LEO MORRIS: There are no apologies for giving life a chance
I am the oldest of the three children who lived.
Between my younger brother Larry and my younger sister Judy were the twins, Darryl and Dianne.
I always assumed they were stillborn, so my thoughts rarely dwelled on them specifically but centered mostly on those left behind. The unbearable sadness my mother must have felt. How all our lives would have been different with a pair of mischievous twins weaving through them.
Then one day, in a casual conversation with Judy about our mother’s life, I learned the truth. Darryl and Dianne had not been stillborn. They had actually lived for a few hours.
It changed the way I thought. I’ve spent I don’t know how many hours wondering what might have gone through the twins’ minds in those few hours. Did they have a glimmer of that wonderful and terrifying thing called life that had opened up before them and was about to be snatched away? Or were they feeling more than thinking, so overwhelmed by sensory overload that they were oblivious to the world they would so briefly inhabit?
Honestly, I don’t know which of those possibilities makes me feel better, or worse.
But I do know one thing. Darryl and Dianne had a chance that nobody tried to take away from them. And that colors the way I think about abortion.
There are many things I know on an intellectual level about the beginning stages of life. I know that from the moment of conception there is a blueprint for a human being, absolutely unique among all the people who have ever lived or ever will. I know that at a certain point after that, the part of the brain that governs rational thought develops, so sentience is attached. I know that shortly after that, very shortly, viability is achieved, and the fetus could live on its own.
And I know that a line can be drawn from conception to birth that represents a continuum of life and that it is not unreasonable to say, as many people do, that a clump of cells and a baby just before birth are not the same thing and perhaps should not be on equal footing with the life and needs of the mother. But I also know that everywhere along that line is a unique human being who has a chance, unless someone takes it away. Where along that line is the point at which we can agree it is fair to take that chance away?
This being Indiana, I know there will be at least a few bills introduced in the next session of the General Assembly proposing to tighten abortion restrictions; there always are. And I know at least one of the sponsors of the legislation will swear up and down that it is merely an attempt to protect women’s health, not an effort to make abortions tougher to get.
And that will be a lie. Perhaps it will be an attempt to snag a few votes from the other side. Maybe it will be an effort to appear bipartisan and consensus-seeking in the current fashion. But it will be a lie.
Of course, abortion opponents will try to make them harder to get, just as supporters will try to make them easier. The right and wrong of morality might be absolutes, but the law is a continuum of the permissible and the impermissible, and philosophical foes are always going to try to move their markers along the line.
And what’s wrong with that? That’s the way it is – the way it should be – in a free society. The Supreme Court tried to lay down an absolute marker, but it did a lousy job of it, so the rest of us are going to keep trying to nudge it this way or that.
Those who try to move it toward a greater respect for life should never feel the need to apologize, let alone lie. They are not forcing women into the back alleys and the waiting coat hangers. And they are trying to put up detours, not roadblocks.
Is it wrong to ask those considering an abortion to pause and have one more thought about what they are doing? They are on the position of having to make such an awful decision because nowhere along the line did anyone ever try to deny them a chance at life. It doesn’t seem unfair to ask them to consider giving what they were given.
Just a chance.
Leo Morris, former News-Sentinel editorial page editor, is a columnist for The Indiana Policy Review.