Pro-Life Cruelty

The candidates for Alabama’s 5th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives participated in a debate on May 22.  In the debate’s so-called lightning round, candidates were asked their positions on abortion.  In his response, Dr. David Maker said, “I oppose abortion, except in very special cases.  If you demand that a woman not have an abortion under every circumstance, I believe you’re being cruel.”  Unfortunately, given the fifteen-second time limit in which candidates were allowed to answer in the lightning round, Maker did not go into details.  I suspect nonetheless, because they are caveats that politicians and political candidates commonly support, that Maker is speaking of rape, incest, or the life of the mother.

First, let me deal with the idea of cruelty.  The cruelty in such a situation is on the part of the rapist. It is on the part of the father who abuses his daughter.  It is on the part of the near kin who do not think about the consequences of their creepy, consensual relationship.

Second, how do the circumstances of conception change the fact that a fertilized embryo is a life?  A distinct human life!  That is all it is about: Is it life?  Life is all it must be about because as soon as we start making exceptions for what we think are extenuating circumstances, it becomes far too easy make exceptions for simple convenience.

If we all agree that A, B, and C are extenuating (and cruel) circumstances and worthy of exception, some situation D will come along that is almost, but not quite the same as A, B, or C.  Still though, D is basically the same as A, B, or C, so surely we can allow an exception for it.  Then later case E arises, which bears a lot of resemblance to case D.  Yes, it’s a little different, but if we allow for D, no one can argue that E is not also an exceptional case.  Before long, the list of things we make exception for is longer than the list we hold the line on.

What about the life of the mother?  I mean, the mother’s mental health is one thing, but we’re talking about her physical health, her life here!  I could perhaps be persuaded in theory that abortion is the lesser of two evils if a mother would lose her life in delivery.  Why bring a child into the world without a mother?  Wouldn’t it be better to try again?  Perhaps the next pregnancy will go better, and the family unit will be intact.

The problem is that no one can say with any degree of certainty that a woman will, in fact, lose her life if she attempts to deliver a child in situation X.  There are odds based on the research we have on the matter, but they are only odds.  How many times have doctors given someone no chance of living only to watch the person pull through in the end?  For that matter, it sometimes works the other way around: a seemingly routine pregnancy and delivery end up with complications that result in the mother’s death.  We just cannot know.  It is therefore unjust to choose to terminate a life in favor of another when we are not sure that either life is truly in danger.

Isn’t it just beyond the pale, though, to ask a woman to rear up the child of her attacker?  How can a woman look every day into the face of her child, a child begotten by her own father?  The answer, of course, is adoption.  If seeing that child every day would be too grim a reminder of how the child came to be, the mother need not see the child again after giving birth.  There are would-be parents who are not concerned with how a child was conceived.  They simply long for a child.

There is no cruelty in preserving life.  Still, that is not to say that there would be no difficulties.  The emotional trauma would be grueling.  The medical expenses could be crippling.  Doing the right thing sometimes demands a heavy sacrifice, especially when one suffers the consequences of someone else’s misdeeds.  In the end, the truly cruel thing would be to end a life that has come about by no fault of its own.

3 thoughts on “Pro-Life Cruelty”

  1. Regarding the “life of the mother,” whereas you point out that the rationale breaks down in practice, I think it breaks down in principle as well.

    The way that I see sacrificing the child to save the mother is that it is no different that the same decision if the child were already born. Let’s say a mother has 5 kids, and she’s needs a heart transplant or she will certainly die. Does it make sense that she should take the heart of one of her children–let’s say the youngest, a 4 year old? Certainly no 4 year old would want to be without a mother. And she has to think of the other children. See, it just becomes ludicrous. But why is the decision any different if the child is 4 years old or 4 months old in the womb?

    The ONLY exception I can think of is in the case where saving the baby may not be possible under any circumstances, such as a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy where in theory the baby absolutely cannot survive (because it is not growing in the womb, but in some other part of the body), and the mother absolutely cannot survive bringing the baby to term. Again, I’m not a doctor, so “absolutely” may be too strong a word in both cases. But assuming such a scenario exists, it would be perhaps the only rationale for abortion given that the option of saving both mother and child may not exist. Even in this case, though, there are examples of ectopic pregnancies resulting in live births (according to the wiki article). So again, we may be left without any concrete examples of such a case.

    However, if the decision is kill the baby to save the mother, or save the baby at the risk of the mother’s life, even if you somehow knew with 100% certainty that the mother could not survive, it seems clear to me that you could not sacrifice the child to save her any more than you could do the same to a child already born.

  2. I hope that you are as equally opposed to the death penalty…

    Also to other forms of slow death, such as alcohol, tobacco, driving excessively fast, carrying and using firearms…

    Slippery slope, and all that…

  3. @Khalihs, you are employing the “slippery slope” idea fallaciously. Putting to death a convicted murderer is wholly unrelated to killing an innocent child—with a procedure that is hardly without risk to the mother, by the way. It is a genuine non sequitur: the one simply does not follow from the other.

    No, I do not oppose the just use of the death penalty. God approves of it according to Genesis 9 and Romans 13. It both punishes the guilty for a heinous crime already committed and prevents him from ever doing such a thing again. In contrast, abortion and euthanasia are convenience killings, murder, entirely unjustifiable.

    I do, however, argue against the use of alcohol (Proverbs 23:31), tobacco (any addiction demonstrates a lack of self-control, II Peter 1:6; Galatians 5:22, 23), and driving too fast (I Peter 2:13).

    I do not argue against all carrying and usage of firearms. Murder is clearly wrong, but Jesus Himself appears to approve of the use of a weapon to defend one’s life (Luke 22:36). You seem to be making the mistake of lumping together all firearm use for any reason, just as you mistakenly lump together all taking of life for any reason. In both cases, the reason does matter.

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