When does human life begin? Part Four

In this contentious debate over abortion, it’s easy to find yourself miscast.

Pro-life advocates are seen as anti-woman. We want to ‘force women to suffer.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.

Pro-life is pro-life. All human life is valuable; female, male, big, small, able, disabled, whatever colour or creed, ALL human life matters. That’s why being pro-life isn’t anti-women, it’s in favour of protecting human life.

The consequences of our biology are unavoidable. Sex makes a woman pregnant, not a man. That’s not prejudice. It’s fact. And as a result, the pro-life position directly affects women far more than men. But the basic reality that a human being, a really small one, needs protecting remains the same.

No one will speak up for those with no voice . . . unless someone takes the difficult step of speaking up for them.

The violence of mid to late-term abortions is a horror, clear to anyone who knows anything about the procedure. But it’s not the raw violence of killing which should be the focus, as effective as those videos can be sometimes. It’s the reality that so many small people have their lives ended in such a routine fashion. We give them barely a thought. Pro-choice advocates can write blogs, do interviews, raise funds, but the unborn, they cannot defend themselves at all.

We cannot hold them, see them (without technology), hear from them. They cannot cry out for protection. They are small and vulnerable. Generally, our society is pretty good at giving care and protection to the vulnerable. The disabled have many benefits which previous societies never offered them. That’s good. Charities abound which care for those with cancer, addictions, debt, struggles of all kinds.

But the unborn? In our Western world, the debate is largely over. It’s been decided. We don’t and we won’t protect the unborn.

They are not worthy of our protection and care. And in many cases, we don’t feel guilty about this.

Why?

That’s for next time.

 

 

 

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When does human life begin? Part Three

Time for another justification for abortion: It’s called the gradualist argument.

There are actually lots of gradualist arguments. Essentially, they assert the following:

At some point during pregnancy, the fetus acquires (something) and should be considered worthy of protection as a human being. Before that time, it can be destroyed.

That something might be one of the following (list not comprehensive):

  • Brain functioning
  • Consciousness
  • Viability
  • Sufficiently ‘human-looking’
  • Sentience (feeling of pain)

Often, the word ‘personhood’ is used in the argument. This is a term used in the debate to argue that simply being a distinct human being is not sufficient.

I’m going to cover all of these in one go with the following response:

We’ve already established that the developing human fetus is human. That isn’t in question. What’s asserted here is that this developing human ‘doesn’t count’ as a human because it lacks something – insert that something.

It doesn’t count because it does not possess something or it can’t do something.

Think about that for a moment. Think of humans you know who don’t have something or can’t do something. We call these people disabled. They can’t walk or hear or see or leaving aside disability, maybe we even say they’re not conscious – they’re asleep.

What’s wrong with this objection?

Since when does the value of a human being depend on its being able to do something? Some human beings can hardly do anything. Consider a severely disabled person in a hospital bed. Do they not ‘count’ because they’re not in possession of something or they can’t do something? No.

Why do they ‘count?’ Because they are human. That’s it. There isn’t anything else. It isn’t their relationship to other human beings (an argument I heard on the Moral Maze). It is simply that they are human.

Human beings are valuable. We shouldn’t kill small defenseless ones who don’t yet possess certain abilities or characteristics. That’s not a good argument.

Value is something intrinsic, related to the essence of what something is.

Human beings are valuable not due to our possession of certain abilities but because of what we are: human beings. The moment you reduce our value to our capacities, you open the door to denying us worth when some of us don’t have those capacities.

Consider the person lying in hospital in a vegetative state. They’re capable of precisely nothing. They can’t breathe, can’t eat, can’t drink. And yet you know perfectly well that’s a person lying there. They haven’t become a piece of meat and bone, they’re an intrinsically valuable human being.

One final point. All of us were, at one point in time, really, really small. Yup, that was you inside your mum, just a tiny dot. Then you grew and grew and emerged into the world. You were exactly the size you were designed to be at that early stage. Really really small. It’s quite normal when you’re only 6 days old not to feel pain or have a functioning brain. There is no good reason to disqualify you for being exactly what you should be at that stage of your development.

That you couldn’t do much at that size is not a good reason to deny you moral worth.

Next time, why being pro-life isn’t being anti-woman. In fact, it’s quite the reverse.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

When does human life begin? Part Two

I finished my last post with this question: Is the fetus a human being?

A better question is this one: When does human life begin?

There isn’t even debate on this one. Not really. Try this article for size. Click here.

Human life begins at conception. A new human being is created with a unique and distinctive genetic code. There is no such thing as ‘a potential human being.’ The biological facts are clear. This certainly settles the ‘but it’s just my body’ argument. That’s simply false.

The debate should be over . . .

Is a zygote (first stage of human development) a human being? Yes.

Is it morally wrong to kill innocent, defenceless human beings? Yes. Debate over.

But it isn’t, is it? For many reasons. So let’s deal with the next objection:

If you outlaw abortion, women will just go and have ‘back-street’ abortions.

Commonly called ‘the back-street abortion’ objection. Why does the argument fail?

In the field of ethics, it’s common to try and assess how much harm is caused to different parties. In this case, however, only one side of the equation is being considered. It is true that harm may come to a woman having abortion. She may not want the child, or perhaps there is risk associated with the pregnancy. Could be any number of reasons why the abortion is wanted.

But what about the other side of the scale? We’re talking about another human being. That’s already established on the basis of biology. So, which is more harmful? Taking the life of the new human being or the potential harm to the woman? There is nothing more harmful than killing something. To induce death, that’s undoubtedly the worst. And no amount of harm to the woman can be considered sufficient to justify the taking of a human life. (Later, I’ll deal with the ‘life of the mother’ issue)

Given these facts, the ‘back-street argument’ fails.

Finally observation. Notice the euphemisms used in this debate. ‘End a pregnancy.’ ‘Terminate a pregnancy.’ ‘Pro-choice.’ ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ The language is critical here. And very powerful. You’ll never read ‘kill a child’ or ‘destroy a human life.’

Given the strength of the pro-life position and the power of these arguments, why generally speaking, do they fail in our society?

Next time, the clever twisting and turning, the manipulation of language employed to persuade us that abortion isn’t actually the taking of human life.

When does human life begin?

Is abortion morally wrong? I think it is.

Next few posts: dealing with the most common justifications for abortion.

First up: Pro-choice has to do with a woman’s right to do whatever she wants with her own body.

The ‘it’s my body’ argument.

Response: Is abortion a women’s issue? Is this about a woman’s right to choose? Well, that’s how it is characterised. But the thinking here is flawed. Why?

Because although abortion affects women far more profoundly than men, the reason why abortion is a topic for debate doesn’t have anything to do with ‘choice’ or it being ‘a women’s issue.’

Those two are smokescreens.

How so? Have you ever seen a sonogram? Ever seen a developing fetus in the womb? If you’ve had kids, you’ll know that viewing that squirming image on the screen generates strong emotions. That’s your child in there and you know it.

The issue is and always has been this one:

When does human life begin? Is that a human child wriggling about in there?

That’s the question. That’s what the abortion debate is all about. Someone who states ‘but it’s my body’ isn’t making an argument at all. They’re simply assuming that the fetus is part of a woman. But that’s the very thing the debate is trying to answer. Simply stating your view doesn’t constitute an argument. What’s needed is your grounds for believing that the fetus is ‘part of a woman’s body.’

Allow me to appeal to your intuition. You know the truth of this statement:

It’s wrong to kill innocent human beings.

You don’t need a Bible to know this. You just know it. That’s why this isn’t a religious argument. It’s a moral argument based on our moral intuitions. If it’s wrong to kill human beings, then the only question which needs answering is this one:

Is the fetus a human being?

Next time, I’ll answer that question.

 

 

SHORT AND SWEET – 4

No clearer example of morality being based on heart and not head is the issue of abortion. But let me start with some short observations on language.

Pro-choice. If you’re into marketing, this is possibly the best example of clever marketing you’re ever likely to find. It is quite brilliant. Why?

First, because words matter. They really do. Words create pictures, worlds; they build up, destroy, they exert immense power. Christians know this better than anyone. After all, we follow a man called The Word, whom we believe created the universe.

Pro-choice. Genius. The subject is abortion and you’ve framed it as choice. It isn’t actually about choice, but you’ve sold us the lie that it’s about choice. Nice work. Who could possibly be against ‘a women’s right to choose?’ Oh, there’s another tasty word, ‘right.’ Or maybe ‘a woman’s freedom to choose.’ Even more powerful. Freedom and Choice. Words don’t come more powerful than those two.

So, before we even get started, those who oppose abortion are up against it. We’re up against the power of language, and the other side is using the big guns.

Want to know why our culture approves of abortion?

Start with language.