There are a lot of religious and moral views on abortion. Pope Francis characterized a strong pro-life stance when he said, “It is necessary to reaffirm our solid opposition to any direct offense against life, especially when innocent and defenseless, and the unborn child in its mother’s womb is the quintessence of innocence.”
Several religious denominations, even in Christianity, object to the notion that life begins at conception. There is some Biblical basis for this, as in the book of Exodus it is shown that a fetus does not have the same legal status as a person (chapter 21:22-23). If a man causes a pregnant woman to miscarry, he must pay a fine, while the killing of a full person entails much more severe punishment.
Ministers have conversed with their parishioners on this political subject because it is also a moral and religious issue. When we posed the question on Facebook, we got a litany of responses from ULC ministers and wanted to explore some of what may be influencing their opinions. Lately, there has been controversy following the release of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood (PP) representatives frankly discussing the sale of aborted fetuses. The underlying issues involved, abortion and fetal tissue research, are very difficult topics for ministers to face directly and consider entirely. Neither issue has a set of simple, clear, moral and ethical baselines upon which all people can absolutely and honestly come to complete agreement.
Roe v. Wade
In discussions since Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right of a woman to choose abortion, politicians on the left have used the mantra of keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare.” The modern procedure is safe for the mother and legal throughout the country.
It is far from rare. One in three American women have made the decision to terminate pregnancy with abortion. Many people of a religious or conservative mindset cannot accept the ethics of permitting abortion, or, as they would frame it, “to stop a beating heart” as a last resort among “birth control” methods.
Even many people with religious objections, who consider the practice murder, acknowledge that it could be an undesirable last resort where the mother’s life is in jeopardy if she carries the baby to term. Some also see abortion as “appropriate” in cases of incest or rape, which returns to the moral calculus that equates “choosing” the process that led to pregnancy (engaging in sexual intercourse) as essentially invalidating a woman’s right to choose to end pregnancy.
Another Side of Planned Parenthood
As this topic is discussed, there is sometimes a failure to acknowledge the range of health services that Planned Parenthood (PP) provides to millions of Americans.
One in five women in the U.S. has visited a Planned Parenthood clinic for a range of health services, including:
- Sexually transmitted disease testing and screenings
- Pap tests
- Breast exams
In fact, the vast majority of services provided at PP are not abortion, which makes up just 3% of the work done there. Furthermore, congress has allocated funds towards fetal tissue research that will be spent on the practice regardless of what happens to PP.
De-funding the organization could stop PP from donating to biotech research, but it wouldn’t slow down the practice generally speaking. It would also have the effect of making breast exams, pap tests, and STD screenings, again 97% of what PP does, incredibly difficult to find for low income women.
Similarly, a side that is typically left out of the opposition to fetal tissue research following legal abortion is the biomedical record of success in pioneering advanced technologies that fight disease and add to human longevity and health potential.
Ethics of the Videotape
A final question of ethics unique to the PP undercover video scandal is less dramatic, but of importance in discussing an important issue that most people carries moral weight.
The conversation caught on tape between the medical director of PP and the fake biotech representative is shocking. It discusses the handling of fetal remains with a graphic, yet cold and distant tone. Doctors regularly deal with things that the average person is only confronted with in times of emergency and fear, and it is difficult for the rest of us to imagine bringing up this sort of topic while enjoying wine at a restaurant for good reason.
A discussion involving the gruesome details of harvesting organs from a deceased voluntary donor would seem equally shocking. While some people object to donating their own organs for a variety of reasons (including some religious considerations), nobody really has any problem with the practice generally speaking, and many doctors wouldn’t think twice about discussing cutting up someone’s corpse to that end. The major difference is of course that adults must consent to their organs being donated or their bodies being used for science. An unborn child or fetus cannot consent to anything.
There is also the issue of some news sources editing the tape to make it appear as though the doctors are profiting from the exchange and discussing the prices of sale, which would be illegal. A viewing of the complete footage shows that the discussion of cost is only in regards to storing and transporting the remains, since PP can legally recoup these costs under federal law. PP would not make any money from donating the remains to research.
The conversation on abortion is delicate and needs to come from a place of honesty and respect. To some, abortion is murder. To others, a tool of family planning that takes advantage of the techniques of modern medicine. There are also plenty of views somewhere in the middle. Let us know where you stand.
Sources: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor