Words are powerful. They can be used to illuminate, and they can be used to conceal. Consider this excerpt from MSNBC’s Meet the Press:
Pastor Rick Warren clearly asked, “At what point does a baby get human rights?,” but for some reason Tom Brokaw seemed to be hearing another question: “When does life begin?”
“When does life begin?” The abortion debate is so often framed around that question, but of course, that question is entirely irrelevant to the abortion debate. Abortions can be performed only on living babies! If the human fetus were not alive, then he or she could not be killed.
The absurdity of such language was on full display in Live Action’s latest video:
Late-term abortion doctor LeRoy Carhart states:
Well, in my heart and my mind, you know, life begins when the mother thinks it begins, not when anybody else things it begins. For some women it’s before they conceive; for some women, it’s never. Even after they deliver, it’s still a problem, not a baby.
Carhart purports to be answering the question “When does life begin?,” but of course he is not answering that question at all. Carhart does not actually believe that you existed before your parents had sex, nor does he believe that an infant squirming in the incubator is dead. Carhart does not doubt for one moment that a living member of the species Homo sapiens comes into existence at the moment of conception. He knows that the fetus is alive, but he does not care.
As I argued in a previous post, genocide, slavery, abortion, and infanticide are all based on the notion that human rights are not intrinsic to the species Homo sapiens but are rather bestowed on certain individuals by society. As two Australian philosophers concluded in their defense of infanticide (or, as they call it, “after-birth abortion”), “[m]erely being human is not in itself a reason for ascribing someone a right to life.”
This notion stands in stark contrast to the view that all human beings have an intrinsic and inestimable value, a view which is often grounded in the conviction that human beings are created “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27).
Therefore, the question at the heart of the abortion debate is not “When does life begin?,” but rather “Which humans have value?” If the pro-choice lobby is afraid of this question, perhaps it is because, deep down inside, Americans already know the answer.