Why I Am Pro-Life by Karen Swallow Prior

I am a Christian. And I am pro-life.

These two labels don’t always or necessarily go together. They certainly don’t always go together in practice: I know both pro-choice Christians and pro-life secularists.  And for many people, the labels don’t necessarily bond in theory since about the only tenet that seems to unite all Christians is belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In fact, I wonder sometimes if the tendency among some of us (myself included) to treat “pro-life” and “Christian” like the bride and groom at a shotgun wedding does a disservice to both beliefs.

For one ought to be thoughtfully, not automatically, Christian. And one ought to be thoughtfully pro-life, too.

While I believe that the principles of Christian belief inherently lead to a pro-life ethic, I also believe that the foundation for being pro-life is deeper than any one religious belief system, wider than any one political party, and more all-encompassing than anything I can always or easily wrap my mind around.

As a matter of fact, unlike my opposition to capital punishment, which is rooted in Christian mercy, my opposition to abortion—under any circumstances except those rare times when it is necessary to save the life of the mother—is rooted in social justice, not Christian belief. Although my Christian faith compels me to act in accordance to that sense of social justice, it is not the origin of my pro-life ethic.

For me, although I am no scientist, being pro-life begins with the simple scientific fact that life—by which I mean a biologically complete and unique entity (even an entity that might be programmed to twin)—begins at conception. This is true of all mammals—dogs, cats, horses, and Bengal tigers. I knew someone once who had a purebred dog that got accidentally pregnant by a neighborhood mutt. So as to protect the breeding record of the purebred, her owner had the dog’s pregnancy terminated. I don’t know anyone who would dispute that those were puppies that were aborted. Likewise, human abortion and embryo destruction end the lives of human children. If the lives of puppies and porcupines begin at conception, then the same is true for the human mammal.

The fact cited by many supporters of abortion rights and embryonic research and storage that 50% of fertilized eggs don’t implant anyway isn’t an argument against the personhood of the unborn any more than the fact that 100% of people who ever lived will die is an argument for, well, anything.

Of course, human beings are more than animals. But what we are and who we are begins at this point of mere biological origin. Those who believe that some sort of human “being” (ensoulment, animation, or what have you) takes place sometime after conception are the ones, I would argue, making a faith-based claim. I found my starting position on biology alone.

As a Christian, however, I believe there is more than biology to being human.  Whatever it means to be human (and that is certainly a complex matter) as opposed to what it is to be human (for being and meaning are related but not the same), that meaning, certainly, is inextricably tied to our physicality. But I don’t hold to a dualistic view of human nature that separates the spiritual from the physical. In fact, it is telling that ancient definitions of human life that relied on ensoulment some weeks after conception were gendered, privileging the male fetus over the female fetus, whose soul was said to enter the body much later. While I suspect that ensoulment occurs at conception, others believe it takes place at birth, and many others say some place in between. No one really knows. Any attempt to base a definition of human life on spiritual terms alone is mere guesswork and hence quite dangerous.

At the same time, basing a definition or marking point of personhood on a purely physical basis (implantation, blood circulation, quickening, or visible formation) seems equally arbitrary. In fact, the historical record of oppression of others based on some mere physical aspect of persons or people groups (race, disability, skin color, gender) is so disturbing that I truly wonder why those less convinced than I about when human life begins don’t err on the side of caution by erring on the side of life.

But this same point of caution applies to me, too. Even though I believe strongly that those who do not support the protection of human life from its earliest stage are gravely wrong, the same love and grace I have for the unborn must be extended to those with whom I differ, too. Sure, such love and grace might take a variant form (they always do from person to person and situation to situation), but I believe that the same Christian principle that underlies my pro-life ethic—that of God, not me, as the Author of all life—requires that I treat with dignity and respect all of God’s children, including those I believe are wrong.

Karen Swallow Prior, Ph.D., is associate professor of English and Chair of the English and modern languages department at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. She and her husband, Roy, serve as deacons in their church and keepers of their 100-year-old homestead, where they live with their horses and dogs. She is a contributing writer for Christianity Today’s women’s blog, Her.meneutics.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. “…I believe that the same Christian principle that underlies my pro-life ethic—that of God, not me, as the Author of all life—requires that I treat with dignity and respect all of God’s children, including those I believe are wrong.”

    This humble posture, accompanied by clarity about your own convictions and respect for those who don’t share them, is the only thing that makes possible dialogue between those who hold opposing viewpoints.

  2. Of course, it’s easy for me to agree with you, from a fellow pro-life stance. I appreciate some of your arguments however as being outside the typical “I am a Christian, I must be pro-life,” attitude.

    I’ve always regarded the case for capital punishment as “social justice” and the case for being pro-life as Christian mercy. Here, you turn the table on that idea and, I think, leave a lot of Christians scratching their heads; re-thinking why they believe what they believe. Your argument become even more compelling as you lay out the nature of people to arbitrarily oppress based on physical attributes.

    I wonder if the word ‘justice’ is the new hot power word of our culture. I’m concerned that it could become an overused term like once strong adjectives which get weakened from constant tramplings (‘epic’, ‘awesome’, ‘radical’). Here’s why I say this: In my most recent New Yorker there is an article entitled “Birthright-What’s next for Planned Parenthood?” The accompanying photo is of young 20-something women holding signs, one plastered with: “Reproductive JUSTICE FOR ALL”.

    I imagine from her point of view, it is ‘justice’ to be able to terminate an unwanted pregnancy on demand. I saw this picture at the same time my husband was sharing a very disturbing medical case he had over the weekend. A young woman came in to the hospital to deliver her baby. She came in alone and no one ever joined her. She already knew there was something seriously wrong with the child – previous ultrasounds revealed severe deformities and lack of proper development. She had not terminated the pregnancy. An ultrasound done right before her c-section confirmed the same thing. My husband said she hoped beyond hope the baby was really fine. As they pulled the child from her womb, he said he saw the most horrific thing of his career – the baby had no arms, no legs and his face was completely deformed. He came out blue and barely had a heartbeat. The mother kept asking if he was okay. She wanted to hold him still. The baby lived 15 minutes before dying in his mother’s arms.

    My husband, a Christian, said it was one of those things that makes you wonder if there is a God. My already tight chest constricted more as I blurted, “Oh yes. There is a God. Only God could have held that woman through such a crisis and given her the commitment to keep a baby she knew had no hope for survival.”

    Hearing her story while studying the picture in my New Yorker was sort of a surreal experience – one I can’t quite put into words. The women in the picture feel strongly of their position and look proud of their ‘right’ attitudes – fightiing for justice. Yet, at the same time, there was a woman – did I mention she was alone? – choosing unbelievable grief for the ‘justice’ of another. Sure, maybe she was delusional in her hopes. Maybe her loneliness drove her decision to keep a baby she knew was deformed beyond ability to live. Either way, she risked pain and deep heartache for the life of another.

    Long comment, I know. Couldn’t help sharing.

    Looking forward to the pro-choice post. It’s great to hear two sides of an issue coming both from Christian viewpoints.

    • Thanks for such a thoughtful–and poignant!–response, Shari. Your point about the potential (actual?) meaninglessness of the word “justice” is a good one. I think it demonstrates, once again, that this issue always comes back to the pivotal question about the humanity/personhood of the unborn. If something would not be “just” to do to a two-year old or a twelve-year old then it wouldn’t be just to do to an unborn child either. The issue always seems to return to this.

      I am awed by the story of this mother you describe. I will address such “hard cases” in the follow-up questions from Amy Julia. Stay tuned.

      Karen

  3. My greatest concern about abortions being “legal”, particularly as it relates to a woman’s “right”, is that it has removed responsibility and privilege of both creating and ending life from men. I strongly believe that this is something that society has to wrestle with as it looks at all the surrounding consequences of this issue.

    We’ve all heard about how unfair it is for a man to not get to decide whether or not a woman has an abortion, but my concern is more specifically with the men that wished the woman would have an abortion. And when the woman chose not to do so, these men feel they are no longer responsible for the child, as this was not my “choice” to have a baby. Of course our laws still require that a man financially support the mother and child, but there is now an overabundance of absent fathers that statistically directly relates to Roe vs. Wade.

    I have personal examples of single mother friends and family as well as foster children in my home, and in the schools where I was a teacher and principal – where fathers did not believe they had a responsibility to a child because the mother “chose” to have that child.

    I remember once talking about this issue with my grandma. She said in her day as a young woman if a woman got pregnant the MAN took care of that child. It was unheard of and rare that a man would not take on the father role and responsibility of the woman and baby. I strongly believe our society is suffering greatly over a woman’s “right” to choose. This is a much larger issue than one woman making a personal decision.

  4. My greatest concern about abortions being “legal”, particularly as it relates to a woman’s “right”, is that it has removed responsibility and privilege of both creating and ending life from men. I strongly believe that this is something that society has to wrestle with as it looks at all the surrounding consequences of this issue.

    We’ve all heard about how unfair it is for a man to not get to decide whether or not a woman has an abortion, but my concern is more specifically with the men that wished the woman would have an abortion. And when the woman chose not to do so, these men feel they are no longer responsible for the child, as this was not my “choice” to have a baby. Of course our laws still require that a man financially support the mother and child, but there is now an overabundance of absent fathers that statistically directly relates to Roe vs. Wade.

    I have personal examples of single mother friends and family as well as foster children in my home, and in the schools where I was a teacher and principal – where fathers did not believe they had a responsibility to a child because the mother “chose” to have that child.

    I remember once talking about this issue with my grandma. She said in her day as a young woman if a woman got pregnant the MAN took care of that child. It was unheard of and rare that a man would not take on the father role and responsibility of the woman and baby. I strongly believe our society is suffering greatly over a woman’s “right” to choose. This is a much larger issue than one woman making a personal decision.

  5. Karen,

    I have to disagree with you on the science point, though, while I am a scientist, I’m not a biologist by any stretch.

    The core of my disagreement is with your statement, “The fact cited by many supporters of abortion rights and embryonic research and storage that 50% of fertilized eggs don’t implant anyway isn’t an argument against the personhood of the unborn.” If that 50% were utterly out of control of people, your analogy would hold. But, in fact, as Scientists know and as many Catholics and others who practice “fertility awareness” know, time windows during which fertilized eggs cannot implant can be easily determined. That’s part of the basis for contraception by fertility awareness. But, since that it true, it places a rather odd moral burden on couples that hold the view that conception is the point at which life begins: they—even if they shun all forms of contraception—must monitor in such a way as to avoid fertilizing any eggs during that time that implantation is impossible.

    This seems like an odd situation to me since involves all kinds of complex logic to explain who is and is not culpable in history based on their level of scientific and biological knowledge. A definition more consistent with biology and the created order is life starting with the nascent potentiality of “viable fertilization” in the sense of implantation having happened. This allows for a simple and consistent ethical rule: nascent life is life. That means implantation, which begins the process toward development, is a starting point. A fertilized egg that cannot (biologically, without intervention) implant is not nascent life in the same sense. This definition allows couples practicing no contraception or monitoring to be making an moral choice, unlike the definition of fertilization. Since that is coherent with natural norms, it seems more reasonable to me.

    Now how to apply that to in-vitro fertilization is complex and I have no answer at the moment. But the point stands: fertilization is a simple event to point to, but it leads to ethically inconsistent requirements.

    js

    • Hmmm….I have honestly always considered myself to be fairly well-informed on the basic biology of reproduction. I have never heard that the time during which implantation can occur is different (by much more than hours) from the time in which fertilization can occur. This sounds, if I’m understanding you correctly, like eggs are released (and thereby able to be fertilized) at times other than when implantation can occur …. ? Help!

      • Hmmm…I have some basic understanding of fertility awareness and I don’t think it’s scientifically true that a fertilized egg cannot implant at certain times. Fertility awareness and natural family planning are rather about recognizing that fertilization itself (NOT implantation) can only happen at a certain point–when an egg has recently been released from the ovary. When a woman’s body prepares for ovulation (the act of the egg maturing and releasing), it also prepares the uterine lining for implantation. While there are certainly times when an egg will be fertilized but not implant, I don’t think it’s because the woman’s body is not prepared. It’s likely for other reasons related to the improper development of the fertilized egg.

      • Karen, apologies for the delay in getting back to you on this; I misplaced the article that started my thinking about this years ago. It is available here: http://jme.bmj.com/content/32/6/355.full.pdf

    • Whether or not Mr. Summer’s other claims about implantation are true, it is acknowledged, I take it, that a high percentage of fertilized eggs die at or around the time of implantation (30-70%, by some estimates). If pro-lifers are primarily interested in saving these human lives, perhaps more efforts should target reducing this percentage.

      And this raises interesting questions. Here are four that come to mind.

      1. Shouldn’t pro-lifers re-direct many of their resources towards funding medical research that might lead to ways of preventing these implantation failures?

      2. Suppose that we could rescue fertilized eggs by a relatively safe surgical procedure right after the time of conception. Should pro-lifers then conclude that it would be immoral for a woman to refuse these procedures? Should such procedures be legally required? Why or why not? (Pro-lifers might consider comparing this case to one in which a mother prevents her toddler from receiving safe medicine that would cure a high fatality-rate illness.)

      3. Suppose that we could eliminate the risks associated with implantation failure by new techniques of artificial conception. If such techniques were made available to the public, should pro-lifers then try enact laws criminalizing the traditional methods of conception? Why or why not?

      4. Suppose that we developed a relatively safe and inexpensive method for removing very early stage embryos from wombs. If these early stage embryos could be kept alive in a perpetually frozen state (with an even higher rate of survival than they would otherwise have), would pro-lifers accept this as an acceptable alternative to abortion? Why or why not?

      • The pro-life movement is focused on the social forces that encourage the willful, inentional taking of human life; natural death is another matter altogether. I’ll fight fiercely for the right for your life to continue without being taken by another; there is little I can do about the fact that someday you, like all of us, will die a natural (hoepfully) death.

        • For the early stage embryo itself, natural death is presumably just as bad as artificial death. This suggests that the focus of the pro-life movement is not so much on the well-being of the embryo (much less upon “life”). But why not? Why, in other words, should the movement not adjust its priorities to better reflect the interests or well-being of unborn children?

          Secondly, my question #4 does fit the more narrow agenda of the pro-life movement as you’ve interpreted it. #4 suggests an alternative to early stage abortion which would avoid the “willful, intentional taking of human life.” As such, do you think that pro-lifers should accept it as an (legally?) permissible alternative to early stage abortion? Why or why not?

          • The presumption is wrong: natural death is not “as bad as” killing. And I believe that abortificient methods of birth control are a type of abortion.

          • If an abortificient method causes the death of an embryo, then the procedure of #4 is not such a method. Please re-read:

            4. Suppose that we developed a relatively safe and inexpensive method for removing very early stage embryos from wombs. If these early stage embryos could be kept alive in a perpetually frozen state (with an even higher rate of survival than they would otherwise have), would pro-lifers accept this as an acceptable alternative to abortion? Why or why not?

            Notice, moreover, that I did not claim that natural death is “as bad as” killing. There are many senses in which killing may be worse. I suggested rather that–as far as the early stage embryo is concerned–natural death is presumably just as bad. If this claim is wrong, then you might try to say why. For the present purposes, in fact, it is enough if, as far as the embryo is concerned, natural death is often just as bad as a killing.

          • You said, “For the early stage embryo itself, natural death is presumably just as bad as artificial death.” And I responded.

            I was not responding point-to-point to your post. You presumed I was responding to number 4; I was not. I was stating my general principle which you can do with what you will. Hypotheticals are not my forte.

          • You responded by elided the crucial phrase “for the early stage embryo itself.” In so doing, you responded to a claim I was not making. So, although you responded, you responded in an irrelevant and misleading way.

            Understanding the hypothetical element of question is #4 requires no more sophistication than that required in ordinary every day reasoning (e.g., what will we do about the party if it rains tomorrow?). What is genuinely difficult about the hypothetical in #4 is that it puts your own stated principles to the test (Pro-lifers are just interested in “willful, intentional killing). Given this context, your dismissive “hypotheticals is not my forte” looks like a dodge.

          • It is my understanding that embryos are frozen and the pro-life movement is quite vocal about supporting their adoption. They are referred affectionately as “snowflakes.” I support that program, but that is the extent of my knowledge on it. Yes, in theory, I would support the adoption of embryos just as I support adoption of born children ex-utero.

          • This indicates that the pro-life movement is not simply “focused on the social forces that encourage the willful, intentional taking of human life.”

            The question, moreover, remains: why shouldn’t a pro-lifer accept (as morally permissible) the alternative to abortion suggested in #4?

            And a further question gets raised: since defrosting the ‘snowflake’ presumably poses a considerable risk of embryo death, why should this procedure be acceptable? (Since pro-lifers are evidently willing to so risk the life of an embryo, they seem to be more interested in the quality of the embryo’s life than in the embryo’s life.)

          • Didn’t I just suggest moral support for number 4? I repeat: “Yes, in theory, I would support the adoption of embryos just as I support adoption of born children ex-utero.”

          • Read #4 again.

            Where does one keep the adopted snowflake? Next to the ice cream?

  6. Hi Dr. Prior, I appreciate your tone and thoughtfulness here. If you are willing, I would like to engage you with a challenge.

    First, I am happy grant the following claims.

    1. that human life begins at conception
    2. that a biologically complete and unique entity begins to exist at conception
    3. that the human mammal begins to exist at conception
    4. that “who we are” begins with some such merely biological entity
    5. that a human zygote is a human being

    What I don’t see is how any of these claims (or all of them combined) help to secure a pro-life conclusion–for example, the conclusion that it is morally wrong for a woman to kill her fertilized egg (a human zygote) to avoid great personal inconvenience. Your essay doesn’t say how we are supposed to fill the gap between a pro-life conclusion such as this and premises 1-5.

    To infer the pro-life conclusion, I suspect that many pro-lifers are assuming something like the following:

    6. it is wrong to kill a human being to avoid great personal inconvenience.

    I suspect that many pro-lifers implicitly assume something like this because, to most people, premise 6 will sound obviously true. To many pro-lifers such a premise will see so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be made explicit, much less defended.

    The problem, however, is that to most people, these statements would also sound obviously true.

    7. human beings have blood
    8. a human being cannot survive a year without oxygen
    9. a human being cannot fit through the eye of a needle

    This suggests a problem for the intuitive plausibility of premise 6. Whatever obviousness that statements 6-9 might seem to have, it comes from the fact that our intuitive judgments about such statements aren’t taking into account the inclusion of zygotes under the concept “human being”. The upshot is troubling: if your pro-life conclusion relies on the intuitive plausibility of premise 6 (or something like it), then your argument is sophistical. Your argument is sophistical because its plausibility derives from the deceptive plausibility of premise 6. The plausibility of 6 is deceptive because people aren’t usually thinking of human zygotes when they assess claims about “human beings” (if they were, then statements 7-9 wouldn’t seem plausible to most people). In other words, premise 6 only appears plausible because we usually don’t think of zygotes when we think of human beings. To avoid this deceptiveness, we should replace “human being(s)” with “human zygote(s)” in statements 6-9. The persuasiveness of premise 6 will then disappear, and so will its usefulness.

    Do you have a way of arriving at your pro-life conclusion that clearly avoids the sort of fallacy that I have here identified?

    • Craig,

      Unless I’m not following your argument, you seem to have missed the whole point of my post which is arguing for a broader defininition of “human being” than would be “obviously true” to “most people,” as you say. If you read my post again, you will see that the very definition of “human being” I am arguing for is inconsistent with statements 7-9.

      The difference between claim 6 and claims 7-9 in my way of thinking is that 7-9 are “obviously true” (as you say) based on empiricial evidence and categorical definitions, important but not the sole sources of knowledge.

      You are correct that premise number 6, “it is wrong to kill a human being to avoid great personal inconvenience” is implied in my argument.

      Premise 6 is NOT obviously or intuitively true by any means. It is true because it derives from absolute moral principles originating in an absolutely moral Being. Without such a source of certain absolutes, I would say that what would be “obviously” or “intuitively” true is just the opposite: anything is permissible.

      • I am afraid that you did not entirely understand the challenge. Let me restate it as follows.

        Because you are, as you say, arguing for a definition of ‘human being’ much broader than common usage, you owe an argument for your implicit premise 6 (“it is wrong to kill a human being to avoid great personal inconvenience”). What you cannot legitimately do is rely on the apparent obviousness of premise 6. This is because the apparent obviousness of premise 6 seems to depend on a narrower definition of ‘human being’. (You would be wrong, by the way, to deny that premise 6, as colloquially understood, does have apparent obviousness.) In order to avoid illegitimately borrowing from the apparent obviousness of premise 6 in drawing your own pro-life conclusion, it would be best to argue directly for premise 6′:

        6′: It is wrong to kill a human being–including a human zygote–in order to avoid great personal inconvenience.

        You have not yet provided any clear argument for this premise, or for how you can secure a pro-life conclusion from premises 1-5. You now suggest, however, an appeal to “an absolutely moral Being,” and in turn a sort of transcendental argument for the existence of such a being. These appeals, however, suggest to me that we probably aren’t going to get a solid, convincing, or clear argument for premise 6′. Here one question you might want to consider:

        How do we determine the content of these “absolute moral principles originating in an absolute moral being”? How, for example, do we know that these principles entail 6′, rather than, say:

        6”: It is wrong to kill a human being (as ordinarily understood) in order to avoid great personal inconvenience.

        • My post ties being pro-life to my being a Christian. Thus my appeal to a transcendent moral being is warranted. I am not attempting to make an argument based on rationalism alone, nor would I want to. I leave that epistemology to the rationalists. So you are correct: “we probably aren’t going to get a solid, convincing, or clear argument for premise 6.” None was promised; none was delivered.

          • Please notice that I haven’t actually denied your premise that there is “an absolute moral being.” In fact, let us grant that premise. What follows? What additional premise do you need me to grant? I have been happy until now to grant to you whatever distinctively Christian premises you want. But what exactly are they and how do they help secure your pro-life conclusion?

            It sounds like you are now conceding that premises 1-5, along with the existence of “an absolute moral being” do not secure a pro-life conclusion. This leaves it unclear to me why you adopt such a conclusion. I had been under the impression that you were attempting to give an argument, or a reasoned justification (from distinctively Christian or theistic premises perhaps), for why you take the position that you do. Was I wrong?

          • I’ve conceded that premise 6 is an assumption that I’m not attempting to prove. I’m not sure what else you are asking.

          • Given the observations above, you are essentially conceding that your pro-life conclusion depends on the following:

            Hidden assumption: It is wrong to kill a human zygote in order to avoid great personal inconvenience.

            (The hidden assumption uses the term human zygote to avoid the noted ambiguity associated with human being. That is, we must explicitly prevent premise 6 from being interpreted as 6”.)

            Are you willing to accept that your pro-life conclusion depends on this undefended assumption?

            Suppose that you had started your essay by stating that this (the hidden assumption) would simply be assumed, and that your pro-life conclusions would depend upon it. I suspect that this would have prevented some readers from being mislead, readers who, sensibly enough, assumed that you were not so obviously begging the question.

          • I think my assertion (“assumption”) that it is wrong to kill a human zygote was pretty transparent. I’m sorry it was so hard for you to find that you thought it was “hidden.” It’s really right out there in the open.

          • It is clear enough that this is part of your pro-life position. Understandably, however, some readers might have thought that you were attempting to provide reasoning or justification to support this kind of assertion.

            To avoid misleading your readers, consider adding this warning at the top of your essay:

            “I will be simply assuming, without supporting argument, that it is morally wrong to kill a human zygote.”

  7. Hi Karen, @ConservativeLA here.

    I haven’t read the comments so please pardon me if any of the following points have already been made. And I am speaking generally except when being explicitly specific to the essay.

    As a conservative atheist who places a very high value on, and has a profound affection for, the Judeo-Christian ethos as it were, and its adherents, I repectfully and without a trace of animus disagree with the on/off conceptualization that generally surrounds the topic, just as I disagree with the on/off conceptualization that sometimes informs the attitudes of some Christians toward sin.

    Aborting a fully-developed (what can only be called a) child who has had the misfortune of not yet being born, but otherwise shares all the attributes of a newborn, is not the same as aborting a day-old fetus.

    There seems to be a conflation afoot on this topic generally between potentiality and actuality. I am very glad that Tim Tebow’s mother, for instance, did not abort him. But to argue that a morning-after chemical abortion of Tim Tebow’s potentiality is a sin equal to some nut job walking up to him in a parking lot seems, in its eagerness to cast extinguishing that potentiality as a sin, to diminish the greater sin of his murder as an actuality.

    I don’t mean that an adult is more valuable that a child; I mean that a functioning human organism is more valuable than a potentiality, however DNA-rich and ready to roll it may be.

    I am extremely sympathetic to pro-life arguments. But I am troubled by, as I said, the on/off nature of many pro-life adherents’ arguments. Frankly, it does cause me to lean a bit more to the Judeo side of the Judeo-Christian calculus. There are gradations of evil, sin, whatever you want to call it. Abortion is almost a textbook example of that.

    Although Dennis Prager bears no responsibility for my comments, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the Eureka moments I’ve had when he addresses the subject. While he shares none of the blame for my argument, he gets any credit due. :)

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and civil response. I actually agree that the “sin” element is not the same for all acts of taking a human life (or any sin)–there are gradations, I think, of moral culpability for all sins according to a calculus that is way beyond my pay grade. This is something that I will address in the follow-up Q & A to be posted next week.

      But rather than delineating the moral culpability–which I agree is a very gray matter–I am trying to stake out an argument for “human beingness,” which, yes, is on/off as you state.

      Thanks for reading and responding! :)

      • You’re very welcome, Karen, and it was a thought-provoking piece. I look forward to the follow-up. :)

        • P.S. I make no claim to originality to my arguments, by the way. The purpose of this post was simply for the two of us–Ellen and me–to expalin our different views. As a matter of fact, I think it’s sometimes “originality” that gets us in trouble in these matters. I don’t believe that what makes us human has changed in all of human history, nor will it.


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