You want to kill the mood at a party?
Mingle with a random group and ask, “So, what does everyone think about abortion?”
Everyone looks around.
Abortion is one of those topics that generates such passionate intensity from the two opposing sides that those caught in the middle would do nearly anything to escape it. Hence lately I’ve noticed a growing sentiment in the electorate to side-step the issue of abortion all together.
But the advocates on both sides will not let go. They will carry the banner up the hill until their hands are blistered raw and their legs buckle. They will never compromise. There is no accommodation. To each, the other side must be defeated.
To understand why we have this situation, and to understand why no compromise can be reached, we have to look at the 3 main positions on abortion:1. Pro Abortion
2. Pro Choice
3. Pro Life
Very often choice numbers one and two are lumped together. But there is an important distinction. The Pro Abortion group sees abortion as a good. It is an exercise of sovereignty over one’s body. These are the people who advocate Partial Birth Abortion, a situation in which there is no medical reason to kill the child. In this procedure (now thankfully outlawed), a baby is two-thirds removed from the womb. It is then killed by attacking the part of the fetus remaining inside the mother (the head).
The Pro Abortion groups also see as sacrosanct any topic regarding reproduction. Hence there are those (like our current President), who oppose infanticide illegal if a child survives and abortion. But for the sake of fairness, let us leave aside this example and those like China’s forced abortions, and Peter Singer, Ethics professor at Princeton, who advocates elective infanticide of children up to 2 years old.
The important thing for the moment is to understand the mindset. The principle at work here is freedom. If tomorrow the federal government made it illegal for anyone to eat chicken, I think that most of us would be outraged. Why? Because we have some essential freedoms that cannot be dictated by the hand of government. I am free to speak my mind, to eat foods that I pay for, to assemble peaceably, and to worship freely. Any encroachment on that freedom strikes at the heart of who I am as a person.
Particularly, pregnancy is a condition that only affects the female of the sexual pairing. Men do not get pregnant (the infamous “pregnant man” was not genetically a man, so that doesn’t count). Pregnancy is a months-long condition that requires a radical lifestyle change often involves great pain. Should not we be free to exercise autonomy over our bodies so as to avoid pain? If a woman has a double mastectomy to avoid breast cancer in the future, does Washington throw up its hands in indignant rage? If a person wanted to get rid of a bad hip and have it replaced with an artificial one, should they be banned? Should this person be condemned to suffering because of the will of some politicians? As long as no other person is hurt, what business is it of anyone what I do within the border of my being that I call my body?
But isn’t the fetus different than a hip because it is sacred?
The Pro Abortion/Pro Choice side will hold that this is a matter or religion and belief and should not have any bearing on the law. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that blood transfusions are wrong. But for that reason should non-Jehovah’s Witnesses be denied access to life-saving blood? If you are a Catholic and believe that abortion is wrong, then you have the choice to not have an abortion. But you should not force non-Catholics from doing so.
This is where the Pro Choice side becomes a bit more distinct. Those who call themselves Pro Choice may have moral problems with abortion or they may not care one way or another. In either case, they do not believe that they or anyone else has the power to restrict someone from doing so. For example, I don’t drink alcohol. It’s not something that has ever appealed to me. But I am not prohibitionist. I do not think that alcohol should be made illegal. I have a moral problem with drunkenness, but I believe that drinking should be legal. The Pro Choice side would simply replace alcohol in the above analogy with abortion.
The Pro Abortion side tends to be very much tied to advocacy for abortion and expansion of those rights and services. They oppose things like mandatory ultrasounds, so that women can get as much information as possible before the procedure. The Pro Choice side see themselves as the middle ground between two extremes. They have found Aristotle’s golden mean and reconcile in their consciences their moral beliefs and their political positions. They don’t believe that they advocate for abortion, but would have it be “safe, legal, and rare.”
The Pro Life side is opposed the Pro Abortion side completely. It seeks to remove all legal means of procuring an elective abortion, including in cases of rape and incest (this is incidentally why Romney’s position is not completely in line with Pro Life philosophy). This also puts it at odds with the Pro Choice side. In the case of abortion, the Pro Life side refuses to budge an inch on its principled opposition to abortion and making it fundamentally illegal.
The Pro Life side will not compromise, because it can’t.
But why not? Surely we can find some kind of common ground like in the Pro-Choice camp. Can we not seek to reduce the number of abortions by fostering a culture of life in our churches and communities without having to bring the ballot box into it?
The answer to this is no.
The Pro Life side must be defeated or achieve total victory. Why?Because they are compelled by reason and logic.
Before we continue, let us first return to the opposing side. The Pro Abortion side cites as its main principle bodily autonomy. The Pro Choice position looks to freedom from government sponsored morality.
I can say here and now that I generally agree with both of these legal principles.
If a person wants to donate a kidney or pierce their uvula, I think that they have every right to do so. If my sister needed a kidney and the government told me that I wasn’t allowed to donate one to her, I would be enraged.
And I would not support a law that would impose a religious law on the general citizenry. I believe the Catholic faith when it says that adultery is wrong, but I do not want us to break out our Scarlet Letters. I believe that the 3rd Commandment requires us to go to Mass on the Lord’s Day. But I would be opposed to a state law punishing those who do not attend.
So if the Pro Life position is to be compelling, it cannot have religion at its foundation. Also it must make sure that bodily autonomy is spared.
And that is exactly what the Pro Life position holds.
The following are arguments I discovered from Dr. Peter Kreeft’s book The Unaborted Socrates. It is one of the most important books I have ever read, and I am deeply indebted to Dr. Kreeft.
Human life begins at conception. This is not a religious belief. This is a scientific fact.
Abortion is always the killing of something. There is something alive before an abortion, and then after the abortion something is dead. What kind of life is it?
Well how do we tell what kind of life something is? If I were to lay before you 3 cells (a human cell, a chicken cell, and a tree cell), how would you determine what kind of life they are if they look the same to the naked eye? By looking at the DNA of course. And what kind of DNA does the fetus/embryo have? Chicken DNA? Tree DNA? No. It has human DNA; it has a complete strand of unique human DNA from the moment of conception.
- Abortion is the killing of something (i.e. something alive)
- The Fetus/Embryo had human DNA from the moment of conception
- Therefore → abortion kills human life
But so what? If I were to remove your appendix, the appendix would die. It was alive before the appendectomy and it is dead after. What kind of DNA would we find on the appendix? Human DNA. There is nothing immoral with removing a part of the body (bodily autonomy). The fetus/embryo is a part of the mother’s body, so therefore abortion should be legal.
But problem with this is that no one actually believes it. No pregnant woman thinks of the fetus as a part of her body. I have never heard pregnant woman say, “Ouch, my inner legs are kicking at my outer ribs.” This statement is ridiculous. But that it would have to be what a pregnant woman had in mind if she believed the fetus was a part of her body. A pregnant woman would have 4 legs. A pregnant woman would have 2 heads. And if she has conceived a male child, then she has grown a…
Anyway, some might say that this is simply a failure of language and imagination on the part of society. Fine. Let’s get scientific. Examine a pregnant woman’s hair and you will find her DNA. Examine her fingernails and you will find her DNA. Examine her appendix and you will find her DNA. Examine her blood and you will find her DNA. Examine her saliva and you will find her DNA. Examine her heart cells and you will find her DNA. Examine her gall bladder and you will find her DNA. Examine her brain cells and you will find her DNA.
Examine the fetus/embryo growing in her womb. You will not find her DNA. The child has its own unique DNA. Every other human thing inside of her is a part of her. But not the fetus/embryo.
a. Fetus/Embryo 1 head, 2 legs (i.e. has unique human DNA)
b. Pregnant woman does not have 2 heads, four legs (mother has distinct DNA)
c. Therefore → Fetus/Embryo is not a part of the mother’s body
Finally, once it has been established that there is a human life that is killed distinct from the mother, there are some who would maintain that it is still not a human person. The embryo has no outward features that we would normally call human: it has no brain, no heart, no lungs, and no emotions. It doesn’t think, feel, love, etc. How you can say that this blob of protoplasm has all of the rights of a thinking, feeling, loving, breathing human?
Well let us make a small digression. How does a fully formed adult differ from a newborn baby?
There are only 4 ways in which they differ1. Size. The adult is much bigger than the baby
2. Development. Adults have matured mentally, physically, and socially.
3. Dependence. Babies cannot survive on their own. They need another to keep them alive.
4. Mobility. A baby cannot move from place to place. It depends on its movement on another.
After looking at this, can any of us say that any of these 4 differences constitute a moral difference? What I mean is that if one is less than another in any of these 4 areas, does that lessen their rights and value?
Dwarfs do not have fewer rights than NBA players.
It is not less morally wrong to punch a first grader instead of a high schooler because he is lest developed.
An elderly person in a nursing home who can no longer change themselves are not considered less human.
Stephen Hawking’s life is not worth less because he is immobile.
I think we can all concede that point.
a. An adult and a baby differ ini. Size
b. These differences are not moral differences
c. Therefore → Adults and born babies have the same moral rights
I think that the terms are clear, the premises are true, and the logic is valid. So the conclusion must be true.
No go back to the formula and replace adult with embryo.
a. An embryo and a baby differ ini. Size
b. These differences are not moral differences
c. Therefore → Embryos and born babies have the same moral rights
As we’ve established already, the Embryo is human life distinct from the mother. It differs from a born baby only in size, development, dependence, and mobility. And these differences are not moral differences.
Therefore the unborn child has as much right to live as any other person.
This is why there can be no compromise. If a human person is murdered in every abortion, then there is no greater horror ever visited upon the planet than this.
We cannot stand by while our fellow humans are murdered legally in our country. It violates every principle of freedom.
The Pro Choicers are wrong because you cannot find no compromise with objective evil.
The Pro Abortionists are wrong because their autonomy imposes itself on the bodily autonomy of the unborn child.
The Pro Lifers are right because of what reason and logic give us. For a Pro Lifer to deny this would be deny sanity.
That is why it is always about abortion.