Moral equivalent of murder
June 12, 2012 5 Comments
I saw this story about the morning after pill in my local paper and was going to blog about a quote in it, but I oddly had some difficulty finding it on-line. Anyway, one of my students in my on-line class posted a link in an on-line discussion, so here, I am. The main gist of the story is quite important:
But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. Rather, the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.
It turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work. Because they block creation of fertilized eggs, they would not meet abortion opponents’ definition of abortion-inducing drugs. In contrast, RU-486, a medication prescribed for terminating pregnancies, destroys implanted embryos.
Not that it’s anything new, but this little bit is what bothered me:
Based on the belief that a fertilized egg is a person, some religious groups and conservative politicians say disrupting a fertilized egg’s ability to attach to the uterus is abortion, “the moral equivalent of homicide,” as Dr. Donna Harrison, who directs research for the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, put it.
You know what– I’m actually quite comfortable agreeing that in many, if not most, circumstances abortion is a moral wrong. But you know what, so is adultery and we don’t outlaw that. What’s moral versus what’s legal are very different issues. Honestly, though, even accepting that abortion is the wrongful taking of human life this is just not the same thing as “homicide.” The reason it an absolutely horrible thing to have a child killed is that it massively reverberates throughout the lives of everybody who knew that child– especially the parents and immediate family. It is a life-altering moral devastation for a family and community. It has an impact like throwing a 10 pound rock into a baby pool. An abortion, which we can argue is a horrible wrong to that unborn human, simply lacks the same moral weight because there are simply almost no wider reverberations. It’s a small stone at most thrown into that same baby pool (not to minimize the impact it can have, but seriously, compared to the murder of a child that people actually know and experience in life). To place the ending of the life of an unborn child on the same moral plane as the ending of the life of a born, living, breathing, interacting human child, to me, devalues the life of the latter. So, to be redundant, I’m quite willing to accept that abortion is a moral wrong, but I strongly reject the contention that it is the moral equivalent of homicide. And regardless of all that, the law should be a separate issue. Morality should inform what our laws our, not determine what they are.