After the 2009 presidential election, the Catholic Church spent a ton of money promoting its pro-life stance by running the following ad nationwide. It was a heart-tugging appeal to “imagine the potential” that would have been squandered if our newly-elected president’s mother had decided to to have him aborted in light of the difficulties she faced in bringing him into this world:
Though many praised the ad for the power of its message, thinking pro-lifers criticized it for good reason — it is based on a consequentialist ethic that is vulnerable to a thoughtful pro-abortion argument to the opposite effect. Here’s why:
As a follow-up to my last post, and thanks to an article that my fellow CIA agent (and classmate), John Ferrer, contributed in the latest issue of Salvo Magazine (“The Big Kill,” Salvo Issue 34, p. 10), I’ve found a new resource for showing people the impact of abortion.
In a format similar to the mind-boggling real-time numbers of the U.S. National Debt Clock, but with infinitely more moral impact, the website NumberOfAbortions.com gives a continuously updated count of the number of abortions in the U.S. and worldwide. The numbers are staggering. Just a few examples (as of September 25, 2015 at 10:30 pm):
Abortions performed today: 2,806.1
(as a point of reference, 2,977 people were killed in the U. S. on September 11, 2001)
Abortions performed by Planned Parenthood since 1970: 6,877,845.2
Abortions performed in the U.S. since Roe-v-Wade (1973): 58,293,265
Abortions performed worldwide today: 103,043
Abortions performed worldwide this year: 29,754,477
Abortions performed worldwide since 1980: 1,349,402,839
Like most statistics, they can make your eyes glaze over. They are literally incomprehensible. But I have also found a unique way to make the overwhelming numbers a little more real. It is self-explanatory … but that doesn’t make it anymore understandable that many in our culture are happy to defend every bee-bee that hits the tin can:
Several years ago, the local scientific apologetics group I belong to learned that I was involved in doing some pro-life teaching and speaking. As a result, they asked me to give a presentation about how the apologetic case for Christianity in general might relate to making the pro-life case as well. That was an easy one.
We at the Life Training Institute (LTI) deliberately construct our arguments against abortion in a way that they can’t be dismissed by abortion proponents as “just a religious opinion.” We do that by using science and philosophy to show what the unborn is, why it is valuable, and why that makes taking its life a grave moral wrong. Our argument is not in the least bit “religious”; it is a rational and reasoned case that points to the most basic of all human rights — the right to life. The fact that the case we make is perfectly compatible and consistent with what the Bible says is just one more reason to believe the Bible is a reflection of the truth about ultimate reality.
I think it is unfortunate that many well-meaning pro-lifers defend their position by leading with the Bible. They attempt to ground their view in the authority of the Bible and expect their opponents to respect that authority because it is the Word of God. While I share their high view of Scripture and its unarguable support for all things pro-life, there are a couple tactical problems with this approach. For one, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about the particulars of abortion itself. Though this “silence” in no way equals consent, it becomes difficult to make the case when you are left having to defend what opponents might call “tangential” evidence that the Bible finds the act of abortion deplorable. You end up in a debate about biblical inerrancy, or the proper translation of some specific word, or the cultural context of a passage — instead of defending the plain facts about the unborn’s value as a full-fledged member of the human family.
Secondly, and for more tactically important reasons, most of those who would justify abortion couldn’t really care less what the Bible says about anything anyway. They dismiss your argument with the wave of a hand and avoid even engaging it because they categorize your position as just another religious claim that has no bearing on reality.
For these reasons it is tactically advisable to first ask the question — “What is the unborn?” — and then offer scientific, philosophical and moral reasoning to answer it. That is what we do at LTIand that is why we do it.
Season 3, Episode 17 of the popular TV show, “House” ignited quite a discussion among those with wildly differing views on the subject of abortion. As is usually the case, the conversation gets heated, tempers flare, and not much useful comes of it all. I have no desire to enter that debate today. But I would like to register my support for the willingness of the show to tread where most in Hollywood never dare. This episode of House gave a rare positive outlook to the view that abortion is not just about a woman’s right to choose. It is about the status of the unborn and whether or not we recognize it for what it is, not just for what it can do or how it affects the mother’s life.
Let me reiterate that a reasoned pro-life position acknowledges and supports a “woman’s right to choose.” As my friend Scott Klusendorf says, I think a woman should be able to choose her husband, her job, her religion … anything she wants … unless that choice involves an immoral outcome such as one that ends with taking the life of another innocent person. The abortion question is not about a woman’s ability to choose, or about her privacy. It is about whether the unborn child in her womb is a human being. If it is not, abortion requires no justification. If it is, there is no possible way to condone it.
That said, this episode of “House” included the usual debate about how to prioritize whose life to save in the event the mother’s life is in danger. In this particular episode, the dilemma that arose was how to save a dying, pregnant mother whose baby was labeled “not viable.” Of course, the mother had been impregnated by the donated sperm of a homosexual co-worker. Though this fact played absolutely no part in the plot, it was jammed into the story for reasons only Hollywood could explain. But I digress…
There were several medical and moral issues involved in the story, especially after it was discovered that the baby was the source of the mother’s rapidly deteriorating condition. Once that fact came to light, House’s response was immediate and unrelenting: “Terminate the pregnancy to save the mother.”