Abortion: Complex, but worth discussion

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Sean Stoker | Opinions Editor | @theroyalthey

The Center for Medical Progress reignited the abortion debate over the past few months by releasing a series of undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the scientific use of aborted fetus tissues.

Unsurprisingly, this exposé exploded on contact with the media. Those with anti-abortion views were aghast at the implication that Planned Parenthood was receiving compensation for baby parts, while those on the pro-abortion rights side of the debate viewed the commotion as an overreaction based on out-of-context information. The whole situation came to a head last month when the House of Representatives and the Senate began discussing whether or not to defund the organization.

Meanwhile, I find myself conflicted on the issue. The whole mess is a tangle of hot button issues, each of which deserves its own conversation.

I’ll unpack the issue of scientific research involving dead human tissues first. This is something I support. The only way to learn more about the human body is to take a look at it, and unfortunately some of these things can only be ethically researched on cadavers. Unless someone is playing God and these human subjects are being killed specifically for that purpose, which I don’t think is the case with Planned Parenthood, the more we can learn about our bodies the better.

On the subject of defunding, I understand the desire for quick action. With such a controversy, state and federal governments are doing everything in their power to distance themselves from it. The last thing you want in political spheres is controversy, and in situations like this, any association or implicit support of the guilty party can be damning. However, I feel like a complete defunding of an entire organization is a bit dramatic in this case. Even being pro-life, I can still see the good that Planned Parenthood does accomplish. Every year, they perform hundreds of thousands of Pap smears and breast exams, so to defund an entire organization instead of investigating certain claims is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Then comes the issue of abortion itself. Where to start…

Human beings, for the most part, are well meaning. Very few people wake up in the morning and think, “Today I’m going to do something evil just because I can.” Most people I’ve met are trying to do something good with their lives and for the world. The thing is, many of us have different ideas as to what constitutes “good.”

Though I myself have strong feelings against abortion, I can at least put myself in the shoes of someone considering such a procedure. Even the staunchest of pro-abortion rights activists will tell you that abortion is an ugly, heartrending experience. The vast majority of people walking into that situation are finding no pleasure or even relief from it. By and large, it’s a last resort that is usually arrived at through a long painful decision process. Truly, I can empathize.

Occasionally situations arise where both mother and child are at risk, and we can either save only the mother or let both die. There are also times when pregnancy results from a sexual assault, which is a tragedy in itself that opens the door for more heartache down the road. I wouldn’t wish such decisions on my worst enemy, but regardless, these are real life decisions that many people find themselves having to make.

The trouble is, according to a 2005 study by Lawrence B. Finer and others in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, less than 15 percent of abortions in the U.S. are performed for those reasons. The majority occur for personal, financial or social reasons.

Before I become labeled as anti-woman for finding issue with this, please let me state: I fully support your rights to control what happens to your own body. That is your property and your prerogative. But when pregnancy occurs, it’s not just your body we’re talking about. It may be occurring inside your body, but for all intents and purposes, that baby is a different human being. At the very least, this should ethically complicate things. In certain situations it can be argued that the most ethical decision is to end one life to save another. But when it comes to matters of convenience, money or social standing, I submit that we ought to consider the worth of a human life before taking drastic measures.