by Branwyn Wilkinson
Canisius is a liberal Jesuit college, which, to many, sounds like an oxymoron. Maybe it is, but we do it in style. What it does mean though, is that abortion is always a touchy topic here.
I recently had a discussion with my brother about this. Neither of us wavered in our opinions, but the experience showed me the importance of knowing where you stand.
The Catholic Church upholds that abortion goes against the sixth commandment, “thou shalt not kill.” Does life begin at conception, or birth? We’ve all heard this question before, and everyone’s answer is different. Pro-lifers pose another question: Is it realistic to view fetuses and infants as completely different?
This question is just as important. Both fetuses and infants are dependant on another for survival. A key difference is one can choose not to take on the responsibility of an infant. Adoption is always an option if someone doesn’t feel they can provide the home a child deserves. Responsibility isn’t an option during pregnancy.
Which raises perhaps the most important and difficult question of the controversy: Are the lives of the mother and the fetus separate during pregnancy? The law protects citizens’ right to do what’s best for them, up to the point that it infringes on another’s well-being. But is a fetus really “other?”
A fetus and a mother aren’t separate beings. How can the Church, the government, or anyone else decide which life is worth more? Is it right to tell a woman she has to go through with a pregnancy if it would threaten her quality of life?
This is extremely important to consider when pregnancy results from rape. After such an evil violation of one’s self, going through pregnancy could prolong the feeling of violation, and prolong healing.
While it’s true the Catholic Church condones the use of Plan B after sexual assault, this method only prevents pregnancy for a short time after sex. There has to be other options.
One might be counseling. A thoughtful, well-executed counseling program can be effective in helping a victim come to terms with what happened, and could even provide enough support and healing for them to feel comfortable going through with a pregnancy.
There’s also evidence that young mothers need greater support during unplanned pregnancy, and better education about options besides abortion.
There’s no guarantee these would reach, or be effective for everyone though. One can’t presume to understand the circumstances surrounding every pregnancy in which someone considers abortion. Abortion is never a decision made lightly. And yes, it’s a decision people sometimes regret. But I doubt they ever regret having had the right to make the decision.
One of the major pro-choice arguments is that abortion preserves women’s body autonomy. During pregnancy, a fetus is an extension of a woman’s own body. It’s simultaneously the same life and it’s own life. That’s why it’s so hard to apply Church teachings or government laws to this discussion, and pro-life and pro-choice groups both have strong arguments in their favor.
It’s important to know where you stand on this issue. The ethics involved make it impossible to uphold one position as inherently right and the other inherently wrong. Because it’s not a matter of right or wrong.
The debate over legalized abortion is a debate over when life begins. It’s a debate over how to draw the line between mother and fetus. Can they be considered separate lives when the fetus is dependent on the mother, and the mother must make all her choices with the fetus in mind?
These are not easy questions to answer. Is it up to us to answer them? Is it up to the government, or the Church? Abortion will always be controversial. If we can’t reach agreement, though, we must strive for understanding.