Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's the Debate About?: An Essay on Abortion

Focus on the Family recently published a small booklet (accessible as a PDF online) called the 2009 Sanctity of Life Guide. An essay of mine, “What’s the Debate About ?," appears in it. (It is on pages 2 and 3, or you can access it directly here). My essay was originally published online on under the title, “Who and What Are We? (What the Abortion Debate Is Really About)" (29 September 2005). (Disclaimer: Linking to the 2009 Sanctity of Life Guide does not imply or suggest my endorsement of the entirety of the work’s contents).

Here's how my essay begins:

Abortion is an issue over which Americans are deeply divided, and there is little chance that this discord will be remedied anytime soon. Each side of this cultural divide consists of citizens sincere in their convictions. But the passions that fuel these convictions about abortion often distract us from understanding the issues that really divide us.

Now it may seem odd to say "the issues that really divide us," since it seems obvious to most people that what divides us is in fact only one issue, abortion. But that is misleading. After all, if abortion did not result in the death of an unborn human being, the controversy would either cease entirely or diminish significantly. So, what we disagree over is not really abortion. But rather, our disagreement is over the nature of the being whose life abortion terminates, the unborn.

But there is another issue that percolates beneath the abortion debate: What does it mean to say that something is wrong? Suppose, for example, you are arguing with a friend over the question of whether abortion should remain legal, and your friend says to you, "If you don't like abortion, then don't have one." Although this is a common response, it really is a strange one. After all, you probably oppose abortion because you think it is wrong, not because you dislike it.

You can read the whole thing here.

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