Sunday, March 12, 2006

Contributed by Bo Alawine

Abortion’s complexities
BO ALAWINE / guest columnist

OCEAN SPRINGS — I have a confession to make: I have a serious character flaw (actually, more than one, but for purposes of this column, we’ll pretend only one).This character flaw causes me to challenge those self-appointed know-it-alls who have the answers for all society’s problems, regardless of how nuanced and complicated the problem. Unfortunately, there’s more of these “savants” than I have hours in the day, so I have to pick my battles.My current targets this time are those “compassionate” conservatives who reside in the opinion pages of The Meridian Star, pontificating on the tragedy of abortion. I reserve my double-secret ire for these folks who are, to borrow from Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, “unencumbered by the thought process”, who view the world and all that’s in it as a series of black-and-white situations. All that’s required is their simple solution and, presto, problem solved.
One enlightened individual recently figuratively gleefully clapped his hands (“Mississippi’s historic moment,” Sunday, March 5), applauding the state Legislature’s attempt to ban abortions in Mississippi (with some exceptions), ecstatically saying, “Sometimes a single event goes a long way toward shifting the direction of a culture for good.”Mr. Craig Ziemba’s sentiments are, at first blush, laudable. It would be a wonderful world if we no longer had to deal with the controversy of abortion. The problem is, those who would support the current proposed legislation apparently believe the legal prohibition of abortion will solve all manner of societal ills. Welcome to SimpleLand!It’s far too easy to simply say abortion is wrong and work to pass laws to restrict and/or ban this procedure, thus promoting a “culture of life.” Abortion opponents are avoiding the heavy lifting by not addressing serious questions directly related to the issue, issues that should be considered before any further legislation is passed.
  • When does human life begin?
  • If human life begins at birth, what is the status of the contents of a woman’s womb prior to birth?
  • If human life begins at the earliest date of viability outside of the womb, what defines that viability?
  • If human life begins when the fertilized egg, or zygote, implants in the uterine wall, is anything that prevents implantation considered abortion?
  • If human life begins at fertilization, is anything that prevents fertilization or stops cellular division considered abortion?
  • If the definition of abortion includes the prevention of the “potential” for human life, would birth control be considered as a form of abortion?
  • Is it ethical or moral to force a woman to carry to term a child who was violently conceived (via rape) or is deformed?
  • Is the life of a pregnant woman less equal than, more equal than, or equal to that of a child or the potential of a child (depending on your view of when life begins)?
  • Should a woman be entitled to make a decision, regardless of the possible long-term physical, mental and/or spiritual ramifications, regarding her own body?
  • If abortion is to be made illegal, what is to be the status of a woman who seeks an abortion? Is she then guilty of conspiracy? What if she receives an abortion? Is she guilty under the law or is only the abortion provider guilty? Who is to be punished?
  • Would a woman who knowingly or unknowingly causes a miscarriage be in violation of a law banning abortions?
  • If abortion is made illegal, who will take on the responsibility of feeding, clothing, educating and caring for the medical needs of those “unwanted” children? The social services existing in this state and this country struggle to deal with the caseloads they currently have. Will additional funding be provided?
  • And, my personal favorite, in a “culture of life”, why is it not immoral to promote and participate in executions and wars?
For those readers who think the answers to these questions are a series of questions asking me if I support, in the words of Mr. Lenny Joiner (“Us vs. them,” Sunday, March 5), “the destruction of the unborn” or some other rhetorical nonsense, read this next statement very, very slowly: I personally think the practice of abortion is abhorrent; however, there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution to what is a very complex problem.My point is those who fervently believe abortion is at the root of all our ills and banning abortions will solve all manner of problems have a myopic vision of our culture, our legal system and human nature in general. The law is a blunt instrument and is quite often inflexible. Human nature, being what it is, will find a way around any legal restrictions.Our world cannot be viewed in black and white terms. Call it moral relativism if you wish but simply believing something to be true may work in Peter Pan’s world (i.e., Tinkerbell and fairies) but not in ours.