I took an Ethics course at Seminary last fall, and the topic thread that ran through the entire course was on Abortion. We looked at all different aspects of the topics to explore basic ethics. At the end, we were to write a position paper. I am including the one I wrote:Abortion: An Ethical Position
The subject of abortion is a complicated and emotion-laden topic. There are a few who take absolutist positions on either end of the spectrum: I place myself somewhere along the middle of the spectrum of opinion. As a woman, mother and physician, I have had experience with the many and varied consequences of abortion. Experience, scripture, and other ethical writings all inform my pro-life position. Safe, legal, affordable early abortions need to be available for women. Scripture has little to say specifically about abortion. Scripture supports life-giving activities and equates life with the care of the least among us. “…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you… (Deut 30:19-20)” That may mean different things to different people in different circumstances. Though scripture says little specifically about abortion, it says a lot about a God who creates us, loves us, and anguishes with us in this life. It repeatedly calls us to look with compassion on our fellows, to care for those least able to care for themselves.As a physician, I am fully aware of the awesome nature of the developing human. The series of events beginning even before conception are nothing short of miraculous. Within weeks, the first few cells have multiplied and begun to organize into a form that is startling familiar to us as a human form. Modern day advances in imaging and video technology bring home this fact in stark and beautiful pictures. Yet this embryo is still highly dependent on its connection to its mother for continued life and will be far beyond birth. Modern technology has also transformed premature birth from the foregone conclusion of death. Infants born as early as 22 weeks old can survive, though not without significant, prolonged and expensive intervention and risk of permanent disability. One normal, healthy child can profoundly change the lives of a family, let alone a child with significant disabilities. Families with multiple children can be even more affected by the addition of a newborn. The economic and personal resources required to raise healthy and happy children are enormous. Families large, small, and alternative often find creative ways of meeting multiple needs. There are also heartbreaking examples of resources spread too thin, poverty, disability, neglect and outright abuse.Ultimately life is more complicated than the simple miracle of dividing cells becoming organized. Though sacred in its own right, it is not the only aspect of life that is sacred. It is easy to glibly mouth platitudes such as “God never gives you more than you can handle”. It is a profoundly different experience to live out these kinds of challenges. Women and men come with varying resources, not just economic but emotional, spiritual, intellectual and relational. Not all families are equipped with the same energy. News of new life does not bring with it the same amount of joy to all who hear it. For some it brings fear, others dread, and still others, simple depression. The sacredness of their lives and those around them will be affected.No woman takes this decision lightly. All the women I have counseled who have contemplated an abortion – whether because of a fetal anomaly incompatible with life, or a third pregnancy in three years even on birth control, or a pregnancy during college – have anguished over the decision. All have arrived at decisions that were right for them, in their particular circumstances. My role has been primarily to ask questions and to help women explore what options are available to them – “Are there resources they haven’t considered? Will their parents prove to be more understanding? Will their boyfriend be able to find a better job?” I have then watched women live with the not insignificant consequences of choosing an abortion. They have all coped in varying ways, with or without a partner, with or without counseling, some going on to have children very soon afterwards. I have known women who deeply regretted their choice later, as well as women who were very able to say they made the right choice at that time in their lives. The woman who lived out the most anguish belongs to a faith tradition that categorically opposes all abortion. Though she wasn’t judged by others, she carried the decision heavily in her own heart as a result.Experience with women in all stages of life informs my view on abortion, and is regularly confirmed by my readings on the topic and by scripture. Abortion is a weighty and significant act in and of itself. Whether the final decision is to move ahead with a pregnancy or an abortion, I experience women to consistently make choices for themselves and their families that on the balance are life affirming.
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