Eddie Damstra | Thursday, February 25, 2016
We have a political polarization problem in America today. People’s party affiliations often leave little wiggle room for issue stances. There are certain expectations for party affiliates. These expectations essentially act as restrictions on the ideas party members can have. Certainly there are Republicans and Democrats who fail to meet the expectations of their party on some issues. However, the point remains that for the vast majority of party members, political expectations are a main driving force in forming their positions on an issue. Perhaps this isn’t the worst thing. After all, a political party is a group organized of people with similar beliefs. Isn’t it only natural that such political expectations will present themselves? I believe so. However, I also believe certain issues should transcend the restrictions imposed by political expectations. The most significant of such issues is abortion.
Abortion is one of the most politically polarizing issues in the United States. Generally speaking, Republicans are more pro-life and Democrats are more pro-choice. There is relatively little variance from that pattern. The political polarization of abortion is a significant problem. It is a problem not only because it fuels political gridlock and hopeless bickering, but also because it pressures people into complying with party positions in substitution for contemplative idea formation.
Abortion should not be a politically polarizing issue. I am not asserting that abortion isn’t a polarizing issue, but simply that the polarization of the issue should not be party-based. I don’t know of any inherent characteristic of either party that causes it to take either a pro-life or pro-choice position. Abortion should not be decided along party lines because the true issue is not political. The controversy when talking about abortion is the question of whether or not the procedure terminates the life of a human being.
Nearly every sane person would agree that if it abortion resulted in the termination of a human then the act should be prohibited by law and categorized as morally abhorrent. The answer to the question of whether abortion terminates a human should be the reason for one’s stance on abortion. Political ideology should be separate from the issue of abortion because the issue has nothing to do with politics; the issue is solely about humanity.
The question of whether abortion ends a human life is the main question when speaking of abortion. However, answering the question requires one to answer another question first. Before one can answer whether abortion is murder, one must answer the question of when human personhood begins. The reason I use the word “human personhood” in place of “human life” is because the starting point of human life is generally agreed upon within the scientific community. In the college text book “Psychology and Life”, Dr. Floyd L. Ruch writes “At the time of conception, two living germ cells — the sperm from the father and the egg, or ovum, from the mother — unite to produce a new individual.” Similarly, Dr. Herbert Ratner, a renowned physician, teacher and lecturer, once wrote, “It is now of unquestionable certainty that a human being comes into existence precisely at the moment when the sperm combines with the egg.” While there are certainly some who deny that life begins at conception, the general consensus among biologists and doctors is that life begins at fertilization.
Many pro-choice advocates would point out that human life does not equate to human personhood. However, I would argue that such a statement begins one on a slippery slope. Creating qualifications for personhood is discriminatory and dangerous. When is the magical moment when a baby becomes a person? Does a baby transform from some sort of living non-person into a full person at birth? Logic leads us to believe this is not the case. Science tells us that life begins at conception, and reason tells us that personhood begins when life begins.
Abortion is a complex issue. However, it should not be plagued by hopeless political gridlock. One should attempt to view abortion not through the lens of a political party, but rather through the lens of science and reason. The late Christopher Hitchens once said, “I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one. And I say this as someone who has no supernatural belief.” Abortion is not a political issue, or even for that matter a religious issue; it is a human issue. We should start treating it as such.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.