THE NO ABORTION PRINCIPLE
DON C. MARLER
For those who believe that God determines and shapes the birth of every person from egg fertilization to birth there are some serious questions needing serious answers, and for those who believe that viable life begins at egg fertilization whether or not God is involved, there are also serious questions crying out for answers and solutions.
The guiding principle in answering these questions related to human issues should be “what is the most loving thing mankind can do under the circumstances for those involved.” Those who see God’s hand in every pregnancy tend to support a one rule fits all solution. Their rule is usually of the “all or nothing” type. Specifically, the rule is that “abortion is murder and that is prohibited regardless of the circumstances”. Some grudgingly approve exceptions for pregnancy that is a result of rape or incest; however, this position causes division among true believers. The Catholic Church, for example, insists that abortion to save the life of the mother should be prohibited.
There are two sets of circumstances that challenge the guiding principle of doing what is the most loving thing under the circumstances. One is the entire area of serious defects of the fetus. Some fetuses are defective beyond imagination. Many of these have been born to a lifetime of total misery, pain and suffering. The parental suffering that accompanies the pitiful condition and suffering of their offspring cannot be calculated. It is a terrible price to be paid to uphold a principle.
The second set of circumstances that challenge the principle is the phenomenon of Ectopic pregnancy. This occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself some place other than in the uterus. Most such pregnancies are in the Fallopian tubes; the so-called tubal pregnancies. Some fertilized eggs attach to the abdomen or the cervix. About 1% of all pregnancies are Ectopic. This fetus has no chance of survival to birth. The life of the mother is, nevertheless, at stake. Often without medical intervention her health will be severely impacted and death may occur. What a price to pay in suffering and possible death so a principle can be upheld. In such situations the principle of no abortion for any reason becomes a prescription for death or extreme suffering with little or no positive quality of life.
Most people know about ectopic (tubal) pregnancies but never get around to considering what a challenge they are to the autocratic rule of no abortions under any circumstances. They seldom consider the extent of suffering caused by the rule—the rule is supreme, not its victim. One main plank of the platform of no abortion under any circumstances is the belief that a fertilized egg is a viable human being. For those who hold this belief lets look at a hypothetical situation posed by a Republican Senator. If you are in a burning house and can save either a three-year old child or a Petri dish containing several fertilized eggs, but not both, what will you do? Inflexible advocates of the No Abortion Principle would, if they stay true to their belief, sacrifice the three-year old child.
It is curious, is it not, that a woman could kill a person trying to rape her and almost certainly be acquitted if charged with murder, but if she did not kill him she could not, under this principle, abort a fertilized egg resulting from the rape.