Should we err on the side of humanity?

By Tom Quiner

The March for Life, January 24, 2011

“Pro lifers and pro choicers can agree on this: no one wants to see an innocent human being killed. The issue is, when does human life actually begin? When does someone actually become a human being?”

This was my premise in a chat over coffee with my friend, Bob, a staunch pro lifer. My thought was to find common ground, a starting point, between the two warring factions upon which we could build.

He looked at me with incredulity.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” was his response … or words to that effect.

Bob wasn’t willing to accept my premise.

Bob discounted the notion that abortion rights proponents were even remotely concerned that abortion might actually be killing an innocent human being. In other words, his sense was that these folks weren’t even interested in discussing the question on when someone actually becomes a human being.

How can you blame Bob?

Partial birth abortions take place in America. Viable babies in the womb are killed.

Democrats in Iowa’s legislature are fighting a “fetal pain” bill which would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of conception. Some scientific research suggests that the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. One Democrat lawmaker scoffed at the science involved and turned it around to Republicans, demanding they prove the fetus can feel pain.

In fact, just about every single regulation that Republicans propose on abortion is rebuffed by Democrats. President Obama, while a state legislator in Illinois, even refused to vote for a “child born alive” piece of legislation that would allow medical personnel to try to save the life of a baby that survived an abortion.

In light of all of this, you can understand Bob’s reaction to my premise. The bottom line is this: abortion rights proponents seem disinterested in erring on the side of humanity. If a baby in the womb feels pain at 20 weeks, shouldn’t that count for something?

To my pro abortion friends and readers, I challenge you to consider this: there are only four possibilities when it comes to considering the implications of abortion:

1. The fetus is a person, and we know it.

Here’s a variation of this idea: let’s say you’re hunting in the woods. You see something moving through the trees. You move to get a better look at it and discover it’s a man. You take aim, fire, and kill the man.

You would be charged with first degree murder because your victim was a person and you knew it.

Prior to Roe v. Wade, this was the operating moral principle in the vast majority of state legislatures who had anti-abortion laws in place.

2. The fetus is a person, but we don’t know it.

Let’s say you’re hunting in the woods and you see something moving through the trees and you think it’s a deer but you’re not sure. You take aim, fire, and kill it, only to discover that it was a man. You may be charged with manslaughter, because you killed a human being. Your actions were irresponsible. This is what Roe v. Wade now permits.

3. The fetus isn’t a person, but we don’t know it.

Let’s say you’re hunting in the woods, you see something moving through the trees, and you think it’s a man. You take aim and fire. It turns out that you killed a deer, not a man. This might be considered criminal negligence. Your intent was to kill a human being.

4. The fetus isn’t a person, and you know it isn’t a person.

In this example, all doubt, all skepticism about what you see moving through the trees is removed. What you shoot and kill is a deer and you know it is a deer. This is the only moral and responsible scenario of the four presented.

What Roe v. Wade did is turn the argument for humanity upside down. Skepticism on “what is a fetus” should count against abortion, not for it.

My friend, Bob, and I both believe that humanity begins at conception. We believe that humanity isn’t a function of consciousness, mental acuity, size, or place (whether residing in the womb or my living room).

America had laws in place to err on the side of humanity because of the lack of consensus on when human life actually began.

Roe v. Wade uses this lack of consensus as the basis for allowing abortion.

And yet, when it comes to something as precious as our humanity, shouldn’t we err on the side of humanity?