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Thanks for the ongoing comments on abortion, including those by Stephen B. Young (“Of abortion rights and religious freedoms,” May 29) and by Jeffrey D. Nelson (“Medicine, religious freedom support abortion rights,” Lori Sturdevant column, May 15).
Young summed up the situation quite well: “Polls tell us that most Americans reject the incompatible maximum claims of pro-choice and pro-life advocates. The middle ground favored by many Americans is for abortion to be allowed early in a pregnancy but not in later stages.”
Nelson, a retired physician and a Lutheran, is in essential agreement with this. Polls have shown that up to half of Catholics are also in agreement. And he adds that some state laws are, and potentially the national law could be, against his own religious beliefs. (I recommend his short paperback “What Should I Do?” It is available online from Kirk House Publishers.)
In short, some compromise seems the best and fairest solution to any legal approach to abortion. People could follow their own morals but not impose them on others.
Jim Lein, Minneapolis
Young’s essay covered the issue of freedom of religion well. He states: “A woman’s liberty right would be protected by the First Amendment up until the period of transition.” What he does not cover are the medical situations where it is more hazardous for the woman to carry a pregnancy to term than it is to have a later-stage abortion.
To be sure, these situations are uncommon. In early pregnancy, it is clearly safer for a woman to have an induced abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term and deliver. But in the third trimester, in those uncommon situations that do occur, does the state have the right to force a woman to carry the pregnancy to delivery when that increases her risk of illness and death more than the risk of a late abortion? These situations are already tragic, such as a trisomy 18 fetus with very little chance of survival after birth and almost no chance of living past age 1. Trisomy 18 is nearly always diagnosed by genetic amniocentesis, and if an abortion is done, it is often late in the second trimester.
Is there any other situation where government tells an individual that he or she must take the more hazardous route regarding health and risk of death? The only example that I can think of is when the draft requires a person to be in the military and that person may die for our national security. But there is no individual health situation where government imposes that risk on a male citizen.
Does society have the right to force the religious beliefs of part of our society on all women who have an unplanned pregnancy?
Jeffrey D. Nelson, Edina
The writer is the author of “What Should I Do? A Family Physician Discusses Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Difficult Decisions.”
Young discusses the concept of “ensoulment” laid out by Thomas Aquinas, a great philosopher and theologian who died in 1274. We may know just a bit more about cell life today.
Do you know the difference between a corpse and a live person? A corpse is no longer animated. A live person is animated. The source of that animation can be called a life force, the spirit, a soul or any other title you like. The title changes nothing. It is a fact! It is not religious.
It makes no difference if we are talking about one cell or a million cells. If it is alive, the life force is present. If it is dead the life force is not present.
It is not complicated for even the simple.
Thomas R. Lindquist, Roseville
Young lays out a reasoned careful argument, with examples from history, law, and other cultures, for a compromise position on the abortion issue, yet he fails to recognize that his entire argument rests on a religious premise. He states: “Clearly, as a secular fact, such a viable life can be protected by the state even against the liberty interest of the mother in terminating its development.” Mr. Young, that is a religious perspective and not a secular fact.
Sometimes we fail to see the water we swim in. Is this what is missing from Young’s reasoned argument? The idea of “ensoulment” is natural to his worldview and he accepts it as a reasonable basis for forced birth. Or is it his lack of lived experience as a person with a uterus that allows him to so blithely lay out a solution that works against “the liberty interest of the mother”?
What Young lays out is a thoughtful compromise position, but it is a compromise that I cannot abide.
Erica Klein, Richfield
As a strong supporter of the separation of religion from government, as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, I was induced to do some research after reading Young’s article.
Young says that it would be the Catholic view that life begins at conception, but other Christian religions agree. Yet other Protestants have dissenting beliefs on this point. On the other hand, a short search informed me that Muslim belief is that the soul enters a fetus at 120 days after conception. Traditional Jewish belief states that not until birth does the fetus have a soul, but it does not have the full rights of personhood until it has survived 30 full days.
Given these data on the beliefs of the three prominent religions in the U.S., I agree with Young’s thesis that setting any time limit on when a person could legally terminate their pregnancy would be establishing the beliefs of a specific religion. Hence, the right to abortion rests not on the right to privacy, which is not clearly stated in the Constitution, but on every person’s right to their own religious beliefs and practices free of government establishment of a specific religion.
JoAnn W. Pasternack, Mendota Heights
Young argues that Oklahoma has violated the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment by declaring that life begins at conception, then claims that the point of “viability” is “clearly” the correct standard. There are many points in time when one could say that life begins, including birth, viability, “quickening” and even ovulation (thus a basis for prohibiting birth control). Why is one choice less religious than another? Aren’t all a moral/religious question? On what basis can a state tell a mother that she cannot believe that life begins at birth?
If the state can rightfully claim that a fetus is a person deserving its protection, cannot that fetus be counted in an official census? That would open a long list of government matters that are based on a date of birth: voting age, income tax benefits, eligibility for Social Security, etc. Note to 20-year-olds: Try getting a drink at a bar nine months before your 21st birthday.
Bernie H. Beaver, Edina
I admit I do not know all that is involved in the search for a college chancellor (“$166K search, no leader for UMD,” May 27), but as a business owner I have a pretty good idea of how much $166,000 is. This bill will undoubtedly be passed to students in their tuition as they assume years of heavy debt to pay for their education. Is it any wonder we see a decline in college enrollment (“Higher ed, fewer learners,” May 29) as students question the affordability of college?
Mary Wetmore, Redwood Falls, Minn.