Abortion debate is about rights


I would like to respond to Jake Van Alstyne’s letter (“Morality is relative,”?Nov. 17).

First, Van Alstyne’s assertion regarding the abortion debate is mistaken. The issue is not, as he claims, whether the fetus is alive or not. The issue is whether the fetus has rights.

Van Alstyne asked: “What defines a moral or immoral action?” While it is true that moral dilemmas are debated endlessly, debate alone does not entail that there will never be “right” answers. It is mistaken to conclude that just because a multitude of differing answers are given on any issue there will never be a right answer. Today, rational adults agree that slavery is abhorrent, yet once it was once a hotly debated issue.

Van Alstyne stated that, “Men and women are free so long as they don’t infringe upon (the) rights of their fellow Americans. In a free democracy, laws should not govern morality because morality is relative.”

Van Alstyne seems to have missed the point-anti-abortion groups believe a right is being infringed upon.

The author goes on to imply that legality should be the only determinant of “rightness.” If this were the case, then Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and many other reformers were wrong for disobeying what they thought were unjust laws.

We have a long history of those who appealed to standards of justice that transcend law.

Van Alstyne concluded that there are no right answers to these issues because there is debate. The idea that no one is right is not only ludicrous, but also intellectually lazy.

The problem is believing that debate somehow indicates that moral quandaries can never be resolved. Van Alstyne asked, “Isn’t the whole point behind freedom that we have the right to choose?”

Yes, but only within a limited repertoire of choices. Otherwise the right to privacy would protect the “freedom” to culture deadly strains of bacteria. The inalienable right to life trumps private choice and here lies the heart of the abortion debate. Persons have a right to life, so the question is when or if the fetus ever becomes a person, a holder of rights.

That the fetus is alive is a self-evident fact of biology. The debates center on whether a prenatal human offspring has the same set of rights as an adult human. That people debate morality is not a proof of moral relativism, but only a sign of moral diversity. Of course, people have differing ideas; the point is to discover who has the right ideas.

Everyone begins a debate believing he or she is right. So be it, the onus is on those who have differing opinions to show us why we are wrong.

Prof. Rob A. Micallef

Madonna University

Livona, Michigan