In my last two blogs, “Abortion: Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Both Right?”and “Abortion: Why Both Sides Will Lose in the Supreme Court (Again)” I explained why the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was not a clear win for either pro-choice or for pro-life supporters and why I thought that both sides would once again be disappointed if a modern Supreme Court consented to review the case.
But while my reading of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, modern medicine, and our current political climate lead me to believe that a review of Roe would not be substantially different than it was in 1973, I do think that there are compelling reasons that argue for a dramatic change. Instead of beginning with biblical, theological or doctrinal reasons (which I obviously have), let’s begin with reason and logic.
As I have explained, Roe v. Wade was a decision that attempted to find a balance between two rights guaranteed by the Constitution, a right to privacy on the part of the mother, and a right to life on the part of the infant. In my reading of the court’s ruling, it seems that there was never a question that both rights existed and the both deserved to be protected. The question was, if two rights are in conflict, which has a superior claim and when (or if) does that superiority change? I have a right to privacy in my own home, but if I were to commit criminal acts, particularly those that harmed other human beings, my right to privacy is superseded by the other person’s right to life and liberty. This delineation is well accepted as both moral and legal. This same question, when brought into the realm of abortion, becomes a question of a) is a pre-born infant a human being, and if yes, b) when does it become one? The Supreme Court answers to these questions in 1973 were a) yes, and b) at the earliest point at which the infant is viable (with medical intervention).
In 1973 the womb was something of a “black box.” We knew that an infant developed in the mother’s womb and developed from a fertilized egg, we had all sorts of microscope slides and fetuses in jars that had been aborted at various stages of development. What we didn’t have were the spectacular images that we have today. Today expectant parents can sit in the office of their OB/GYN and see live 3D images of their child. They can see that preborn infant scratch its nose, cough, sneeze, and suck its thumb. So real are these images, that 78% of women who were considering abortion changed their minds after they had seen them.
I’m not saying we were ignorant in 1973 and we are now “enlightened,” but what we know and what we have learned, seem to make it much harder to draw a line in the sand and say that “this” is a person with Constitutional rights, and a moment earlier “that” was not a person. Does an infant become a person because it’s larger than it was yesterday? If so, do tall people have more rights than short people, or do adults have a stronger right to life than children? Does it suddenly become a person because it is no longer in the womb? The human rights of any other “person” do not change based on location. A person in Detroit, Michigan has no more or less rights than a person in rural China. Location cannot, logically, convey basic human rights or take them away. Is a preborn infant not a person because it is dependent upon its mother? If so, then do adults on life support surrender their right to life? We are all, in one way or another, dependent upon others for our lives. Simply because an infant needs its mother cannot imply that it somehow has fewer rights than an infant only days or weeks older. At other times in history, groups of people were declared a separate “class” of human being so that their rights could be denied, Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, and others. Can we, in good conscience, declare a group of human beings, with measurable human DNA, to be a separate “class” of humans that are not entitled to human rights?
Biblically speaking, we know that God loves all of his children equally. All human beings are of sacred worth. The redemption of every person on earth was purchased by Jesus Christ at the cost of his own life. We cannot gamble that God cares more about an infant more today, simply because yesterday it was in the womb and today it is not, or because today it is one day older than yesterday.
I have heard various arguments from the position that Old Testament references did not consider an infant to be a “person” under the law until after it was born. While this is arguable on a number of points, it assumes that people who lived four thousand years ago could have known any differently. Asking this question would seem to place an unfair moral burden on ancient cultures. How would any culture with little understanding of fetal development, no ability to detect a fetal heartbeat, no ultrasound, and no modern medical understanding of neural development have fairly ruled that a preborn infant is equal to one who independently draws breath? Their decision on personhood was, much as it was in 1973, based upon viability.
Please understand that I value my privacy as much or more than anyone, but regardless of my feelings or personal opinion, privacy has always taken a backseat to more important rights, and the right to life is among these. Legally, I understand that declaring an infant to be a person too early can create other difficulties, such as the potential for criminal investigations against women who have miscarriages and certainly I understand those who struggle with knowing at what point an infant ought to be considered to be a person, especially in the earliest stages of development. For me, however, I have few such doubts. I believe that morals, logic and scripture declare in chorus that an infant is a person, and if an infant is a person at any point, it must be one from the very beginning.
To me, these arguments seem reasonable and logically sound. If you can find error in the logic, I am interested in hearing your viewpoint.