I've been thinking about the legal status of abortion. It seems that the argument most people have is trying to decide at which point the child becomes human, or becomes alive. Supporters argue that the fetus isn't alive, or at least, isn't human, so it can be killed. Detractors argue that it's human from conception and so must be protected.
I happen to feel that it's alive and human from conception, and from that point has as much of a soul as anybody else. But I also think killing it can be beneficial for everyone, and so should be legal and moral. And not only that, it seems that logically, the Christian church (the main opponent to abortion in my mind) should support abortion as well.
First, the worldly argument. More than one third of all pregnancies are unplanned and every year nearly one quarter of pregnant women decide to have an abortion -- over 46 million abortions annually. Regardless of the legal status of abortion, most women who want one find a way to get one. Nearly half of all abortions performed are done so illegally, in shady conditions, resulting in the deaths of about 80,000 women each year. These are due to infection, injury, and poor abortion methods. And many more women survive but end up suffering or damaged in some way. In countries where abortion is legal and supported, the complication rate is negligible, and the number of yearly deaths due to complications is miniscule (usually zero). Furthermore, history has shown pretty clearly that rendering something illegal does not prevent people from partaking in it. It merely increases the risk involved in doing so.
These women clearly think it better to live without the child. Many of them know that they will be ruined financially, ostracized from their community, and/or have their chance of marrying destroyed, if they have the child. Pregnancies also occur as a result of rape, and in some countries, this not an uncommon occurrence. If forced to raise an unwanted child (especially a child resulting from rape), the mother is likely to grow to despise both the child that caused such a drastic and seemingly negative turn in her life, as well the community that forced the situation upon her. Even if she did not despise the child, few of these women have the financial means to support it. In short, the child would not have a happy childhood or good upbringing, and would suffer much in its life. There is substantial evidence that this often results in serious mental and emotional problems as a child grows into an adult. And those problems have to be dealt with by society.
Now, I agree that abortion is the taking of a human life. And certainly after the nervous system starts developing in the unborn child, it will be capable of feeling pain and suffering if it is killed violently. That violence is objectionable, but almost certainly the physical pain it may feel for that brief moment is nothing compared to the anguish it would experience over a lifetime, born into a repressive community, unloved by a parent who secretly despises it. And if abortion is performed early in the development cycle, there is no pain. Even late in the development cycle, non-violent methods of abortion exist. I am opposed to violence, but abortion need not be violent.
It gets even worse in societies and communities that prohibit the use of birth control. If a couple cannot use tools to prevent conception from occurring, and neither can they end a pregnancy, then they have no choice but to deny their own human nature and abstain from sex, or burden themselves with an unwanted child (or go against their community). These communities even exist here in the United States. Many sects of the Christian religion prohibit birth control. They are opposed to the use of condoms, even between husband and wife.
That brings us to the Christian church's irrational opposition to abortion. And their "solution" (abstinence) is a cruel one -- it doesn't even address the case of pregnancy from rape, which as I mentioned, happens frequently in some countries. But if you ask any Christian what happens to a child that dies in the womb, they will say it goes to heaven, of course.* So by aborting a child, you are guaranteeing it a direct route to heaven. It can bypass all the suffering in the world, and so easily! It doesn't have to do a thing. What greater gift could a mother give her child than a guaranteed pass to heaven? And as a nice side-effect, the mother doesn't have to be burdened with raising an unwanted child.
And what's the downside? Well, by aborting her child, the mother is committing a sin. But every day she commits countless sins, and the church says that a sin is a sin is a sin -- no matter which one you commit, you can be forgiven. And for the Christian, it's so easy to be forgiven. You don't have to do anything at all, except believe in Jesus. So really there is no downside. The mother's sin is forgiven automatically and the child goes straight to heaven. If the child is born, its chances of going to heaven are significantly reduced. So the Christian church, which historically has never shyed away from militant, murderous tactics in the name of saving souls, now finally has the opportunity to use one that works!
* Now, if you press them, they'll have a hard time rectifying one apparent contradiction. They say that man is by nature sinful and that even if a man commits no sin, he will still go to hell unless he believes in Jesus, because man inherits a sinful nature from Adam and Eve (called "original sin"). To the Christian, there is no way to get to heaven besides believing in and pledging oneself to Jesus. However, the rules magically don't apply to babies, although the bible makes no such exception as far as I know. I've asked pastors about it, and what I was told is that if somebody speaks about Jesus in the vicinity of the mother, the baby or unborn child can hear it and come to believe in Jesus, even while still in the womb. They point to the fact that sufficiently developed fetuses can respond to sound as "proof".
Now, the ability to hear doesn't even develop until well into the pregnancy, and they don't seem to have an answer for what happens if the child dies before that point, or if the child doesn't happen to be exposed to Christian teachings before it dies. (Not to mention that the ability to understand complex spoken language takes years to develop.) But although they have no answer, they insist that young and unborn children automatically go to heaven, because if they admitted that God sends babies to hell to burn for eternity, it would probably have a negative impact on the size of their following and the amount of money in the offering plate.