Over the last few months there has been no lack of social commentary regarding life, choice and reproductive rights. A good portion of that commentary, escalated by the release of several Planned Parenthood videos, has billowed from political hopefuls, seeking to secure the praise of their party’s base. Because of this, I find their words are not as concerned with a clear explanation of position, but rather are intended to besmirch their opponents. It’s the “red meat to the lions” endeavor that seeks to spread the impression that those who hold an opposing view are nothing more than pro-misogynist Terrorists, if on the right or pro-infanticide Feminazis, if on the left.
My intention here is not to supplement to that kind of bombast. Nor is it to orbit around all the political leveraging on this topic. Rather, what I am seeking to accomplish is why I am pro-life and how being so does not stem from some twisted desire to be anti-rights, anti-choice or anti-women. Now in writing this, I have no illusion that your mind will be changed if you are pro-choice. I do hope that with the absence of prickly sound bites and over-the-top name calling, people who do not hold my view can at least understand why people who are pro-life hold the view they do.
1st The Science Points To Human Life
I’m an evangelical pastor that has a serious appreciation of modern science. I see it as an ally to what I believe, not an adversary. With this, I believe the scientific evidence proves that biologically we are dealing with human life at the event of conception. Now we can debate if this equals personhood (I’ll get to that later), however there is no debate that the genetic materials involved at conception are by all quantifiable accounts human. For when two human gametes couple to form a human zygote, it is human life that is underway.
Perhaps some of the strongest evidence that a fetus is more than just a ubiquitous housing of tissue comes from the Planned Parenthood videos themselves. What is clear, is that the harvesting of organs and other parts are specifically human organs and human tissues. In other words, the monetary value of the harvested portions derive their value from being human, not merely being tissue and organs. To my knowledge there is not a high demand for fetal otter tissue or fetal hippo organs. It is the humanness of these fetal components that fetch their dollar value. Thus pro-choice science inadvertently agrees with pro-life science that what we are dealing with is a scale of humans. They may be tiny, undeveloped, dependent humans called fetuses (unless they were intentionally planned and then we use the familial term baby), but they are still human and they are still living by every technical measurement. The difference we seem to have is rooted in my second point.
2nd The Economy Of Human Fetuses and Eagle Eggs
I support sensible conservation. I also support making endangered species a protected class. On the flip side I have no compulsion to rescue every spider that creeps into my house. My reasoning is based on the environmental economy of supply and demand. There is an ample supply of spiders and so I think nothing of pushing one under foot, where as the Bald Eagle is rare and so I fully endorse criminalizing any activity when eagles or their eggs are harmed.
Now seeing that the human race has hit the 7 billion mark it seems we see ourselves as spiders more than eagles on the fetus front. We think we can afford to have a different view of our unborn race because our race is in ample supply. If however, our species were down to 100,000, our fetal value and hence protection would sky rocket in the economy of life. Debates about rights and choice would evaporate in light of pro-pregnancy rallies. As a species we would take dramatic steps to protect every fetus like it was an eagle egg. In the face of extinction all sides would agree that fetuses are worthy of protection. But at 7 billion we feel we can comfortably afford the position of pro-choice (some even advocating for it in light of concerns regarding overpopulation).
From this it seems that the pro-choice side views human fetal value as partly connected to population size, as displayed toward policies regarding endangered animals. When supply is low the value increases, but when supply is high the value drops. Conversely the pro-life side sees human fetal value as intrinsic and not conditioned by population density or other environmental considerations. Thus the total number of humans never dictates how valuable a single human is. It is similar as to why we have protective rights for minorities; we seek to protect the intrinsic value of an individual irrespective of an overall population or its biases.
Building on this I would take things a step further and say that all human value is intrinsic, not only irrespective of population size, but also regardless of one’s participatory status in a given population. Thus I move to my third point.
3rd How Human Is Human Enough To Have Rights?
Science proves a fetus is a human fetus. And I believe all humans would be prepared to grant protected status to a fetus if we were endangered (just as we do with endangered species and their unborn), but we don’t because humans are not endangered. Supply and demand is not the only way we measure value. Perhaps another way to look at it is to use the familiar phrase Human Rights. The question I have here is, “Who should be considered protected under Human Rights ideals?” The follow-up question is, “When do Human Rights trump governmental policy?” Is size the issue? Is dependency the cutoff? Is capability the measuring rod? Is gender or race a consideration? If someone is severely handicapped do they have less human value and consequently diminished human rights? When a country adopts a policy that takes dehumanizing action against a segment of their population, do we see that as a Human Rights epidemic? When cultures see women as less then men do we believe it is a moral responsibility to provoke social change and see things right sided toward equality? I think you get my point. When it comes to the handicapped, the incapable, the incoherent, the disenfranchised and those who are on the receiving end of whatever social bias exists, we believe those are Human Rights issues because they assault human personhood.
When I look at this in light of abortion I bring it back to the things mentioned above. Someone is not less human merely due to size, level of dependency or his or her inability to contribute. If a country shows bias against such people we see that as a Human Rights problem regardless of the laws a country establishes over the body of it’s own people. And most certainly someone is not less human, less a person, simply based on whether they were desired or perceived of as equal. Overall both pro-life and pro-choice advocates believe that human status is not based in the perceptions of others, but in the uniqueness of humanity itself. This takes me to my forth point.
4th Every Time Some Humans Concluded Other Humans Were Less Human They Were Wrong.
The ancient cultures perceived women and children as being less human. They were wrong. The slave traders and owners of historic America viewed African salves as 3/5 human. They were wrong. The Nazi’s viewed homosexuals, the handicap, Gypsies and Jews as less human. They were wrong. It seems that as a race we are good at dividing up our species into valued segments by which the less valued are expendable or exploitable. And yet every time this happens we can see in hindsight how wrong we were. Thus, since I believe science proves a fetus is a human, that humans have inherent value (a value we would all agree on if the population was at risk) and that such value is not derived from size, dependency, status, gender and desirability; as a result I believe the philosophy behind abortion is on the wrong side of history. Every time populations have rendered a value judgment of “less than human humans” future generations condemn it. This leads me to my fifth point.
5th I Don’t Choose To Be Pro-Life, Rather I Have No Ethical Choice.
Now before you misinterpret the title of this point let me clear the air. I’m not saying that people who are pro-choice are not moral. If you will entertain me for a second let me consolidate my case and from that show what I mean. If I believe science shows a human fetus is in fact human, that all humans have intrinsic value, that such value isn’t derivative from population, size, dependency or desirability but merely from being human, that to diminish such value in any corner of our species is a human rights violation and by extension a breech of individuality and personhood, and that every time this has happened before we were wrong; then I really have no choice to make here. I am bound by a pro-life position in the same way I am bound by human rights at large. To see things the way I do and then turn a blind eye would be no different than any other blind eye I might turn in the face of human bias.
Now if my premises regarding human status were different perhaps I could see my way out of a moral pro-life requirement. But the above points leave me with no option. These various facts constitute the essence of humanity. And just as I believe all classes of humans must be protected under an umbrella of human rights (minority humans, female humans, little humans, handicap humans, incarcerated humans, etc.), so too fetal humans. The location of a fetus no more changes the status of its humanity than Nazi laws and the Dachau camp could alter the intrinsic humanity of a Jewish girl. In my estimation Human Rights always trump the laws of location. This takes me to my sixth and final point.
6th Ladies, I Don’t Want To Control Your Reproductive Rights
I have a wife and two daughters. They are independent, competent and driven. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to hold them back or make them less. With that said I also have no intention to mandate for them how they choose to handle their reproductive issues in life. However there is a big difference between having the right to “when” and “how” you reproduce and the event in which reproduction has occurred. Reproduction is just that, the genetic contribution of two humans who make a third human. How two humans want to keep their genetic material from coupling is up to them, but once they have produced a scientifically defined human (intentionally or unintentionally) the rights of that human are also conceived in that moment. Rights where population, location, size, dependency and desirability should not be factors employed to discriminate against the intrinsic value of what it means to be acknowledged as human.
As I shared from the beginning my intention is not so much to change minds (though I won’t complain if that happens), but to help my pro-choice friends better understand why this issue is passionate for us on the pro-life side of the fence. I don’t think most people who are pro-life should be likened to misogynistic terrorist who use “Family Values” as a code phrase for suppressing reproductive rights. Rather I see pro-life ideals far more like Amnesty International or other Human Rights advocates. Now in the end you may believe that our definition of what makes one a human is too constrained, but in the spirit of consistency regarding human rights and worth I would advocate we error on the side of caution when it comes to all things human.
P.S. You’ll also notice that while I am a Christian, I didn’t quote the Bible in this article. I have biblical reason as well that reinforce my pro-life beliefs, but I wanted to share my thoughts from a neutral framework where mutual understanding and tolerance is a bit more likely. Aside from this I am also convinced that the pro-life position should not be seen as a viewpoint only for those of a religious orientation, but rather can– and I believe should– a position for all who defend Human Rights around the world.