Several months ago, I started a discussion about abortion in the DeviantART forums. I wanted to examine people’s perspectives and positions on the issue in more depth and encourage the participants to think critically about where they stand. Throughout this article I will be using the positive monikers for both sides, pro-choice and pro-life in order to avoid biased language. I will not explain my position, only the perspectives I encountered in the informal survey. Also, there are more arguments that can be made in favor of either side of this issue, but I will only discuss the ones used in the discussion forum.
The majority of responders were primarily pro-choice, supporting the position that a woman can choose to have an abortion. Close to a third of the responders were primarily pro-life, against the option of abortion in most, if not all, circumstances. A small minority held positions that were mixed, ambiguous, or otherwise unclear based on the content of their messages.
The pro-choice positions tended to focus on bodily autonomy and when an embryo or fetus is or becomes a person. Bodily autonomy is the idea that each person should and is able to choose what they do with their body. In the context of the abortion debate, it is generally argued that when the unborn child is unwanted, it can or does infringe upon the bodily autonomy of the woman. That is, that the woman can remove the embryo or fetus because it is in or part of her body. The issue of personhood is more complex and varied in the pro-choice camp. The general consensus, however, is that the unborn is a potential life, because it is not a fully developed human. A pro-choice person may consider the unborn a person at any point ranging from conception to after birth and will likely have some reason for when they consider life to begin. Additionally, the time at which the pro-choice person considers the unborn to be a person will change whether they find late-term abortions acceptable or not.
There were far fewer pro-life responders in the forum, but they all had some common elements to their position. All of them were opposed to abortion, though some made exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life was in danger because of the pregnancy. The core of the pro-life position was that abortion kills a human being and is therefore wrong in the same way that murder is wrong. It was also less important when life begins, because the fetus or embryo is viewed as a separate human being from conception.
The main contention between the pro-life and pro-choice positions is the importance of the unborn’s life versus the importance of bodily autonomy. The pro-choice side views the woman’s right to do as she pleases with her body to be more important than carrying the unborn baby to term. The pro-life side holds these in the opposite importance. There is the caveat, however, that in some circumstances a person will have to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the child. The first pro-life person to respond shared their tragic story of having to do just that, and they saved the mother at the expense of the child.
Overall, there is a lot of disagreement over the issue of abortion. Both sides have strongly held opinions and beliefs. If we can understand where people are coming from and why they are either pro-choice or pro-life, we can move forward in productive conversation.
To join the discussion or read previous responses, go to the forum thread here.