Avoiding the issue

By David Johnson

If a human embryo is just a random collection of cells, why not eat them after an abortion, as we do with chicken eggs? They’re probably quite nutritious.

Speaking of eggs, would someone please introduce me to a pro-life vegan? I’ve never met one. I’ve often wondered why many vegans (who won’t eat eggs) have two seemingly contradictory positions: preserving the life of an undeveloped chick, while supporting the legal abortion of human fetuses. When pressed, they might respond that they don’t support the inhumane treatment of farmed chickens. Fair enough, but what about free-range chickens and their more natural eggs? Don’t like the taste? Well, that’s a matter of preference, not philosophy.

Meanwhile, the virtuous, many of the upright folk defending unborn babies from unjust slaughter are quite content at the fact that dozens of people are executed annually not only with state sanction, but by the government itself. If God alone is the arbiter of life and death, is man really capable of establishing a framework to fairly and righteously take certain lives, but protect others?

I find this type of inconsistency to be quite representative of mainstream positions on the issue of abortion in this country. Debate of the matter from both sides has devolved nearly entirely to ardently held black-or-white viewpoints. Pro-choice advocates view pro-lifers as a homogenous bunch – religious zealots, unenlightened by modern science, while the pro-life camp often compares support of legalized abortion to support of a holocaust. Clearly such views and their endless repetition are counterproductive; one can oppose abortion on grounds other than religion, and supporters of abortion obviously aren’t actively seeking mass murder. In order to resolve the issue of abortion, we must consider the primary components that are driving people apart.

The pressing question in this debate is whether or not, or what point in time, does abortion constitute murder? Nobody would seriously advocate some sort of fundamental right to murder. In order to have a fruitful argument, pro-choice advocates must explain why snuffing out a being with human DNA and a beating heart 18 days after conception is not murder, and abortion foes must convince people that an entity incapable of living its own should be considered a human life.

How can we determine if abortion is murder in any sort of legal sense? Currently, the legality of abortion is based on the premise that a right to an abortion is derived from a citizen’s constitutional right to privacy. This implies that the Constitution in some way pronounces that abortion is not murder; yet I challenge anyone to find me a passage in the Constitution that says this. Furthermore, there’s no constitutional basis to ban abortion.

Considering that each state creates its own laws regarding murder, we can conclude that each state must individually make a decision on abortion. Per the Bill of Rights, the states alone have the legal authority to determine if and when the abortion of a human fetus is considered murder. The only way to change this fact would be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that clearly defines murder (thereby taking that power away from the states).

In order to end the stalemate, we must as a nation start thinking rationally and consistently about this issue, avoiding the meaningless polemics that have dominated abortion-related discourse until now. Roe v. Wade is completely indefensible on legal grounds and must be overturned, putting the issue back to the states. As a supporter of legalized abortion, I sometimes feel alone in respecting the legitimacy of democratic representation of those who disagree with me.

Each state should democratically determine the definition of murder and, ergo, the legality of abortion. To this end, each side must start presenting -and challenging – arguments based not on blind faith, but on rationality.