An Issue of Life and Death

Posted: January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

This past week was Sanctity of Life Sunday, which providentially is the issue being discussed in our adult class on ethics. The fact is that in Canada abortion is legal throughout all 9 months of pregnancy, for any reason, up to the moment of birth and since it’s legalization in 1969, 3.2 million Canadians have died from elective abortions. As the church, we need to speak the truth in love. We need to stand up and speak clearly on this issue of life and death and yet do so with gentleness and respect.

That said, it always amazes me to see how those in the scientific community can come to a consensus on the theory of evolution and the origins of life based on their interpretation of fossil records and shared characteristics due to relatedness and yet, look right into the womb and say, we cannot state with any degree of certainty when life begins! Really?!? Even if that is the case, as John Piper points out, “How do you get from, “We do not know whether this is protectable human life,” to “Therefore, we will not protect it?” Wouldn’t the logic just as likely (some would say far more likely) be, “Since we do not know whether this is protectable human life, therefore we will protect it?” Why does the judicial uncertainty about the humanity of the unborn lead to unbridled license to destroy it?”

As such, let me encourage you to come out to our class on ethics this week after church as they will be watching a lecture on this topic by Scott Klusendorf. Here is a sample of what he’ll be sharing:

Scientifically, we know that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Leading embryology books confirm this. For example, Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud write, “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm … unites with a female gamete or oocyte … to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” Prior to his abortion advocacy, former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Alan Guttmacher was perplexed that anyone, much less a medical doctor, would question this. “This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge,” he wrote in his book Life in the Making.

Philosophically, we can say that embryos are less developed than newborns (or, for that matter, toddlers) but this difference is not morally significant in the way abortion advocates need it to be. Consider the claim that the immediate capacity for self-awareness bestows value on human beings. Notice that this is not an argument, but an arbitrary assertion. Why is some development needed? And why is this particular degree of development (i.e., higher brain function) decisive rather than another? These are questions that abortion advocates do not adequately address.As Stephen Schwarz points out, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo that you once were and the adult that you are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant such that we can say that you had no rights as an embryo but you do have rights today. Think of the acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of these non-essential differences:

  • Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more human than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve more rights. Size doesn’t equal value.
  • Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than the adults they’ll one day become. But again, why is this relevant? Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? Some people say that self-awareness makes one human. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. Six-week old infants lack the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, and those with Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable.
  • Degree of Dependency: If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.

In short, it’s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature.

When critics say that birth makes the unborn human, ask, “How does a mere change of location from inside the womb to outside the womb change the essential nature of the unborn?” If they say that brain development or self-awareness makes us human, ask if they would agree with Joseph Fletcher that those with an IQ below 20 or perhaps 40 should be declared non-persons? If not, why not? True, some people will ignore the scientific and philosophic case you present for the pro-life view and argue for abortion based on self-interest. That is the lazy way out. Remind your critics that if we care about truth, we will courageously follow the facts wherever they lead, no matter what the cost to our own self-interests.

SOURCE: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2012/01/how-to-defend-pro-life-views-in-5-minutes/

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