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Whenever I write about abortion, I usually get a bunch of tweets or emails asking if I even understand the conservative position. Answer: of course I do. Most conservatives say that abortion is murder. Given that premise, their opposition to funding abortion, legalizing abortion, using some day-after pills, selling fetal tissue, and so forth, makes sense.
– Kevin Drum, Mother Jones Magazine, August 3, 2015
But he wonders if the opposing side has a similar understanding:
So I’m going to ask the mirror image question here: does Ponnuru understand the liberal position on abortion? Most of us don’t think of fetuses as persons, which means abortion doesn’t involve killing a human being in any meaningful sense. Given that premise, our support of funding abortion, legalizing abortion, promoting day-after pills, selling fetal tissue, and so forth, makes sense.
It is a question I have occasionally posed to conservative friends.
The conservative position is not beyond liberal comprehension. If abortion is murder, if a microscopic fertilized egg has rights that meet or even sometimes surpass those of a woman, then some conservative attitudes quite naturally fall into our understanding.
We can walk around the edges of that reasoning. Reductio ad absurdum logic takes us to police investigation, as every miscarriage makes the womb a potential murder scene, and in vitro becomes less a gift of new life than a demon of death as eggs are discarded.
But that stroll around the periphery still leaves the premise intact. The conservative position, with all its extreme conclusions, is consistent. The premise is simple. Human life, with every right God grants to each of us, begins at the moment a single male cell arrives at the single female cell. Everything else becomes a series of branches blossoming from that single strong trunk.
Those who accept the logic understand what they accept.
Those who take exception understand what they reject.
Those who are indecisive understand what they are hesitant about.
I’m unsure whether my conservative friends accept that I understand their arguments without accepting them. They seem to see their own views as so compelling that any difference must, just has to be, a result either of ignorance or of pure evil. Discussion wavers between endless, ever-so-patient, repetition and vehement passion.
I am even less sure that my conservative friends have even a glimmer of insight into their opposition.
I have wavered in determining whether abortion is wrong. Sometimes I have thought it wrong, often I have not. I have never thought it should be illegal as a basic proposition.
As I see it, human life does not begin at a point in time. It is a continuum.
Although scripture offers no clear theological guidance, I was instructed by one conservative that there is a biblical reference to God knowing us completely, even before birth. He insisted that the passage provided definitive proof that life begins at conception. It is hard for me to accept reasoning that depends on God being so completely limited. Were we not known by the Creator of the universe before our ancestors themselves were conceived?
When the legal right to life must be conferred on an embryo is a more complex question. Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute seems to suggest the answer is purely one of definition. He offers as a parallel the debate of whether Pluto is large enough to be a planet. The answer is not a fact. It is an arbitrary standard.
I go with that to some extent. But, in this case, it is more than arbitrary definition. It is also a question of rights.
Most of us would not like to see a viable fetus killed a few moments before birth.
Most of us would not like every woman investigated by prurient legal authorities the day after lovemaking, on the legal suspicion that she may commit an unauthorized purging of zygotes.
At what point do we abrogate the rights of a woman to make decisions about her body?
To anti-abortion militants, it is a meaningless question.
To others of us, the rights of women are far from meaningless.
Conservatives might want to seek at least an understanding of that position.Click here for reuse options!