The abortion debate – debating the wrong question

In reading the ABC this morning, I noticed this editorial by Jonathan Green on the continuing apron debate in Australia. Green sums up the situation quite well, putting both sides of the story in and making the conclusion that the debate is far from over.

The problem is that the debate is asking the wrong question.

The question is asked, should a woman be able to get an abortion? This leads to responses from “pro-life”  supporters saying that it is murder, and from the “pro-choice” supporters saying that it is a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body.

The debate is framed in such a way that neither side is actually engaging the other, apart from being opposed to one another. Questions arise such as: at what point does life begin? If life begins at conception, as some suggest, is it then ok for a woman to choose what she does with her own body at the harm of someone else? If life doesn’t begin at conception, but either at some other point during the pregnancy or at birth, does that then make abortion prior to that point ok?

The question being asked is to difficult to answer. As we don’t know when life begins exactly, we can never fully answer the question. We need a new question to frame the debate, and I propose this one:

Why are women seeking abortions?

Is it because there are likely to be medical difficulties of a child is born? Is it because sexual promiscuity is rampant in our society and girls are falling pregnant when they aren’t at a life stage to support a child? Is it because they found out they were having a boy and really wanted a girl? Is it because they are raped and don’t want any reminder of the person who abused them? There are many more possible answers to the why question.

The thing with the why question is that it produces solutions. If there are medical difficulties, then we can invest into medical research to find solutions to that issue. If it’s sexual promiscuity, then we can start sexual health and self-worth classes so that you’d men and women can find an identity away from needing to sleep around.

By discovering the issues behind the presenting issue, we can discover solutions to benefit all people.

For the record, I am personally against abortion, and don’t think I would encourage anyone to go through it. That being said, if someone came to me asking for support through the process, while I would make sure that every other path had been explored,  if that was the only path,  then I would pastorally support them through that difficult course of action.

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