Women and couples should be able make choice independently
It is often said that ethics is the study of where my rights end and your rights begin. It is the study of the middle ground, the shared human experience and of right versus wrong. However, there is an important assignment we make here—that we are human persons, with inherent rights and dignity, thereby accepting that our life is sacred. The question that plagues the human population now is that of when personhood, humanness and, essentially, life begins.
Abortion is a topic that has seeped into the very fibers of our social environment. The crux of human entertainment, the television, has become astutely focused on this topic—from the evening news of talks about protests and victims, to TV shows like “Law and Order,” “Degrassi” and “Secret Life of the American Teenager.” It is even seen in the cinema, with movies such as “Juno,” and in the theatre with such heart-wrenching productions as “Spring Awakening.” It is a topic that pulls on people’s heart strings and poses a conversation so rich in emotions that some would rather say, “Let’s just talk about something else.”
There are very few people in the world who are able to take a solid stance on this question. It is the archetypical example in the dreaded “grey area” of ethics. I, for one, can wholeheartedly say I am “pro-choice.” However, I caution those from jumping to hasty conclusions. “Pro-choice” brings along the misconception that someone who is pro-choice is pro-abortion, and that is frankly not always the case. And even more important to remember is that when it comes to a situation such as this, no decision is easy. In my opinion the decision to end a pregnancy requires an in-depth ethical analysis of each case.
The dimensions of each case are almost infinite: are you at a point in your life to properly and adequately raise a child? Is the care and cost of a child extraordinary in measure? Is this pregnancy the unfortunate consequence of a horrendous act such as rape or abuse? Would the child’s health be compromised so that he or she might endure a painful, brief and unkind life? The list goes on and on. And yet at the same time, positive arguments may be presented.
There is the fact of the gift of life being granted to an individual, the growth of a family and change in lifestyle that could lead to a radical shift in the life of all involved, the opportunity and potential this individual may change the world forever.
It goes on and on until the pros and cons list reads as long a typical Villanovan’s To-Do list. I believe that regardless of what choice is made, the choice must take ethics into account. Abortion is not justified by things such as vacations, mistakes or by our selfish desires. It needs to be decided upon by an ethical justification that treats the decision with the magnitude life merits, through understanding one’s inability to adequately care for, provide for, responsibly raise or love a child. The only thing that is certain when it comes to a choice is that the line separating “pros” from “cons” is anything but definitive.
John Groch, a professor in the Theology & Religious Studies department agrees there is no definitive solution to the ethical dilemma.
“We don’t live in absolutes anymore,” Groch says. Groch contends that this modern world is in need of a new lens on the abortion topic.
“I believe the abortion question has to be solved at the level of individual conscience,”Groch says. “People need to be properly instructed, encouraged and supported to do the right thing. They can truly make a free choice. If they want the child they should not be coerced into having it or not having it. They should feel free to make a decision in good conscience.”
This means educating young women about their health and the life of their potential future children. It is necessary to remove the stigmas and aggression we harbor. When anyone argues with a hostile tone we instantly begin to marginalize individuals, and our minds and ears close themselves off from any point of view other than our own. Hostility and ignorance breed further hostility and ignorance. Even the church has come to understand this.
Just last week an article was published in the New York Times about the church’s “obsession” with topics such as abortion. Pope Francis’ interview with Rev. Antonia Spadaro, editor and chief of La Civiltá Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal, shed light on how this new pope views the church in a way that brings a fresh perspective on Catholicism. Francis criticized the church for putting dogma and moral doctrines above and before love and serving the poor and ostracized. Francis argues that too often we are sidetracked and deterred by the incessant arguing, and we lose sight of the purpose and teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught people to above all else love one another, to be compassionate and empathetic to others, almost to a fault. The last action of Christ was one of pure love for the people of this earth. Francis’ lens of Catholic compassion is exactly what the topic of abortion needs in this modern era.
If we want to truly make progress on the topic of abortion and work towards finding a solution, we need to be willing and open to loving and respecting those who must make this tough decision. People discussthe topic of abortion constantly, especially at a liberal arts school such as this University. But until you are the one who is pregnant and in the position to consider what course of action you want to take, you have no right to tell someone else how to live her life or what decisions she needs to make. One of the founding principles in ethics is self-determination, the ability as human beings to choose our own path.
We need a social construct that allows individuals to make holistic, inclusive, free and supported decisions. We need a society where individuals can make these tough decisions on their own and know there are institutions such as the health care system and church to support them through these challenging times.
In my opinion, abortion needs to be a legal and safe option in a culture without the hostile undertones that are projected onto individuals and where the instances when abortion is the necessary, or chosen, course of action are less frequent. This will breed the highest degree of love and a social construct through which women and couples will be more informed and health conscious when it comes to sexual activity and sexual health. Individuals and couples will ultimately be able to make decisions about how to handle unwanted pregnancies.
However, without question the governing principle needs to be that of love, perhaps in the form of the Catholic compassion that Pope Francis urges us to believe and follow—the love between two lovers and the love shown when we respect the actions and choices of others. The only way in which we can begin to approach the topic of life is with love.
Ben Kramer is a senior chemistry and physics major from East Northport, NY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.