IDEMA: The abortion debate: what is not discussed

There is no more agonizing debate in our society right now than abortion. All the articles and letters to the editor in our West Michigan newspapers are heartfelt, but the following points never seem to be made.
Jul 3, 2013


So, let me add my two cents to this heated debate.

First of all, the terms of the debate are ridiculous. No one is pro-abortion or anti-life. Few would not admit that abortion is a dirty business. Most people would admit that the blood and guts of an abortion are hidden from the public's view.

Moreover, only someone with no knowledge of biology would argue that life is not being ended and a heartbeat stopped. So, let's begin by throwing out of the discussion the simplistic labels of pro-choice and pro-life. Abortions involve choices about life, so let's look at who makes those choices.

My biggest concern with efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade is that a woman's control over her own body will be removed from her and entrusted to the State. The GOP-controlled House recently passed a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, with exceptions made for rape and incest. The Senate with its Democrat majority will no doubt defeat this bill. The main issue in this bill is control; i.e., who does the controlling after 20 weeks, the State or a mother?

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Roe v. Wade is eventually overthrown by Congress or the Supreme Court. If that happens, will a woman be charged with murder if she goes to the proverbial back alley for an abortion?

The irony is that the GOP is usually against Big Brother in the form of the federal government messing around with our lives. Can you think if a more intrusive way a government could control our lives than controlling our decisions about whether to have a baby?

As an aside, I find it almost comical that the GOP in the House is made up of mostly white males who want to control a woman's choices, and thus her own body.

Another issue not talked about is adoption. People argue that women should have their babies, but if they do not want to keep them, they should give them up for adoption. When I worked as a pastor in Lake Forest, Ill., I found that babies born to blond, blue-eyed teens at the local high school were in high demand and easily adopted. Not true for black babies in the south side of Chicago.

Another issue not talked about is financial assistance for poor mothers who choose to raise their babies or find that their babies are unwanted in the adoption process. The recent farm bill was defeated in large part because of Democrats who did not want to cut food stamps, a feature of the bill. So, we have an effort by some politicians to limit abortion, but who also want to cut assistance to poor mothers. Isn't there a contradiction here? 

Jesus castigated the rich and reached out in his ministry primarily to the poor. Jesus did not criticize the rich for being rich, but for being hard hearted. I wonder what our church-going politicians are hearing from the pulpit, or failing to understand?

My final point concerns our churches. Some denominations — e.g., the Roman Catholic Church — teach that abortion is wrong under all circumstances, even with rape and incest. And then these same churches, or some of them, teach that contraception is wrong. Presumably, a rapist using birth control is committing two sins. Contraception and sex education (which many churches also oppose) cut down the number of unwanted babies, and thus the number of abortions.

To sum up, I am against abortion, unless rape and incest are involved or the mother's life is in danger. That is the Episcopal Church's teaching. But I believe that this should be a woman's choice.

If a rape victim chooses to have a child conceived because of that rape, I applaud her choice and admire her courage. But that choice should be hers, and not Big Brother. Remember that in many instances rapists have rights concerning the child of their crime.

By all means, let's continue as a community to have our debate about abortion. But let's get all the issues on the table, including the staggering number of abortions, the horror of it all, the psychological scars no matter what the choices are, and the fact many people are more concerned about the unborn fetus than the mother and what her circumstances might be.

I have tried to broaden the discussion in this column.

Lastly, a bit more love, sensitivity, respect, empathy and compassion would improve the tenor of the abortion debate.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune religion columnist



Rush was right. Sluts.

Captain Obvious

It is interesting how people are confusing a fetus with a child. This is quite a slippery slope going against thousands of years worth of law and tradition. Quite radical new age type thinking, not at all in line with traditional Christian teachings. Pretty soon sperm and eggs will be classified as children and where will we be then?

Mystic Michael

I wouldn't say it's an example of "radical New Age" thinking. On the contrary, I think it's just another example of the same old Fundamentalist ideology that has driven so much reactionary culture & politics in this country, and continues to do so (example: George W. Bush's ban on the use of abandoned embryos for stem cell research that could have actually saved many thousands of lives).

Since Fundamentalist theology is so encumbered by false dogma, and therefore has no insight whatsoever into the actual origins of life, it characteristically applies its standard formula of reducing every issue down to its most simplistic possible form, devoid of all nuance and real understanding. Hence, a freshly-fertilized zygote is accorded all the status of fully-formed human being at birth. Public policy that is based upon such Dark Ages superstition then begins to go entirely off the rails.

"Absurd" doesn't begin to characterize it. "Surreal" is more like it.


Hey Mikey, what day does it "turn" into a human being?


"Pretty soon sperm and eggs will be classified as children..". They already are in some states that are working hard to identify the zygote that is created by an egg and sperm as a "person" with the new "Personhood Laws". These laws would establish any destroying of the sperm and egg as murder.

Talk about a slippery slope! Logically, that thinking would lead to scrutiny of male masturbation, which in essence would then become the "spilling", "wasting", or "killing/murder" of potential persons. Since the government could hardly monitor this crime, there will probably be calls for a special assessment Spermicide Tax that would place a levy on men from the ages of, say, 18 to 90.

And then there's the Viagra/Cialis/abstinence conundrum. The government really should consider a national application to be filled out prior to purchase, asking for pertinent information regarding age, marital status, if wife is of child-bearing age, etc. Clearly, these prescription drugs would not be suitable for men who are not actively procreating, are having sex outside the marital bonds, or in any other way "killing" a potential person under religious dictates.


Entertaining but because it is so logically inconsistent. A zygote is a fertilized egg. Unless my biology is really dated, or I am in California, that means a situation where a male sperm has swum upstream and successfully coupled with a female egg.

Following your logic, a male undergoing a vasectomy, or a woman a tubal ligation, would be subject to government penalties regarding the elimination of a "potential person," an idea not advanced, to my knowledge, by any religion or state for that matter. Both decisions would be "freedom of choice" like your masturbation and Viagra scenarios (both, strangely, only focused on the man, as though there are no women supporting the anti-abortion position) without there being any question regarding the killing of a human being,.

If you really agree with your argument, then logically you would support national applications and taxes for vasectomies and tubal ligations - but of course you would - taxing everything is the modus operandi of liberals, progressives, libertarian centrists, or the political philosophy du jour.

And, as noted before, you, NOW, Mystic Michael and your friends should be working feverishly to repeal the many state laws that treat fetuses as children for the purpose of women receiving money damages when their fetuses (babies) are killed by the negligent act of another. For the record, I believe those laws are fair and women so damaged should be compensated for the loss of their "potential person."

Why is it so difficult for folks supporting abortion to declare they are "pro abortion" instead of playing word games with what is really being done - and it has nothing to do with Viagra?


I can't speak for your knowledge of human anatomy or biological functions, but if it's anything like the legislators for whom you advocate and support, I can understand why you would find my argument confusing. To be sure, I am a little outside my comfort zone here, but I am committed to substantiating my arguments when challenged.

My point regarding "Personhood Laws" is that even in the face of public rejection at the polls, various state legislators continue to introduce extreme laws that push the definition of 'persons' to absurd and unprecedented levels. If a zygote and egg are to be state regulated as a 'person', then certainly sperm must be considered an essential life source that must be regulated in some way as well.

A Spermicide Tax and Viagra application seem like absurd governmental intrusions into the personal, private lives of American men, forcing them to conform to religiously-based state regulations. In the case of Viagra, government legislation would supersede what should be a decision made between a man and his doctor.

Current legislation that places severe restrictions on reproductive options, including birth control, imposes legal mandates that supersede doctor's orders, requires punitive, invasive and/or expensive medically unnecessary procedures - is it not as logically inconsistent as my proposals?

Why is it so difficult for folks who support government infringement and restriction of women's rights and choices to declare they are simply playing mind games with the Constitution and acting on impulses that don't seem to have a relationship with respect, support, or concern for women?

Couple this with the furious furor over the perceived infringement of the 2nd Amendment over basic background checks, and you have a perfect definition of "logically inconsistent".


Your last paragraph got me pondering how we sometimes think alike, but reach different conclusions. Reading your earlier comment, my first thought was that you ridicule those of us who want to preserve our Constitutional Second Amendment rights when we talk about slippery slope and incrementalism toward confiscation, but then you use essentially the same arguments in defending your judicially given right to kill unwanted babies.

You are unwilling to follow the supreme law of the land by amending the Constitution as is provided therein to achieve your gun goals, but instead attempt to get around the amending process through legislative and judicial end-runs, but you object when anti-abortion proponents use the same means to preserve life, even though your pro-abortion right was only granted through judicial fiat. How very "democratic" of you.


Maybe if we remove the "bullets" from both of above mention "rights" the left would be happy!


I'm not sure what you mean by "bullets", but you can bet I would be unhappy if you removed my "bullet" - if you are referring to the shiny silver can object (light, of course).


Nice save ( )! Thought I was going to have to drink bleach again!!


Lucky for you I don't hold a grudge.

If you ever took my all-time favorite Silver Bullet away, I'm afraid I'd have no choice but to bring out the bleach again....


I agree. Pure Michigan/midwest troubadour!


Please clarify just who you mean when you refer, throughout your comment, to "you". If you mean "me", I don't quite follow you. Could you explain yourself further when you say..."attempt to get around the amending process through legislative and judicial end-runs, but you object when anti-abortion proponents use the same means to preserve life, even though your pro-abortion right was only granted through judicial fiat."

What is confusing me is that I've already discussed the three areas implicit in the Constitution that are the basis of abortion laws. Is this what you are debating?

Otherwise, I want to be clear about one thing: I'm not "ridiculing" anybody or anything. I couldn't be more serious.


I mean you and people who are unable to distinguish between explicit Constitutional rights, ours by natural law and by express provision in the Constitution for over 200 years and man made (up) rights "implicit" in the Constitution or the penumbra thereof, like privacy, personal liberty, and equal citizenship. How's Obama's IRS targeting and NSA spying holding up to the rights of privacy, personal liberty, and equal citizenship you believe in so much?

Once again, the Constitution has a process for amending it - whether to change the second amendment or to provide a right to kill the unborn - either do it if you have the votes or accept that your "right" is only provided through 7 justices of the Supreme Court based on made up "rights" seen only by them. It is bad law. Don't listen to me, listen to your heroine, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I guess the logic behind Roe is not dissimilar to the logic of granting women rights as a minority when they are in the majority, or have they been disenfranchised since 1919 and it escaped me. Like affirmative action for black citizens, affirmative action for women discriminates against people who weren't alive when the Constitution was amended to provide them equal rights - and imagine that, champions of rights for blacks and women actually took the trouble to amend the Constitution - how old fashioned - to follow the law.


Regarding your statement, "Obama..and NSA spying" - it is much too narrow. I'm afraid you'll have to broaden your scope of outrage. Seems Lincoln presided over a surveillance state far greater than previously thought...

I couldn't be more pleased to think you and the esteemed Justice Ginsberg share an opinion. You've now convinced me.


What a perfectly clear example of the argumentation of the left - when confronted with the question of how Obama's National Security Agency spying on every citizen squared with the asserted fundamental rights of privacy and personal liberty, your response is "Lincoln did it too." Oh well, I guess it's an improvement over "Bush did it too" which has lost its pizazz after its 10 millionth use, and Obama has tried to compare himself to the Civil War Republican leader.

I will use your argumentation in response: "Stalin did it too."

I'm pleased that you're pleased that Justice Ginsburg and I agree that Roe v. Wade is bad law; that abortion is a state issue and the decision should have been confined to Texas. Of course, our agreement would vanish taking the issue one step further and asking whether the Supreme Court had any business approving or disapproving of abortion in the first instance. So, I'll leave it that I'm happy that for once I pleased Lanivan.


Please answer me this: Do you really think each state should have a different definition of personhood, given that Constitutional rights, explicitly or implicitly, are attached to persons.?


"Obama's IRS targeting" is off-topic, but since you brought it up,,,,

I have a rule of not saying I told you so, so I won't.


I find it insane that the argument is women do not want the Gov't to control their bodies, however the women who abort their babies control the lives of the unborn and they kill it. Double standard? YES.

With advancement in medicine, a baby can survive after 20 weeks in the womb.

Mystic Michael

You think that the government is better positioned to make this decision than the mother? Really?


"The irony is that the GOP is usually against Big Brother in the form of the federal government messing around with our lives. Can you think if a more intrusive way a government could control our lives than controlling our decisions about whether to have a baby?"

Or male GOP legislators mandating a vaginal ultrasound in some states before a procedure. Less, intrusive government? Are Americans really this dense? I'd like to see this same requirement for those legislators seeking Viagra.

Pro-life and pro-death penalty. 180 degree polar opposites. You cannot be both.

Another issue, behind the issue: Eliminate abortion rights, and there will be a spike in poverty and the effects of is (impact on education & infrastructure, increased crime, etc) Is the anti-choice crowd "really" open to that. The US already ranks 23rd in poverty when comparing the top 50 industrialized countries around the world, just ahead of Mexico (26th).

Interesting stats:

My stance: I'm not pro-abortion,... I'm pro-choice. I'm also pro-life because I feel that I back policy that supports people from pre-birth to death. In my opinion, this is a health issue that should be decided between a woman and her doctor...not some greedy, self-serving politician.


@MichaelJohnson, please cite your source for an 80% chance of fatality if carrying a pregnancy to term. Please check the risk for suicide and/or complications, including death, in legal abortions. In the case of the 11 year old, her chance of suicide, not to mention other possible complications, increases if she aborts the baby rather than gives birth. The unborn child should never have to pay for the sin of a parent who commits rape.
@MysticMichael, when sperm and egg unite, a unique individual is formed. This person can never be replaced. Without fertilization, an egg or a sperm could never develop into a baby. Personhood is established when fertilization takes place. That person needs to be defended. Furthermore, there has never been one case of success from stem cell research from aborted babies. All stem cell success has come from adult stem cells.
A woman, or a man, has the right to his or her own decisions about his or her own body so long as it does not impact another person's unique DNA. That being the case, abortion is murder of an individual.


...and of course what you've stated is a pure fabrication of your own personal opinion. Just because you say,"Personhood is established when fertilization takes place" does not in any way, shape, or form mean it's true. In fact, I contend that "Personhood" refers only to a living, breathing human being who has been christen into this world at birth with their first breath of life making them a living, breathing human being on the face of this earth.

Furthermore, abortion is the "termination of a pregnancy by the removal of the fetus or embryo, unborn or unhatched vertebrate. The Fetus is in the developing stages, but it is by no means is a fully developed, breathing human being.


If abortion is made illegal except in cases of rape and incest or where a mother’s life is in danger by the federal government leaving a woman who would have an abortion being charged with murder, then the Criminal Justice System should be ready to build a lot more Women’s Prisons with the annual abortion rate in the U.S. being over 1 million. My personal outlook on abortion has always been the same ever since I first formed my point of view on this issue when I was a teen in High School to present day, which is; even though I don’t like the idea of abortion, I think that the decision should be left up to the female and I would never condemn or deny a female from having an abortion. When I was in my late 20’s early 30’s (1979 – 1985) I seemed to be surrounded by many women who had abortions and were from all different types of living situations from being married with children, without children, separated, divorced, single, and some parents whose daughters were still in High School. It seemed everyone was having an abortion! I met and became friends with many of the women I knew who had an abortion, because I was managing 11 women in the polishing and buffing department on a large restoration project with the total number of people under one roof working on this project at over 100 with about 70% being women and this project which took almost 2 years. So, there was a lot of socialization taking place and it was as if we all became one big family. I remember taking and picking up 2 different women from the abortion clinic on different occasions and helping them through their recovery by making them meals, helping out and just being there as a friend who cared about them.

Idema, must you always have to bring up Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity in your Opinion articles? For those of us who are not Religious, a Christian, do not follow Jesus, or see the Bible as the “Word of God” and the “Real Law” for mankind, you instantly create a barrier and are showing bias and prejudice. In this article you state, “If a rape victim chooses to have a child conceived because of that rape, I applaud her choice and admire her courage.” What you fail to mention is your personal feelings about the mother who chooses to have an abortion. Personally, I think this mother would face far more issues in making the decision and having the abortion, which I think takes an enormous amount of courage, because for one, she will have to live with that decision for the rest of her life and no one can really know what a burden it really is to have to live with that.

I will say this, that a heartbeat does not make a fetus a human being, because there is only one thing that truly signifies being a living human being which is, “the breath.” The one thing that designates life in this world for the human species is being born into this world and receiving that first breath. From that point on living a life as a human being begins and is maintained with each and every breath we are given, Yes, each and every breath of life is given to each human being one at a time and at some point during a person’s life the breath will leave the body and that human being will cease to exist and all that’s left behind is the shell of a body.


So Mr. Williams a question, which is not meant to be antagonistic only thought provoking:
If when a women makes the decision to abort, and she is not aborting a human being (breathing per your description) but a nonentity fetus, why is it such a hard decision to live with? Per your description it is as though they are removing a tumor type growth, so why is there an attachment to it?


Mr. Williams - I appreciate the compassion and understanding you had for your fellow colleagues/friends. So often, arguments about abortion are debated with little understanding of the pain, sorrow, despair, and hopelessness that women often feel when contemplating a decision of this kind. Too many times, women are alone, without family support or guidance.


Point well made, Wingmaster. Each abortion ends a life that has value. That is why it is such a difficult choice for most women.

Bucky Lasterd

Has anyone noticed that the same people that say they are pro-choice are also the ones shoving this healthcare debacle down our throats against our will. You cant have it both ways.


You seem misinformed. Pro-choice advocates and the Affordable Health Care Act share a common thread - providing health care and reproductive options and choices, and giving people the power to make their own decisions regarding both.

Perhaps you don't understand that you have the choice to be uninsured under the ACA, although in this day and age, with health care costs exploding over the last 15 years, I can't begin to imagine why anyone would make that choice.



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