Abortion: The voice of the ambivalent majority

Experience and the moral sentiments that derive from it have moved me many notches over toward the anti-abortion position. Does that mean I know when life begins? That no longer seems like the right question. I’ve come to believe that all human beings have some piece of themselves that has no size, shape, color or weight but gives them infinite value and dignity, and it is their soul. To me the crucial question is when does a living organism become a human soul. My intuition is that it’s not a moment, but a process — a process shrouded in divine mystery.

This leaves me in a humdrum political position, I’m afraid — with the roughly half of Americans who want to restrict abortion in some circumstances, but — perhaps because they feel it would be unworkable or wrong — don’t want to ban it totally. Third- and some second-trimester abortions seem increasingly wrong to me, except in extraordinary circumstances. But the first trimester? I don’t know, and therefore I’d defer to each woman’s conscience.

Given where the Supreme Court seems to be heading, I’d sign onto the compromise position that Claremont McKenna professor Jon A. Shields sketched out in these pages in October, which could involve tightening restrictions on abortion after the first trimester.