The Abortion Dialogue:
Abortion is one of the great moral issues of this or any age. If the unborn are fully human then we live in a time where the intentional destruction of human life through the practice of abortion happens on a scale we cannot even comprehend. If the unborn are less than human then, as Greg Koukl says, abortion is no different than a tooth extraction, and we live in a time of unconscionable and deeply divisive attempts to restrict women’s access to a medical procedure that has no moral component to it whatsoever. The moral cost for being wrong in this issue is too high to ignore no matter what one’s personal views are. We simply must engage. We must answer the question, “What is the unborn?”
How do we engage such a contentious issue in a manner that honors our Lord Jesus Christ? How do we translate personal convictions perhaps born out of our belief in the importance of seeing all human life as the imago Dei, the image bearers of God, into a message that impacts those who do not share those convictions? I suggest we seek common ground by understanding the components of the dialogue through a series of questions:
- Would it be objectively wrong for the two of us to kill each other? – This addresses the question of objective morality and whether or not we are beginning our evaluation of the morality of abortion from a shared belief that killing other human beings is wrong.
- What do you think the unborn human life is that you believe we should be permitted to destroy it? – The issue of abortion raises too many important issues to sort out in a short conversation, but whether it is a great moral wrong or a common medical procedure depends on how we determine the identity of the unborn. As Greg Koukl says, if the unborn are not human no justification for elective abortion is needed. If they are then no justification for elective abortion is sufficient.
- What common mistakes do people make when addressing this issue? –
- They assume the truth of their position (the unborn aren’t one of us) without argument thereby corrupting the rest of their thinking.
- They make a basic category mistake, confusing moral claims with preference claims
- They mistake assertions and emoting for arguments.
- What is the unborn (Part 1): When do we begin? – The science of embryology tells us that from the first moments of fertilization, as the spermatozoa and the oocyte cease to function as both independent cells and constituent parts of other organisms, a new whole, distinct, and living organism comes into being. (Condic & Condic, George & Tollefsen, et al.)
- Some objectors confuse parts (skin cells, brain cells, sperm, egg, etc.) with wholes. The embryo isn’t a part of another organism. It is a whole organism from the moment it comes into existence.
- Steve Jacobs just finished his PhD thesis at University of Chicago on this question; wherein 95% of the more the 5,500 biologists asked affirmed that human life begins at fertilization.
- What is the unborn (Part 2): Why do we matter? – Philosophy tells us that the best explanation for our intuition of universal human dignity is that our moral value is grounded in the one thing universally shared across the human family, our basic humanity. All other differences fall into what philosopher Stephen Schwartz characterized as the SLED acronym: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. Each is degreed and episodic by nature and insufficient to ground something understood to exist equally among all humanity like human dignity. Additionally, dividing the human family into groups identified as persons with rights and the merely human with no rights has led to some of the most evil outcomes in history. (Kaczor)
- What place for the Gospel then? – How does this type of strategic arguing serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Our goal isn’t merely to win arguments. Our goal is to win people to our side. That requires good arguments from good arguers. It has been my experience that when we can address areas that concern our audience with moral clarity and compassion it raises more questions. Discussions about abortion address issues like “What are we?”, “Is there a right way to treat each other?”, “Am I responsible for the consequences of my actions?”, etc. The Gospel intrudes into the dialogue at every level.
As each question is addressed, I will start with the most general discussion and build citing resources and offering examples within each section. This is to satisfy the reader needing a more thorough breadcrumb trail to follow in their own endeavor to know more.
The goal of this is to demonstrate that the most reasonable position on the issue of abortion is that from the moment human beings begin to exist we are full members of the human family. That membership grounds our value and shared human dignity as well as the duties we have to each other. Christians can impact our world by engaging this issue in a reasonable manner. This isn’t simply a political issue. It is about our relationship from generation to generation. It is about not leaving our fellow image bearers of God to be the objects of harm or to be encouraged to harm others because we are too afraid to offend. The abortion dialogue serves the unborn and born alike. We must protect both nascent human life and the virtue of our fellow man.