UU's look to science for clues to what is right and wrong, and science no longer looks for "breath" to determine the presence of life. It looks to brain waves, heart beats, and genetic science. This has been very problematic for abortion rights. There's no doubt about it...any layperson can see genetically human life squirming around in every fetal ultrasound. If we want to support abortion rights, it just won't do to travel old paths of biblical argument or parse out the ancient meanings of "person". If we want to support abortion rights in the modern world, we have to be able to clearly say why a woman who is unwillingly pregnant, or who is carrying a fetus whose life will be painful, short, or terribly compromised has the legal and usually the moral right to terminate her (early and middle) pregnancy.
Here it is in a nutshell. The western political and religious tradition values human life supremely, and we usually value human freedom even more. "The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time" said Thomas Jefferson, and there's the even starker, "Give me liberty or give me death." These two values often conflict, as in, the freedom to make money and vs. need for regulation to protect public health. In these conflicts of values, "freedom" is often the winner, as in, "If you come from a country that is threatening the freedoms of my county, I will kill you."
Thus it is that Rev. McLennan, a man, will never be forced by law to give up so much of a drop of his own blood to save the life, even of his own newborn child, as that would infringe on such a basic freedom, the freedom of bodily self-determination. He'd be asked, perhaps expected, to make this easy donation from love or duty, but he will never be forced to do it. His freedom is naturally valued, by everyone and by the law, as more important than the life of another human being, even one he is responsible for having brought into the world. Of course we might condemn him morally for his selfishness, but the law will never compel him to give any part of his body to his child.
So iMinister, a woman, thinks it's pretty irksome to hear him opine that her decision to decline to provide her uterus, which is to say, a whole lot of her body and that huge medical drama called childbirth, to a developing fetus is only ok because he thinks that the fetus isn't a human being yet. He just so doesn't get it! It doesn't matter whether the fetus is a bit of tissue or a full person. It doesn't have a right to use my body unless I want it there or consent to be it's hero and provide my body for its use. If I decline to support it I undergo and abortion and the fetus dies. That's the end of a precious possibility, but if my humanity (and freedom) is valued as much as Rev. McLennan's is, it wouldn't be against the law.
Like McLennan, but for different reasons, I think that Roe v. Wade did a good job of parsing out how this fundamental conflict between life and freedom can be managed. A woman can choose her freedom over the life of the fetus during the first 6 months of pregnancy. After that, the life of the fetus (and the trauma to society of aborting it) is the more important value, unless it's life is hopelessly compromised or hers is in danger. I honor them for seeing, a generation ago, that women are human beings with the human right to freedom.
We've spent 40 years yammering on about when human life begins in fetuses. Let's ask ourselves instead when all the benefits of a human life (beginning with the right to freely choose when to donate one's body to another the cause of life) to half of the human race begin.
Then we'll be talking.
P.S. Rev. McLennan, "Abortions of convenience" undoubtedly happen, do they? Tell me about one....tell me a real story about a convenient pregnancy, abortion, or decision about motherhood. Just try it.
There are other posts on this subject in the backfiles. Search for "abortion" in the search box above.