In my first post in this series on abortion I took a stab at the heart of the abortion debate: Personhood . Personhood remains the singular issue on which the abortion debate hinges, as Justice Harry Blackmun said in the Roe v. Wade decision:
If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.
And yet, proponents of abortion tend to completely dodge the question of personhood. Instead of answering the question, “is it wrong to kill an innocent person?”, or being willing to clarify what creates personhood if it is distinct from being human, abortion advocates will often reach out in multiple directions to justify its legality. One is women’s health, which I addressed in my last post taking on The Myth of Women’s Healthcare .
Another series of common arguments (often clumped together) is that pro-life people do not care about refugees, children in foster care, education, or universal healthcare. These all essentially boil down to calling pro-life individuals hypocrites, saying that they only care about “the unborn” until they are born. This, they claim, makes abortion justified. How? Well, that’s the problem, it doesn’t justify abortion at all. In fact it has nothing to do with the argument of the ethic of abortion.. It’s a combination of two fallacies, The Red Herring, and The Ad Hominem.
Pro-life individuals are often criticized for their silence on issues of refugees (and our country’s decreasing allowance), healthcare, education, and the foster system, and because of this–alleged–hypocrisy their arguments for the defense of the unborn are void. This argument has an appearance of compassion, as though the one condemning pro-life individuals really cares more about people because they care about those who are “already born”, while pro-life people “only care about the unborn until they’re born”. As Nietzsche wrote, “they muddy the water to make it seem deep”. But is it true? Is it a fair assessment of pro-life people? And more importantly is it a logical defense for the legality of abortion?
Firstly, no, it’s been proven time and again that this is not a fair assessment of the pro-life movement in large. Pro-life pregnancy centers throughout our country alone display that pro-life people care both about the women and the children that they seek to free from the abortion industry. They offer post-abortion counseling, vast referrals to community resources, maternity clothing and baby items, and education on prenatal health, parenting, and newborn care, all for free. Or take for example, Alabama, a state seeking to pass more restrictive abortion laws while also setting records for adopting foster children in the same year. Then there are the many churches who have come alongside women in crisis pregnancies, like the church in Washington state that has programs for single mothers, families seeking to pursue foster care, and even embryo adoption. To say that pro-life advocates do not care about children after they leave the womb is simply false, and pro-life individuals throughout the nation prove so over and over again. Because when you believe that all life matters, that tends to translate into getting your hands dirty in caring for people. Could more people be doing more, certainly, absolutely, always. But when a pro-life person isn’t doing those things, does that make abortion justified?
Even if it were true that pro-life individuals are gross hypocrites (which as a majority, they are not), would that make abortion morally justifiable? The answer is simply, unequivocally, no. Because either an action is morally justified on its own merit, or it is not. The state of education, healthcare, the foster system, and the refugee crisis are certainly issues we should address, look for ways to improve–and perhaps even strain our own checkbooks and schedules over–but, none of that has anything to do with whether abortion is morally permissible or not. A pragmatic argument of, what will we do with all these children when we already fail so many people in these systems is not a sufficient argument for legalized murder, any more than the argument that freeing slaves would create a strain on our economy justified slavery. Either the deliberate killing of an innocent human is wrong, or it is right.
If it is wrong then it must be stopped, and until our legal system agrees with that most basic premise, we cannot move forward. After all,
The first right of natural life consists in the safeguarding of the life of the body against arbitrary killing.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics
How can we say we care about children in the foster system, that we care about education and healthcare if, in the same breath, we say some people do not deserve even the most basic protection of their life?
How can we make the claim that refugees deserve asylum when we are simultaneously saying that personhood must be earned, and the right to life is only granted to some?
Certainly, if we are going to claim people deserve education, health, and safety, it is assumed that they deserve life first, but how can we possibly claim compassion for people in these areas when we are simultaneously denying the most basic right to life from a staggering number of people, legally?
If we want a culture that values people: that cares for the refugee, the child in crisis, the poor, and the underserved, then we must first begin with declaring all humans as persons and equally deserving of life. Otherwise we are simply a culture of death thinly veiled with false compassion, politicizing hurting people groups for our own gain.
The only way to stand against the culture of death is to accept that all humans are also persons. No one is excluded.