Evaluating Abortion: A General-Semantics Analysis
Bruce I. Kodish
'Abortion,' 'baby,' 'person,' 'murder.' The clash of evaluations between the pro-life and pro-choice viewpoints brings out profound differences in 'thinking'-'feeling' about these words. A method for evaluating our evaluations proves useful. General-semantics (g-s) provides such a method ( Kodish and Kodish, 1993).
What follows from applying g-s to the abortion debate? There is no official general-semantics position on abortion. Using general-semantics, I understand that any article, on this or any other issue, will necessarily be a personal one, a product of what and how one individual abstracts in relation to the question. Yet in my view, a g-s analysis shows serious difficulties with the anti-abortion or pro-life perspective and leads to a pro-choice viewpoint. In this article, I will outline some key features underlying the "pro-life" view and elaborate a pro- choice response based on some relevant g-s formulations.
Right-to-life or pro-life advocates oppose abortion as an option for unwanted pregnancies. They may absolutely oppose it, or accept it only under severe restrictions. They argue that human life begins at conception when the sperm and egg combine their genetic material, twenty-three chromosomes each, to form a single fertilized cell (Nurses, n.d.).
Dr. John Wilke, an anti-abortion advocate, has stated: "Contained within the single cell who I once was, was the totality of everything I am today" (quoted in Tribe, 1990, 1992, p. 117).
To reinforce the identity of the individual from fertilized egg to embryo to fetus to infant, pro-lifers refer to the developing organism as a "baby," "unborn child" or "person." They point out how quickly it develops the external appear-