Commentary on Abortion Article

A friend of mine pointed out to my just how dry this particular article is; and I agree with him. It was knocked off in a hurry….

Yesterday I read an article at, written by Wendy McElroy, which I thought was one of the better thought-out commentaries on the abortion debate that I’ve seen in a long time. I had a few comments to make on the article specifically and on the abortion debate itself. Please go take a look at the article and then come back here for my response. (If that link is down, the same article is mirrored at

Okay, where were we? There were two things I wanted to comment on.

First off, the author states, “[A] November, 2003, Gallup poll of teenagers found that 51 percent believed abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances.” This may be an accurate count of responses, but it is worth pointing out the manner in which the phrasing of the question skews the apparent result. From the wording of this choice, specifically the inclusion of “some” circumstances, we must assume that the other option was something along the lines of “abortion should be illegal in _all_ circumstances.” This pits the extreme of one side of the debate against a lump sum of extremists on the other side and all moderates — which makes the results of the poll appear to be much further towards the “pro-choice” side than they probably are in terms of what people actually believe. Break the pool down to more choices, such as “legal in all circumstances”, “legal in some circumstances”, “legal in most circumstances”, or “legal only in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother”, and you will get quite a different result.

Second, I thought I’d throw out my personal view on abortion, as it seems pertinent to the discussion. I tend to view pregnancy as a close parallel to conjoined twins. You have two people who are physically joined. In this case, they share organ function in such a way that one is totally dependent on the other. Consider an example: twin sisters Sally and Joan are conjoined at the chest and shoulder. Sally has a full complement of internal organs, and if they were to be surgically separated, Sally would most likely survive. Joan has partially formed organs but no heart of her own, and only one lung. If they were surgically separated, Joan would, according to multiple expert medical opinions, die within the hour.

They are adults, so there is no issue of parents making their decisions. They are both healthy. Sally has decided that she wants to be freed of her sister. Joan, for obvious reasons, disagrees. The question is, does Sally have the right to demand separation from Joan, at the cost of Joan’s life? Sally has a right to her body and her life, but so does Joan.

Now another look…. Complications have arisen as a result of their unusual physical state, and they are probably going to die. Surgeons determine that if they separate the two, Sally has a decent chance of survival, but Joan will die. If they remain together, there is a chance — a small possibility — that they will both recover. Now does Sally have the right to demand their separation? Perhaps she does. Her sister, whether intentionally or not, is killing her. Suddenly the phrase “right to life” takes on a new meaning.

How, you ask, does this comparison relate to circumstances such as rape? After considerable consideration (ahem) I tend to see this as falling under the second example. The raped woman may not be physically killed by having the child, but her life may be destroyed just as thoroughly. Her pain, and the death of the child, is, if anything, on the head of the rapist. This aspect remains problematic, but ultimately the woman is pregnant as a result of an extremely traumatic assault, and that circumstance demands different consideration.

So I suppose all this puts me firmly in that distorted Gallup poll’s 51% that “supports” abortion (assuming I were a teenager), even though I am pretty firmly pro-life.

Comments are invited and encouraged

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