By Mike Cronin

My 12 year old daughter told me Donald Trump hates women.  I asked her why she thought so, and she replied that he was against abortion.  Indeed, Mr. Trump expressed several positions on abortion during a recent GOP debate.

Abortion has probably energized more of American politics than any other single issue since the argument over slavery led to the Civil War over states’ rights.  I’m not going to resolve it here, or even take sides, but perhaps we can do a little to clarify the issue to enable some rational decision making.

If you believe that a soul is created at the moment of conception, i.e. if you accept the premise that a growing embryo is a human being, then abortion is killing.  There are grey areas in life, and there are absolutes.  One of the absolutes is that if a fetus is human, then willfully aborting said fetus is murder. One of the most eloquent arguments for taking this position takes the form of a question:  If an embryo is NOT a human being, then what else is it?

On the other hand, in order to accept, or tolerate, or condone abortion, you have to either accept the premise that a zygote/embryo/fetus is not a human being, or you somehow have to rationalize that killing an unborn human is, at least in some cases, permissible. One of the most eloquent answers to the question posed in the previous paragraph takes the following form:  A fetus is a POTENTIAL human being.  It does not acquire the status and rights of a “human being” until it is a separate individual, i.e. until it has been born (or delivered).

Those are the basic parameters of the abortion debate – but the panoply of interests that engage in the debate muddy the waters so much that it is almost hopeless to try and evaluate them all. Consider these few:

The “pro-life” movement has never proven that a soul exists, much less that it is created or first manifest at the point of conception.

On the other hand, neither the “pro –choice” faction, nor medical science, has ever proven that there is no such thing as a soul.

Or how about these positions:

Since a woman has to carry a fetus in her body, it is her right to decide what to do with it.  Until birth/delivery, the fetus is no more a human being with rights than is an appendix, and it may be disposed of in the same manner.

Yet a woman cannot become a mother without at least the provision of some genetic material from a man (excepting the novel cases now anticipated by scientists) – doesn’t that give the father some say in the disposition of the growing embryo?

And two more:

It is monstrous to force a woman who has been impregnated by a rapist to carry the fetus to term and deliver the baby.  That not only subjects her to the physical torture of unwanted pregnancy and child birth, it also enslaves her to the torturous memory of her violation.

But if the embryo is human, then aborting it would be murder.  Murdering the child for the sins of his or her father would be even more monstrous than enslaving the woman to her pregnancy and her purgatory.

Perhaps my daughter was right and those who are against abortion hate women. No doubt there are some people for whom that is accurate, but there is more complexity here.

Some issues are far simpler than politicians, clerics, and the media would have us believe, and some are far more complex.  Abortion certainly falls into the later.   My advice to my daughters will fall along these lines: Abortion is generally legal. That doesn’t mean it is benign.  Even if you believe that aborting a fetus is not murder, the various procedures can still be more brutal and gruesome than mere surgical organ removal.  Even if you believe that it is a woman’s absolute right to decide what to do with her body, and that a growing fetus is part of her and not a separate human being, the best time to exercise that right is before conceiving a baby.

That may be less than fully satisfying dad advice, but it is all I’ve got at the moment. Like my daughters, you will have to navigate the minefield, make up your own mind, and live with the consequences.

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