WHAT??? Are you crazy? Are you just looking to make people ANGRY!!??
Listen, I know that few issues generate more intense heat and hatred than the topic of abortion. Often opinions are expressed with bitter anger, disgust and frustration on both sides of the aisle. That’s too bad. Heat and hatred are rarely the breeding grounds for fruitful discussion. When we have lost our ability to calmly analyze ideas, introduce arguments and weigh opinions honestly and openly together we have lost more than a debate, we have lost our humanity.
Due to the contentious nature of this debate some have simply decided not talk about it at all. We keep silent. The topic has become “too hot to handle.” We’re afraid to offend. We don’t want to hurt feelings. Trying to be fair-minded may seem like an exercise in futility. Someone is going to get mad. Or maybe, just maybe, the silence is because the subject, for some, is much more than an “issue.” It could be intensely personal because you or a loved one has lived through the experience of an abortion.
I’m going to share with you why I am a pro-life pharmacist.
Before I begin however, I think we need to dismiss a few unfair criticisms.
First, my pro-life position has nothing to do with the fact that I am a male. This issue is about equally divided among the sexes, with both men and women taking both sides of the debate.
Second, nor is it fair to say that I blindly hold this view because I happen to be a Christian. Statistically the religious affiliations reported by more than 50% of women who have an abortion are either Christian or Catholic. If being Christian automatically disqualifies me – it wouldn’t seem so from the facts.
Third, it is unfair and disingenuous to assume I dislike or hate those who take another view. Can we not disagree but still politely discuss a matter as important as this one? Do we have to resort to attacking one another? I like what the Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias once said “When we start throwing mud at someone, not only do our hands get dirty, but we lose ground.”
I am a pro-life pharmacist. I’m going to tell you why.
1) First, I begin with the premise that every human life is intrinsically valuable. That means that no human being should ever have their life taken merely because their life is inconvenient to someone else. This applies to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your gender is, your race is, your age, your religious affiliation, your political affiliation or your sexual orientation. Human life is precious. It deserves to be protected. This premise is why we (virtually) all agree that murder is wrong. It is wrong even when the victim is otherwise offensive to us.
It is this premise, the premise that every human life is intrinsically valuable, that explains why I believe in certain circumstances that capital punishment is appropriate. The taking of a human life is arguably the greatest criminal activity we are capable of committing against another person. Virtually any other crime can be corrected or repaid. Not murder. And if we believe that punishments should correspond to the nature of the crime, then the greatest crime should be followed by the greatest punishment. I believe in capital punishment because I believe in the intrinsic worth and value of every human life.
But this article is about abortion. And my position on abortion has to begin with the intrinsic value of human life. I do not believe one life is more valuable than another. I do not believe that this is something that people earn. Being American doesn’t make you more (or less) intrinsically valuable than anyone else. All human life is precious, and no one person ever has the right to decide, gratuitously, whether someone else should live or die.
It doesn’t take long to recognize that this is a value that many on our planet do not embrace. Random and cruel shootings, suicide bombings, rape, sex trafficking and slavery, politically imposed poverty and tyrannical assassinations of the helpless go on all around us. We become almost numb to the cruelty. And this is nothing new. We can hardly disagree with the words of Samuel von Pufendorf who wrote in 1673 “more inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.”
A reader may ask at this point where I get this notion of “intrinsic value” from. You might call this an assertion without an argument. It is. I am asserting it. I begin with it. Personally I derive this position from a conviction that mankind is an utterly unique creature, made “in the image of God.” But you are free to derive this position from another source if you like. If, however, you choose to reject this assertion…be careful. Do you really want to go there? Much more than the right to an abortion is at stake if you prefer to dismiss the idea of the intrinsic worth of every human being. History has shown that there are serious consequences to ideas like that.
2) My second premise is this: Every unborn child has this intrinsic worth. In other words, from the moment a child begins development in the womb of his/her mother there is no clearly identifiable, logical, medical or scientifically obvious moment at which the right to live is suddenly conveyed and granted to the child. To put it yet another way, take the 1 year old child and begin to move chronologically backwards to their birth and beyond. I submit there is no moment at which his life suddenly becomes a “human” life that inherits the right spoken of above.
Historically many have been led to believe that “viability” is reliable and reasonable benchmark by which we decide that the life of the child suddenly becomes protected and intrinsically valuable. But this concept has 2 problems.
First – viability is a moving target. As science and technology advance our capacity to keep a baby alive is becoming earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. We used to think we had a good chance of keeping a baby alive after 28 weeks. Now we generally are optimistic at 24 weeks. Some babies have survived from as early as 21 or 22 weeks.
Second, the bigger problem with the viability argument is this: how does the capacity to survive outside the womb confer the right to life? The decision seems gratuitous. The viability argument is saying “because the baby could NOT survive OUTSIDE the womb right now, therefore it does not have any intrinsic right to live INSIDE the womb.” Does that really make sense? Is it logical? Is it grounded in any scientific or philosophical principle? It may be fine to discuss “viability” in a medical context, just as we would describe other changes that are going on as this baby develops over 40 weeks. But try as I might, I simply cannot comprehend how viability confers the basic human dignity of the right to life.
Think about it another way. Is a 1-year old really viable? Can a 1-year old “survive” without any assistance? Of course she can’t. Why is the ability to survive outside the womb our guide? Why not the ability to survive inside the home? Or what of the hundreds upon thousands of adults, who cannot survive without some external support technology, be it a medication or a breathing machine or the loving care of a child, parent or partner? Millions of lives right now are “dependent” upon someone or something else. By themselves they would not be “viable.” Are they suddenly no longer intrinsically valuable?
3) My conclusion, based upon the intrinsic value of human life, and that such value must begin at the earliest identifiable stages of development, is that abortion amounts to the unjust taking of a human life. My reasons, as stated above, do not hinge on the debatable issue of exactly “when” human life begins. I would simply say that from the earliest point that a woman can know that she is pregnant; she is at that point at least, carrying a developing human life within her.
Some might argue that this position fails to appreciate the emotional and social impacts of pregnancy on a woman. That’s true. It doesn’t take those things into consideration. That, however, does not mean I am unconcerned about the emotional and social impacts of pregnancy. I am. I am also concerned about the emotional and social impact of abortion. But more than either of these, I am concerned about what is right and wrong. I’m concerned for the truth. And what I am suggesting is that abortion is wrong no matter how your or I feel about it.
What about hard cases? It seems in many circles that proponents of abortion (the pro-choice position) quickly turn to cases where the life of the mother is in jeopardy or the case of rape. The fact is that these are statistically such a small percentage of actual abortions that to resort to such questions is tantamount to admitting defeat. Can we agree to discuss the morality and justice of the 99% of cases first?
What about just saying that I “personally” wouldn’t get an abortion, but I want to defend the rights of a woman to make this choice for herself? That sounds noble. But it’s not. Think about it. Do you take that position on any other criminal issue? Are you personally against theft, but support the right of a thief to make that choice himself? Are you personally against speeding, but support the right of each driver to drive any speed they want anywhere? And what about the baby’s choice? Shouldn’t her view matter? And what if the baby is, as I have argued, an intrinsically valuable human life – should anyone have the choice to snuff it out?
But isn’t it her body? The baby has his own DNA code unique and distinguished for that of the mother from the earliest point of development. He may have some of her physical traits, but he will also have many of his own, and every parent knows this well.
But won’t a pregnancy and baby almost certainly sentence the woman to poverty and dependence due to loss of income and ability to earn her own support? Adoption is an option, and it can be planned for almost immediately with the loving and experienced help of individuals and organizations committed to providing this option.
I am a pro-life pharmacist. I don’t hate those who disagree. But I do believe the current laws in our land about abortion are unjust and hope that one day our society will mature and see this. We once thought that a person’s race determined their rights – and slavery was legal. But we were wrong, and we changed the law. We once thought that a person’s gender should determine their rights – and women couldn’t vote or be educated. We were wrong, and we changed the law. And one day I hope we see the error of believing that the first trimester baby has no intrinsic right to life. We’re wrong – and I want that law to change someday too.
Laws, you see, don’t simply protect potential victims. They also serve to protect those who might make a choice they will one day live to regret. Because it is legal, it is easier to have an abortion, even though many women (and men) tearfully regret their choice in the end. This article was not written to judge them. In fact, if anything, it opens the door to a whole new opportunity for love, forgiveness and new beginnings. That, however, is the topic of another article and for another day.