A friend and his son asked me for my opinion on a couple of questions about abortion, and they made me think. So here is the result, FWIW. Maybe it will spark some thinking from someone else that will correct mine.
Here is the original question as posed in the email.
“If you could find a gene that determines gayness, would it be ok to abort a child that was going to be gay? … I value your opinion Frank – I imagine you’re anti-abortion but I don’t know really – if it turns out that you are anti-abortion, do you think you could still offer an opinion on this particular issue, which is the slippery slope of defining exactly which kinds of situations are acceptable for abortion? I don’t really know what the laws are.
“I was also trying to remember things I’ve read about when “the consciousness” enters the fetus as a cutoff line.”
Here is my answer.
> I was also trying to remember things I’ve read about when “the consciousness” enters the fetus as a cutoff line –
To answer the last first, I have no idea just when consciousness enters the fetus. For all I know, it may be a multi-part operation, in which certain parts enter, then others, and each learns how it is to function and how they are to function together in the full being, for I believe (i.e. the guys have said) that although we think of ourselves as individuals, actually we are societies functioning within one psyche and body. I certainly don’t see the moment of conception as some sort of absolute dividing line. Not sure there is any such line other than in the legal sense of needing a line in the sand – “this is before, this is after.”
> I imagine you’re anti-abortion but I don’t know really – if it turns out that you are anti-abortion, do you think you could still offer an opinion on this particular issue, which is the slippery slope of defining exactly which kinds of situations are acceptable for abortion? I don’t really know what the laws are.
I don’t know what the laws are, either, nor the basis for the laws. I imagine that if you looked closely enough the laws would turn out to be compromises and deals that were solidified into a code, as usual. Bismark said if you like sausage or legislation, you shouldn’t look too closely into how either one is made.
Am I anti-abortion? I don’t know, really. I do believe we as a society are aborting ourselves out of a future, just as the rich in every society generally do. Child-bearing is difficult and can be dangerous; Children can be trouble. They get in the way of having fun. And so the rich get richer and the poor get children. It’s an old, old story. But that goes for birth control, too, and I certainly am in favor of birth control. Anyway, this is a matter of social policy, and that’s not what you are asking about.
Do I think that abortion is morally wrong? Well, I think like most things it depends on the motive, the intent, rather than being any form of absolute. How many reasons can there be for someone choosing to abort a fetus? Shame, overwhelm, inability to continue otherwise, mere convenience, unwillingness to bring a child into the world as a result of incest or rape… You name it. To put it into terms of sin, I think sin inheres in the intent, not the act. Judging the act is a lawyer thing to do, and has nothing to do with morality, because, as the guys also say, you can never rightly judge anyone because you can never really know them..
So, coming down to the question you began with, would it be wrong to abort a fetus because it was going to develop into something you disapproved of? I don’t know. Suppose you knew it had a 90-10 chance of growing into a mass-murderer, or some other kind of psychopath? Suppose you knew it was nearly certainly going to be retarded, or deformed? Would you be entitled to abort the fetus? And I don’t mean to imply that gays are inferior. There was a time when “science,” the great god science, thought it knew how to predict IQs, and scientists were advocating improving the human race by eugenics. Would it have been proper to prevent births of brown-eyed or brown-haired or brown-skinned babies, or babies destined to grow to be less than six feet tall?
It seems to me the real question to be addressed – which nobody is addressing, of course – is, as an individual issue, which motives are proper and which are not. It’s really going to come down to a matter of individual choice, and by framing the question as it is being framed today, you can guarantee that nobody is going to be thinking about individual intent.
Does this clarify anything for you? Did for me, anyway.