A Historical View On Abortion

The pros and cons of abortion are not easy. Both sides have strong, convincing arguments.

As well as some horse pucky. The whole notion or Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice is a PR game. “Pro-Life” is a euphemism for Anti-Abortion. “Pro-Choice” is a euphemism for Pro-Abortion. It’s like the Southern States saying the Civil War was fought over state’s rights, when it was really about slavery – as in the Southern States’ right to have slaves. 

The Anti-Abortion side says they’re saving the lives of babies. The Pro-Abortion side says they are saving the quality of lives of both babies and mothers.

The Anti-Abortion side bases their argument on religion, citing numerous references in the Bible about the sanctity of life. The Pro-Abortion side notes that abortion is never cited or even mentioned in the Bible.

Interestingly, abortion wasn’t an issue until around the time of the Civil War. It had been practiced forever, in this country by the Pilgrims and the indigenous people, and by peoples all over the rest of the world (“As long as women have been pregnant, there have been abortions”). 

Also interestingly, abortions were performed by mid-wives, the same people who helped bring babies into the world. The practice was limited by the “quickening”, the moment around four to six months into a pregnancy when a woman could first feel the baby moving. Men had little interest and less to say about it.  Perhaps that why it wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution, either.

With advances in science, the notion of “quickening” has been replaced by more precise measurements. So now the two sides are debating about when a life actually begins. The Anti-Abortionists believe life begins the moment the sperm says “Hi there egg!” Abortionists put it much later.

Now, hold that thought.

Let’s go back to the early years of the country and the 55 delegates at The Constitutional Convention. They decided that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Jefferson described it as a wall separating church and state. As a nation, we have subscribed to that metaphor ever since.

It follows that, if Church and State must be separate, then although a religious belief may influence an American’s lifestyle, not to mention the vote, it cannot be forced onto others who have different beliefs. We cannot be forced, for example, to follow Christian beliefs – or Buddhist beliefs, or Hindu beliefs or Agnostic beliefs or Atheist beliefs – although we can voluntarily follow them.

In other words, the Constitution was written to avoid the very quandary we’re in now – debating whether any church can dictate to those outside of that religion. 

Also interestingly, escaping religious dictates was a primary reason the first settlers came to this country.

OK, back to the debate.  

In the 158 years since the Civil War, Christian religious groups – the church- have slowly and inexorably taken the abortion debate to the state. In the last 50 years Jefferson’s wall has been breached – really obliterated – by Evangelicals and Catholics who have used the pulpit and lobbyists to make the state declare abortion illegal. Why? Because their religion tells them that abortion is wrong.

Thus the torturous reasoning in a draft opinion, from one of six out of nine Catholic Justices on The Supreme Court, decimating a woman’s right to abortion in this country.

In my opinion, if you could go back and ask them, the founding fathers would have been saddened, if not shocked, by any church’s attempt to impose its beliefs on the state. They would have welcomed an open debate, for sure, but a debate to be decided by each person individually, just as they decide which religion, if any, to follow.

In other words, it’s not just a matter of choice for women. It’s a matter of choice for each of us – everyone – who lives by the Constitution.

Or was.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)