The topic of abortion has become one of the most crucial moral, political and religious issues of the end of the 20th and the early 21st centuries. And the debate continues, especially now with the more conservative administration. Decisions pro-or con are often made emotionally without any consideration of the facts and the ability to clearly explain both sides of the issue. The hope is that both sides can objectively evaluate the issue and, following the democratic philosophy of this country, determine an answer that is best for the common good.
The issue of abortion is normally debated first on religious beliefs. For example, the Catholic Bishops in 1998 strongly came out against abortion based on the fact that human life is sacred from the moment of conception until natural death. Thus, abortion, according to religious practices, is immoral in the eyes of the Church. As Pope John Paul II stated in 1995, "Both as Americans and as followers of Christ, American Catholics must be committed to the defense of life."
Individuals who refute the Catholic Church on religious grounds, such as John Swomley (1999), professor emeritus of social ethics at St. Paul School of Theology in Missouri, debate the Bishops' statement by saying, "Nowhere in the Scriptures is there any reference to sacredness or sanctity or respect for fetal life." Ultimately, therefore, women should have the right to control their own destiny.
Similarly, another strong argument for and against abortion is founded on whether or not it violates human rights. Gargaro (2000), a pro-life advocate, writes that abortion is wrong because it entails the killing of human life. Since the baby has a different genetic makeup than its mother, its life has to be seen as separate and to be protected. "Right away, some will say that abortion is not a matter of life and death, arguing that a fetus is not a 'person,' or a 'human being.'" However, medical studies prove that the fetus is a living organism from conception on, she states.
Those who offer rebuttal to this life-at-conception philosophy, state that there is "life" from the moment of conception in the sense that it is a biological entity that alters food and oxygen into energy and its cells divide and grow. However, the truer question is whether it is a "person"? There the disagreement comes. Webster's Dictionary defines a person as "an individual or existing as an indivisible whole; existing as a distinct entity." From the moment of conception, the living entity does not have a human consciousness nor is it physically independent. Thus, abortion is not murder, because it is not an independent person.
Another disagreement area concerning abortion is whether or not it can ever be justified, as in cases of incest or rape or fear of harmful abortion practices. Forsythe (1999), who is president of Americans United for Life based in Chicago, wrote in Christianity Today that calling abortion a "necessary evil" is just another way for pro-choice individuals to keep abortion legal. Grigg (2000), senior editor of New American, clearly states that even rape should not be a reason for an abortion. Each child is a miracle, he notes, regardless of how it was conceived. "The pro-abortion movement constantly depicts children of rape and incest as somehow defective, tainted, unwanted -- almost as if we carry some evil gene…