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Argument that an abortion is murder

I should like to respond to Mr. Jorgen Harmse's letter published on May 3 in The Tech. Having also attended the presentation on abortion sponsored by the MIT Christian Community, I am rather disappointed in Mr. Harmse's reiteration of his comments from the night of the presentation. Disappointed, because his comments show no more thought the second time around than the first.

Although Mr. Harmse says he wishes only to discuss the correctness of Roe vs. Wade, he fails to see that the correctness of Roe vs. Wade centers around the moral issue of whether or not abortion is in fact murder. While Mr. Harmse is also technically correct that there is no law preventing pro-life people (such as Mrs. Elliot-Gren) from calling abortion murder (as we believe it is), it is a pity that he missed her obvious satire in saying "we must not use those words" because they are "inflammatory."

That aside, there is the more fundamental issue of Mr. Harmse's analogy with a human as a dialysis machine. I'm afraid he missed the point (again). The issue is that of viability. There is a basic inconsistency. If we say that the unborn child is not a child, but rather something else (presumably not human), until it becomes viable apart from its mother, then what do we say of the man or woman who is not "viable" apart from a dialysis machine? Clearly something is missing from the viability argument.

Mr. Harmse seems to miss another point, not in Mrs. Elliot-Gren's analogy but in his own. "The victim," as he puts it, who is coerced to serve as a human dialysis machine corresponds to the mother who (except in rare cases) is not coerced to be "connected" to the unborn child. Rather, through a previous decision with the father, they took upon themselves the risk and resonsiblity of pregnancy and parenthood.

"Disconnected" seems to be a rather interesting word for Mr. Harmse to choose. It connotes a very simple process which is not at all descriptive of the process of abortion. Perhaps a better analogy would be allowing his human dialysis machine to choose whether or not he will be "connected" to the ill violinist (or what you will), then giving him a sword with the explanation that if he wishes to "disconnect" himself he may do so by killing his dependant according to a well defined procedure.

While we might agree that an individual has the "right" to walk away rather than be connected to the ill violinist in Mr. Harmse's analogy, I think this better corresponds to sexual abstinence or some method of birth control prior to conception. A belated attempt at birth "control" via abortion produces a casualty, namely the unborn child. Even calling it a "right" does not change its result: death.

While many might sympathize with Mr. Harmse's reaction to the legalizing of drugs, I think a more appropriate analogy of legalizing abortion to make it safe is to legalize murder to make it safe. The result would be precisely as the result of legalized abortion. Before Roe vs. Wade there were approximately 100,000 abortions annually (all illegal). That number has risen to over 750,000. Are we to believe that these are all due to "hard cases?"

Concerning medical difficulties, I must admit that I am as confused as Mr. Harmse. The category "medical difficulties" is too vague and nebulous to deal with in any substantial manner. It is no wonder that Mrs. Elliot-Gren did not say more. However, Mr. Harmse seems to have forgotten the one specfiic case which was raised (by the audience) -- the case of an ectopic pregnancy. In this case the unborn child has begun to grow and develop within the fallopian tubes. If carried to term, both the mother and the child will die. In this case we are dealing with two deaths versus one life. Questions about other medical difficulties will have to be raised specifically and not in vague generalities.

What of the "hard case" of rape? Mr. Harmse presupposes that this will be allowed (which is not the pro-life position) and then points out that this will result in "vast numbers of false accusation" which "will make rape effectively unpunishable." But since when, in the name of justice, do we punish one for the crime of another? If a child is conceived due to rape, do we sentence the rapist to prison and the child to death?

Roland Roberts '84->