Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Pro-Life Chat

Once, the best adjective one could have used to describe my stance on pro-life issues was "apathetic." Had you asked if I was pro-life, I would have said yes but it was motivated more by a desire to conform to what I perceived to be the general evangelical consensus than by deeply held and well reasoned personal convictions. My assent was accompanied by little indignation or grief over the millions of innocent lives destroyed by abortion and other destructive technologies.

I have three men to thank for rousing me from my moral lethargy and helping me to realize the dignity of all human beings regardless of their stage of development or abilities. The ethical implications of a doctrine I heartily affirmed, that human beings are the unique bearers of God's image, pressed upon my conscience through their teaching. Consequently, my attitude changed not only with respect to the unborn but toward people I found it difficult to interact with due to their mental and emotional limitations. I may not have been taking anyone's life but I was failing to honor them as likenesses of God.

The three men are John Kilner from whom I had the privilege of taking a class on bioethics and cultural engagement, Scott Klusendorf (whose lecture Abortion & Moral Chaos: The Role of Clergy in Building Christian Thinkers I wish every pastor would listen to), and Stand to Reason's Greg Koukl, who persuaded me that when it comes to abortion and embryonic stem cell research, there really is only one question that needs to be answered. I admire these men for their commitment to speaking on behalf of the most defenseless and vulnerable as we well as for training and encouraging others to do likewise

Here's an online exchange I had with someone I've chosen to call ProRoe in which I sought to employ some of the things I've learned from these brothers.

KP: Do you think we should exterminate other unwanted human life as well?

ProRoe: First, abortion is not, according to the law of the land, murder. And if I have a fatal disease I would like the chance to end things with respect and dignity.

KP: You didn't answer my question. If someone's being unwanted is justification for ending their life, then why should this just be the case with pre-born humans?

ProRoe: Because after they are born it is murder. And need I remind you that most people in prison and ALL the mass murderers were unwanted and/or unloved children?

KP: Underlying your argument seems to be the assumption that whatever is legislated is morally right. Am I correct?

ProRoe: Not always. But to approach this from a different angle - are you saying that women are not smart enough to make the right decision on this topic?

KP: It has nothing to do with my saying anything of the sort. I'm saying that the taking of innocent human life is wrong and should not be allowed in the name of allowing an individual to exercise choice.

ProRoe: That is your opinion and your perception. That is fine. I honor that. Why can't you honor a difference of opinion? Outlawing this would be imposing your opinion on millions of women.

KP: And legalizing it is imposing death on millions of human lives. And let's be honest. You don't really "honor" my opinion. You think it's wrong just as I think yours is. Do you think that we should make taking all life legal and justify it by saying "Well, people are smart enough to make their own decision about these things?"

ProRoe: No, you are wrong. I believe that you do have the right to your opinion. Personally, I disagree, but, I don't think it is wrong. By having a choice though, you can exercise your rights. If your choice becomes the law of the land, though, people lose those choices.

KP: Do we have the right to choose to do whatever we want regardless of its impact on others? (And how exactly does one disagree with a position and not think it's wrong?)

ProRoe: I have a great deal of confidence in the decision making of the people. I'm sorry you don't. In answer to your question, no, we absolutely do not have the right to do whatever we want regardless of its impact on others.

KP: So the right to choose should only be protected in cases where choice does not infringe on the life and welfare of others?

ProRoe: Infringing on whom? Are you going to take all those kids? Probably not. But you, as a taxpaying member of society will pay for the results.

KP: I don't think you really answered my previous question though. How would you feel about our making the taking of all life legal on the grounds that we believe that people are smart enough to make the right decisions concerning which lives to take? Are you suggesting that anyone that I'm not willing to care for can be killed?

ProRoe: I believe I did answer it. And don't we already do that with the death penalty?

KP: You see, whether or not I'm willing to take all the kids is really immaterial to the issue of whether killing them is morally justified. No, we don't give private citizens the right to take life. How would you feel about our making the taking of all life legal on the grounds that we believe that people are smart enough to make the right decisions concerning which lives to take?

ProRoe: No, it isn't immaterial. If you outlaw abortions, you have to find something to do with those children unwanted by the birth mother. And adoption is not an option in many cases, especially for non-whites.

KP: So again we're back to saying that what determines whether a life should be protected is whether or not he or she is wanted by someone else? What if I should cease wanting my own born children? Can I kill them?

ProRoe: I would not be in favor of it but, once again, it has been determined that the aborted fetus is not a life. You could not kill your children once they had been born because that would be murder.

KP: What's the difference between a pre-born and a born human life? Are you denying that the fetus has a distinct genetic identity and is alive?

ProRoe: I am neither a supreme court judge nor an attorney in the Roe v. Wade decision.

KP: So you don't know whether the fetus has a unique genetic code, distinct from that of its mother and whether it is alive? If it is not a human being, what kind of being do you say it is?

ProRoe: Look, you have your right to do what you can within the law to change the law. I have the right to oppose you. But you don't see any pro-choice people bombing Right to Life rallies, do you?

KP: I don't advocate such violence. Immaterial to the topic at hand. Now, if the fetus is not a human being, what kind of being is it?

ProRoe: Yes, it is material. What we are talking about here is rescinding someone's right to make a decision concerning their body.

KP: Oh, but they're not just making a decision about their body. They're making a decision to terminate the life of a body not their own.

ProRoe: And no, you have not advocated violence. It's just a shame so many in your cause have.

KP: So, if the fetus is not a human being, what kind of being do you suggest it is?

ProRoe: If it cannot survive independent of that body, then it IS their body.

KP: That's not correct. The fetus does not have the same genetic constitution as the mother. It has its own genetic identity.

ProRoe: Being an arts and humanities graduate, I avoid the science aspect of it. And as for it having its own genetic identity, so does a mole or a cyst.

KP: You avoid the science aspect of it? How can you say that it is permissible to kill something without dealing with what it is? A mole does not have a distinct genetic identity from the rest of one's bodily cells.

ProRoe: Do you really think you will make a convert of me?

KP: No. It's obvious that you don't really care about the facts. I was just hoping that you'd be honest with the weakness of your position.

ProRoe: Try on this fact: it is currently legal. Try this one: the majority of Americans want the right to chose. Another fact: it is within your rights to try to change it. And it is within my rights to try to stop you.

KP: Are you saying that whatever is legal OUGHT to be?

ProRoe: You discount any contrary opinion as "not being honest."

KP: No, I don't. I find it odd that one would admit that he doesn't involve himself in the scientific question of what the fetus is before condoning its killing.

ProRoe: There are laws I disagree with. I have the right to try to change them. This is not one of them.

KP: But does the fact that something is legal mean that it is necessarily right?

ProRoe: At that point, it becomes an issue of personal opinion, i.e., prohibition.

KP: So the fact that abortion is legal doesn't necessarily mean that it is morally justified, does it?

ProRoe: By it being a legal option, it becomes a personal decision. It is an individual moral choice.

KP: So, when slavery was legal, for example, it was simply a matter of personal choice?

ProRoe: Outlawing it would impose one group's definition of "moral choice" on the entire nation.

KP: And legalizing it is also to impose someone's morality on an entire nation by saying that it is justified to take innocent human life. All legislation imposes someone's moral views.

ProRoe: As a matter of fact, it was a matter of personal choice for those that could own slaves just like it is for those that are pregnant.

KP: But was it wrong?

ProRoe: You just don't get it! IT IS NOT CONSIDERED A HUMAN LIFE!!!!

KP: What is it?

ProRoe: It is considered a fetus.

KP: To say that it is a fetus is just to speak of one stage in human development. That doesn't mean that it is not a human life. Is the fetus a member of the human species, having the genetic composition essential to humanness?

ProRoe: Can it live independent of the mother?

KP: Answer my question first and I'll answer yours.

ProRoe: Oh, show me yours, I'll show you mine?

KP: Yeah, something like that. Is the fetus a member of the human species, having the genetic composition essential to humanness?

ProRoe: Not according to law.

KP: The law denies that the fetus has human DNA. Please refer me to the books for that one. If it doesn't have the DNA of a human, what species DOES it belong to?

ProRoe: OK, here's one for you. Why does it matter? I assume you make your opinion known at the ballot box. So do I.

KP: It matters because if it IS a member of the human species and it IS alive then you are defending the right to take its life in the name of choice. Why can't you just answer the question? Do members of the human species procreate and conceive other members of the human species?

ProRoe: I have answered your question as have the courts. That is why abortions are not allowed after a certain time frame. See you at the ballot box.

KP: No, you haven't answered the question. If you are saying that the fetus is not a HUMAN life, what kind of life is it? Gorilla? Starfish? Border collie?

ProRoe: Thank you. You have expressed your opinion. That's fine. I have expressed mine. I respect your right to yours. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that you are willing to show any for the other opinion. I suggest you do what you feel you need to do to change the law. I will legally resist you and your closed-minded cohorts. Good night.

KP: Let's see. You're not willing to acknowledge the human fetus as a member of the human species and I'M closed-minded? Why do you guys always resort to the name calling and red herrings? It really doesn't make your argument one whit stronger.

ProRoe: Name calling? You are the one that calls abortion murder when the law of the land says otherwise. If you are against it I suggest you not have one.

KP: Let's see, were those who called slavery inhumane involved in name calling, too?

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Steve Goble said...

Keith -

Well done, I wish I could think as clearly under pressure as that.


empressbarb said...

Your ProRoe person didn't have much in that way of a well thought out view on abortion. "If it is legal, then it is okay. If you oppose the law, okay, but don't impose your morality on me." The law for abortion apparently is not a matter of moral and the facts don't really matter, only the legal facts....we are in deep trouble.

Jennie Anne said...

Nice Job!! You have proven that us pro-life warriors need to have the FACTS because what it trips them up because their arguments are not only flawed, but wrong. With Science now backing us up... that life begins at conception, they either have to say I'm okay with murder or I was wrong.