Pro Life apologia - abundance of evidence TASK 1: PRO-LIFE APOLOGISTS CLARIFY THE DEBATE Session #1: What Is the Issue? The abortion controversy is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. It’s not about privacy. It’s not about trusting women to decide. It’s not about forcing one’s morality. It’s about one question that trumps all others. Introduction: The nature of moral reasoning—When pro-life advocates claim that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenceless human being, they are not saying they dislike abortion. They are saying it’s objectively wrong, regardless of how one feels about it. Consider the popular bumper sticker: “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!” Notice what’s going on here. The pro-life advocate makes a moral claim that he believes is objectively true—namely, that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenceless human being. The abortion-choice advocate responds by changing that objective truth claim into one about likes and dislikes, as if the pro-lifer were talking about a mere preference. But this misses the point entirely. Pro-life advocates don’t oppose abortion because they find it distasteful; they oppose it because it violates rational moral principles. Francis J. Beckwith writes: Imagine if I said, ‘Don't like slavery, then don't own one.’ If I said that, you would immediately realize that I did not truly grasp why people believe that slavery is wrong. It is not wrong because I don't like it. It's wrong because slaves are intrinsically valuable human beings who are not by nature property. Whether I like slavery or not is not relevant to the question of whether slavery is wrong. Imagine another example, ‘Don't like spousal abuse, then don't beat your spouse.’ Again, the wrongness of spousal abuse does not depend on my preferences or tastes. In fact, if someone liked spousal abuse, we would say that that he or she is evil or sick. We would not adjust our view of the matter and I [sic] say, ‘I guess spousal abuse is right for you, but not for me.’ 1The One Question So what is the real issue, if not likes and dislikes? Pro-life advocates contend that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. This simplifies the abortion controversy by focusing public attention on just one question: Is the unborn a member of the human family? If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own intrinsic worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, elective abortion requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled. This is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. Every pro-life advocate that I know is vigorously “pro-choice” when it comes to women choosing a number of moral goods. They support a woman’s right to choose her own health care provider, to choose her own school, to choose her own husband, to choose her own job, to choose her own religion, and to choose her own career, to name a few. These are among the many choices that pro-life advocates fully support for the women of our country. But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. We shouldn’t be pro-choice about that. Advocates of elective abortion generally believe that the unborn are not fully human. But instead of proving this conclusion with facts and arguments, many people simply assume it within the course of their rhetoric. We call this “begging the question” and as Francis Beckwith points out, it’s a logical fallacy that lurks behind many arguments for abortion. 2 For example, arguing that abortion is justified because a woman has a right to control her own body assumes there is only one body involved—that of the woman. But this is precisely the point abortion advocates try to prove. Hence, they beg the question. Or, consider this claim: “No one knows when life begins, therefore abortion should remain legal.” But to argue that no one knows when life begins, and that abortion must remain legal through all nine months of pregnancy, assumes that life does not begin until birth—the exact point abortion advocates try to prove. This is hardly a neutral position. It is a clear case of begging the question. A little over a century ago, many Whites thought it unthinkable that anyone would consider Black slaves human beings. 3 Hadley Arkes recounts one such example from chapter 32 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Huck contrives a story to explain to Aunt Sally his late arrival by boat: “We blowed out a cylinder head.” “Good gracious! Anybody hurt?” “No’m. Killed a nigger.” “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt.” 4 1 Carl E. Olson, “The Case Against Abortion: An Interview with Dr. Francis Beckwith, Author of Defending Life,” Ignatius Insight, 1-21-08. http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2007/beckwith_defendlife_dec07.asp 2 Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) pp. 94-95. 3 See, for example, the various essays published in Eric L. McKitrick, ed., Slavery Defended: The View of the Old South (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963). Notice it’s simply assumed the black man is not one of us. Tactic: “Trot Out a Toddler” Here’s how to clarify things. If you think a particular argument begs the question regarding the status of the unborn, ask yourself if this justification for abortion also works as a justification for killing toddlers or other humans. If not, the argument assumes the unborn are not fully human. Now, it may be the case that the unborn are not fully human and abortion is therefore justified. But this must be argued with evidence, not merely assumed by one's rhetoric. Suppose, for example, that a friend justifies elective abortion this way: “Women have a right to make their own private decisions. What goes on in the bedroom is their business and no one else’s.” When you hear this, don’t panic. Trot out a toddler: Pro-lifer: You say that privacy is the issue. Pretend that I have a two-year old in front of me (hold out your hand at waist level to illustrate this). May I kill him as long as I do it in the privacy of the bedroom? Abortion-advocate: That’s silly--of course not! Pro-lifer: Why not? Abortion-advocate: Because he’s a human being. Pro-lifer: Ah. If the unborn are human, like the toddler, we shouldn’t kill the unborn in the name of privacy anymore than we’d kill a toddler for that reason. Abortion-advocate: You’re comparing apples with oranges, two things that are completely unrelated. Look, killing toddlers is one thing. Killing a fetus that is not a human being is quite another. Pro-lifer: Ah. That’s the issue, isn’t it? Are the unborn human beings, like toddlers? That is the one issue that matters. Abortion-advocate: But many poor women cannot afford to raise another child. Pro-lifer: When human beings get expensive, may we kill them? Getting back to my toddler example, suppose a large family collectively decides to quietly dispose of its three youngest children to help ease the family budget. Would this be okay? Abortion-advocate: Well, no, but aborting a fetus is not the same as killing children. Pro-lifer: So, once again, the issue is: What is the unborn? Is the fetus the same as a human being? We can’t escape that question, can we? Abortion-advocate: But what about a woman who’s been raped? Every time she looks at that kid she’s going to remember what happened to her. If that’s not hardship, what is? 4 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New York: Harper-Collins, 1994) p.258. Cited in Hadley Arkes, Natural Rights and the Right to Choose (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002) pp. 126-127. Pro-lifer: I agree that we should provide compassionate care for the victim and it should be the best care possible. That’s not at issue here. It’s your proposed solution I’m struggling to understand. Tell me, how should a civil society treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event? Is it okay to kill them so we can feel better? Can we, for example, kill a toddler who reminds her mother of a rape? Abortion-advocate: No, I wouldn’t do that. Pro-lifer: I wouldn’t either. But again, isn’t that because you and I both agree that it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings, even if they do remind us of a painful event? Abortion-advocate: But you don’t understand how much this woman has suffered. Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel? Pro-lifer: You’re right. I don’t understand her feelings. How could I? How could anyone? I’m just asking if hardship justifies homicide? Can we, for instance, kill toddlers who remind us of painful events? Again, my claim here is really quite modest. If the unborn are members of the human family, like toddlers, we should not kill them to make someone else feel better. It’s better to suffer evil rather than inflict it. Personally, I wish I could give a different answer, but I can’t without trashing the principle that my right to life shouldn’t depend on how others feel about me. In the end, sometimes the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do. And what’s right depends on the question: What is the unborn? We can’t get around it. Notice that you’ve not yet argued for the humanity of the unborn. You’ll do that later. For now, all you are doing is framing the issue around one question: What is the unborn? That is the crux of the debate. Once you’ve framed the discussion around the status of the unborn, you can make a scientific and philosophic case for the pro-life position. Two Cases of Begging the Question (That is, assuming the unborn are not human): Example #1: Debate with Nadine Strossen (former President of the ACLU): Nadine’s primary appeal was to reproductive freedom. To paraphrase her case, reproductive freedom means the ability to choose whether or not to have children according to one's own personal religious beliefs. That freedom is necessary if all persons are to lead lives of self-determination, opportunity, and human dignity. She repeatedly stressed our need to work together to reduce the high number of abortions, by which she meant pro-lifers should support tax-funded birth-control programs. Notice the question-begging nature of her claim. She simply assumed the unborn are not human beings. Would she make this same claim for human freedom and self-determination if the debate were about killing toddlers instead of fetuses? Thus, I began my own opening speech by saying the following (paraphrased for brevity): Men and women, I agree completely with everything Nadine just said. She's right that abortion is a personal, private matter that should not be restricted in any way. She's right that we shouldn't interfere with personal choices. She's right that pro-lifers should stay out of this decision. Yes, I agree completely IF. IF What? If the unborn are not human beings. And if Nadine can demonstrate that the unborn are not members of the human family, I will concede this exchange and so should everyone else who is pro-life. Contrary to what some may think, the issue that divides Nadine and me is not that she is pro-choice and I am antichoice. Truth is, I am vigorously “pro-choice” when it comes to women choosing a number of moral goods. I support a woman’s right to choose her own health care provider, to choose her own school, to choose her own husband, to choose her own job, to choose her own religion, and to choose her own career, to name a few. These are among the many choices that I fully support for the women of our country. But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. No, we shouldn’t be allowed to choose that. So, again, the issue that separates us is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. The issue the divides us is just one question, What is the unborn? Let me be clear: If the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled. In short, I was willing to buy her argument for freedom and self-determination, but only after she demonstrated that the unborn were not human beings. Framing the exchange around the status of the unborn set the tone for the entire evening and allowed me to ask good questions later in the debate. For example, during cross-examination, I asked Nadine why the high number of abortions troubled her. After all, if abortion does not take the life of a defenceless human being, why worry about reducing it? You can see that I made my case in two steps. First, I simplified the debate by focusing public attention on just one question: What is the unborn? Second, I argued for my pro-life view using science and philosophy. Scientifically, I argued that the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Philosophically, I argued that none of the differences between the embryo I once was and the adult I am today justify killing me at that earlier stage of development. But before any of that, I simplified the issue by focusing attention on just one question. Example #2: Ted Peters and Gaymon Bennett, “Theological Support of Stem Cell Research,” The Scientist 15[17]:4, Sep. 3, 2001: Again, notice how the authors mostly assume the unborn are not human. As you read, ask if any of the reasons they give for killing embryos for research work for killing toddlers for that same reason. If not, what are the authors assuming about the embryos in question? Below is the original article, followed by my specific comments. Pay particular attention to words like “neighbour,” “healing,” and “humanity.” To whom do these authors apply those terms? Pope John Paul II has stated that support of embryonic stem cell research evidences moral corruption. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research have cast the debate surrounding this research as nothing but the next chapter in the abortion controversy. The ethical issues involved with this research, however, are far too complex to be reduced to such a simple assessment. Portraying the stem cell debate as the abortion controversy is at best intellectually misleading, at worst ethically negligent. The stem cell debate has been framed by the wrong basic question: its moral heart lies not with abortion, but in its potential good. Stem cell research is morally significant first because it promises healing. Implanted stem cells, it appears, teach the body to heal itself, rejuvenating failing tissues, from organs to nerves. These therapies promise to ease the suffering of millions inflicted with such debilitating diseases as Parkinson's, heart and liver failure, juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer. It is our considered judgement that not only is this research morally permissible, there is an ethical and theological mandate to actively support it. To not support stem cell research, we have concluded, is unethical. The principal grounding of our support is beneficence, a bioethical variant of the Christian understanding of agape love. Theological and ethical reflection are at their best when framed by beneficence--a selfless love of one's neighbour that inspires struggle against suffering and death. Beneficence asks: Does stem cell research further or hinder the betterment and well being of humanity? The answer is yes; this form of scientific research promises enormous leaps in the quality of health care. For those who follow Jesus of Nazareth, decisive here is the Nazarene's ministry of healing. The Christian doctrine of salvation includes healing of body and soul. We human beings emulate God when we engage in our own ministry of healing. Medical research, in its own way, contributes to God's healing work on Earth. The destruction of embryos for this research is not irrelevant to our ethical considerations. We must ask a question: when does life begin? Or better, when does morally relevant personhood begin? In Donum Vitae in 1987 the Vatican declared that at conception three components make a full human being: sperm, egg, and a divinely implanted soul. However, with advances in embryology such as nuclear transfer, scientific understanding of what it takes to make a human individual is changing. Before ethical conclusions on the status of the embryo are drawn, theologians and ethicists must study this rapidly advancing science. The embryo is a potential human being, to be sure; respect for the early embryo shows our respect for God's intended future destiny. As such we do not support research that would lead to the wholesale fabrication of embryos for research purposes. Rather, we support research that uses stem cell lines derived from embryos taken from fertilization labs. In the deep freezes of these clinics are thousands of embryos slated for destruction. Society has decided to engage in reproductive technology. Excess embryos exist in large numbers. These surplus embryos will never find connection to a mother's womb, never become a human being. Is it ethically licit to take surplus embryos and press them into the service of life-saving medical research? Armed with the principle of beneficence we want to answer, yes. So ethically central is the principle of beneficence that those who ignore its invocation in the stem cell debate owe it to the public to justify opposition to the advance of medical research. We might recall Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story a robbed and beaten man is left on the side of the road to die. Priests pass by on the other side of the road, avoiding offering aid. A Samaritan happens along the road, carries the suffering one to the next town and pays for his health care. Confronted by suffering, the Samaritan chooses agape in the form of beneficence. Reducing the stem cell debate to the abortion controversy, we allow the unnamed suffering man--suffering from heart disease, Alzheimer's, or cancer--to die without aid. The question-begging nature of the above editorial is easy to spot. Over and over again, the authors simply assume the embryo is not human. Consider the following claims: “The stem cell debate has been framed by the wrong basic question: its moral heart lies not with abortion, but in its potential good. Stem cell research is morally significant first because it promises healing.” Healing to whom? Are the embryos in question healed by this research? Is it “good” for them? Suppose the issue was destroying two-year olds to cure five-year olds. Would the authors suggest we ignore our moral qualms and focus only on the alleged cures? Only by assuming the embryos are not human does their argument work. “Theological and ethical reflection are at their best when framed by beneficence--a selfless love of one's neighbour that inspires struggle against suffering and death.” Is the embryo my neighbour? Does destructive embryo research further his well being? Authors beg the question here and simply assume the embryo is not one of us. “Beneficence asks: Does stem cell research further or hinder the betterment and well being of humanity?” Again, the authors beg the question. Are embryos members of the human family? If so, killing them to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. “For those who follow Jesus of Nazareth, decisive here is the Nazarene's ministry of healing. The Christian doctrine of salvation includes healing of body and soul. We human beings emulate God when we engage in our own ministry of healing. Medical research, in its own way, contributes to God's healing work on Earth.” Again, does killing embryos for research “heal” them? And does medical research untempered by morality contribute to God’s healing work? What about the Tuskegee experiments of the 1920s in which Black men suffering from Syphilis were promised treatment only to have it denied so scientists could study the disease? “The destruction of embryos for this research is not irrelevant to our ethical considerations. We must ask a question: when does life begin? Or better, when does morally relevant personhood begin?” This is truly remarkable. Notice how quickly the authors ditch the scientific question—“When does life begin?”—for a purely subjective one—“When does morally relevant personhood begin?” The authors worship science when it suits them (when talking about alleged cures), but ignore it when the humanity of the unborn is at issue. “The embryo is a potential human being, to be sure; respect for the early embryo shows our respect for God's intended future destiny. As such we do not support research that would lead to the wholesale fabrication of embryos for research purposes.” Why not? If the embryos in question are not human beings, why not create them solely for destructive research? If they are not human, killing them for research requires no more justification than pulling a tooth. “Rather, we support research that uses stem cell lines derived from embryos taken from fertilization labs. In the deep freezes of these clinics are thousands of embryos slated for destruction.” The reasoning here is vacuous. All of us die sometime. Do those of us who are going to die later have the right to kill and exploit those who will die sooner? Death-row inmates are slated for die. May we kill them to harvest their organs? Again, only by assuming the unborn are not human does the argument work. “Is it ethically licit to take surplus embryos and press them into the service of life-saving medical research? Armed with the principle of beneficence we want to answer, yes.” But armed with science—which establishes the humanity of the embryo—and objective morality—which says we shouldn’t kill one human so another can benefit—the answer is no. We do not have a right to kill living, distinct human beings to benefit other people. “We might recall Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story a robbed and beaten man is left on the side of the road to die. Priests pass by on the other side of the road, avoiding offering aid. A Samaritan happens along the road, carries the suffering one to the next town and pays for his health care. Confronted by suffering, the Samaritan chooses agape in the form of beneficence. Reducing the stem cell debate to the abortion controversy, we allow the unnamed suffering man--suffering from heart disease, Alzheimer's, or cancer--to die without aid.” This misses the point entirely. The parable of the Good Samaritan does not establish the so-called “principle of beneficence” as defined by the authors, but refutes it. Central to the parable is the fact that a man was unjustly beaten so that other people (thieves) could benefit from his demise. Only the Samaritan set aside his own self-interest (benefit) to perform his moral duty to one who was vulnerable and defenseless. If the embryo is a human being, a point the authors scarcely entertain much less refute, their place in the story is that of the thieves who rob from one human being to benefit another. Again, imagine if the above article were written to defend killing two-year olds to treat five-year olds. Would anyone today justify the author’s rationale? Session #2: What is the Unborn? The science of embryology is clear. Embryos are human beings in the earliest stages of their natural development. They differ from more mature members of the human species not in virtue of the kind of thing they are (the way a cat differs from a tree), but only in their degree of development. A. Review of the Scientific Evidence for the Pro-Life Argument: 1. Embryology: The Stubborn Facts (a) From the earliest stages of development, embryos are distinct, living, whole human beings. True, they have yet to grow and mature, but they are whole human beings nonetheless. Leading embryology textbooks affirm this. For example, Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud write: “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm...unites with a female gamete or oocyte...to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” 5 T.W. Sadler’s Langman’s Embryology, states: “The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” 6 Embryologists Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller write, “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed....The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.” 7 (b) We’ve known these facts for years. Prior to advocating elective abortion, former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Alan Guttmacher was perplexed that anyone, much less a medical doctor, would question them. “This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn't part of the common knowledge,” he wrote in his 1933 book Life in the Making. 8 As early as 1868, Dr. Horatio Storer, the head of the American Medical Association’s Committee on Criminal Abortion, along with co-author Franklin F. Heard, confidently stated that “Physicians have now arrived at the unanimous opinion that the foetus in utero is alive from the very moment of conception…[T]he willful killing of a human being at any stage of its existence is murder.” 9 In 1981, a U.S. Senate judiciary subcommittee heard expert testimony on when human life begins. Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University Medical School told the subcommittee, “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive...It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.” Dr. Watson A. Bowes of the University of Colorado Medical School stated, “The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter–the beginning is conception.” The subcommittee reports concludes: “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being—a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.” 10 5 K. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (Philadelphia: Saunders/Elsevier, 2008), p. 15. 6 T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Embryology, 5 th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1993), p. 7 O'Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. 8 A. Guttmacher, Life in the Making: the Story of Human Procreation (New York: Viking Press, 1933) p. 3 9 H. Storer and F. Heard, Criminal Abortion: Its Nature, Its Evidence & Its Law (out of print); cited in Stephen Krason, Abortion: Politics, Morality, and the Constitution (Lanham,MD: University Press in America, 1984) p. 171. 10 Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981. (c) In short, you didn’t come from a zygote. You once were a zygote. At no point in your prenatal development did you undergo a substantial change of nature. You began as a human being and will remain so until death.
Overwhelming proof
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