The pro-life position is the only position that accounts for human equality. If you care about protecting the value and dignity of ALL human beings, the pro-life position is your only option.
But are all humans even equal in value and dignity? This is a question as old as time itself, and it’s a question our country is currently divided over.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has publicly defended infanticide, the US Senate refuses to pass an anti-infanticide bill protecting babies born alive during botched abortions (thanks to Democrats), and every Democrat Senator running for president voted against protecting these babies.
History is a Bloody Teacher
It’s not the first time our country has been divided on this question. Eleven years before the abolition of slavery in America, Abraham Lincoln penned his famous Fragments on Slavery (1854) in which he attacked pro-slavery arguments. Lincoln winsomely articulated the consequences of grounding human value in accidental properties that come in varying degrees:
You say ‘A’ is white and ‘B’ is black. It is color, then: the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are a slave to the first man you meet with a fairer skin than your own.
You do not mean color exactly—You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again: By this rule you are to be a slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own.
But you say it is a question of interest, and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.1
Here’s what Lincoln was articulating: When human value is grounded in accidental properties like skin color or intellect, it is not only the victim class that is dehumanized, but all human beings since no one shares these properties equally.
Applied to the issue of abortion, the pro-choice movement believes that the entire class of unborn human beings can be set aside for slaughter. Why? Because, according to the pro-choice movement, unborn children lack certain value-giving properties such as size, level of development, and independency. There are two major problems with this.
“Applied to the issue of abortion, the pro-choice movement believes that the entire class of unborn human beings can be set aside for slaughter.”
First, the pro-choice movement cannot articulate why those properties are value-giving. You cannot just create random criteria for human value without justifying why that criteria is central to a human’s worth and dignity. Lincoln was right to point out that there are consequences for everyone when we create our own system of determining human beings’ worth.
Second, the pro-choice argument proves too much. If the pro-choice criteria for the unborn child’s worth, or lack thereof, are indeed value-giving criteria, then there is no reason why we shouldn’t accept the application of that same criteria to determine the worth and dignity of born people as well. Using the Lincoln method of reductio ad absurdum, one could say:
You say ‘A’ is large and ‘B’ is small. It is size, then: the larger having the right to abort the smaller? Take care. By this rule, you can be justifiably killed by the first man you meet who is larger than you.
You do not mean size exactly—You mean that born people are developmentally superior to the unborn, and therefore have the right to abort them? Take care again: By this rule you can be justifiably killed by the first man you meet with a level of development superior to your own.
But you say it is a question of dependency, and if the unborn is dependent on another for his or her life, you have the right to end theirs. Very well. And when you are dependent on a kidney machine, heart pacemaker, insulin, or life support, I have the right to kill you.
Ideas Have Consequences
Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims. Nowhere is this more true today than the issue of abortion. The idea that human value is based on arbitrary properties such as size, level of development, and dependency has had horrible consequences; namely the 60 million unborn victims sacrificed on the altar of “choice” since 1973.
“Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.”
The pro-choice movement, like the KKK before them, promotes bad ideas about human equality, namely that it doesn’t exist. Human equality cannot be maintained when an entire class of human beings is dehumanized to justify their mistreatment and slaughter. Abortion is the dehumanization of an entire class of human beings, and not because I say so, but because leading pro-choice activists say so.
Naomi Wolf, feminist author and former political advisor to Bill Clinton wrote in her 1996 New Republic Article entitled Our Bodies, Our Souls:
“Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life…we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.”2
“Abortion is the dehumanization of an entire class of human beings, and not because I say so, but because leading pro-choice activists say so.”
Faye Wattleton, former Planned Parenthood President, said in a 1997 interview with Ms. Magazine, “I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.”3
Only the Pro-Life Movement Can Account for Human Equality
In contrast, the pro-life movement can and does account for human equality. Pro-lifers make two important points in their case for the human equality of all human beings, born or unborn.
First, the science of embryology teaches that from the moment of conception, the unborn child is a distinct, living, and whole human being. Any textbook on embryology will teach this. The unborn is a human being and human equality must account for the value of all human beings.
Second, in order to maintain this human equality, pro-lifers make a philosophical argument by pointing out that there is no value-giving difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you at that earlier stage.
“In contrast, the pro-life movement can and does account for human equality.”
The primary differences between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today are size, level of development, location, and degree of dependency. However, those differences cannot be used as a criteria to justify killing the embryo since all adults differ according to the same criteria. In other words, the unborn differs from us in the same ways that we differ from one another. If we reject that criteria for killing born people, we must equally reject it for killing unborn people.
Despite the pro-choice movement’s mantra of “women’s equality,” their ideas are a rebirth of the same demonic ideas that justified slavery, namely the dehumanization of an entire class of human beings based on randomly selected criteria for human value—criteria that is not value-giving in the first place.
“If you care about human equality, the pro-life position is your only option because it says all human beings, whether born or unborn, are equal in value and dignity and ought to be treated as such.”
So how do we account for this human equality that we all claim to care about? Only one way. Amidst our countless differences, there is only one thing that all human beings have in common: a shared human nature. If we don’t ground human value in our shared human nature, but rather in our differences, then we open the door to justifying all sorts of horrible actions to dehumanize others who don’t meet our subjective criteria.
If you care about human equality, the pro-life position is your only option because it says all human beings, whether born or unborn, are equal in value and dignity and ought to be treated as such.
- Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” The New Republic, Oct. 16, 1995.
- Faye Wattleton, “Speaking Frankly,”Ms., May / June 1997, Volume VII, Number 6, 67.