LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reader: Editorial on abortion is flawed

I read Kerry Hubartt’s column in the Saturday July 28 edition, and I have a number of concerns. I understand that abortion is an emotional issue for many in our community, and while Kerry’s column attempts to enlist both science and justice in the pro-life position, I think that the argument falls short in several ways. Kerry quotes Horatio Storer; “the whole question of (the ethics of abortion) turns on… the real nature of the fetus in utero”, which I take as central to the argument. While not stated, Kerry’s perspective is clearly that a fertilized egg is a child, for otherwise, equating the child in utero with an elderly parent (the inconvenience excuse), or a two year old (the moral equivalence) elsewhere in his column would fall apart. Kerry relies on a clinical textbook, which states in part “…human development begins at fertilization…” to assert that this is when we all begin. I agree. The text doesn’t say that we are fully formed, only that the process of creation begins at fertilization. Is it morally wrong to interrupt that process? The unstated implication in the column is yes, but that is as far as Kerry’s argument goes.

The question of abortion is not a simple one to consider, and this column doesn’t go very far in examining the moral questions. There is no mention of ectopic pregnancy, a condition that occurs in one of fifty pregnancies, will not result in a fully formed child, and places the life of the mother at risk. When I’ve asked pro-life folks on Facebook about this, I’m accused of bringing up a silly exception: as if the life of the mother could be dismissed as an exception. I think that exceptions are important, because they tend to reveal the flaw in an argument, and force us to think through the implications of what we believe to be true. Is a child in the fallopian tube not a child? There are those who will argue that surgical removal of the fallopian tube is allowed, because it isn’t a direct assault on the child. Others will say that the mother is only entitled to comfort care, and that the outcome is in God’s hands. Both of those arguments have flaws, and there isn’t the space here to point them out, so I will simply say that I have no special insight into when the life of the child in utero should be protected, and to claim otherwise would be a lie. Somewhere between fertilization and birth there is a child whose right to life should be protected, but the life of the mother is important too.

Ireland recently repealed a law that permitted abortion only to save the life of the mother. Savita Halappanavar was admitted to an Irish hospital with complications from a miscarriage at 17 weeks. Her request for an abortion was refused, and while her doctors debated the risk to her life, she became septic, and was dead within the week. Some will argue that this was “medical misadventure” on the part of those doctors, but it was the state that put them in the position of having to decide how at risk Savita’s life was before they could legally give her an abortion. There was no mercy for Savita in that Irish law. “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the innocent” Matthew 12:7.

I don’t believe that abortion should be done for convenience, but I have no right to ask the state to make it illegal. That decision belongs to the mother, the family, and the doctor. I have no business intruding in their moral dilemmas; I’ve got enough of my own.

— Richard Kenefic, Roanoke

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