The Lady Charis has me thinking on the topic of abortion, which is very important to her.
I will write two more articles on it. One logical and long, the other shorter and far less sweet.
First, the logical one.
Because this article is concerned with clarity of thought, I will not be using “Pro-Life” or “Pro-Choice” or other emotion-laden terminology if I can avoid it, using instead terms like “Pro-Abortion” and “Anti-Abortion,” which are disconnected from the propaganda of either side. As I pointed out in my article Pro-Emotion, however, I believe the emotion needs to be there. To avoid emotion or propaganda on a topic of such vital importance is to be less than human.
Peter Kreeft begins his abortion speech (available free from his website) by granting the pro-abortion advocate the benefit of the doubt. He says he thinks that unless the anti-abortion advocate can absolutely prove that abortion is a) wrong and b) should be illegal, the pro-abortion advocate wins.
This is not logical.
The question of abortion is centered around this: in a woman’s uterus, there is a growth. Is it okay to kill it?
Suppose you have an abandoned old house in the middle of the country. Suppose you have laced it with explosives, gotten all the appropriate licenses and filled out the forms, and are ready to blow it up. As you are getting ready to light the fuse, you hear a noise inside.
There is something in there. Is it okay to blow up the house?
If I cannot absolutely prove that that something is a human rather than a rat or a cockroach or the stirring of the wind, then, by Kreeft’s logic, you should be allowed to proceed with the demolition.
But that’s nonsense. In the real world, that kind of thinking on any topic except abortion gets you landed in prison for criminal negligence at best, manslaughter at worst. It is, rather, the responsibility of the demolitionist to prove that there is nobody inside the house before setting it off. If he cannot absolutely prove this, he must wait until further evidence can be obtained.
So, too, with abortion.
Until you can absolutely prove it is not wrong, you must not risk it. The pro-abortion advocate does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
This argument I will bring out in more detail later.
Now some definitions.
When I say murder, I use the word to mean this: to forcefully inflict death upon someone who has done nothing deserving of death and who has not taken up arms in some conflict.
When I say human, I confine myself to the biological. Defining a human in a more than biological sense, while possible, is a matter of heavy debate. Human, therefore, shall be taken to mean Homo sapiens.
The argument against abortion goes thus:
1. It is always wrong to murder a human.
2. The unborn fetus is human and abortion forcefully inflicts death upon the unborn fetus.
Therefore: Abortion is always wrong.
The logic is, to my knowledge, sound. If 1 and 2 are correct, then the conclusion must be true. Therefore, there are only two ways to oppose this argument: take issue with the premises, or take issue with the definitions. I have tried to preclude the second option by using very specific definitions for the words that could most easily be argued.
So, the only resort I can anticipate is to take issue with the premises.
There are, therefore, two possible arguments against my little syllogism. The argument that 1 is wrong, that there are situations in which it is not wrong to murder a human, and the argument that 2 is wrong, that the unborn fetus is not human.
The argument against 2 is the basis of Roe V. Wade, but it has fallen out of favor very recently. Biologically, the moment an egg is fertilized, you have a living creature with a full set of human genetic code. It may be dependent upon its mother to live, but then, most children these days are until the age of thirty.
Our increasing biological and scientific certainty is why the argument for abortion is increasingly made on the basis of premise 1. “Human life begins at conception,” one proponent says, “but it is unclear when meaningful human life begins.”
In other words, premise 2 is right, but premise 1 is not: it is okay to murder a human if that human’s life is not meaningful.
Meaning, once more, is a topic of heavy philosophical debate. What makes a life meaningful? We can argue this all day, and perhaps come away greatly enlightened, or more likely, no better than when we started. But before we decide what a meaningful life is, we must answer two questions, one absolute and philosophical, one more practical.
The philosophical question is this: is it really okay to murder a human whose life has no meaning?
The practical question is this: do I trust a government to decide whether or not my life is meaningful?
For if life begins at conception, but we are allowed to murder anyone whose life has no meaning, then it is not up to us, but up to those who rule us to decide what constitutes a meaningful life, and then to murder the rest.
I have a mental illness. Bipolar disorder, which is degenerative and tends to pick up schizophrenia as a sidekick over time. Further, I am more likely to criticize than to praise those who rule us. I, for one, am not willing to let those who rule us decide what constitutes a meaningful life.
And yet, there we already stand. Today, the fetus does not have meaningful life. Tomorrow, will it be the dissenter?
It doesn’t matter. Today, we have already gone too far, for I reject both elements of the attack on this premise: the unborn life has meaning, and even if it didn’t, murder would not be okay.
Here we come to an absolute divide between the moral absolutist, like theists or Taoists, and moral relativists like atheists or pantheists. For any to hold that life has meaning, that meaning must come from somewhere.
A theist, like a Christian or a Muslim, holds that this meaning is granted by God. A Taoist would hold that this meaning comes from the Tao. In either case, it is not a matter for man to decide; it is a matter for man to perceive.
Now, there is no inherent qualitative difference between a fetus and an adult. Only quantitative: levels of maturity. Further, quantity is no indicator of quality. My leg is bigger than my head, but I would rather lose my leg than my head. It therefore follows that, barring external factors, a fetus is neither more nor less meaningful than an adult.
To the moral relativist, meaning is a matter for humans to define. There are then, two options: each person defines meaning for him or herself, or else a person’s meaning is defined by other people. If meaning is determined by the person, then a fetus, once again, is as meaningful as an adult, and should not be murdered before he or she has a chance to realize this meaning. If meaning is determined by society, or by the government — by other people, for that is all society or the government are — then life is essentially meaningless from the get go. A matter of opinion.
And murder of anyone is not evil.
So, here are the options: we must be either killers, period, or we must be anti-abortion.
We have determined that abortion is wrong. Should it be illegal? I think that smoking is wrong; that overeating is wrong; that calling my brother a stupid-head is wrong. I don’t believe that any of these things should be illegal.
If we look at current laws in other matters, the answer is apparently yes: abortion should be illegal.
Consider: Roe V. Wade brings up four possibilities.
It is possible that the fetus is human. It his possible that she is not.
It is possible we know the truth. It is possible we don’t.
If the fetus is not human, and we know the truth, then abortion should be legal.
If the fetus is human, and we know the truth, then abortion is murder.
If the fetus is not human, and we don’t know the truth, then abortion is criminal neglect. Like blowing up a house after seeing something moving inside. Good luck: it turns out there was nobody in there. But blowing up the house when there could have been someone in there is still against the law.
If the fetus is human, and we don’t know the truth, then abortion is manslaughter. We blew up the house while someone was inside.
Thus, according to Roe V. Wade, the decision that made abortion legal, if we consistently interpret the law of the land, abortion is — and we know not which — either manslaughter or criminal neglect.
So, until Roe V. Wade is overturned, abortion should be illegal.
Simple as that.