Where to Draw the Line on Life

I am concerned with cases where fetuses that had been thus far welcomed and loved by their respective community are suddenly regarded as candidates for abortion simply because they may have been diagnosed with a disability. That is, I am worried about cases where disability is deemed sufficient grounds for dehumanizing a being who had been, up until that point, embraced.

Bertha Alvarez Manninen “self-identifies as pro-choice”. Manninen has values. She does not have a standard regarding life.

A standard is a line that doesn’t move. A mile is a mile. A cup is a cup. A foot equals 12 inches. Standards don’t change.

In contrast, a value changes. We know all too well that a dollar today doesn’t buy what it did a few years ago. It’s unlikely to buy next year what it does today.

In the United States in 1973, the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion in all 50 states without restriction. States added limitations like waiting periods and parental consent but had little say in effectively regulating the procedures.

When states did have success in limiting abortion, there were always loopholes, ways around the rules enabling the killing of children and harm to mothers, fathers, siblings, and others.

One such loophole regarding gestational age was birth defects in the unborn.

This loophole allowed people to bestow conditional acceptance to other people. Unborn children who’ve managed to survive to a certain age, birth, sometimes have permission to continue living if they can pass a health test.

For the unacceptable ones who slip through the process intended to eliminate them, nineteen states allow a doctor to deny them care until they die.

For Manninen, refusing to accept a child you don’t want because of inconvenience is acceptable. Celebrating a child’s expected arrival and then rejecting the child based on a diagnosis of disability is not.

Surely the child with disabilities would be inconvenient also.

It rubs her the wrong way to abort the disabled baby you had previously longed to hold and raise. That child, she asserts, is dehumanized and unworthy of rejection.

Unworthy of dismemberment.

Yet the child you did not long for is already, in her view, dehumanized and worthy of suffering the worst.

For Manninen, the child’s humanization emanates from the mother’s/parents’ desire for the child early on, a value she asserts should be a standard once the parents decide their baby is wanted.

If the law makes human value a moving line, we are all subject to someone else’s judgment that we are no longer worthy of life.

Life as a value is a shifting line that can take out any of us.

Life as a standard is a truss that upholds a stable society.

We can’t point to the moment society’s rules changed from standards to values. But we can point to German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche as the one who substituted the shifting term for the constant one and asserted the shift from God’s authority to humans.

The strong individual loves the earth so much he lusts for recurrence. He can smile in the face of the most terrible thought: meaningless, aimless existence recurring eternally. The second characteristic of such a man is that he has the strength to recognize – and to live with the recognition – that the world is valueless in itself and that all values are human ones. He creates himself by fashioning his own values; he has the pride to live by the values he wills.”

All values are human ones. Questions about which people are worthy of life and which do not emanate from such a worldview.

All moral standards come from God. His commandments about how we must treat innocent life don’t come with exceptions. God’s decrees are standards.

Human beings require a standard of worth–the unchangeable precept that we all have worth that does not change. The immovable line of human worth prods us to welcomes all regardless of age or degree of ability. His standard of love shows us the worth of every human being.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:14, ESV, Biblegateway.com

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16 Replies to “Where to Draw the Line on Life”

  1. Nancy, thank you for this. I never before considered the difference between standards and values, – like truth versus opinion/feelings. I suspect I will see things a little differently now, and I’ll express myself a little more carefully.

  2. Our culture grows increasingly selfish and decadent as we now make decisions that infants that may require more care should instead be murdered in the womb or afterward. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made, no matter what the world says. All babies who are born alive should be loved and cared for.

  3. “The unchangeable precept that we all have worth that does not change.” YES! We all have worth. If God makes a life, I don’t think anyone has a right to end that life regardless of the reason. (I feel the same way about the death penalty, incidentally… I don’t think it should be legal.)

    1. The death penalty at least involves human life that is not innocent, so it’s arguable. We have it in Pennsylvania, but effectively we don’t since PA hasn’t executed anyone in decades. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jessica. God bless!

  4. What a sad way so many view the gift of a child. Our son had severe birth defects (we did not know until his birth) and he only lived 9 days. But, he was still a beautiful blessing to us. He was a child of God with a purpose just like all of us. Thanks Nancy.

    1. I’m so sorry you only had him for nine days, Yvonne. How wonderful that you see the beauty and meaning of his short life. Thanks so much for commenting. God bless!

    1. We certainly did, Karen, and much to our own harm. Following God’s ways leads to good. Refusing to follow them leads to collapse, i.e. judgment. It’s that simple. Thanks and God bless!

  5. Amen Ms. Nancy. I look back across my life and can see how much less of a man I would be had someone decided to abort a life planned by God that was used to teach me acceptance, overcoming challenges, and loving without restrictions.

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