There are good reasons why pro life ethics are definitional in politics. That is not to advocate for some sort of one-issue model of voting. Being pro-life does not qualify somebody to take political office. But being pro-choice, in my view, can disqualify somebody from receiving my vote. That is the primary reason that I could never cast a vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
I regard the pro-life cause as the most important social issue in the United States. It is not akin to other social issues. It is also frightening and extremely discouraging when people think that they can dismiss the pro-life cause and affirm abortion just by reciting their favorite one-liner. Does it never occur to them, just for a second, that all of the rhetoric and talking points could be affirming the slaughter of actual human beings? Is this something that can really be dismissed by pointing out my gender? Can you wave a dismissive hand, saying, “You’re not pro-life, you’re anti-woman” thinking that providing a new label will change the facts?
I am pro-life because this is more than a social issue. Not only does it involve the slaying of what the science of embryology reveals to be biological human beings, but it also fundamentally changes our view of humanity. Not only am I pro-life, but I am also a Christian, which means that I have a very high view of the intrinsic worth of human beings.
What Are We, Really?
There are two aspects of what human beings are that need to be considered. First, there is the scientific and material aspect, and second, there is the philosophical and theological question of what we are. Insofar as that first question is concerned, human beings are chunks of matter, much like a table or rock. However, we have certain other traits that distinguish us from inanimate objects. We possess consciousness and the ability to think deeply and ask difficult questions. These questions come from the interworking of the human brain, specifically relevant to the study of neuroscience. It may be said that human beings are very complex chunks of matter. That is beyond dispute.
But suppose we were to give the material realm and the scientist full authority to determine what human beings are. Many scientists would reject that authority, but many would not. If we were to adopt metaphysical naturalism, then human beings would be complex chunks of matter, and nothing more. If that were the case, then it would seem difficult to raise any objections to the practice of abortion on moral grounds. But, that would be a two-edged sword, because it would also make it very difficult to raise objections to any moral practice, including misogyny, bigotry, pedophilia, et cetera. There is a sense in which we recognize that we are something more than chunks of matter.
I have already introduced the philosophical question by pointing out the possibility of metaphysical naturalism. But I think that we can all recognize that we truly are something more than merely chunks of matter. We certainly are that, but there is something more. We recognize that our fellow man has intrinsic moral value that cannot be set aside. It would be wrong to commit a crime against another person beca use they deserve better. The concept of human rights is grounded upon our intrinsic value. If we did not have any intrinsic value, then human rights would sway to and fro, based on the opinion of the collective bodies. That is why we cry out in rage when we see somebody violated. They possess intrinsic moral value, and they deserve better. As a Christian, I believe that people possess intrinsic moral value based on the fact that they were made in the image of God.
What Is The Fetus?
One may respond that while we recognize that biological human beings possess intrinsic moral value, the fetus is not a biological human being. It is just a little fish thing. It is merely a clump of cells. Well, first, arbitrarily changing the title of the fetus to a “clump of cells” does not change the facts of the situation. As I pointed out, you are also a clump of cells. All human beings are clumps of cells. Some are larger than others. But the identification as a clump of cells does not negate the fact that you are a biological human being.
In fact, the identification as a biological human being is generally something that pro-choice advocates are willing to concede. There is really no debate even among scientists. The debate is over, and it has been over for nearly one hundred years. The fetus is human. In his article, Elijah Thompson made this point, quoting the Former Planned Parenthood President, Dr. Alan Guttmacher. Guttmacher said that the zygote was the beginning of the human life. He wrote, “This all seems so simple and evidence that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge.” Again, this is simply not a point of contention among scientists in the field. If you would like further support, Life News collected 40 quotes from medical experts, many of whom are not pushing the pro-life agenda, but are just reciting the facts of biology.
Second, the Law of Identity seems to support the pro-life notion that the fetus is human even at the earliest stage of development. The Law of Identity states that A is always equal to A. If you were to see an ultrasound of me, Richard, when I was at the earliest stage of development, you would rightly be able to say, “That is Richard.” I could rightly say, “At one point in my past, I was a fetus in the womb.” But if you accept the premise, “It is wrong to end Richard’s life,” then that premise would apply to every stage in my development.
But you are not considering the circumstances.
This is typically where the pro-choice advocate will direct the conversation at this juncture. They will say that under certain circumstances, it will be acceptable to have an abortion, to take the life of a biological human being. If the woman was not ready to have a baby, if she thought it might have a bad life, if she was afraid, alone, or something like that, then she will be justified in getting an abortion. But all that this line of reasoning has done is to remove the intrinsic moral value that human beings possess. Why is that? It is because intrinsic value is value that one possesses in and of oneself rather than based on external conditions.
Cash, for example, has extrinsic value. It is valuable only because we regard it as valuable. But if you brought it to a tribe in the Brazilian rainforest, they would think that it was suitable only for burning to keep them warm by the fire. In and of itself, cash is just paper. Similarly, if human beings do not possess value in certain circumstances, then they do not possess intrinsic moral value. They possess extrinsic value and it can be disposed at your choosing.
One may be willing to bite the bullet and say, “Yes, that is true, and we just have to deal with it.” But before you do that, consider the campaign of women’s rights. It is predicated upon the premise that all people, men and women alike, are equal. But if human beings do not have intrinsic moral value, then the very premise of women’s rights, or anybody’s rights, will have to be discarded. Nobody has any real rights. Nobody can say that they are truly equal with anybody else. The practice of abortion claims to derive from the campaign of women’s rights. At the same time, though, the philosophy of abortion dictates that under certain circumstances, it is acceptable to kill human beings. That is extrinsic value, while the philosophy of women’s rights is intrinsic value. That would just seem to be an example of having your cake, and eating it too. The problem is that the practice of abortion undermines the very foundation of women’s rights.
Freedom Only Extends So Far
Nobody reading this believes in absolute freedom, in which anybody can do anything that they want. Nobody wants absolute bodily autonomy, to do anything they want with their body. The only sustainable model of human rights is one that comes with limitations, that does not allow you to violate the rights of other people. You are free to do anything that you want, so long as it does not violate another human being. A husband is not free to abuse his wife. His rights end where hers begin. A father is not free to abuse his son. His rights end where the child’s begins. Similarly, a woman is not free to kill her baby. Her rights end where the baby’s begins.
That is why when the issue of bodily autonomy comes up in the context of the abortion debate, they misapplying their freedom. When people say that “it is my body and therefore it is my choice,” they are not making a whole lot of sense. Your rights and your choice only extend so far. They end at the rights of another. With the practice of abortion, people violate those rights. They overstep the boundaries that are set for human rights and violate the rights of another.
If you are inclined to say that if the fetus is inside of your body, then it has no rights, then you have committed the same fallacy as the prior subsection. You are creating extrinsic factors that determine the value of a human being. If you want to maintain a consistent philosophy of abortion, you will need to maintain that human beings have intrinsic moral value which allows you to have rights. But by doing that, you will undermine abortion entirely. So, the idea of a consistent philosophy of abortion is really a misnomer. If you think that human beings have extrinsic value, then you have no basis for saying that you have the right to an abortion. If you think that human beings have intrinsic value, then you have conceded the right to an abortion to the right to life.
A Philosophy With Frightening Potential
With so many people howling, “it is not a person” about a biological human being, one can hardly be blamed for harking back to the other times in history in which human beings were designated as non-persons for some extrinsic factors (such as white skin). We can kill these human beings because they lack some extrinsic property. Without the foundation of intrinsic moral value, it becomes very difficult to say what other atrocities this will lead to. Think for a moment of all of the reasons that people get an abortion. They are afraid that the baby will have a bad life. He will live in poverty. She will be a burden. I’m not ready.
I am not trying to downplay the struggles of my fellow man. But I do think that these are important to point out. Many (if not all) of these reasons could apply equally to infanticide. How can you make the argument for the fetus in the womb, but not a couple of months later after the baby emerges from the womb? What basis is there? Similarly, what intellectual resource could you appeal to that would prevent genocide based on some extrinsic factor that a group of people have in common? There just does not seem to be any stopping power to the philosophy of abortion.
This is not to be taken as a slippery-slope argument. I am not saying that this will inevitably happen. I am saying that this is what the philosophy of abortion entails. There is just no resource to prevent other moral atrocities against human beings. The life of a human being is worth less than the external factors that are relevant to the parents. There are no good reasons that we could not disconnect any of the common justifications for abortion from justification for infanticide.
Why Pro Life Ethics Are Definitional In Politics
The practice of abortion ultimately degrades human beings. It makes us into mere animals with no intrinsic moral value. If that philosophy were truly applied and followed to its’ logical conclusions, then there would be no intellectual guard against devaluing of human beings in other contexts. So when Rachel Held Evans says that she is pro-life but voting for Hillary Clinton, that seems to be the height of inconsistency.
There are, tragically, so many Christians are just apathetic about the pro-life cause. It is just one social issue among many. Gun rights, abortion, immigration. They are all thought to be in the same category. But they are not. The philosophy of abortion undermines the very foundation of human rights. The practice of abortion really does end the life of human beings. I am adamantly opposed to that practice and that philosophy.