The Abortion Debate from a Logical Lens

Have you ever had an argument or discussion with someone, maybe even a loved one, and after a while realized that the two of you weren’t even arguing about the same thing?  A lack of communication or a poor choice of words clouded the issue?  A recent discussion on another site highlighted the fact the the sometimes emotional debate we see in this country on abortion is completely missing the point.  

The two sides on this issue describe themselves as pro-life and pro-choice. On the surface, this is already a problem because in any true debate the two sides should, at a minimum, be opposed to each other’s views.  In the labels used for the two sides in this argument both sides are “pro”-something different.

The real debate we need to have is ‘What is Life’?  What do we consider human life and when does it begin?  This debate also has implications for the other question of when does life end?

The argument about when life begins covers a range of opinions.  On one side of the debate, life begins at conception.  On the other end of the debate, life begins at birth.  So there are about 9 months in between in which the two sides of this debate are not arguing the same point.  If you believe that life begins at conception, then the idea that an abortion is a ‘choice’ someone can make is a scary thought.  We can not choose to end the life of a friend or neighbor so why can we choose to end the life of a baby in the womb under anything but extreme circumstances?  If you believe that life does not start until birth then the thought of someone against abortion being pro-life is also absurd because, in your opinion, there is no life to be for in the first place.

When we as a society can come to grips with that is life and when life begins, then the abortion debate can not carry the same labels it does now.  But where do we stand as a society?  

At a minimum, it appears that most do not believe that life only begins at birth.  In California, the jury in the Scott Peterson case convicted Peterson in the death of his unborn child.  California is hardly a conservative bastion, yet they indicated by their conviction that they believed Peterson took the life of an unborn child when he killed his wife, Laci.  Most states restrict late-term abortion after the fetus is considered viable.  The definition of viable is left open to interpretation.

However, an understanding of the term viable and a broader understanding of what we consider life is all-important to this debate.  Once you establish that line, it is no longer a question of choice, it is a question of life.  Prior to that line it is not a question of life, because no life is established.

The discussion on what we consider human life also has much broader implications.  If we only use the term viable to describe life, then should we keep people on life support systems in the event of injury or illness?  If their life is no longer ‘viable’ without outside support, are they still alive?  Does someone else get a ‘choice’ on what to do with the life support decision?

Regardless of which side of this debate you are currently on, the larger issue of how and when we consider ‘life’ is one of the most important discussions we can have in this country that has implications beyond abortion.  Only when we look past the currently false argument of pro-choice vs. pro-life can we have meaningful progress on this issue.


About voxlogicae
Using logic and reason to examine current events.

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