Abortion Circa 1973



“Yes, Tanner, I understand.  I’ll be glad to help.”  Pause.  “I must satisfy myself first that is the way she wants it, not you or your wife, but your daughter.”  Pause again while Lapius hugged the receiver to his ear.  “If she makes up her mind, I’ll make the appropriate recommendation.  Right.  Goodbye.”



Lapius hung up, moved a pawn and I removed his white bishop from the board with my knight.  “You can’t do that, Harry,” he said, “come on, I was distracted by the phone call.”



“No one forced your hand, Simon.  A move is a move.  After all, Simon, it was you who taught me that if the rules of chess are changed it no longer is chess but another game.”



“I’m afraid that’s true, Harry, and if the rules of life are changed it becomes another game too, I guess.”



“Is that what the call was all about?”



“Yes.  Tanner has a teenager daughter who disclosed at long last that she is four months pregnant.  At the moment she believes that she wants to abort the baby.”



“And he wants you to refer her to an abortionist?”



“Quite correct.”



“And that depresses you and forces you to make errors on the chess board.”






“And if the girl decides to have an abortion, you will refer her to an abortionist.”






“Even though the Supreme Court said that any woman had the right to an abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy only.  You would be contravening the spirit of the law of the land, now, Simon.  Not a comfortable posture for you.”



“The whole thing is uncomfortable for me.  There is no doubt in my mind that abortion is the taking of a life without due process.  It is an assault on a human life.”



“But there are those who say that a fetus isn’t really alive.  Its life is dependent on the umbilical ties to the mother.”



“What would you say to the same argument being applied to a human being whose life depended on the tubes going into his veins from intravenous bottles, or dialysis machines.  I don’t think that dependency and viability can be used as criteria.”



“Then, according to you, life starts at conception.”



“I would think so.  The traditional belief in our society is that life is initiated by conception.  It is biologically reasonable.”



“Well, if you feel that way, why will you recommend an abortionist for Tanner’s daughter?”



“To insure that she falls into the proper hands.  Four months is a treacherous time for abortion, and should be performed by experienced doctors.  If I don’t help, she’ll get it done somewhere else, and it may not turn out too well.”



Lapius suddenly appeared old.  “I don’t understand your reaction, Simon.”  I told him.  “I’ve even heard you argue in favor of abortion.”



“Never.  I never argued in favor of abortion.  I argued in favor of legalizing abortion.  There’s a difference.”



“The distinction escapes me.”



“Of course it would,” he said with acerbity.  “Only a few years ago it was impossible to have medically indicated abortions performed in legitimate hospitals; and, at the same time, we were called upon to salvage the human wreckage that resulted from illegal abortions performed with knitting needles in the back rooms, kitchens, and cellars of the city.  I wanted to legalize abortion so it could be performed in the proper facility by trained physicians.  But I never favored it.  I find headlines stating that one to two million human lives will be destroyed by this method every year.  Horrifying, to say the least.”



“Well, it’s like the song says, Simon.  You can’t have one without the other.  You can’t have legalized abortion without the slaughter.  A dilemma, isn’t it?”



“Yes Harry, a tragic dilemma.  Society has two choices.  Either to admit that we are accessories to murder, or else take it upon ourselves to change the definition of life, a definition which we have traditionally ascribed to the word of God in order to relieve ourselves of the burdensome responsibility.  Suddenly our generation is willing to assume the responsibility, and I’m not sure were up to it.  It took thousands of years to get up the courage of foolhardiness, whatever you call it, to challenge the traditional definition of when life begins.  Now it will be decided by statute.  But it won’t stop at abortion.  We are asked daily to define legal definitions of death.  We may ultimately come to decide that any 60-year-old man who can no longer find a job is legally dead.  Legalizing abortion will lead to the legalization of euthanasia.  Can you contemplate a society where life or death will be decided by some administrative board?  No, Harry, I’m afraid that the recent decision by the Supreme Court trifles with the time honored fundamental precept of society, namely, reverence for life.  At least that’s the view of this representative of my generation.” 



“Well, Simon, there are those in my generation who feel that abortion and euthanasia merely serve to weed out the population, so that we can live in greater comfort.  What would you say to that?”



Lapius surveyed the chessboard.  “It’s your move, Harry.”