The abortion debate minus religion

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One of the most controversial debates of our day is pro-life versus pro-choice. Perhaps this is because neither side — those for the legalization of abortion, and those opposed to it — has any trumping argument. Unlike some issues, like gay marriage that focuses on equal rights, the debate over abortion is concerned with the most fundamental human rights. Does a woman have a right to choose what happens to her body, or does the unborn fetus have the right to be born?

It is certainly a topic that warrants extensive discussion. However, legitimate discussion has become increasingly rare, as the debate becomes less of a social one and more of a religious one. It has become commonplace to assume that theists are pro-life and atheists are pro-choice, which makes the argument religion-oriented and less of a social justice question. This is not the structure for a healthy debate, and can’t lead to a proper solution. The central question of the debate on abortion is whether a fetus should be considered a human. Obviously it is illegal and immoral to kill an innocent human, but can a fetus, something that has never taken a breath, really be considered alive in the first place? From a religious standpoint, life is created at the moment of conception, whereas, from a scientific perspective, the fetus does not become human until birth.

Either point can be argued, with or without taking religion into account. Looking past religion, there is one question we should ask: If it can be argued that some action will directly cause the end of an innocent life, should that action be taken? The moral answer is clearly no. If it can be argued that an act could be considered murder, then that action should not be taken, regardless of personal opinion. Even if you don’t think you are killing someone, if the guy next to you does, that should be moral reason enough not to go through with it. 

Therefore, it can be argued that abortion is killing someone. That’s why there’s a debate. Even if, from a pro-choice perspective, it is easy to disagree with the religious perspective, it is certainly much more difficult to say that people from the pro-life side have no point. 

If we take this moral view — that abortion is killing someone — it should be illegal. However, there are many extenuating circumstances that present challenges to this view. The occurrence of pregnancies due to rape is undeniable. Unwanted pregnancies, although the product of irresponsibility, can also lead to unwanted children. These circumstances present all sorts of problems.

What we as a society should really focus on is addressing the problems that would arise from banning abortion, like child neglect and abuse, rather than taking the easy route of saying that abortion is a necessary evil. For the time being, perhaps it is, but that may not always be the case. We should make contraceptives more widespread and place more funding into alternative forms of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, such as adoption.

The sad reality is that no matter what side of the argument you are on, an end to the debate will not result in an ideal solution. Perhaps, though, we can focus on creating options that preserve morality as well as freedom.