For all its emotion and controversy, the abortion debate is actually quite simple, and rests on a single question: at what point does human life begin?
After all, both the pro-choice and pro-life camps agree that killing a one-week old baby is murder. No issue there. And neither camp has an issue prior to conception. The only difference between the two, and the source of so much disagreement, is in that 9-month period in between. The absolute pro-life position is that human life begins at the moment of conception; the absolute pro-choice position is that life doesn’t begin until the whole baby is out of the womb. And of course there are many positions in-between.
The debate has nothing to do with women’s rights, or the right to privacy. These are red herrings that simply serve to confuse the real issue. Don’t believe it? Then try applying these rights arguments to a 1-week or 1-month or 1-year old baby: What if the woman doesn’t want the child? Isn’t ready? Was raped? Doesn’t have a father? Doesn’t have the money/time/resources/support for a baby? Can the woman abort her 1-week old baby? Of course not. She’d go straight to prison for murder. Because there’s no legal “right” that allows one human being to legitimately end the life of another (other than in self-defense.)
So the debate is entirely about when human life begins.
This is a very important question, because the answer determines whether one is simply making a lifestyle choice or committing infanticide—not something to be taken lightly.
Some people say life begins at conception. Others say 3 months. Others say at the time of a baby’s viability. And yet others not until the baby is physically separated from the mother. So who is right?
And the answer is: nobody knows. Not definitively. Sure, there are many with a certainty of opinion on this matter. On both sides. But certainty of opinion is far different from certainty of fact, and only unchecked hubris would not allow for the possibility of being wrong. Thus far there is no scientific proof that life begins at one point versus another.
Given the absence of proof on this subject, and given the immense importance of the decision—whether or not to terminate what may possibly be a child—the obvious rational and moral decision is to err on the side of caution. To assume that life begins at conception, until proven otherwise. To not do so is to risk being wrong, and being wrong on this issue would mean participating in the murder of children.
Protecting children is one of the most important responsibilities that we have, both as individuals and as a society. And life and death decisions regarding children are not something we should take lightly or gamble with, especially not for the purpose of convenience or lifestyle choices.
And for those with religious or spiritual beliefs, being wrong on this issue has personal ramifications far more serious than simply feeling guilt over the death of a child--all spiritual beliefs save their harshest punishments for harm done to children.
If, at some point in the future, there comes definitive proof that human life doesn't begin until some time after conception, then at worst the result of our cautious approach will have been some additional deliveries, which our society can handle. But if it turns out that at some time in the future life is proven to start at the time of conception, then we will spare humanity infanticide on a massive scale. In ignorance, then, playing it safe is by far the more enlightened choice.