Abortion and the Culture War

Abortion and the Culture War

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair For those American readers not old enough to remember a time before the nationwide legalization of abortion through the court case known as Roe v. Wade (1973), let me remind you of some of the attributes of that era. The prevailing law made it very difficult to get an abortion in the United States, but not impossible. The real question was how much danger a pregnant woman was willing to face in the illegal “back alley” operations that were available. You see, as with most things illegal, a “black market” existed which would not only eliminate the unborn fetus, but often kill the distraught mother as well. If you were well off and determined, you could go abroad and have the operation performed with relative safety—often making the whole issue one of class privilege. Behind the scenes, one found two dramas played out: (a) the frantic, sometimes near-suicidal despair of the pregnant woman, often only a teenager, and (b) the sanctimonious prattle of those anti-abortionists —mostly men—who said they represented the will of an imagined deity. Having said this, I do not want the reader to believe that there is no moral question when it comes to abortion. From an evolutionary standpoint, the fetus is a potential human being upon conception and may well have a “moral right” to that life trajectory. Yet that right exists within a broader context which requires that it should be balanced against a woman’s “moral right” to control […]

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