Of Rights and Responsibilities

I am pro-life. I am pro-choice.

You may think that these two things are somehow mutually exclusive, but that’s just the way we’ve all been indoctrinated by the rhetoric from both sides of one particular ethical/political issue. I don’t know anybody who would say that they are against life. I don’t know many people who are against choice either.

But of course we all know that “pro-life” and “pro-choice” don’t refer to people who are in favor of life or choice; they are evasive terms that people use to describe whether they are in favor or against women having the right to abort a fetus. Go figure.

The abortion issue, however, boils down to timing. It has little to do with life or choice, but it has everything to do with when something is life or when somebody should have a choice. You can make a rational argument on either side depending on what you accept for the “when” variables.

If you believe that an unborn child is ‘life’, and you subscribe to the belief that ending a human life is murder (which most of us do), then it is perfectly logical to believe that killing a living fetus is murder and should be prohibited. Likewise, if you consider a fetus to be a non-separate piece of a woman’s body, then you would have no reason to consider its removal immoral.

I have my own religious and ethical views about this issue—namely that it’s not our business to kill anything that is a potential human life unless there is some overwhelmingly good reason to do so (like to save the life of the mother, or sometimes if the fetus suffers from a very serious debilitating disorder). Generally, however, I am against abortion.

There is little gray area for me personally. I consider abortion to be murder in almost all circumstances. I believe that life is a gift from God, and it is not to be discarded willy nilly because somebody decides to make a ‘choice.’ But, as many of you know, I do not aim to impose my own personal morality on others. Even if I were supreme dictator of the world, I would not enact a blanket prohibition on abortions.

That said, I think it’s a real shame that abortions have become so easy to get, and an even bigger shame that people seem to take them so lightly. Young people today are growing up in a society where bad decisions have limited consequences, which merely leads to more bad decision making. If a teen girl today has unprotected sex today, she can usually get the morning-after pill and—if she can’t get it—she can always just have her child removed later like she would a mole or her wisdom teeth. Just a quick visit to the doctor and that’s that.

I, personally, think it’s sickening that we treat our reproductive process with such a lack of reverence.

So how, you ask, am I pro-choice? Easy. I’m all for people making choices. When two people decide to have sex, that’s a choice. They also have choice in what kinds of contraceptives they use (if any). But these choices have potential consequences, and a when somebody makes them they are well aware of what those potential consequences are. We have all heard about how birth control is x percent effective, condoms are y percent effective, and so on—which means that when somebody decides to have sex, regardless of what protection they use, they are running a known [but often small] risk of ending up pregnant.

I believe that once two people make those choices it is too late to go back on them. After somebody is pregnant is not the time for that person to make a choice not to have a child. They already had the opportunity.

Some of you are probably fidgeting in your desk chairs and complaining to your screen that my ‘choice’ argument has a big hole—a woman who has been raped did not have the chance to make her choice. Fair enough. That is why I do not advocate prohibition of abortion in cases of rape (although I still personally consider it murder—life is life).

What I do advocate is a prohibition of what I call ‘convenience abortions.’ This is the “oh crap, I didn’t mean to get pregnant when I had sex with my boyfriend” type of abortion. The people who get these are looking for an easy way out of an unwanted pregnancy—a way to undo their bad choices and a way to get out of the consequences of their actions. I say that these people should have to see the pregnancy through, in part as a learning experience and in part because they chose to have sex and (in most cases) chose not to use a condom. If the baby is still unwanted, then mothers can put it up for adoption—but a mother should have to look her baby in the eye before deciding that it is not worth having.

What about the father, though? One piece of the abortion puzzle that has always bothered me is how two people make the decision to have sex and risk pregnancy (and contribute their genetic material to the task), and then one of those two gets to decide later whether to have an abortion.

Imagine for a moment that a couple chips in together to buy a Compaq computer. The computer will be stored at the boyfriend’s house because he has an extra desk for it, but he agrees to share it with his girlfriend. Now imagine that the boyfriend decides that the computer sucks and he should’ve gotten a Mac, so he takes the Compaq apart and throws it away. He argues that he had the right to destroy the computer because it was in his house—but who cares who’s house it’s in, the computer was only half his. The other half belonged to his girlfriend, and thus any decisions about the Compaq’s disposition would have to be jointly determined between the two owners.

The pro-abortion crowd tends to make the issue into one of “the woman’s right to choose,” but even if we disregard the fact that the woman already had plenty of opportunity to make choices, the fact is that the baby is only half hers. She can’t just throw it away without the consent of the man who ‘owns’ the other fifty percent of that fetus. It doesn’t matter whose body it is ‘stored’ in for the duration of the pregnancy, it’s a joint project that requires two participants. Men have a responsibility to contribute half of the emotional and financial cost of raising a child (and anybody who doesn’t is a deadbeat, whether legally or ethically), but they are entitled to be involved in decisions regarding the life (or, in this case, the death) of their child as well.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve made some of my readers angry will all of this, and those who hold different views than mine are probably accusing me of being a hypocrite for saying “I do not aim to impose my own personal morality on others,” and then advocating that abortion rights be limited. But if I were advocating policy based only on my ethics, I would be calling for a near-blanket prohibition on abortions. I am not calling for that.

What I am calling for is accountability. I want to make abortions harder to get. I want to end easy-way-out ‘convenience abortions.’ My social/political views on this issue aren’t centered on my personal view that abortion is murder, but on my desire that bad decisions have consequences. Our society is better off when people know that they can’t get off scot-free when they make errors in judgment.

I am pro-choice—I believe that people have a right to make decisions about what kind of behaviors they engage in. But rights come with responsibilites, and the correllary responsibility that people have along with their right to choose is that they must live with the consequences of their choices. That seems more than fair to me.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.