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  Global Views
An Honest, Unbiased Look at Abortion
Special Contribution
By Arnold Green
An honest, unbiased look at abortion.

If we are to apply a legal definition to where life begins, it's fair to use the same principles we use as a society to determine where life ends. In the hospitals, we use the standard of cessation of brain activity. We don't remove a patient from a respirator until obtaining "three flat EEGs," meaning that, even if the heart, kidneys and other systems are functioning, we don't deem a person to be "alive," if there is no meaningful electrical activity going on in the brain.

If you apply this at the other end, its only fair to say that, once a fetus has a complete brain and central nervous system and brain, the fetus is "alive," and is not merely an extension of the mother. Medically, we know that these and most other organs are pretty much formed near the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, meaning just before the third month.

What does this mean practically for a pregnant mom-to-be? It means you skip one period, and that's maybe a false alarm. You skip a second period, and you have a few days to do some real soul-searching, and whatever you are going to do, then do it right away. But, by my reasoning, by the end of the first trimester, you are legally carrying a life inside you, whether you like it or not, and you should behave accordingly. By that reasoning, any girl, be she 8 or 80, should be allowed to abort her fetus up to the beginning of the third trimester, and after that, not at all.

There. That's my opinion, something I could reasonably expect society to abide by, if I happened to be the big boss of the world, which I'm not. Oh, and I've sure I've said enough in there to offend everybody, pro-lifers, pro-choice people, alike.

Now, my belief as a person who lives by the Bible is quite different: Life begins at conception. Of course, we live in a nation of nearly three hundred million people, not all of whom live by the Bible, so I'd not expect everyone to accept a Biblical point of reference. If I were to do so, I might as well advocate a law that all Americans must believe that Jesus died for our sins.

That would be silly, wouldn't it?

We have all kinds of people in this country, and every last one of them has the same rights to make their judgments based on the principles they hold. If I don't like the opinions that they live and act by, then I can share with them from the Bible, and get them to see the truth as I see it. If that goes poorly, then I can go bang my head against the wall. What I cannot do is insist that my beliefs become law. I came to my beliefs by fortunate timing and God's grace. I was at a moment of openness, and a nice person gently shared the love of Christ with me, and got me to read the Bible. From there, I came to believe that all life is sacred, even unborn life. Now, if that experience had not happened to me, and if I had never had a positive experience with a Christian, or an opportunity to openly read the Bible without coercion, my opinions would be very different. If someone on the street shoved a pamphlet in my face and said, "The Bible says abortion is a sin, do you want to hell?" I would have invited them

Whether I like it or not, abortion is for each woman to decide. Even though I believe that abortion is barbaric, I must reasonably accept that passing a law against it only has the effect of showing my displeasure at the person doing it. Why is that? Because there is not a law in the world that can prevent a woman from aborting her fetus, if she were determined to do so. I can pass a law against murder, and it can be effective, because someone will see the attempt, and hopefully prevent it. I can pass a law against theft, and it can be enforced, because the victim can attest to the crime and bring charges. However a woman can get an abortion without anyone knowing. Even if society is totally, 100 percent against abortion, the privacy of the event is still a fact. See, its not like shooting someone, or killing someone, which necessitates someone else knowing. Passing a law against abortion is like passing a law against suicide. If it came down to it, no one need know what the offender is doing. A law can make

Now, if my faith teaches me that abortion is murder, there's lots I can do about that. I can work with women who are considering abortion and encourage other choices. I can work to promote healthy relationships that don't result in disposable fetuses. Can I "stop" someone from getting an abortion by encouraging a law that makes it illegal? No. Trying to do so might make me feel like a very righteous person, but it won't end abortion. If abortion is made illegal, each woman will still be the one deciding if she is going to get one or not. No pastor or court justice is going to be in her bedroom with her, voicing threats of incarceration or disapproval. If she decides to go to an illegal clinic, skirt both law, personal morals and safety, it will be her that will making that decision. Short of monitoring the lives of all women of child-bearing age, each individual female will make the choice to carry their baby to term or not. By making abortions illegal, I've only raised the stakes for women who seek them. I

So, as a citizen of America, I've a societal obligation to advocate laws that are fair and evenhanded with regard to all faiths, understanding that not everyone will believe, as I do, that life begins at conception. As a society, we make laws based on commonly applied principles that work for everyone, no matter what a person's religion is. I should use my Christian influence to make those laws enlightened and fair, applying the best of both compassion and justice, as we are taught. If I want to, I can use my Christian influence to convert others to Christ. They might indeed come to see life as I see it, and thus, see that abortion is bad. But, it is not Christian to advocate laws that make everybody act like Christians. The Bible does not teach that Christians should go into the world and get others to act like Christians, to mimic Christian morals and outwardly adopt morals and ethics that Christians possess. The Bible teaches that we should help individuals to inwardly convert to Christ, not externally ad.

Laws like that only serve to make certain Christians feel more comfortable with their surroundings. We can make believe that if we remove even the slightest trace of our complicity with bad acts, the bad acts will go away. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Personal conversion to Christ makes bad acts go away, and nothing else.

Same thing with the gay lifestyle. A society can raise the stakes of practicing a gay lifestyle. A society can remove any trace of condoning such behavior, then we Christians can go home to our churches and make-believe we've really won one for Christ. But we've done nothing except exercise political strength at someone else's expense. Because ultimately, each person will express, on their own, of their own choice, what their sexual orientation is. It's not the job of society as a whole to express some sort of collective displeasure with the choices that those individuals make. As individuals, we can fold our arms and pout and say, "This is a Christian nation. You're not allowed to be gay." But those individuals will still be gay. Not only that, they certainly won't be more inclined to embrace the Christian faith after our attempts to ostracize them. What about protecting our families from gay influence? What about protecting our kids from schoolbooks that say that it's OK to have two daddies and no mommy

But not all political choice is about individuals, and this is where Christians can have more impact: You see, an individual cannot decide to go to war. Nations go to war... all of us weigh in on that decision. America, as a collective group, lends is voice, its money, gives its young men and woman, and provides support for a war. We are not just lending our opinion. Our collective support is essential to the war itself.

Our use of language fools us on this point, because, our president does not go to war. Last time I checked, Mr. Bush was not out in the streets of Falujia, fighting and dying and leaving behind orphaned children for his wife to raise without him. Rather, America as a group has empowered and trusted this man to make that choice. Thus, while we cannot make a girl not get an abortion, we can force a nation not to go to war. The difference is this: If we, as a nation, do not lend our support and complicity, a woman can still get an abortion, regardless of anything we do. But if we withdraw our support and complicity, Bush Jr. cannot go to war, unless he puts on his flight jacket, gets in a plane and starts doing the bombing himself. I find that unlikely.

Same thing with other ways we spend our public dollar. We all decide how the nation treats homeless people. We all decide how we, as a people, respond when poor people get sick. Do we put our heads in the sand and pretend that diseases will stay on the poor side of town, or do we provide health care for all? Those are national choices.

So... you don't like abortion? Don't approve of the gay lifestyle? Fine. Sit down with people within your individual sphere of influence and help them make good choices. But a person is not winning anyone to Christ by legislating their spiritual preferences. No one facing an abortion or a choice of "coming out" is going to be saying, "look at all these people passing laws against me. Gee, I sure want to join that church." There's nothing of the love of Christ in actions like that. Voting according to those impulses only makes Christians feel more politically powerful and comfy-cozy in the world. Last time I checked, that's not a criteria Christ taught us to live by.




 

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