Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (29), January 21, 1986

The Choice is Not for Them to Make

It interest me that quite often people steeped in religious teachings resort to a biology textbook definition of human life when abortion is mentioned (though not when evolution is mentioned). Mr. Rankin’s biology is of course correct, but whatever happened to the human soul? My understanding of Christian theology is that the body is merely a vessel or vehicle for carrying the soul through this worldly life. I tend to agree with that, but I don’t see how Mr. Rankin can be so certain that the soul’s appearance must coincide exactly with the biological moment of conception. That would be convenient and simple as a materially visible event on which to place such great meaning, but there are other major points of development between conception and birth, and who is to say that the soul must behave in strict compliance with any of them?

Or, from a secular humanist viewpoint, the human being is not simply an aggregation of nerves and protoplasm, but is the center of consciousness which becomes aware of such things. Humans are not simply objects measured by science, they are the measurer, the beings who give meaning to and make sense of the myriad processes and wonders of life within and around us. This is the essence that defines the human, from an infant’s first smile to the theory or relativity.

The decision to abort is still almost always a terrible choice to have to make, and one that of course should be avoided beforehand. A dream of having a child, however impossible or subconscious, is ended. But sometimes the world into which the potential child would arrive is not right for it or simply cannot economically support it or emotionally care for it in the measure human children need. It’s not a commitment to be made without long and thorough preparation. The inner turmoil involved in saying no to having a child, plus the physical trauma of the ordeal, can leave one deeply hurt and saddened. The accusing fingers of those who assume themselves to be in a loftier moral position only throw cruel salt on open wounds.

Anti-abortion activists, whether because they misconstrue how and when human life begins or because they just want to be holier than someone else, would force children on women. The choice is not theirs to make. I am eager to hear Mr. Rankin explain abortion as an avenue of male chauvinism. Maybe I’ll write another letter about poverty and overpopulation.

Gary Howard, 15 Tuna Wharf, Rockport