24 September 2015

On the Morality of Abortion

A recent series of videos released by the innocuous-sounding organization with an obvious ax to grind, Center for Medical Progress, has sparked a series of enraged abortion discussions on social media... and on the political stage, for that matter.

I have very serious concerns about this organization, its leaders, and their approach. I am also concerned that the focus of these videos (the tenuous yet ardently argued claim that Planned Parenthood is selling pieces of aborted babies! For Money!) is distracting folks from a much more significant question: The morality of abortion in general.

As I see it, abortion's morality really boils down to three smaller questions:
  1. What is a human life?
  2. What makes human life valuable?
  3. When is it acceptable to deprive a human of life?
Your answers to these questions should be excellent predictors for your ideas about whether and when abortion is morally acceptable.

So here are my answers:

1. I believe that a human life originates when an embryo is formed. I think it's incorrect (and perhaps either ignorant or disingenuous) to claim that an embryo is really just a part of the mother's body, since the embryo is genetically distinct from the mother. I also believe that the fetus's ability to survive outside the womb is more or less irrelevant, since a newborn baby (despite its legal status as a "real live human") is also unable to survive and thrive without receiving the right sort of care. To my thinking, there's not a lot of moral space between late-term abortion and infanticide.

2. I believe that humans are created in God's image and, as such, are intrinsically valuable. I believe this is true regardless of age, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation, or any other imaginable configuration. If it's a human, it bears the indelible stamp of almighty God. If it's a human, Jesus died to redeem it because of God's great love for the world. Thus, for me, the level of a person's development (whether physical, emotional, mental, or otherwise) is not the most important part of this equation, since it does not alter a person's identity as a God-made, God-loved human being.

3. I'm a little less dogmatic on this one. If, by sacrificing one life, I could save a hundred, would I do it? I really don't know... unless that one life were mine, in which case I would give an unqualified yes. (And in case you're wondering about the cutoff, I would even sacrifice my own life for a single person.) But when it comes to taking other people's lives, I don't feel like that's a choice I should make. I'm not the creator, so I am by definition not the proper arbiter of life and death. However, I do stand open to reasonable discussion about this matter (e.g., regarding the death penalty, national security, justifiable warfare, or abortion to save the life of the mother).

What about you, dear reader? This being the Internet, I must ask you to keep your comments as civil as possible, but I really do want to know what you think about these questions.