I read your detailed and comprehensive essay detailing the arguments against abortion with a great deal of interest, and must profess a great deal of admiration for the strength of your convictions and the rational support you have mustered to their furtherance. Be that as it may, I must confess to you from the outset that I am writing to express certain confusions on my part regarding the clarity and, in some cases, the logical rigor of your arguments, which appears to waver at times under the force of your own certainty, rather than any argument or evidence marshaled against it. There are also instances where we differ in our understanding of the facts as they exist, and where appropriate I have referenced certain figures and other conclusions drawn in an effort to provide transparency as to how my thinking has been molded, in the hopes that you will reply in kind. In responding this way, it is my hope that a correspondence can develop that allows both of us to more fully understand our own and each other's ideas, whether or not this leads to any change of opinion or recognition of current inadequacies in the frameworks and facts by which we pursue our answers.
Part of the compelling nature of your argument is the clear distinction you draw between the religious/theological elements of your stance against abortion, and the medical or more scientific evidence and arguments you present. I will follow suit, addressing both classes of arguments in separate sections and indeed following the chronological course of your arguments as I come across points of confusion or disagreement. In this manner, it is hoped that a true dialogue will be developed rather than simply an ongoing trading of opposing statements.
Biblical Arguments Against Abortion
I should be forthright and tell you that I do not believe the Bible or any other religious text should be the basis for current laws or practices, nor should any system of morality be imposed on a democratic country or population. While the opposition to religion in government during the founding of this country is not as clear-cut as come would like to insist, it is very much the case that it was deemed inappropriate to require anyone to adhere to a certain text or system of beliefs as a prerequisite for remaining lawful (Levy, 79-93). It is therefore reasonable to suggest that, while the Bible might contain logical reasons that prohibit abortion, no purely moralistic supposition or theological imperative would be a convincing source of law or behavior. Be that as it may, there are some specific elements of your Biblical argument that strike me as misguided, and if you will indulge me I'd like to raise a few of those points.
The first of these points is actually the first of your arguments, when you conclude that the reason the Bible does not actually say anything about abortion directly is because it was such an unthinkable act of sin that it did not even need to be addressed. Your arguments that support this conclusion are quite concrete, as indeed childbirth is seen as holy and childlessness arises several times in the Bible in a negative light, however there are other acts that are explicitly sinful and would have been seen so at the time -- that would have needed no mention, it would seem, and yet that are mentioned. The prohibition against murder is given several times, in fact, and as the first major sin outside of the Garden of Eden (when Cain slays Abel) is certainly something people knew to be wrong; how is this compatible with the notion that some sins are "so great" that the do not need to be mentioned (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; Genesis 4:8). Wouldn't murder and adultery be on the list of automatically known sins, as well? Life is definitely considered sacred in the Bible, as you go on to define and defend in great detail, but why then is murder explicitly mentioned as a sin while abortion is not? Children are perhaps considered more scared than other lives, but there are instances of children being killed at the behest of God, so how can this automatically be known to be a grievous sin (1 Samuel 15:3)?
The other biblical argument you make that leaves me with some significant questions is that of the hypothetical pregnant woman who is struck by a man; if the baby is born prematurely but healthy the "Old Testament legal code" says that only a fine is appropriate, but states quite clearly that if serious injury is caused there should be a matching recompenses ("life for life, eye for eye," etc.). I completely concur that in this instance the law is giving the same rights to the unborn child as it would to a post-birth human being, and that thus the law would prohibit the murder of such a being. Is there not a distinction between this murder -- the violent act of a man taken against a woman's body without her permission, can causing the destruction of her child without any consideration or consent -- and an act of abortion carried out in a more humane manner and for considered reasons? Is it truly the infant who is obtaining justice in the eye-for-an-eye doctrine, or is it the parents allowed just retribution for being robbed of their child? Many prominent and well-respected Christian theologians -- from St. Augustine to Thomas More to others today -- have supported the notion of free will as an important aspect of faith, and thus the choice to use one's own body how one sees fit is defended, even if sinful (Koterksi, 41-3). The real act of sin in the scenario described is the man acting against the woman's body without her choice, isn't it?
Medical Arguments Against Abortion
Many of your Biblical conclusions are above reproach, and if the subjective morals of that text were to be the basis of our laws and behaviors the point would definitely be conceded in your favor. As outlined above, however, this is not to be the case and for very good reason, therefore I would also like to address some of the medical and empirical arguments you raise.
One of the main issues I must confess to in this section is the lack of external citations or references for many of the facts you cite. As with tour arguments in the Biblical section, there is very little room for equivocation; your logic is quite sound in almost all instances. When speaking about the Bible, however, your provided ample citations to the actual text to make your points quite concrete and clear. In the medical section there is only one citation -- in fact, this is the only citation outside of the Bible in the entirety of your essay, which contains legal and philosophical arguments as well. My own investigation into the definition of clinical death, for example, yielded no such clear-cut answers as the ones you provide in an attempt to assert that the fetus should be considered alive at eighteen days (when the heart starts beating) or at the most approximately forty days (when brain wave activity is detectable). Instead, the most comprehensive medical article I could find noted a long-running controversy about the definition of death, and states that it has generally been defined in medical circles as the cessation or irreversible degradation of all vital functions, including brain function, and a philosophical investigation of the topic agreed with this level of controversy (Bernat, 23-24; DeGrazia). In other words, science doesn't really have an answer regarding what defines death, let alone what defines life, and thus while you can interpret heartbeat or brain activity…
Sources Used in Document:
Bernat, James. "Contemporary controversies in the definition of death." Progress in Brain Research (2009). 177: 21-31.
Bible. New International Version. Accessed 30 April 2012. http://www.biblegateway.com/
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