I’ve always disliked killing things, but make exception for an evil few: mosquitoes, kissing bugs, and ticks, (e.g.). Is that quite simply selfishness? In any case, the cops have never pulled up to my house with flashing lights and pistols drawn, to bring me in for having slain a tick or biting fly. So, who is it okay to snuff? Who, not? 

I’ve never killed a human and I hope I never do. And, even less would I aspire to harm the very young. There is a special place in Hell for child-murderers. Young children are so radiant with possibility. In them our purest hopes reside. 

But, then we get to the divide between kids who’ve been born or not. Are embryos real people or another class of things, like newts or gnats? If you erase an embryo just minutes after it’s conceived, or dodge an almost-pregnancy with “morning-after pills,” is that the same as murdering another human being, or more like “merely” stepping on a roach or butterfly? (Ugh, nonetheless!!) And, how about the folks who think – if you can call it that – that even contraception is a sin. What’s up with that?

The Constitution grants us all – all citizens, at least – Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. That’s sweet! Can fetuses be citizens? They were not born in The United States – or even born. Do fetuses have “Right to Life” or any rights at all?

Do fetuses have souls? Do you? Do I? What do we mean when we say soul? Is soul just emotion and thought, or something even more profound? Would it be more appropriate to say that we are souls, instead of “have”? If science cannot prove that souls exist, does that mean our morality is built on shifting sands? 

When disagreement on an issue is both passionate and long, there’s got to be important merit to both points of view. No matter which way you incline, abortion’s a pretty tough call. One reason the riddle’s so hard to resolve is that it dwells in three domains: the moral, practical, and the inflamed political. Great clarity in one domain may not address the other two at all. No matter which side you are on, if you think that the answer is open and shut, and see no merit, whatsoever, in the other point of view, you’re doing what so many of us do: because we hate the itchy onus of uncertainty, we drag ourselves, exhausted, from the surf of turbid thought onto the blessed shore of so-called “clarity.” 

And, as regards the practical? Why would we want another kid when we’re already raising four, inflation’s going through the roof, her ultrasound’s abnormal and my wife is feeling ill, and the family’s already subsisting on Twinkies and Spam? Are you – or is society – prepared to pay for all The UnAborteds’ future needs? (Not just the dentists and tuition and the other “normal” stuff; the cost of prisons, welfare fraud and widespread overdose is, in the long run, shared by all – or, as we say, “society.”) 

Is every life a precious gift from God? Well, only if there is a God. Is every life a gift in any case? I reckon so, but some lives are so buggered up that Not To Be might be the better bounce. Is not each suicide a vote for that alternative? To kill a healthy fetus is a nasty, creepy thing. But, on the other – yep, I’m sorry, there’s another hand – to bring another life into a dismal, hopeless world where endless pain will likely reign is, likewise, grim. Despite the Constitution’s decent efforts to empower us, for those in wretched circumstance “Pursuit of Happiness” is just a bunch of fluffy words, irrelevant, ironic, and perhaps a bit obscene, like cheerful, upbeat music at the morgue.

What could be more personal – i.e., closer to home – than that which takes place within one’s own body? If you don’t own your own insides, what, then, do you control? Perhaps you’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale? Within the dark recesses of the patriarchal brain, the female human matters most as sex object / receptacle and – even more importantly – as incubator of our future sons. If men could conceive and bear children themselves, they might well treat “the weaker sex” with even less respect than they do now.

So, finally, as regards abortion, who should have the right to choose? It seems to me that Mom and Dad should make the final call, instead of judges, priests, or theorists, including politicians whose “morality” is often simply grandstanding for votes. And, certainly, the pregnant mother, more than anyone, should know both what she wants and can’t afford. The loved or unloved embryo is growing in her body, after all; not yours or mine or Ron DeSantis’s. 

Perhaps the best thing that we can do in this imperfect world, if we have need to take another life – the life of one who might have been the next Hitler or Christ – is to do as the Native Americans do: You proffer thanks, apologize, and humbly wish we knew more than we do, instead of drafting rigid rules that twist and deform others’ lives in order to assuage our consciences.