I think we all agree that society is at fault for not giving more encouragement, support, assistance and education to its poor and underprivileged members. If an unwillingly pregnant woman is trapped in an atmosphere of poverty and functional illiteracy, with little or no means of financial or emotional support, abortion may well seem necessary and even inevitable. If we are really concerned about preserving life -- and that means not only the life of the unborn, but the life of the mother -- this climate of indifference must change.
Poverty, illiteracy, and social injustice are serious problems in our world that need to be addressed. What I fail to see, however, is how making abortion freely available to women without legal penalty actually addresses these problems.
Yes, having an abortion may prevent a poverty-stricken young woman from experiencing even greater social isolation and financial hardship. Then again, it may not. For some impoverished women -- including some addicted to drugs and alcohol, and/or involved in prostitution -- the choice to keep the baby from an unwanted pregnancy has changed their lives for the better, as it challenged them to seek rehabilitation and get off the streets for the child's sake. And some underprivileged women who have chosen abortion to escape from the social and financial burden end up drinking or taking drugs to overcome their depression and so find themselves in a far worse situation. The point is, we don't know what the end result will be in any individual case -- and we are dealing with individuals here. By making abortion convenient for women in desperate circumstances, we may well only encourage a vicious cycle of irresponsible sexual behaviour leading to unwanted pregnancy leading to abortion leading to depression leading to more irresponsible sexual behaviour, and so on.
Another general assumption that seems to have gone unquestioned so far is that abortion is the only option for a woman with an unwanted pregnancy. Whatever happened to adoption? Infertility is on the rise, and yet childless couples often struggle to find a baby they can adopt. Many have gone to other countries in search of children (such as my cousin and his wife, who ended up adopting five Korean orphans). Others have waited months and gone through intensive screening procedures, become excited when told a baby would soon be available, paid thousands of (non-refundable) dollars to ensure the mother's legal representation and psychological care, then experienced heartbreak when they found out that the mother had changed her mind (this happened to some friends of mine). One might even conclude that adoption is a better solution for women in poverty than abortion, because in the adoption system a young mother can at least count on receiving several months' worth of psychological counselling and medical care.
Then there's the assumption that the abortion issue is chiefly about meeting the needs of impoverished, uneducated women, who choose abortion out of grievous economic necessity. If this is the case, should we not also legalize infanticide for women in desperate circumstances?
And what about all the young women who are neither impoverished nor uneducated, who become pregnant out of carelessness or contraceptive failure and choose abortion because they simply do not want a baby? Having already conceded that the life of an unborn child may be terminated at will, we can hardly make abortion available to one group of women and forbid it to another. Yet if we fail to discriminate in this regard, we end up conceding that the life of the unborn has no real value whatsoever.
Finally, there is the assumption that all women, regardless of their economic and social resources, have the inalienable right to pursue sexual activity without experiencing the normal and natural consequence of that activity. If by some accident nature does take its course and an unplanned baby is conceived, it is a betrayal, an aberration, a tragedy. Well, no, it's not. Men and women were not designed to have sex with each other on a regular or even semi-regular basis without conceiving children. This is not to say that the only purpose of sex is procreation, but nonetheless every act of sexual intercourse carries the strong possibility of conception with it as a natural consequence.
If a woman absolutely cannot afford to have a baby, dare not risk the possibility of having one, then the responsible solution is not abortion, but abstinence. Of course everyone will say that this is unrealistic. But although unplanned pregnancies have always been a fact of history, there was a time when fear of getting pregnant deterred many women (and some men) from having sex before they were ready to face the possibility of having a child. Judging by the rate of teen pregnancy nowadays, even among affluent, well-schooled kids with backpacks full of free condoms and Planned Parenthood brochures, this is no longer the case. By divorcing sex from its natural consequences and making abortion readily available, we have increased the very problem we hoped to prevent.
Am I saying that I agree with governmental policy (whether present or proposed) on abortion? No. My point is just that whatever we decide to do with our unborn children, to kill them or preserve them, we need to realize that we are making a moral decision, and whatever governmental policy comes into effect is going to be based on a moral decision.
When before the throne of God all truth is revealed, peaceful advocates of the unborn may turn out to have erred on the side of caution; but better that, I believe, than the horror of finding oneself an accessory -- however reluctant or well-intentioned -- to mass murder.