Author Topic: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality  (Read 21105 times)

Offline wayfe

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Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« on: May 16, 2019, 02:44:22 PM »
I've been thinking a lot about abortion and what's going in the news lately.

I'm a frum woman, mother of 2, and being pro-life seemed almost instinctual to me. But beyond my personal beliefs, debating the legality or illegality of abortion requires understanding the (euphemistically named) pro-choice position.

So the defense agains the common pro-abortion arguments are as follows:

1. "My body, my choice": This argument (which often gets intertwined with the viability argument) imagines that since the fetus is inside the mother's womb and cannot survive on its own, it's considered part of the mother. This would be the equivalent of assuming that a car parked inside a garage is part of the house. Or that a cake baking in the oven is part of the oven. The viability argument isn't too sure-footed either. A 3-month-old baby would also die if they were left alone. A toddler would also die if no one would feed them. Some adult husbands would die if they weren't fed ;) . The fact that someone requires care doesn't mean that they don't have the right to exist.

2. "A fetus isn't a baby": Well, that's right, a fetus isn't a baby. Just the same way a baby isn't a child and a child isn't a teenager and a teenager isn't an adult. They're all at different developmental stages. But ultimately, they are all human. It's a human fetus. In fact, if you can handle it- take a look at these first trimester images and tell me that this isn't a human.

3. The rape/incest case: As horrible and as tragic as these cases are, getting an abortion doesn't take away the rape. Furthermore, the unborn child isn't guilty of the crimes of his father. How can we justify taking someone's innocent life for a crime he didn't commit?

For the offensive play, pro-lifers point out the brutality of abortion.
Many people don't even know that most surgical abortions involve at the very least the dismemberment of the fetus. While rare, late term saline abortions have the baby undergo chemical burns from the inside out. If you have the stomach for it, you can google other late term abortion horrors.
You can learn about the actual details of an abortion procedure here, it's not the same as having a cancerous, clump of tissue removed.

There is evidence that suggest that the fetus can feel pain from 16weeks and on:
Quote
we cannot deny that the fetal nervous system mounts protective responses to tissue injury. A physiological fetal reaction to painful stimuli occurs from between 16 and 24 weeks’ gestation on.


On the scientific front things seem clear. A fetus is it's own human being, with it's own distinct set of DNA.


But things get murkier- what do we say to those babies being born into poverty, into immature and even neglectful families, those born with conditions that will make their life a struggle? What about those babies who are simply unwanted? Are they better off dead?


What if in the future we will have guaranteed pain-free abortions? What if scientists could find incontrovertible truth that babies are not conscious prior to birth? Would that change things?


Pro-life proponents would still argue "no". And that brings us to the heart of the matter: the sanctity of life. And this is the underlying answer to all of the pro-life arguments. This is why it doesn't matter what Life is, or when exactly it starts. Life is precious. Life is the most. precious. thing. Even the life of an unwanted, inconvenient baby. Even the life of a rapist's child. Even the life of a baby with Down Syndrome. Even the life of a baby who will grow up to live a poor, hard, obstacle-ridden, mostly miserable life.


At least that's how I see it.


But this is no longer a cold-hard, logical, scientific truth. The sanctity of life is a uniquely religious idea. Because we are made in the image of G-d, that is why human life is precious. If we remove G-d from the picture- is life precious from an evolutionary standpoint? Is the 80-90 year lifespan of one (statistically prone to be) unremarkable human important among the millions of years, millions of species that precede and succeed it? Not much. Should this clump of molecules, this group of atoms matter more than this amoeba, that bacteria, this asteroid shooting, hurtling around in galaxy? And if this particular life will be difficult and often unhappy, then maybe it's even a kindness to kill it.


So for me, ultimately it's an issue of morality. And morality is inherently a religious constructs. Again, if nature is king and evolution dictates the progression of the world- why does social justice matter? In fact, in today's parlance, evolution is 'racist'! According to natural selection, it's only inevitable that 'the fittest' end up on top. That the smartest and strongest dominate and exploit the weaker isn't evil or unjust- it's only the way nature is designed!


So now, does immoral = illegal?
Should it?


As a frum jew, from a Torah perspective, something is illegal precisely because it is immoral. But is that something we should pursue in a secular government? What about separation of church and state?
I remember frum Jews posting somewhat celebratory messages when gay marriage was legalized in 2015. The government shouldn't dictate the terms of morality, they wrote.


But where is the line drawn? And what kind of arguments can be made when God is removed from the picture?


If you've made it this far- thanks! I'd love to hear your thoughts.
"I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers which can't be questioned."
— Richard Feynman

Online skyguy918

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2019, 03:02:24 PM »
...The viability argument isn't too sure-footed either. A 3-month-old baby would also die if they were left alone. A toddler would also die if no one would feed them. Some adult husbands would die if they weren't fed ;) . The fact that someone requires care doesn't mean that they don't have the right to exist.
Didn't read the rest yet, but that's not what viability means.
Quote from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_viability
Viability, as the word has been used in United States constitutional law since Roe v. Wade, is the potential of the fetus to survive outside the uterus after birth, natural or induced, when supported by up-to-date medicine. Fetal viability depends largely on the fetal organ maturity, and environmental conditions.
ETA: That means it includes being fed. A fetus that's considered not viable won't survive no matter what (0% at 21 weeks or less). A baby, toddler, etc will all survive when cared for properly.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 03:08:08 PM by skyguy918 »

Offline wayfe

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2019, 03:36:21 PM »
Didn't read the rest yet, but that's not what viability means.ETA: That means it includes being fed. A fetus that's considered not viable won't survive no matter what (0% at 21 weeks or less). A baby, toddler, etc will all survive when cared for properly.

Proper care means different things at different stages of life. Why should that change the definition of what is human?

But this furthers my point later on, that if you don't believe in the divinely ordained sanctity of life, it's hard to make any pro-life argument.
"I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers which can't be questioned."
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Offline ckmk47

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2019, 03:45:15 PM »
Today's choice for a mother with an unwanted pregnancy:
 #1 abortion. 
#2 keep the baby and bring it up in the unwanted/ abusive/ immature parent etc home. 
#3 bring to term, give birth and give away to a loving couple who want a baby.


The pro-life organizations should emphasize that the choice isn't only an abortion or a life stuck with the kid.  There's also the ability to be inconvenienced for 9 months and then walk away.

Offline yos9694

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2019, 04:01:16 PM »
As a frum jew, from a Torah perspective, something is illegal precisely because it is immoral.

This is inaccurate. The Law defines morality, there are no innate morals.

Offline TimT

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2019, 04:03:04 PM »
Today's choice for a mother with an unwanted pregnancy:
 #1 abortion. 
#2 keep the baby and bring it up in the unwanted/ abusive/ immature parent etc home. 
#3 bring to term, give birth and give away to a loving couple who want a baby.


The pro-life organizations should emphasize that the choice isn't only an abortion or a life stuck with the kid.  There's also the ability to be inconvenienced for 9 months and then walk away.
Isnt it more than “inconvenienced” ? It’s someone else controlling your body for 9 months, taking away every nutrient you intake, all the sicknesses that come along with it. Then comes the labor process. After you finally get through all that you now have the excess weight to lose.
How do you convince somebody who doesn’t even want the child or a rape victim to go through with it ?

Offline sguitarist18

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2019, 04:07:34 PM »
Didn't read the rest yet, but that's not what viability means.ETA: That means it includes being fed. A fetus that's considered not viable won't survive no matter what (0% at 21 weeks or less). A baby, toddler, etc will all survive when cared for properly.

The issue with this is that this changes over time - medical science today can help a younger fetus survive, where 30 years ago there would have been no chance. And it's a good bet that 30 years from now, a fetus at 20 weeks will have a significantly higher survival chance than today.

So considering that viability is NOT a practical question (no one is advocating removing the baby from the womb and letting it sink or swim), but rather a way of defining it as a separate person, it's difficult to understand using this kind of definition that is not based on the actual child's development.

Offline Definitions

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2019, 04:18:32 PM »
Now that was a megillah.

I'm not completely sure what point/question you're trying to make. It seemed like you were saying at one point that there's refutations to prochoice arguments. Then seem to say that if scientists find a way to make it painless those refutations fall away. I don't see how that answers it.

Regardless I don't like the idea of analysing laws based on logic. Laws never were logic it's always feelings. If someone feels that it's wrong it doesn't have to make sense and it doesn't have to be based on a religious idea. Same goes for the other side.

Offline Shkop

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2019, 04:20:12 PM »

But this furthers my point later on, that if you don't believe in the divinely ordained sanctity of life, it's hard to make any pro-life argument.


And what kind of arguments can be made when God is removed from the picture?

We adamantly believe in the sanctity of life because of what G-d writes in the Torah, so it really is irrelevant what an atheist would believe.   
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Offline Shkop

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2019, 04:32:49 PM »
This is inaccurate. The Law defines morality, there are no innate morals.
Spoken like a true liberal.
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Offline yos9694

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2019, 04:37:21 PM »
Spoken like a true liberal.

I can't tell if you mean that or are saying it ironically. Regardless, the Torah is the source of all morals and there is no debate about that among frum Jews.

Offline Shkop

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2019, 04:45:47 PM »
I can't tell if you mean that or are saying it ironically. Regardless, the Torah is the source of all morals and there is no debate about that among frum Jews.

Perhaps I don't follow you fully. Are you saying that without Torah there is no innate good or bad?
That is clearly wrong because before the giving of the Torah there was the Mabul which was a punishment for wrong.
Check out R. Nissam Goan's introduction to Shas printed in any Vilna Edition where he discusses this. See also Chovos Halvavos in his introduction.
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Offline avromie7

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2019, 04:51:54 PM »
But where is the line drawn? And what kind of arguments can be made when God is removed from the picture?
The same morality that says you can't kill a child says you can't kill a fetus.
I wonder what people who type "u" instead of "you" do with all their free time.

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2019, 05:13:10 PM »
Perhaps I don't follow you fully. Are you saying that without Torah there is no innate good or bad?
That is clearly wrong because before the giving of the Torah there was the Mabul which was a punishment for wrong.
Check out R. Nissam Goan's introduction to Shas printed in any Vilna Edition where he discusses this. See also Chovos Halvavos in his introduction.

Histakel b'oiraisa u'bara alma. The world and its norms were established based on the Torah. For example, murder is not innately wrong, it is only wrong because the Torah teaches us so- the animal kingdom was created in such a way that killing is a necessity and not at all immoral. My original comment was to point out to OP that it is incorrect to say that the Torah forbade murder because murdering is immoral, but rather that murdering is immoral because the Torah says so.

Let's not hijack the thread any more. If I'm wrong and you want to continue telling me so, PM'ing is fine.

Offline Shkop

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2019, 05:35:33 PM »
Histakel b'oiraisa u'bara alma. The world and its norms were established based on the Torah. For example, murder is not innately wrong, it is only wrong because the Torah teaches us so- the animal kingdom was created in such a way that killing is a necessity and not at all immoral. My original comment was to point out to OP that it is incorrect to say that the Torah forbade murder because murdering is immoral, but rather that murdering is immoral because the Torah says so.

Let's not hijack the thread any more. If I'm wrong and you want to continue telling me so, PM'ing is fine.
This topic relates so I wouldn't consider it hijacking the thread.

 R' Nissam Goan writes that man was responsible for logical actions from the time he was placed on earth. Even before the giving of the Torah and before the 7 mitzvos bnei noach, man had a logical brain that he was expected to consult with. 

Take the case of Kayin who was held responsible for killing his brother Hevel. That was before Torah and before the 7 noahide laws. He should have known that murder is wrong.
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Offline davidrotts63

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2019, 07:51:21 AM »
@JTZ
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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2019, 11:45:00 AM »
Perhaps I don't follow you fully. Are you saying that without Torah there is no innate good or bad?
That is clearly wrong because before the giving of the Torah there was the Mabul which was a punishment for wrong.
Check out R. Nissam Goan's introduction to Shas printed in any Vilna Edition where he discusses this. See also Chovos Halvavos in his introduction.
This topic relates so I wouldn't consider it hijacking the thread.

 R' Nissam Goan writes that man was responsible for logical actions from the time he was placed on earth. Even before the giving of the Torah and before the 7 mitzvos bnei noach, man had a logical brain that he was expected to consult with. 

Take the case of Kayin who was held responsible for killing his brother Hevel. That was before Torah and before the 7 noahide laws. He should have known that murder is wrong.
You appear to be confusing the giving of the Torah to klal yisroel on har sinai with the creation/existence of the Torah. Since we know histakel b'oraysa ubara alma, the fact that pre-matan Torah there was a responsibility not to kill still has to come from the Torah. Ie the mechayev may not be the Torah, but the logic still stems from the Torah.

Offline Shkop

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2019, 02:03:18 PM »
You appear to be confusing the giving of the Torah to klal yisroel on har sinai with the creation/existence of the Torah. Since we know histakel b'oraysa ubara alma, the fact that pre-matan Torah there was a responsibility not to kill still has to come from the Torah. Ie the mechayev may not be the Torah, but the logic still stems from the Torah.
Actually we can say both things and it still wouldn't change anything. Logic preceded Torah for man. Torah preceded the universe in the sense that Hashem first created it and then used it as a blueprint for the universe.

As you indicated, if Hashem chose a different set of laws then there might have been a different set of ethics. So be it. You can also argue that 1+1=2 isn't innately true because if G-d wanted He could have created the universe with another type of mathematics.

But since He chose to create the world the way He did, there exists certain fundamental truths that a logical mind can perceive, one of which is that if you slay your neighbor or your unborn child you are an evil person. 
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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2019, 02:07:17 PM »
I am a frum man - blessed with children. I clearly don't have a womb, so whatever I say should be taken with a grain of salt.

I've been thinking a lot about abortion and what's going in the news lately.
Me too
I'm a frum woman, mother of 2, and being pro-life seemed almost instinctual to me. But beyond my personal beliefs, debating the legality or illegality of abortion requires understanding the (euphemistically named) pro-choice position.

So the defense agains the common pro-abortion arguments are as follows:

1. "My body, my choice": This argument (which often gets intertwined with the viability argument) imagines that since the fetus is inside the mother's womb and cannot survive on its own, it's considered part of the mother. This would be the equivalent of assuming that a car parked inside a garage is part of the house. Or that a cake baking in the oven is part of the oven. The viability argument isn't too sure-footed either. A 3-month-old baby would also die if they were left alone. A toddler would also die if no one would feed them. Some adult husbands would die if they weren't fed ;) . The fact that someone requires care doesn't mean that they don't have the right to exist.
You analogy is false. That three month old baby can live if someone else were to feed it. If a 3-month old fetus was pulled out of the uterus - there is literally no way it can survive. (Yes we can fertilize embryos in a lab and implant them, but we can't move an already growing fetus to another womb).


2. "A fetus isn't a baby": Well, that's right, a fetus isn't a baby. Just the same way a baby isn't a child and a child isn't a teenager and a teenager isn't an adult. They're all at different developmental stages. But ultimately, they are all human. It's a human fetus. In fact, if you can handle it- take a look at these first trimester images and tell me that this isn't a human.
What it looks like is irrelevant. The bottom line is that it isn't a viable human being.
3. The rape/incest case: As horrible and as tragic as these cases are, getting an abortion doesn't take away the rape. Furthermore, the unborn child isn't guilty of the crimes of his father. How can we justify taking someone's innocent life for a crime he didn't commit?

What about the victim of the rape? This person was attacked and violated. She will probably have physical and psychological trauma for the rest of her life. As you have b"h been obligated twice in your life so far to say birchas hagomel because you survived childbirth, I imagine you understand that pregnancy brings both financial requirements and medical risks - we're going to victimize the victim of a crime even further?  We're going to make her risk her own life for a fetus that isn't even a 'ben kayama'?

For the offensive play, pro-lifers point out the brutality of abortion.
Many people don't even know that most surgical abortions involve at the very least the dismemberment of the fetus. While rare, late term saline abortions have the baby undergo chemical burns from the inside out. If you have the stomach for it, you can google other late term abortion horrors.
You can learn about the actual details of an abortion procedure here, it's not the same as having a cancerous, clump of tissue removed.

There is evidence that suggest that the fetus can feel pain from 16weeks and on:

On the scientific front things seem clear. A fetus is it's own human being, with it's own distinct set of DNA.
According to the CDC - which is probably the most accurate and unbiased source - 91% of all abortions happen before 13 weeks, and about 65% happen before 8 weeks. Generally speaking, the later term abortions are situations where the mother is at risk.

But things get murkier- what do we say to those babies being born into poverty, into immature and even neglectful families, those born with conditions that will make their life a struggle? What about those babies who are simply unwanted? Are they better off dead?

What if in the future we will have guaranteed pain-free abortions? What if scientists could find incontrovertible truth that babies are not conscious prior to birth? Would that change things?


Pro-life proponents would still argue "no". And that brings us to the heart of the matter: the sanctity of life. And this is the underlying answer to all of the pro-life arguments. This is why it doesn't matter what Life is, or when exactly it starts. Life is precious. Life is the most. precious. thing. Even the life of an unwanted, inconvenient baby. Even the life of a rapist's child. Even the life of a baby with Down Syndrome. Even the life of a baby who will grow up to live a poor, hard, obstacle-ridden, mostly miserable life.

At least that's how I see it.
While I can't be one to argue with your feelings. It's clear you value the life of the unborn more than the life and/or wellbeing of the mother!

 If g-d forbid a woman in pregnancy has a medical issue - and only she or the baby could survive - would you still feel that way? Would you be inclined to tell that woman to keep her pregnancy and die in order to preserve the life of the baby?

Can you imagine for a second, a 20-year-old girl, about to hit the shidduch circuit who gets raped by a non-jew on her way home from seminary? Are you advocating that she keep the baby of the criminal that impregnated her. I'm sure her shidduch prospects would be impressed that she preserved the sanctity of life by keeping this baby with the shaygitz father that impregnated her.  I am sure that will go over great when that baby becomes bar mitzvah and gets called to the torah without his true father's name. I'm sure he'll have no issue fitting in in the jewish world (because let's face it, giving up a frum baby for adoption to a non-jewish or non-frum family is probably just as bad as getting an abortion).

But this is no longer a cold-hard, logical, scientific truth. The sanctity of life is a uniquely religious idea. Because we are made in the image of G-d, that is why human life is precious. If we remove G-d from the picture- is life precious from an evolutionary standpoint? Is the 80-90 year lifespan of one (statistically prone to be) unremarkable human important among the millions of years, millions of species that precede and succeed it? Not much. Should this clump of molecules, this group of atoms matter more than this amoeba, that bacteria, this asteroid shooting, hurtling around in galaxy? And if this particular life will be difficult and often unhappy, then maybe it's even a kindness to kill it.


So for me, ultimately it's an issue of morality. And morality is inherently a religious constructs. Again, if nature is king and evolution dictates the progression of the world- why does social justice matter? In fact, in today's parlance, evolution is 'racist'! According to natural selection, it's only inevitable that 'the fittest' end up on top. That the smartest and strongest dominate and exploit the weaker isn't evil or unjust- it's only the way nature is designed!

and yet in the torah/mishna/gemara we see that:
- the punishment for damages that end a pregnancy isn't equivalent to murder.
- A child isn't considered a viable human being until 30 days out of the womb.



So now, does immoral = illegal?
Should it?


As a frum jew, from a Torah perspective, something is illegal precisely because it is immoral. But is that something we should pursue in a secular government? What about separation of church and state?
I remember frum Jews posting somewhat celebratory messages when gay marriage was legalized in 2015. The government shouldn't dictate the terms of morality, they wrote.


But where is the line drawn? And what kind of arguments can be made when God is removed from the picture?
The only reason something is illegal is because the society that we live in have deemed it as such.  I think most people in this world - regardless of religion - would think that Adultery is immoral. While adultery is grounds for divorce, and a reason to sink a political campaign, it isn't illegal.

There are those that suggest making permanent changes to your children's bodies is immoral as well, after all if we're arguing for the rights to save the unborn from their parents, why not fight for the rights of the unaware - there are movements now to not only ban ear piercings for young children, but bris mila as well. While you and I do not, some people think that circumcizing a baby is immoral as well, and it soon might in fact be legal.

Where do I draw the line? that's a good question, and a hard one - the laws that protect me as a member of a religion, should not only protect members of other religions, but also those not bound by religion.

I will leave you with a little story. Someone close to me had a situation many years ago where late into the wife's pregnancy (about 18 weeks) a medical condition that put her in serious danger was discovered. The couple consulted with several rabonim and after some discussion were given a heter to terminate the pregnancy. B"H this couple were blessed with healthy children after this (in addition to the ones they had prior).

I imagine that there are other such situations where this type of abortion is warranted, and I hope that you will agree with me. The problem is, under a lot of the new laws being introduced, these logical exemptions - at the very least Rape, Incest, or Medical Danger to the mother - are not exempt.

Which means that even in these cases, where there is a clear - Mother's life or Baby's life - situation, a doctor wouldn't be allowed to perform those abortions, at the very least, I find this reprehensible.

Offline avromie7

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Re: Thoughts on abortion, religion, and morality
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2019, 02:26:16 PM »
I imagine that there are other such situations where this type of abortion is warranted, and I hope that you will agree with me. The problem is, under a lot of the new laws being introduced, these logical exemptions - at the very least Rape, Incest, or Medical Danger to the mother - are not exempt.

Which means that even in these cases, where there is a clear - Mother's life or Baby's life - situation, a doctor wouldn't be allowed to perform those abortions, at the very least, I find this reprehensible.
Of course in a case where the mothers life is in danger it should be allowed, please don't equate that with rape or incest. While rape is terrible, the child did nothing wrong to deserve to be murdered because it's father is a rapist.

I just did a quick google search, the first result was from buzzfeed
Quote
On Tuesday, Alabama passed the strictest abortion law in the United States, banning all abortions except in cases where the mother’s health is at “serious” risk.
Also keep in mind that rape, incest, and mother's life constitute less than 1% of all abortions.
I wonder what people who type "u" instead of "you" do with all their free time.