Monday, July 15, 2013

Texas Abortion Bill and Birth Defects

Darshak Sanghavi over at Slate recently wrote a post titled Who Has an Abortion After 20 Weeks? In it he claims that many women choose abortions half way through their pregnancy because it is around that time that technology can determine the likelihood that their unborn children (he uses the word fetus) will have a severe birth defect. He argues that since the Texas bill bans abortions after just about the time its possible to detect defects, women will either choose to abort a possibly healthy baby, or they will have to carry a disabled child to term. While I appreciate his concerns, along with those of the women he works with, birth defects are never a valid reason for abortion.

The primary question in the abortion debate is this, does a human being have a right to life?

Let's break that question down, first of all, what do we mean by a "right to life"? Clearly we cannot mean a right to be alive no matter what, as this is impossible. This isn't a positive right (a thing that must be provided) but rather a negative right (a thing that must not be taken away). So what we mean by a "right to life" is that no one may deprive another person of his or her life without just cause. This means that a person has the right to keep his or her life from its beginning until its natural end and no one may interfere with it.

This leads naturally to the question of when does life begin? The answer is simple. It begins at conception. There is no scientific argument to say that it begins at any other point! If we were talking about cats it would be blatantly obvious that the cat's life started at conception. Even abortion supporters, when they are honest with themselves, admit that they know life begins at conception. This isn't something that's up for question. It is scientific fact, and so we can move on.

So, the question once again is "does a human being have a right to life?" If the answer is yes, then it is morally evil to deprive a person of his or her life at any point. If the answer is no, then all we need is a good reason to kill them, or perhaps no reason at all. If I don't have the right to live, who's to say you are wrong to kill me now? The difference between killing a person inside the womb and killing a person outside of it are rather insignificant if the person in question has no right to life.

So, when it comes to birth defects, if a human being has a right to life then we have no right to deprive ANY person of his or her life without just cause. The question now becomes "what is just cause?" I'm not sure I want to take the time to really explore this idea tonight, but for now I would say that just cause for depriving someone else of their life is only found in situations involving self-defense, during a just war, and as punishment for some crimes. The important thing is that you'll notice that birth defects are not on this list. Why is that?

Because the whole idea that it is okay to kill a baby over a birth defect is based on the idea that human beings aren't really alive unless they meet some minimum "quality of life." This quality of life standard is not only arbitrary (someone once told me I shouldn't reproduce because my children would probably have allergies (no, I'm not making that up)) it is dehumanizing! It treats people inferior simply because they are different. Under this mindset children who are born missing limbs or severely autistic are something less than human and therefore should be put out of their misery! What a godawful way to treat people!

You see the Church doesn't teach that abortion is wrong because she wants people to be miserable, she does so because she wants people to have a chance to be people! Yes, this will involve suffering for some. Yes, those that suffer will be a burden for others. More importantly, yes, they are human! Created in the image of God and endowed with creativity, passion, and that human dignity that defies all attempts to ignore it! They may be called to suffer, but Christ suffered before them. Suffering is not just cause to end a life. Suffering is a thing to be united to Christ.

At the end of the day, when it comes to abortion, you really only have two consistent positions. The first is that human life is a thing that is not intrinsically valuable and therefore there exists no right to life. If you hold to that belief that's fine, but you better not be upset that Trayvon Martin is dead, it would be inconsistent. (Alternatively, you better not be countering the Martin crowd with this story) The second, and non-awful, position is that humans do indeed posses a right to life, and that to unjustly deprive a person of his or her life is a moral evil.

So which position do you hold?

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