To be or not to be

To the editor:

To abort or not to abort, that is the question.

The main purposes of religion is to give a rationale of why we are here, how we should live our lives, and where we might go after we leave this mortal coil. The latter requires the existence of a soul (some essence) that survives us after death. To propose that humans have a soul is an extraordinary claim.

If we have a soul, do other animals have a soul? Do chimpanzees have a soul? Do dogs, cats and fish have souls?

If other animals don’t have a soul, at what point in the evolutionary sequence of hominids up to humans did the soul suddenly pop into existence? Assuming that a soul exists, at what stage does a soul enter a fertilized egg that develops into a blastocyst, an embryo, and then a fetus?

From a religious viewpoint, without a soul, these entities are not considered human, but just a vessel that can become human when ensouled.

If religious conservatives want to use the Bible as a guide, they won’t get much help from its pages. Jesus and Paul never mentioned abortion. If it was a serious moral problem they certainly would have expounded upon it.

Passages in the Bible actually condone a test that may produce an abortion.

In Numbers 5:11-31, there is the jealously test that a man can use to determine if his wife has been faithful. If he thinks his wife has been “defiled” by another man, he will bring her to the priest who will apply a test whereby she will be required to drink water mixed with dust from the floor of the tabernacle. If she is guilty, “her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot (she will abort the fetus).” Unfortunately, because the Bible was written by men, there is no similar test for a woman to use when she suspects her husband has strayed.

A miscarriage is a natural abortion. There are around 20 million miscarriages worldwide in a year, or about 200 million in the last decade, and in the Bible God has done nothing to save the fetuses. Why?

For a well-reasoned compromise between abortion foes and those that favor a freedom of choice, see Carl Sagan’s and Ann Druyan’s article published in Parade magazine as “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers,” April 22, 1990. See https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/society/on-abortion-carl-sagan-ann-druyan/.


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