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  • Reverend James Squire

Is Nothing Sacred?

Photo by Ian Hutchinson

Before I look at the perspectives of religion on abortion, let me share with you a story of when I was wrong. Abortion for me is more of a personal matter as opposed to just an academic or political issue. I have counseled women of various ages about a possible abortion who, for the most part, weren’t in the underserved population.

There was one incident that colored my attitude toward abortion. You my have already read ethical justice issues on my blog, “Breach of Trust.” I was asked to comment on a possible abortion for a woman who was psychotic who was impregnated by another patient, who was psychotic in the same psychiatric facility as the pregnant woman. I based my response on the diagnosis that, in all likelihood, she would not be able to raise a child. She decided, however, to have the child. The child along with meds changed the mother’s life and she became one of the best mothers that you could imagine. The child turned out to be free from all mental health issues and was bright and very personable. We kept in contact over the years. My recommendation was a mistake. That incident informed my decisions about who should get an abortion and who shouldn’t as well as my counseling women in general on this issue. Know that you are stepping on sacred ground with the issue of abortion and where life begins.

I always tried to get the girls who came to me for counseling on this issue to inform their parents. This is priority number #1 for counseling young girls in particular. In many states the young woman is required by law to inform the parents before getting an abortion. This puts the pregnant girl in a catch 22 situation regarding her decision. She wants privacy, but can’t get it for legal reasons. I haven’t had any young person fail to follow through and involve her parents after seeing me. This is why trust is one of the most important issues in counseling. There is also the other difficult ethical dilemma which is unplanned pregnancy which raises the issue of responsibility and whether the abortion is a matter of convenience.

This brings up the question that is not raised enough in discussing abortion. What is the responsibility of the male? As someone said recently, “We should be regulating the penis not my uterus!”

In essence, my role in counseling is to help the girl/woman to walk around the issue of abortion and see various aspects of her decision and her feelings that go along with that. They should feel my support, and I never say, “You should do this or do that! It is her decision hopefully in concert with the views of her parents if she is young. Whatever they choose, they must feel my support.

Almost every religion’s view of abortion falls across a spectrum from conservative to liberal interpretation. My view on abortion is the mainstream view of most Protestant denominations. It is the via media which states that it is wrong but necessary or the lesser of two evils. It is a view of moderation.

The Roman Catholic Ethic emphasizes Natural Law. Nothing should interrupt the “natural continuum” which abortion does. It also advocates the consideration of potential. Once conception occurs, you could be aborting the next Beethoven.

The Jewish Ethic views on abortion run from the conservative view of Orthodox Jews which is similar to Roman Catholic perspective. The Conservative and Reform groups with a more liberal interpretation depend on the Law of the Pursuer which means that the fetus is pursuing the health of the mother and therefore is permitted. What is in this life, the mother, takes precedence above all.

In Islam the soul of the individual enters the body of the fetus at 120 days. After that time abortions should not be done except for threat to the mother’s life or certain significant genetic medical anomalies.

There is, however, a spectrum of belief among the various denominations of religion from the conservative to the liberal even within a particular group. For example, there are pro-choice Roman Catholics. All religions honor the sanctity of life and all religions have various interpretations of conservative and liberal positions.

The last view is the Woman Centered Perspective, that is based in Natural Law which views the woman’s body as her primary property. Property is a serious sacred issue that is part of an emphasis on the sacred nature of the social contract.

But something else needs to be addressed. One has to “marry” their belief system to a position on when human life begins. There are several stages that are considered. The Roman Catholic view indicates that life begins at conception for all that is necessary for the infant to grow into a human being are contained in the zygote (the union of egg and sperm). The potential for life is, as I mentioned, a key word in this view.

Another possibility of when life begins is when the zygote attaches to the uterine wall. This occurs five or six days after conception. It is called implantation.

At three months in utero known as quickening, you can feel the fetus moving as it now possesses the ability to be more fully formed.

At 6 to 7 months the fetus can now live with medical support outside the womb. This is the woman centered view.

You now need to choose a time when you believe life begins and marry it to a perspective of a religious view. In other words, you can’t choose that the fetus is “alive” at 3 months and agree with the Roman Catholic view or hold to conception as the time life begins and adhere to a more liberal view. Three months is where Roe V. Wade views life beginning.

In my view, abortion is a complex sacred issue. Making it a political issue without religious considerations and a sense of when life begins, reduces the importance of this incredibly important matter. Democrats and Republicans should know this! It reduces its value if it becomes something to get my vote.

I recently saw a two-page document of “talking points” for Republicans given out on how to get the voters on their side of the abortion issue. I am sure that the Democrats have the same thing. My question to myself is, “Is nothing sacred to you power seekers?” My answer to myself is, “NO!” The response of both political parties actually diminishes the sanctity that is required for this discussion of abortion to result in civil, even holy, conversations as opposed to shouting loudly about the “rightness” of their views.

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