Righty: Human life is holy and it starts at conception. Abortion is nothing less than murder. If only we could treat those pro-choice baby-killers the way they treat the unborn!
Lefty: Women are entitled to choose what they do with their own bodies. Period. Nobody can dictate how they handle their pregnancies. If a woman doesn’t want the baby, it’s her decision to make, and hers alone. No parents, husbands, boyfriends or reactionaries have the right to meddle. Got that, Bozo?
The New Moderate:
How can such bitter, divisive black-and-white rhetoric continue to swirl around a classic gray issue? We should be treating abortion like the nuanced and difficult matter it clearly is. Yes, a month-old embryo is alive, but is a clump of barely differentiated cells truly human? Is it human enough to force a pregnant woman to carry an unwanted baby to full term?
On the other hand, how can pro-choice advocates glibly argue that a fetus is simply part of a woman’s body, to be disposed of as readily as an inflamed appendix? Unless it has been cloned, a fetus is a genetically distinct individual. Nobody can argue that a fetus doesn’t represent a potential human life. The transformation of a pair of microscopic cells into a bona fide person is one of nature’s most dazzling feats.
So where does The New Moderate stand on abortion? In the middle, naturally. Early in the second trimester, a fetus begins to assume undeniably human characteristics and its disposal begins to look suspiciously foul. But where do we draw the line? Is a 20-week fetus sacrosanct while its 19-week brethren are fair game? If it were up to The New Moderate, we’d allow first-trimester abortions to any woman who requests them, outlaw them beyond the five-month mark (unless the mother’s health is seriously threatened), and permit them during the intermediate period only in cases of rape, incest or health complications.
I’ve taken this position based on my concern for older fetuses as sentient beings, at least marginally aware of their surroundings and capable of feeling pain. Sentient beings (especially human ones) should have rights. By contrast, it doesn’t appear that a first-trimester embryo has much more awareness than a bean sprout. Sometime around the three-month mark it can make a fist, while voluntary movements start appearing shortly afterward. That’s where I’ve drawn the first line. Up to this point, the wishes of the pregnant woman should take precedence over the welfare of the unborn. I’ve drawn the second line approximately where a fetus becomes potentially viable with medical care. Beyond this point, the welfare of the unborn must take precedence over the wishes of the mother.
Yes, the imposition of cutoff dates seems a little arbitrary, and I’m not sure if our solution will satisfy anyone. (Nobody said being a moderate was easy.) But we need to propose a fair alternative to the abortion-on-demand stance of Roe v. Wade, which is continually under assault and could actually be rejected by individual states. It’s time for a solution that spares us both the gender politics of the pro-choice warriors and the rigid religiosity of the hidebound pro-lifers. Say what you will about our solution — at least it avoids the all-or-none intransigence of the two warring camps. Abortion should be a medical and ethical issue, not a political one.
Summary: Keep first-trimester abortions legal, outlaw them after five months unless the mother’s health is endangered, and permit them between three and five months only in cases of rape, incest or health complications.