The Debate of Abortion

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The Debate of Abortion

After more than a quarter-century of frenzied debate and denunciation (which began well before Roe v. Wade), one might think not. But there is at least one viewpoint that polls indicate is widely held but that is hardly ever heard amid the screams of ''Murderer!'' and ''Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!'' It deserves a full and reasoned exposition, however; it might even shed some light on the controversies about the confirmation of Dr. Henry Foster as Surgeon General and about harassment of abortion clinics. It is that abortion is justifiable only in extreme cases -- but that nevertheless the state must respect the right to receive and perform abortions. In other words, it is possible to be pro-life and pro-choice -- and as a matter of moral principle rather than political expediency.

As many people of both sexes instinctively recognize, abortion has to be looked at as a question not of law but of morality. Begin then with the position, common to most religions and many naturalistic systems of morality, of respect for life -- all life, but especially human. It seems impossible to deny that the developing fetus is a potential human being. Yes, from the moment of conception: in the early stages it may be a clump of cells, but that cannot be equated with the clump of cells that might be removed in an appendectomy. The fetus from the very beginning is endowed with all the genetic information that will enable -- in fact make inevitable, absent so...
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