorial board addressing the recent abortion legislation in Texas (legislation which I admit has some significant problems). The editorial lamented the Texas decision and concluded with a plea for Alabamians not to allow a similar bill to pass in our state. As a grateful member of the Auburn Family, I’d like to respond, briefly and respectfully, though firmly in opposition to the sentiment expressed in the editorial.
It’s a wonderful thing that we live in a pluralist society where divergent views are tolerated and have the opportunity to be hammered out in the public square. Putting words, especially printed words, out into the world can be a fearful and risky endeavor; so, I commend the editors for expressing themselves clearly and with an honest view toward their vision of the collective good of our state. However, there are several important considerations which they fail to address, or in which they err. I will address just two.
First, the act of abortion is essentially moral in nature. To state it bluntly, if abortion is the termination of human life in the womb, then the moral calculus is significantly different from a medical procedure to remove a collection of tissues. In the opening paragraphs, the editors use the sterilized euphemisms of “cardiac activity” instead of “heartbeat,” and “embryo” instead of “baby,” which betrays a presuppositional acknowledgment that the moral and terminological ground cannot be conceded — this is not a baby we’re talking about. Yet in the space of a few lines, the editors find themselves wrapped in their own contradiction when they refer to the contents of the uterus as “a child” and “a baby.” My purpose is not to nit-pick their words, but to call attention to the intuitively moral nature of this discussion. If it’s a baby in the womb, he or she is to be treated with dignity and respect; he or she has rights as well, which leads to my next point.
Second, there is an inherent conflict in the alleged right to an abortion. I admit I was surprised to see the editorial board write so transparently about possible motivations for an abortion, showing that they are fully aware of the moral implications (at one point they preemptively hedge against the accusation of “wickedness”). But in the end, the fundamental premise of their position is that a woman’s alleged constitutional right trumps any possible counterpoint.
The editors write, “Make no mistake — if someone doesn’t want to have a baby, for whatever reasons they might have, they won’t have one.” So, in their view, the crisis is about managing and promoting safe abortions, not reducing them. If a woman is to have an abortion no matter what the law says, then our society has a responsibility to enable her to do that in the safest way possible. The problem is that this assumes that a right arises from our desire to undertake an action. And if a “right” to take an action can be established, the moral equation is shifted — it’s no longer if but how. But if the issue of abortion is essentially moral (and it is), then the objective becomes training our consciences to desire what is right, rather than inventing rights that conform to our consciences.
Finally, the editorial fails to recognize that organizations exist to assist women in crisis pregnancies. For instance, in our own community, there’s Women’s Hope Medical Clinic. Counseling and material resources are available if our purpose is to care for vulnerable women, and just as importantly, the vulnerable children in their wombs. Texas is the Lone Star state, but I don’t expect them to be alone in this kind of legislation for very long. Indeed, I hope they aren’t.
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