Leonard Pitts, the controversial but always thoughtful, African American columnist wrote a piece the other day on abortion in which he identified himself as pro life and pro choice. Basically, he said that he found himself moved and persuaded by the familiar slogan that “Abortion stops a beating heart,” but believes only a woman, in consultation with her doctor, clergy, other advisers, should be able to make that decision. So, he is pro life…and pro choice.
I find myself in that same category. I believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, or at least a “potential” human life. Since no one on this earth, scientist or pope, knows when human life in the womb actually begins, it seems to me that we must err on the side of the earliest possible moment which would be conception…or at least implantation. Abortion does indeed stop a beating heart.
But, tragically, there are times when human lives are legally taken every day. By soldiers in war, by the police in instances that are truly “justified,” in self defense or the defense of others. And while I am no fan of the death penalty because I believe it to be often unfairly administered and not a proven deterrent to violent crime, I accept that there are some acts so heinous as to warrant even this extreme measure.
So, in cases of rape and incest, in cases dealing with the life of the mother, and a number of other medical, psychological, and sociological realities which it would be impossible to enumerate or categorize, the tragic taking of a nascent life must be permitted morally. In these cases, only the mother whose body alone is the bearer and guardian of another human being — again, in thoughtful, prayerful, consultation with her physician, clergy or other counselors, family and friends as available — should be empowered to make that decision and given all the safety and support she needs to follow though on this most difficult choice.
This should not be a question of law, except to assure a woman’s legal right to make that choice. Society also has the responsibility to see that she has the comprehensive health care necessary to assure her healing and eventual flourishing in the years to come. With no particular pleasure or even satisfaction in the position and certainly no judgment on those who reach different conclusions, I stand with those who believe that abortion should be