WEB Point/Counterpoint pt1

Jeff Schooley

While liberty is important, it cannot be granted without life

Taking a pro-life stance is no easy matter these days. It is my endeavor to explore the issue of abortion in a way that will allow this debate, on both sides, a tad bit more clarity. Thus, I write under the following premises:

One, politics are secondary in this debate to the underlying philosophical and political ideologies. Thus it is best to forgo discussions on the “conservative right,” the “liberal left,” “Roe v. Wade” and the rest, and instead focus on the values behind the debate.

Two, a distinction should be made between “medical abortion” and “social abortion.” A medical abortion is done to save a mother’s life and is reasonable because a mother’s death typically means a fetus’ death. Thus, a medical abortion is more salvaging than anything else. Conversely, a social abortion is one that enhances one life at the cost of another, for these abortions are typically more about the quality of life for the mother than the quantity. For the sake of this column, all references to abortion are references to social abortion.

Three, the debate needs to be made as objective as possible and should omit any “personal testimonies” of how some woman’s life is better post-abortion because there are an equal number of testimonies that argue the opposite. (In particular, I think of Gwendolyn Brooks’ amazing poem “The Mother.”) Thus, only ethical and logical arguments should be permitted.

Four, and finally, I will insist a fetus is a human life — if not a life, a potential human life. It cannot be said every cellular organism that is dividing and growing in complexity the way an embryonic fetus does will be a human life. Therefore, an embryo is human enough to be called human. Its humanity, we can say, exists in its unique potential for genuine human life.

It is my weakness, I must confess, that I can only reasonably debate (or point/counterpoint) under these stipulations. Thus, any argumentation that forsakes these stipulations, I find, ends the chance for debate and merely leaves the two sides in a discourse of different foundations, which is still valuable for intellectual growth but worthless for policy-making.

And so, the debate continues and is aptly characterized by its two most commonly known names: “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” The argument at hand is this: Which is greater, liberty or life?

Historically, the culture is split. Who can forget our revolutionary forefathers’ cry of “Give me liberty or give me death?” Such a statement is a great claim to the right to choose. Yet, simultaneously, the Declaration of Independence prioritizes “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as fundamental rights to all humans.

“Liberty” is contingent on “life,” and consequently, life trumps liberty. One does not have choice unless within the medium of life, just as one cannot “pursue happiness” except within the confines of “liberty,” as pursue means a plethora of options and the freedom to pursue these options.

The citizenry has agreed to establish a state that best protects life, while regulating itself enough to permit liberty and potential happiness.

It is the existence of happiness, I believe, that makes the issue most unclear, for the desire for abortion most regularly depends upon a woman’s fortune in her sexual relations. Yet, the state makes no claim as to the guaranteed happiness of its citizenry, only the opportunity to pursue that happiness within the confines of personal responsibility.

In the case of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, the state has already lived up to its end of the deal by not allowing the woman to die, by providing no mandates on her sexual practice and by allowing her to pursue the happiness (or pleasure) of sexual relations. The problem then, it appears, is not in the practice of the state, but rather in the individual. The state only infringes upon the mother once she finds herself in the precarious position of bearing a life that the state must then protect. Consequently, the state is forced to protect both life and liberty of both mother and child. For this reason, the state should make no law permitting the cessation of life. Furthermore, the mother’s liberty is not at risk for, as stated earlier, life trumps liberty.

Liberty is worth being a martyr for, as our revolutionary forefathers proved, but it cannot be our justification for the ending of life. Otherwise, we implicitly sacrifice the one thing we’re trying to defend (liberty) in the process of defending it.

It is only in a pro-life society that choice can be optimized.

Jeff Schooley is a graduate student in English and an editorial writer for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].