A New View on the Abortion Debate
by Ralph Tobias

President Obama’s nomination of Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius has reopened the ever-simmering abortion kettle. Catholic League President Bill Donohue+ calls her an “enemy of the unborn”, while the liberal group “Catholics United” has come to her defense, saying Sebelius, a devout Catholic, has taken several steps to lower the abortion rate in her state. While involvement of religious organizations in the debate is to be expected, it’s unfortunate that we, as Americans, have allowed the discussion to gather moss in that quagmire. After all, regardless of an argument’s validity in that arena, the stalemate always becomes “Well, that’s what YOU believe.” And many people just dismiss religion outright. But is there an area where we can all find common ground? Is it possible to keep religion completely out of it and still come to a rational, concrete conclusion? I say it is, and this conclusion has everything to do with who we are and who we don’t want to become.

To my knowledge, of the tens of billions of opportunities throughout history no human being has ever given birth to anything but another human being. The scales of probability are heavily skewed in that direction: when a human pregnancy comes to term – avoiding any discussion whatsoever of when life actually begins – the offspring is always human. This is a 100% probability. No woman has ever given birth to an elephant, a palm tree, a cockroach, a chimpanzee, or anything else but one of her own kind. This being the irrefutable truth, I believe we should be able to agree that terminating pregnancy equates to destroying human potential. And if this is the case, when in this country has it been acceptable to destroy human potential? Not to be inflammatory, but is this a legacy we really want to share with Nazi Germany?

Now, you’ll notice that this position totally avoids any debate over when life begins. I like that. There are few things more paralyzing to a debate between two opposing sides than religion and politics. This position avoids both. There is no reason we as Americans can’t put aside our egos and party politics in order to see this thing for what it really is – preserving human potential. No doubt this position will not sit well with some, but that doesn’t change the facts. We had better shed our ostrich feathers and deal with a reality no one can refute. And while we’re at it, let’s discard the unfortunate labels we insist on using. Are pro-choice people really anti-life? Are pro-lifers opposed to freedom of choice? I don’t think so. These labels are foolish and unnecessary. And they just get in the way of healthy discussion.


  1. I have to disagree with this statement on a number of fronts:

    “But is there an area where we can all find common ground? Is it possible to keep religion completely out of it and still come to a rational, concrete conclusion? I say it is,…”

    1.) There is no common ground between the view that it is OK to kill a baby and the view that it isn’t.

    2.) Since God is the precondition of rationality and human dignity, it is impossible to keep religion “completely out of” anything. Doing so only leads to irrationality.

    3.) Christians are not permitted to “keep religion completely out of it”, for doing so only denies the lordship of Christ over the human mind and over civil law.

    I appreciate your efforts to reach “the other side”, but you are starting off on the wrong foot. This is especially true in the area of abortion, where there can be no compromise. Either the civil government should outlaw baby murder or it shouldn’t.

  2. Thank you for your comments. I do not disagree with you. Perhaps I didn’t make my point very well. No two things heat up (and often derail) discussions more than religion and politics. And when these two are ingredients in the same soup, God save us all! And that’s the point I’m trying to make – perhaps an abortion discussion can be more fruitful when combustible ingredients (like religion) are “decentralize” in the discussion.

    Not that religion doesn’t have a place; it just doesn’t resonate with everyone. And if we’re going to find a reasonable solution we must bring people together. I hope we can all agree (and therefore be forced to face undisputable facts) that man and woman perpetuate man and woman. As I said before, it is an absolute certainty that a pregnant woman will give birth to one of her own kind (assuming the pregnancy comes to term). This is common ground, and clearly those with hidden agendas are exposed when they refuse to meet on this playing field.

    In my mind, human potential is the critical element. If I could risk injecting a little combustion of my own into this discussion (for the sake of understanding where I’m coming from), I believe we are on earth to reach our fullest potential as children of God. For the benefit of full disclosure, I want you to know that I have a firm belief in God and the sanctity of human life. That said, I want it clear that I am neither pro-life nor pro-choice, for I do not believe these terms to be mutually exclusive but rather divisive. I am, for all intents and purposes, pro-responsibility. We make a bed, we should sleep in it. Seems reasonable to me, but we can’t seem to agree on the same bed. But we can agree that humans give birth to humans 100% of the time. While I believe God can settle the matter in a second, I also believe that He wants us to do all we can first. We’ve done a lousy job so far. What I’m trying to do is introduce an indisputable fact into the discussion, one I feel can lead to a logical conclusion for all. I am not saying life isn’t sacred; equally, I am not saying choice isn’t necessary to preserve. What I am saying is that there is a more productive place where we can discuss the issue.

  3. Thanks Ralph.

    However, I don’t think I misunderstood your position. If think you are misguided if you try to approach a topic such as abortion by trying to “decentralize” religion and politics in such a discussion.

    First of all, it is impossible to “decentralize” religion and politics from the abortion discussion. The abortion debate is a religious and political debate. Even the term “human potential” has no meaning apart from religious belief.

    You wrote, “I want it clear that I am neither pro-life nor pro-choice, for I do not believe these terms to be mutually exclusive but rather divisive.” With all due respect, this seems to be some sort of a word game. As currently defined, these words are mutually exclusive, especially when it comes to the role of civil government. That is the heart of the disagreement, the proper role of civil government. Should civil government allow for the murder of babies or not? One can really only have one of two answers. Either the civil government should outlaw the murder of babies (prolife), or it should not (pro-choice).

    What would you consider to be a “reasonable solution” that “must bring people together”? It is either one or the other, and someone will disagree with whatever law is passed. In this particular instance, there is no way to “bring people together, but rather do the right thing, regardless of what people think.

  4. Ralph I see where you are coming from. You are stating a simple truth. Truth is what is missing on the Pro-Choice side of the argument. This is why they do not want women to have all the facts before they make a life ending decision. If the truth was presented I believe the choice would be life more often than not.

    Starting at square one and proclaiming the truth is the beginning of changing hearts. You never know when someone will finally see the light.

  5. The position I am taking is more pragmatic than anything else. I realize that many share my belief in the santity of life. I also realize that many others view religion as a big turn-off. (Frankly, the way many supposed people of faith have acted I don’t blame them.) So how does one bring these two parties (note: not a political reference) together in this important debate? Is it possible to bridge the divide?

    Let’s look at the evidence. Choosing sides like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” hasn’t worked thus far. Each side continues to dig in and stubbornly hold their ground. The interesting thing is that both sides have merit (which makes the debate that much more difficult). No one wants to kill babies, no matter how much “pro-lifers” insist “pro-choicers” are baby killers. I just don’t believe that. Likewise, “pro-lifers” are not trying to take anyone’s freedom away. That’s just plain rediculous. I fear that without an appeal to what Mama_Fluco calls “square one” we’re never going to get anywhere. And potential humans are going to continue dying.

    People of faith cling to the belief that God will intervene. I do not disagree. God can (and does) intervene in our lives, very often by changing hearts. It happens all the time. However, He also expects us to do our part. He is not going to take away our agency to choose for ourselves. Choice is important to God and, if I may say so, one of our primary reasons for being here in the first place. We have an opportunity to choose here, to bring both sides together in an area where no one in their right mind would disagree. Let me restate it – humans gives birth to humans! Can anyone argue the point? Are we going to continue hurling insults and misleading labels at one another? Or are we going to be the kind of people that protect human potential?

  6. Perhaps we are talking apples and oranges here. Let me ask you, what is the desired result of your prolife stance. What do you hope to accomplish by your “pragmatic” methods? How does this help get abortion outlawed by our civil government (which is what the gaol of the prolife position should be).

    To answer your question directly, it is not possible to “bridge the divide”. That’s my entire point. There is no common ground between those who want to legalize baby murder and those who don’t. (Again, we are talking about the role of civil government here).

    Also, I am not suggesting for a second that God’s intervention somehow removes human agency. My comment about the issue of abortion being decided in Heaven referred to the moral position, not the idea that God is going to do our work for us. Abortion is murder, period, and we should view at just like any other murder. It is not open to debate because God has decided that, and sealed it with the fire of his Divine writ, “Thou Shall Not Murder”.

    So again, I would ask what you wish to accomplish by taking your position. If you seek some “middle ground”, then you are off base, for there is no middle ground to be had.

    Also, I need ask again, how does one address “human potential” without appealing to the religious and political aspects of this debate. Without religion, the term “human potential” becomes meaningless, arbitrary, and even debatable. (What separates humans from the weeds that we kill?)

    The abortion debate centers around ethics (religion) and the role of civil government (politics). Trying to remove religion and politics from the abortion issue is to remove the very foundation of the arguments on either side. In other words, take religion and politics out of the abortion debate, and there is no debate to be had. This, of course, is impossible.

    So what is your goal as a pro-lifer? Whose minds do you hope to change, and how do you do so without defining human potential (religion), ethics (religion), and law (politics)? I will need to see a detailed plan of attack.

  7. I’m not saying take religion and politics completely out of it. Rather, I’m saying that our “square one” should be a place where all can agree. And I have found that place: all can agree that, without exception, every single human pregnancy, when brought to term, will result in a human being. What do I hope to accomplish? I hope that we, the people, will inform our legislative representatives that the government has no right to hinder the potential of any human being to pursue life, liberty, or property. As I see it, the whole abortion debate between the two sides currently at odds is hung up on when life begins. That’s pretty much where the Supreme Court draws the line. Those in favor of abortion rights say no one can tell definitively say when an embryo is a human being; those opposed say life begins at conception. A resolution of disagreement should begin at a point where all parties can agree if there is any hope of moving forward.

  8. “I’m not saying take religion and politics completely out of it.”

    That’s good. Doing so would be impossible anyway.

    “Rather, I’m saying that our “square one” should be a place where all can agree.”

    I think that you are oversimplifying the abortion issue. Let me ask you this. Do really think that it will be a startling revelation to the pro-choice movement that every single human pregnancy, when brought to term, will result in a human being? Why do you think that this even matters to them? The unfortunate fact is that it doesn’t really matter to the pro-choice movement when life begins, or what the end result of a full term pregnancy will be. In their minds, the issue is more of a matter of convenience and “should be left to the woman to decide”.

    The good news is that the population at large is starting to see the evils of abortion (the popularity of the ultrasound has helped). Overturning this wicked Roe v. Wade, however, is going to require more than just finding “common ground” (which really doesn’t exist). It is going to require, one one hand, a grassroots political effort to return to our Constitutional form of government, (Roe v. Wade makes no legal sense, even if the moral and religious aspects are ignored) and rejecting the mysterious sanctity of “settled law”, and on the other hand, a new Great Awakening so that the minds of men may be renewed to the things of the Spirit of God. In short, abortion must be viewed for what it is, murder, and no sane person would want to legalize murder for the sake of convenience. Your “common ground” approach won’t tell a pro-abortionist something that he or she doesn’t already know. You’ll have to build on that via a Christian worldview, or the very idea of “human potential” will be abstract and useless.

    I wish you well in your approach, but I don’t foresee it getting very far.

  9. But you see, I’m not trying to influence the “pro-choice” movement. My efforts are directed at legislature. According to the Founding Fathers, it’s the legislature’s responsibility to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property. I have extended that right, logically so, to the unborn because of every human unborn’s undeniable human potential.

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