Abortion, right or wrong?
This was the question of the debate between Life Training Institute President Scott Klusendorf and Former President of the American Civil Liberties Union Nadine Strossen Monday.
Strossen kicked off the debate by looking at the similarities between the two perspectives, arguing that it isn’t a simple black and white issue and that people are not often absolutely pro-choice or pro-life.
“In our ideal world, every pregnancy would reflect an affirmative, thoughtful choice to become a parent,” Strossen said. “Every child would be enthusiastically welcomed and raised in a safe, healthy and caring family, and no pregnant women would encounter a tragic, unforeseen situation that may make abortion the least bad option.”
The differences between the two speakers’ opinions soon became evident as Klusendorf took the podium. To him, the issue boils down to whether or not the fetus is considered to be a life.
“We’ve got to answer the question, what is the unborn, before we can answer the question, can we kill the unborn,” Klusendorf said.
According to Klusendorf, all pro-choice arguments would be sound if they were not based on the premise that the unborn are not human. He stated that it is important to note that humans are not constructed, but developed, and that the pre-birth stages of life are simply part of the human stages of life.
“Everything that [the] embryo needs that will determine the course of its development is plugged in from the very beginning, and now it’s just going to run its course,” Klusendorf said. “If left uninterrupted, what you get is a fetus, a newborn, a toddler, an adolescent, an adult and a senior citizen. Just different stages that were there from the same entity that was there in the beginning.”
He argued that there are only four differences between an embryo and a human adult: size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency. None of these differences, according to Klusendorf, should be grounds for saying an embryo is inferior or has less of a right to life.
He claimed that while it is wrong to discriminate based on skin color or appearance, it is equally wrong to discriminate based on the four principles he discussed.
Strossen disagreed, and rejected the idea that there is a simple answer to the question of whether or not a fetus is a human life.
“Something can have some biological qualities that you could say make this something that will develop into a full-fledged human being or person,” Strossen said. “That is not enough to equate every single stage along the way with a woman. That’s why, to me, if there is a conflict between the two, it’s clear the woman should get priority, and the further you get along the way in the development process, the more moral and legal significance should be given to the potential life that is within her.”
Strossen also emphasized the importance of considering both the woman and the potential life. She discussed the pictures that pro-lifers often show of a fetus.
“What they ask us to visualize is the isolated picture of the fetus,” Strossen said. “Where is the person that develops, nurtures and sustains the fetus we are looking at? Where is the woman?”
To further emphasize the need to take the woman into account, she cited a study that showed two more likely causes of restriction on abortion: a hostile statewide public opinion toward women’s equality and women’s comparatively lower incomes.
“There is an absence of the voices of the women who are in the situation where they are trying to make a morally, least painful decision given their circumstances when they’re pregnant — all their family situation, all the health and other pressures,” Strossen said.
Another point of disagreement was on anti-abortion laws. Strossen argued that anti-abortion laws don’t stop abortions, they merely stop safe abortions. She cited a study by the World Health Organization which states that every year 70,000 women die from unsafe abortions in countries where abortions are illegal.
Klusendorf disputed these facts, citing an American Journal of Public Health Article that states that 90 percent of all abortions done illegally in the United States were executed by physicians in good standing in their communities, which explains why the death rate is so low. He said that anti-abortion laws do help reduce the number of abortions.
“If [abortion] is immoral and wrong, it would be immoral to only go after the underlying conditions and not implement laws against it,” Klusendorf said.
Despite both debaters citing similarities between their stances, no consensus was met in terms of future abortion legislation.