Category Archives: Abortion & Birth Control

The No Abortion Principle: Personhood Revisited


Personhood Revisited


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.






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Don C. Marler


Rick Santorum in a recent rant against birth control and abortion, accused those who don’t agree with his position of wanting to use abortion to “cull the ranks of the disabled”. He said they were motivated by a desire to avoid the costs of care for the disabled. It cannot be denied that the monetary costs of their care is often very high, but monetary costs are not the only consideration.

I spent many years of my professional life working with institutions that cared for the severely physically and mentally handicapped. The story of just one of those persons will suffice to illustrate the limitations of Mr. Santorum’s thinking.

Let’s call her Jill (not her real name). She was an eleven years old girl born with no skull. Skin alone covered her brain that; was a brain in name only. It barely functioned enough to keep her alive. She always lay flat on her back and her head took on the characteristics of a bag of water. Her eyes lay on her cheeks as there was no bone for eye sockets. And the bag of water spread around on the pillow. Jill could make no purposeful movements and could not speak or make many sounds at all. It was evident, however that she was miserable and suffering. Those attending her did a wonderful job keeping her clean, fed and free of bedsores. They kept her alive day after day which was all that could be done.

Can Mr. Santorum and those who follow his theology calculate the cost that Jill, her parents and siblings bore in physical and mental suffering? Is the pain and suffering that Jill endured part of the price for Mr. Santorum to enjoy his belief system?

Had Jill’s mother had adequate prenatal care Jill could have been aborted avoiding a lifetime of suffering that had no hope of ending until her death years later. To what purpose was her life and suffering?

What was the most loving thing that could have been done for her; abort or preserve life at all costs ? Who would say that preserving life in this situation was the most loving thing that could be done for this innocent being.

Does the abstract principle of preserving life at all costs justify condemning her to a life of unfathomable suffering. Is the principle greater than the person?   Is a principle a rock solid, inflexible straight jacket to be followed at all costs or a guide to give direction to treatment of our fellow human beings?

One does not have to look far to find those among Santorum’s fellow fundamentalists who believe that Jill’s condition is part of God’s plan. They seldom make the logical connection that if that is true then any attempt to prevent or ameliorate her condition is interference with His Holy plan. Using whatever wiggle-room they can find, some would try to explain this perverted plan by arguing that He is, by creating an innocent child as a completely nonfunctioning entity, testing the willingness of those in her environment to care for her. Never mind that God is depicted by these fundamentalists as all knowing; therefore, having foreknowledge, needs no test to prove anything. Nor do these fundamentalists have an answer to the question of why these tests have to be repeated thousands of time each year for millennia.

Mr. Santorum sees any effort to prevent the birth of a severely and physically disabled person as ‘culling” them from society. He makes this sound like a sinister and unloving act.  The reader can decide.

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