Roland C. Warren sees a disturbing trend in the argument over human life. Early in the abortion discussion, advocates for abortion (and euthanasia) argued that there was “human life” (the mother) and “not yet life” (the unborn), and even “no longer life” (the sick or infirm).
So we had life and non-life. And then ultrasound technology let us peer into the womb where we clearly see–life!
Now, advocates for “freedom of choice” are acknowledging that life is present–and even human. But there is a structure of hierarchy. Some lives supersede others.
Warren cites Mary Elizabeth Williams who penned an article titled “So What If Abortion Ends a Life?” Williams acknowledges that life begins at conception. And acknowledges that the admission can weaken her own argument.
“All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.”
Note that Williams defaults to the essential red herrings of the pro-choice set. “Her life” and “her health” as if her life is enhanced and her health restored because a baby she removed from her womb is dead. The hard cases–life, health, and rape/incest–add up to 1.23 percent of all abortions.
Sandwiched between life and health is “her circumstances”–the situations that motivate 98.7 percent of abortions in the US. Difficult circumstances mean it–he or she–must step aside.
Further note that the criteria for getting to decide is autonomy. The shift in thinking has taken us from thinking “It’s not a life” to “It’s a life–a child even–but a “non-autonomous” life. The ability to be independent determines the value of life.
Such a notion fuels the so-called “right to die” movement. In her article, Williams mentions “grandma” before she mentions “baby”. Grandma may herself decide to live no longer–or someone else may decide for her. Killing with consent leads quickly to killing without it.
It’s not a big step from Grandma is in pain to Grandma is a pain–and an expensive one at that. When we arrive at that determination, we have made Grandma subhuman. And we all become subject to the same devaluing. No one can be exempt.
But Warren argues: that is not who we are.
He paints a hypothetical situation. You are crossing the street and you see two people carrying their groceries. One is a healthy 25 year old man. The other is an 85 year old woman. Both of them drop their groceries at the same time. Who do you help?
We help the woman. The one we perceive needs help more. “It’s wired into us,” Warren says. “It’s what makes us human–how we apportion compassion.” He adds that animals–creatures less than human–operate in the opposite manner. Strong animals eat weak ones.
Humans, at their best, help the weak. When we live otherwise, we live as animals. And then we have all become less.