Edge Cases

One of the things I dislike most about the current abortion debate is the way it pushes people into “us and them” camps.  It’s as if there was no one in the middle contemplating the very real difficulties that any law based argument brings up.  Since I have taken a very “pro-life” stance on this question I seem to be on the receiving end of only one side of the argument.  It comes as a relief to hear the other side sometimes.

I have taken a firm stance on this issue because we are talking about changing a very significant aspect of our constitution: the spelled-out right to life of an unborn child.  Anything that I am about to say does not change my position on this: I believe that the best thing to do is to keep the 8th Amendment in the constitution for the many reasons I have articulated in other posts on this issue.

However laws cannot legislate for all aspects of life and, on their own, are a very poor basis for conducting civil society, even if, for no other reason than they are just writings and open to interpretation.

The bible has this to say about the letter of the law: “It kills” (2 Cor. 3:6).  There has to be a spirit behind the law, a spirit that informs how people interpret the law.  If there is no spirit there is no life in the law.

The way this works itself out in most civil society is in the people who interpret the law, i.e. the judges and the legal profession mainly but also anyone who has to work with the laws such as doctors and others in the medical profession.  As a Christian I could wish that the Holy Spirit informed more of the decisions of these people.

However, I am not a doctor nor do I work in the medical profession.  I have been in court many times as part of my expert witness work so I am more familiar with the workings of the legal profession.  But I am not a lawyer nor a legal judge.

I have noticed that my doctor friends have by and large stayed quiet on this issue.  They have had to face the reality of the circumstances of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, the real flesh and blood behind the situations women find themselves in.  I think they are less inclined to be black and white about the issues as a result.

And there are some very difficult edge cases that black and white letter of the law approaches cannot legislate for.  For instance, if we say that life begins as soon as life is conceived then even the morning after pill should be banned.  What about IVF?  There are often several fertilised eggs which are not implanted in the womb.  They all have the potential for life.  Should we make every effort to ensure they are all brought to full term?

Then there are the difficult cases where the mother’s life isn’t necessarily in danger but her ongoing health is.

Finally, there is the fact that abortions are going to happen whether we legislate against them or not.  By making abortion illegal under many circumstances we increase the risk to those women who do decide to go ahead and have an abortion anyway.

In a way, saying we have clear answers to all these questions is also playing God.  You are welcome to your opinion, as am I, but in the end we had better be prepared to put our actions where are words are for those who face realities we may never have to.  It is easy for me to talk, I don’t have to judge in an “X” case or counsel a woman who may be seriously injured as a result of carrying a child full term.

God bless those working in the medical and legal professions.  May we have more of you who are led by the Holy Spirit.

But I’m still going to vote to keep the 8th Amendment.  For what it is worth, on balance, I think you should too.

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