Because the issue of life in the womb is so clear-cut for me, I am intrigued by thoughtful defenses of abortion rights. More often than not abortion supporters rely on emotion and, frankly, out-shouting their opponents, so I am drawn to ideas that could possibly be a thought-out defense for taking a baby's life. The Huffington Post blogger, Rabbi Aaron Alexander, wrote such a post to such a person like me. It is from one person serious about their faith to another person serious about their faith who disagrees with him on the issue of life and abortion.
In opening, he makes a point about connecting religious belief with potential danger and coercion. He recognizes my right to hold a religiously informed point of view then notes, "But, like all things religious, it is also potentially dangerous." So, I assume, he is talking about his point of view.
Then, addressing the pro-life position, he says, "So this is the part I don't understand. Your definition of when life begins is not based on scientific fact. It is your religiously held belief. But it isn't mine....My religious tradition -- which prioritizes life above all else -- generally assumes that potential life doesn't become its own living entity until 40 days into the pregnancy."
What a curious set of things to string together. Is he interested in the scientific evidence? I'm not sure. As far as I can tell all the actual scientific evidence that can be mustered in this debate tells us that the fertilized embryo is a human being. The debate about whether or not it can be killed is not a scientific question, but one of value and meaning ('is it a wanted child?' 'will the mother be psychologically harmed if the child is carried to term?' 'when is it right to take the life of an innocent human being?' etc.).
Then our two views are pitted against each other with no clear arbiter. They just are. We simply hold two different opinions. Great.
And then the inevitable happens. He closes by saying,
You may disagree with my religion's definition. That I understand and respect. But here's the rub: when you attempt to legislate what my community (or any community) can and can't do based on your faith's definition, you don't just simply disagree with me. You are saying, to be blunt, that your religion is correct and mine is incorrect -- coercively. That takes a considerable amount of hubris that isn't worthy of either of our faiths, or our great country's principles, for that matter.
I do disagree, and I do respect his right to hold an opinion and defend it. But I don't have any qualms about arguing for the rightness or accuracy of one position over another. And, as it turns out, neither does he. By asserting a position different from mine, and thereby either explicitly or implicitly hoping that I will hold his view instead of mine, he has violated his own standard.
But that's OK. In fact, it is only right and natural that he does. This is what we were given minds and rational capacities for - to aim at the truth of the matter. I am glad I ran across his article - it has given me another opportunity to hear the 'other side's' argument and make sure my position is up-to-snuff.
And, surprisingly, I have no urge to be coercive or dangerous now.