The religious pundits have claimed the moral high ground, claiming that God and History have decreed it immoral to have an abortion. This is a fiction (though I cannot claim that I know what God thinks, and don’t think they should either).
Supporters of abortion lose nothing if they accede that abortion belongs in some category of the concept of “killing.” It is sad, feels cruel sometimes, and can upset some people for the rest of their lives. It’s not a trivial action.
But we kill things all the time. A friend had twins in the ICU, and a few weeks into their treatment, with the twins hanging on for dear life, the insurance company send my friend a notice that coverage had been terminated. That’s killing. So is cutting off health care for the ill and vulnerable. So is war, and in a juxtaposition which would challenge any professor of logic, the Christian pundits who claim abortion is murder are often supporters of capital punishment and of our current wars, which are polishing off civilians, including babies, at a diminishing though appalling clip.
Buddhist monks often sweep the path in front of them as they walk, lest they kill any form of life, including insects. Our attitudes regarding the killing of other forms of life on our Earth are careless indeed.
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Even deeply religious people are entitled to have their disagreements with current feelings about morality. In the past, Catholic leaders did not consider embryos in the first semester to be “human.” St. Augustine called of the “unformed” embryos that “…the law of homicide would not apply, for …it could not be said that there was a living soul in that body.” St. Albertus Magnus noted that a fresh abortion or miscarriage was “animated,” but was “not human.” The Southern Baptist Convention changed its own position much more recently. In the seventies they voted to support abortion under certain circumstances, and in 2010 said that life begins at conception and God made life, therefore abortion is not permitted.
We are allowing the Christian Right to blanket us with their own interpretation of morality, which has changed over the years, and in any case should apply only to their own believers.
But even deeper than that, an individual may feel that abortion is immoral because it is a form of killing, but may feel even deeper that it is immoral and irresponsible to bring into the world a child she cannot care for. That this is the case is evident in the number of women of every faith that have abortions.
We have morals, and we have responsibilities. The choice not to bear a child can be a deeply moral one.