EAST LANSING, Mich. (U-WIRE) — Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. After a half-century of citing the most potent threats to the republic, the ten most wanted now contains a bomber and an assassin — both of whom are violent anti-abortionists who killed for the sake of this cause.
That same day, in Tallahassee, Fla., Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush engaged in a debate on abortion that involved little else than labeling each other’s position on the issue — as if the revelation that Gore is pro-choice and Bush is not would shock each candidate into withdrawing from the race. The extent to which the abortion argument has become an issue in American politics and in current events could not have been foreseen in 1973, when abortion was legalized — nor could the apathy our generation has toward the subject have been predicted.
For the young, the rectitude of abortion is a matter reserved for zealots and the unfortunate, not for the general public. I was no different. I hadn’t given the matter enough thought to muster feelings either way. I had been lucky enough not to have had the subject forced upon me by circumstance.
Being trained to be a physician, and possibly to perform abortions, has given the matter a new and acute relevance which thrust the matter into my thoughts. My conclusions are not important. Enough has been written in these pages promoting one and condemning another, and to write with either agenda would overshadow the more important concept: that the abortion debate, though it is by now background noise, is the single most important and consequential issue before us — and we should care about it much more than we now do.
At the root of the debate is the philosophy of existence. The involvement of metaphysics makes an issue’s contemplation as appealing as braces, acne and a wooden leg at prom. Philosophy is usually either the painfully tortuous proof of an obvious point (“and so we see that X equals X”), the hideously logical justification of a repellent mode of living (“The Fountainhead,” by Ayn Rand) or else simply pointless verbal posturing. But the root of abortion is nothing so esoteric.
The fundamental question of the issue is, of course, the simple matter of what it means to be human. All else about the argument falls into place around the answer. To know what is human is to mark a point beyond which a fetus is a person and before which it is not. If a human is merely a vessel until ensouled by a creator, then life begins at the moment body and mind are linked, the moment that we gain true and free will.
When this occurs is dependent on the prevailing Holy Writ, whether Christian, Muslim or Cartesian fiat. Most Christians are familiar with, “before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee,” but there is an equivalent moment in every belief. Once this point has been passed, the fetus is morally equivalent to a fully grown person and there is no abortion, only murder.
The mechanistic view — that man is simply animal, that there is no will and no moment at which he gains agency — leads to the definition of the beginning of life being rather arbitrary. When pitted against the idea of personal liberty, that arbitrary boundary usually sides against violating that liberty and the right to abortion is as precious as any other.
Of course there is an enormous spectrum of views, and the above is the coarsest of outlines. But to describe every position on abortion and justify each wasn’t my intent. Rather, all I intended was to illustrate how deep and fundamental the civil issue of abortion runs in the individual. It is not a question of statute, but of existence.
As all fundamental ideas, it cannot be argued against. There is no logic I can conjure that would defeat the explicit word of God and no scripture that could compete with an argument that precludes scripture’s validity in the first place. There is no compromise. There is no convincing.
For each principle there are only the most gravid consequences. Either life or liberty is sacrificed, and Americans have shown a relentless enthusiasm for defending each to the point of death — or, as events have borne out, to the point of murder.
The question of abortion has profound implications for the underlying conception of life in the individual and in society. It is not a question that can be logically debated, and there can be no converts. There is only passion and action, and this question will never be settled. This is, I believe, worth thinking about.
Rishi Kundi’s column originally appeared in Friday’s Michigan State University paper, The State News.