Opinion: Life begins at conception
I write this to give a different perspective on the recent “my thoughts” editorial written by Robert Townes. I write acknowledging that, as described, his and his wife’s credentials include the school of theology. From this description I understand that he was and can still be active in Episcopalian ministry. Not having a university degree or ordination, I am writing to you simply to express a point of view and a conviction different from his. This is respectfully intended. And, in this regard, I can offer that I have a brother-in-law who is a retired Lutheran minister and whose views on Roe v. Wade and the larger topic of abortion seem to follow those of Reverend Townes. We don’t agree, but we maintain a mutual respect.
Reverend Townes shared his opinion and belief on the political and denominational aspects of what he accurately called “a very deep division” in this country over the Supreme Court’s constitutional decision in Roe c . Wade and the confessional aspect of the subject of abortion and rights. As I understand the term, “confessional” refers to professed beliefs that are sworn or “confessed” in creeds, brief doctrinal statements, such as those contained in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. Churches whose fundamental doctrines of belief are set forth in creeds are called denominational religions as opposed to, for example, those which profess sola scriptura. (I invite correction if my understanding of the term is incorrect.)
The Reverend stated his opposition to “removing the right of a pregnant woman to make her own choice about whether to give birth or terminate her pregnancy”, and explained how he came to this position. And last July, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution affirming access to “unrestricted abortion and birth control services.” It is sometimes difficult to keep the meaning of “right” clear in the context of Roe and abortion. Some rights may be considered only in a legal context and others in a moral context, with the possibility that people end up arguing or discussing what they think is a single issue and agreed terminology while the issue is actually broader and the definition of key terms is neither shared nor uniform.
I agree with the Reverend that there is a deep division on this national debate in our country. But I think this division covers the whole Western world, because the subject goes beyond a court order or a piece of legislation in the United States. I disagree with his statement that “the issue we are debating nationally is ‘morally ambiguous'”. by God.
As noted, the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer requires the affirmation that the baptized “will respect the dignity of every human being.” Therefore, I am confused when I read his statement, including doctors and theologians, that it is difficult to agree “when life begins”. On the contrary, there is no real scientific debate on the beginning of human life.
Scientific evidence shows that when the sperm and egg unite, a single cell, or embryo, is created which is a separate life from the mother. From its conception, an embryo shows the behavior and complexity of an organism, distinguishing it from other human cells and from other human beings. DNA is unique in this new life from the beginning and remains a part of this life until the end and even beyond.
Although in a different circumstance, I can understand and identify with Reverend Townes’ description of “every insulting test the medical professionals threw” at him and his wife regarding their pregnancy efforts. I went through several insulting tests regarding a cancer diagnosis. They were also taught by medical professionals and ultimately the course was concluded by a surgeon. Despite the procedural insults, I’m sure we’ll agree that with health care it’s wiser to rely on a physician for diagnosis and treatment over non-mainstream alternatives, as has unfortunately illustrated the tragic case of Steve Jobs. But just as one should not rely on people outside the medical profession to analyze, diagnose and treat medical conditions or diseases, neither should moral analyzes and decisions be based on the opinions of unqualified sources, in particularly political or societal.
The secular-religious debate over Roe has to do with abortion on demand. My objection is only to unrestricted elective abortion, not life-saving and medically necessary abortion. In part, this also comes from personal experience. In my family, there was a medical condition that necessitated the mother’s emergency hysterectomy after the birth of her baby girl. If the medical emergency had developed before a full-term birth, the procedure would have been just as necessary to save the mother’s life, otherwise she would have bled to death. Much earlier in the pregnancy, left in utero, the baby’s life would certainly have been lost as a result of the procedure. In either case, the intent and purpose of a medically necessary hysterectomy would have been the same: to preserve the mother’s life. And despite the outcome, his goal would not have been to lose the baby. While the goal of elective abortion is always to lose the baby.
Further in his remarks, the Reverend says he believes that “we are ultimately saved by the grace of God and not condemned by the actions we take or do not take.” Given, all Christians share the belief that we are saved by the grace of God. However, we can reject God’s grace. And the grace of God is not a license to sin.
Based on scientific evidence, and regardless of policy or legal theory on the matter, the American Medical Association has opposed abortion for more than a century. Calling it “popular ignorance” and the “inaccurate belief that the fetus is only alive after the acceleration period”, the AMA announced its “aversion to the abnormal”. . . crime of abortion” in 1859. (Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol.XII-6.)
Because in biology and medicine the question of when life begins can be answered by objective science, I am of the view that the morally ambiguous question that must be addressed is not when human life begins, but this: when does this human life begin. get a soul? It is a theological question. Answering the question and making a decision based on your opinion, in the absence of theology and science, would be like diagnosing yourself with cancer.
If the position of moral agency, described in the editorial as “the ability of a moral agent to make a choice”, recognizes that choice can be right or wrong, moral or immoral, then I would propose that agency Morality is free will, the exercise of which requires accountability. And the ultimate decisive question would be, and always will be, what is the eternally correct choice (and not the temporally expedient choice) that the moral agent must make? Obviously, the answer is that he chooses good over evil; that is, His will upon his will. The great Anglican theologian and bishop, later Catholic theologian and bishop, John Henry Newman said this about the choices of good and evil, of God’s will and his own will: “We can believe what we choose. We are responsible for what we choose to believe.
Based on the beginning of life and the moral discernment required to consider ending life, I conclude that there is no moral ambiguity with respect to the subject of Roe v. Wade. And while I’m sure Robert Townes holds his stated beliefs and opinions as deeply as I hold my own, we can’t both be right. The words of another English clergyman come to mind: “Opinions change, mores change, beliefs rise and fall, but the moral law is written on tablets of eternity. The confusing part of all this is that we are reading from the same tablets.
Chip Williams is a Northsider.
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