Lincoln and Abortion
George McKenna's article "On Abortion: A Lincolnian Position" (September Atlantic) accomplishes one important objective. It forces pro-choice supporters to acknowledge that abortion does involve the destruction of a potentially living person. It is a procedure that cannot be recommended lightly and should not be dismissed casually, even though McKenna's quotation from Christopher Hitchens that an abortion must "break some bones and rupture some organs" is a pro-life picture that does not apply to early abortions. I believe that pro-choice supporters should face the fact that we human beings, like all the other animals on this earth, are sometimes required to carry out distasteful, even immoral, actions if we are to survive. If we permitted cats, dogs, rats, mice, cockroaches, bacteria, and viruses to breed without limit, we could not survive. However, in using other living things for our purposes, we must always recognize, as Albert Schweitzer did, that the mosquito must be destroyed regretfully. Destroying a fetus may be necessary when birth-control methods are not available, but it should never be done casually.
Daniel L. Kline
In spite of the black-and-white positions taken by those on both sides of the abortion debate, the choice of an abortion almost always involves tradeoffs between greater and lesser negative effects. Very few people would refuse an abortion to a woman about whom the best medical opinion was that carrying the fetus to term would kill her and most likely the fetus as well. Few would refuse an abortion to a woman who was carrying a grievously deformed fetus. Probably a minority would refuse an abortion to a woman who was pregnant as the result of forcible rape or incest. On the other hand, probably the majority would prefer to refuse an abortion if a woman wanted a son but was carrying a female fetus. In every situation where a decision is made to have an abortion or not, the welfare of the woman must be weighed against the welfare of the embryo or fetus. Often the welfare of the man involved or of other family members must be taken into account.