This is another one of those areas where I just can't make a simple choice. We humans like to think in polarized terms. Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works has an excellent discussion of this particular problem. We think in terms of on off, or black-and-white. We forget that their can be things like dimmer switches and shades of gray with a lot of territory in between.
Personally, I am against abortion, unless there is a serious threat to life or health of the mother or unborn child. However, I also believe that it isn't my business to tell a woman, her doctor, and her god what they should do. Obviously, we need to have some reasonable restrictions on abortion. But this debate isn't about what the reasonable restrictions on abortion should be, it's about whether abortion should or should not be legal in America at all. It is an extremist question, and that is not surprising since many Americans take extremist positions.
Extremists on both sides of this argument tale extreme positions. Te right-wing wishes to not only ban abortions but to have them criminalized. In some cases they wish to do so even if the mother's health as it is in danger. They are on record as having said so repeatedly. We should take note that their claim that the left-wing somehow enjoys killing babies is simply not true. A few extremist left-wingers do say they believe in unrestricted abortion with no limits, but even they do not say this is a pleasant or enjoyable experience.
Most people in America believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and available under certain limited circumstances.
When you talk to left-wingers, even the more radical ones, you quickly realize that none of them are on record-setting said that abortions are a good idea. I have an all my watching political programs never heard anyone say this. I have never heard any comment from any person taking any position on this issue that said anything but that abortions were anything but painful and regrettable. Mostly what they say is that it is a choice which should be made by a woman and her doctor. They make no claim that it is a good or happy choice. Even the left wing extremists who want abortions on demand with no restrictions make no claim that there is anything enjoyable about it.
Now let me see if I can find an article that reflects this more moderate and balanced position rather than either of the extremes.
-- In public polling, it seems to be fairly consistent over time that about 25% of Americans think that abortion should be legal under all circumstances, that 20% of Americans think that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances, and that a bit over 50% think that abortion should be legal in some but not all circumstances. A recent Pew poll found that only 26% of Democrats believe that abortion should be legal in all cases, while only 22% of Republicans believe that believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases. --
This quote from the article shows that just over 20% of Americans take the extreme right-wing position of banning all abortions under any circumstances. That's just about 1/5 of our population. Also, just over 25% of Americans agree with
left-wing extremists that abortion should be available on demand without limitation. That's about one quarter of our population.
That puts 50% of Americans willing to accept some sort of compromise position in between those two extremes. Wow! Bell shaped curve anyone?
The article goes on. -- Based on this, I propose this explanation for how the moderate middle thinks about abortion. (And I do think there is moderate middle on this issue. I find it strange how we have economic "centrists" who propose compromises that few people actually seem to believe, but we don't have abortion "centrists" who propose compromises that a lot of Americans actually believe.) --
This is true to some extent. On TV and in other media we always seem to hear the left and right wing extremist having hissy fits at each other. We never seem to hear the moderate center. If you are like me and you're a political junkie who consumes a lot of media, you do get to hear the moderate voices on the economy. But most Americans don't. But even a regular viewer like me almost never hears anything moderate about abortion.
I think this is because moderate position on abortion is what America has adopted at this time. The economic issues are very real and may change at any moment. On the other hand, in spite of the efforts of the right to radically change our nations abortion laws, they're mostly proving to be successful only at the state and local, levels. They are not showing any real progress on the national level. Since what America allows legally today is what most Americans support, there's really no reason for the moderate center to speak up. They have what they want. So what is there to talk about?
The right-wing extremists say that the moment an egg and sperm merge, that single cell is instantly exactly the same value as a full human being. The left-wing extremists say no, until the baby is actually born it is of no value at all. Moderates say that the more the cell develops, the more close it comes to being a human being. The more human it is; the more valuable it is. Therefore the more protected it should be.
This is reflected in current law which allows abortions in the first trimester but severely limits them thereafter.
It does not surprise me to find myself in disagreement with the majority of my fellow Americans. That is happened quite often. But in this case, I am in complete agreement with the majority of my fellow Americans. The above paragraph states my beliefs. If we are talking about a fertilized egg, we are talking about a single cell, not a human being. But the more developed a fetus becomes, the closer it is to be human and therefore the better it should be protected.
This is the law as we understand it today. This is what most Americans believe.
I must add, however, that I do disagree that the fertilized egg is truly just a cell. Spontaneous abortions in nature occur quite frequently. Often, a fertilized egg fails to implant in the uterus and simply exits her body in a woman's menstrual flow. I do not think that is the death of a baby. Nevertheless, I do not like abortion under any circumstances. But that does not mean I believe that abortion should be illegal. I just do not believe it is it is right to force my morals down everybody else's throats.
Now let me make one more comment about the right-wing position. I am copying this from previous post on my blog.
A link from a post from my friend Nick: http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2012/08/moral-relativism
Someone brilliantly answered the belief that personhood begins at conception by proposing a thought experiment. Ask such a believer what he or she would do in the following situation:
You are alone in a building, except for a freezer unit containing several hundred frozen human ova which have been fertilized, but which remain in the single cell stage, and a three month old baby. You receive a warning that a bomb will destroy the building in a few minutes. You can't carry out both the freezer and the baby. You must take one or the other. There will be no time to return to save the one left behind.
Which do you save?
If the ova are fully human, you must save them. Hundreds of innocent lives will be saved while one innocent life will be lost.
I doubt even the most radical believer in personhood would actually leave the baby to die and save the fertilized eggs. Of course, extremism IS extreme, so maybe I'm wrong.
I think everyone dislikes, and many hate abortion, but what is the alternative? Do Americans really want a return to the dark days of illegal and amateur efforts to end pregnancy? It did not save the lives of the unborn, and it often took the mother to her grave. Legal abortion with reasonable restrictions may be disturbing, but it is better than the horrors of the past.