[24 March 2015]
Abortion supporters often claim that a baby’s inability to survive outside the mother’s womb should automatically justify abortion. The issue is that the child is still fully dependent on the mother, or, as it is sometimes explained, the fetus is not “viable.”
There are major problems with this line of thinking. First, if the standard for being worthy of life is the ability to survive “on our own,” when do any of us really become independent? Children at later stages of pregnancy and even after birth are still completely dependent on their mothers for protection and food. People with disabilities or certain illnesses are also dependent on caregivers, medications and machines.
Second, the assumption that a mother can choose to end her baby’s life simply because of the baby’s degree of dependency presumes the mother’s absolute power over the baby accords her the right to do what she wants with him or her. This harkens back to the “might makes right” rationale that dictators and tyrants have used to oppress and slaughter innocents throughout the ages.
Personhood is not imparted to us when we gain the ability to care for ourselves, nor do we lose our personhood when we age and become dependent on the young to care for us. The very young, the very old, the very sick or the very weak are no less human than those of us fortunate enough to be healthy and strong. We cannot make a determination about people’s value based on how dependent they are at a given moment. The baby in the womb—regardless of degree of dependency—should be allowed to live.
[18 March 2015]
The L in the SLED acronym stands for level of development. Many abortion advocates dismiss unborn children, particularly during the first trimester, as a mass of cells or a blob of tissue. This incredibly imprecise reasoning suggests that there is no moral difference between an embryo or fetus and a tumor or cyst, because of the baby’s level of development.
Every one of us began as a couple of cells that naturally developed into the complex bodies we now have. For thousands of years, this process was a mystery. We now know, thanks to the rapidly advancing science of embryology, that development actually begins at conception (T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition) and progresses very rapidly. By implantation (5-8 days) the embryo has gone from two cells to several hundred! By about three weeks, the heart is beating. By seven weeks, facial features, fingers and other details are visible.
Clearly, even a tiny embryo is biologically different from a cyst or a tumor. So the question for the abortion advocate is, at what point is a baby developed “enough” to have the right not to be killed? Some argue that because embryos are not self-aware or cannot “think,” they are not persons. Yet people with certain disabilities or brain injuries also may not “think” in the way that most of us do, but few believe that is a reason to end someone’s life. Newborn babies aren’t as self-aware as two-year-olds, and six-year-olds are not as self-aware as adults. Where do we draw the line?
In reality, we all develop differently, with different abilities and shortcomings. If we allow those in power to determine the threshold of ability that gives us a right to life, we will head down a dark path that has been repeated throughout history and never ends well. We must cherish each life—however it develops—as a gift from the Creator.