Presidential Politics and the Abortion Debate: A Glaring Omission

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Debates are usually filled with rhetoric, posturing, and more than a few vague statements. Yet, the vice presidential debate provided a clear and concise answer to at least one issue: the abortion question. While studies and polls are mixed as to what the majority of Americans actually believe regarding this issue, neither the position held by Vice President Biden nor Congressman Ryan brought clarity to the national debate.

What both candidates revealed was startling. Both believe life begins at conception, yet both would allow that life to be terminated given certain conditions. Moreover, the vice-president believes this issue does not warrant the clarity brought by his religious understandings, and while Congressman Ryan allows for integration, he still believes abortion should be allowed in a few circumstances. What this actually means is that neither candidate, and for that matter neither ticket, believes abortion terminates the life of a human person, and the "life" of which they speak is generic in nature.

This seems like a bombastic overstatement of the facts at first glance, if not a total misrepresentation. Yet, look at their statements. Both men state they believe life begins at conception. How much clearer do they need to be? While this pronouncement sounds nice, and their appeals to conscience may make us feel good, both men did not confront the central issue of abortion, namely, what is the unborn? They both, knowingly or un-knowingly, squandered this primetime opportunity for clarity.

This glaring omission represents the single most important question of the entire abortion debate. For, if the unborn is not a human person, then no legitimate argument can be made against abortion. However, if the unborn is a human person, than no legitimate argument can be made for abortion.

To put it another way, if abortion does not terminate the life of a human person, but rather something else entirely, what is the big deal? Why not allow it in every instance without restrictions? The determining question of "what is the unborn" has been answered in favor of the practice. However, if abortion does terminate the life of a human person why should any instance justify this practice? For, if the latter is true, then murder is the product of the practice, and no reason exists that allows for the killing of the innocent. Why these two men did not address this simple, straightforward premise reveals the lack of clear, rational thought that permeates the discussion and understanding of this issue.

When understood in this light the answers given by both candidates can be viewed as nothing else but eloquent rhetoric or double talk. For, both affirm that life begins at conception, but both would allow said life to be terminated. Why? Because neither believes the life in question is a human person.

Thus, the American people learned two things regarding their choices this presidential season. First, both tickets would sanction, either in whole or in part, the termination of human persons in the womb. Second, even some of the smartest people in the room have glaring issues in their use of logic and reason. While both of these do not come as a shock, they are important.

Most importantly, it seems that cogent arguments for ending abortion have not penetrated the minds of mainstream or popular leaders. While Congressman Ryan is largely heralded as a budding intellectual the fact he does not perceive such a glaring hole in his reasoning is troubling. That he is a devoted man of faith is all the more disturbing. Additionally, Vice President Biden's stance, while a known quantity, is no less vexing. If tenets that you hold dear do not influence thoughts and actions, particularly in the face of opposition, what good are they? Is not the promotion of beliefs regarding such crucial issues more important than the potential of offending others, specifically when those beliefs have the potential to enlighten?

This debate could have been a moment of exacting clarity. While the audience may have already known the stances of these two candidates, it was nonetheless a prominent opportunity squandered. Glaring omissions of this kind are becoming too common, and too commonly accepted.

Michael E. Brooks has two master's degrees from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and an Ed.D in Higher Education from Union University. He is currently the Children and Families Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church in Dothan, Alabama.