Re: Science and Personhood

by David French

Robert, I think it’s fairly clear that my initial post triggered some rather intense discussion. I have three points in response:

First, the intensity of the miscarriage discussion reveals how truly — and indeed, desperately — mothers long to protect the human life growing inside them. I have never encountered a mother faced with a problem pregnancy who didn’t take heroic measures to save her child. Parents are devastated by miscarriages and terrified by problem pregnancies not because of lost “potential” life but of a core understanding that an actual child is at stake. And I think you seriously underestimate the enormous resources our society (rightfully) expends to minimize miscarriage.

Second, I must admit that my initial post was written just a bit tongue-in-cheek. I thought it was clear enough from my language that I was consciously imitating those who try to end serious discussions of profound philosophical and moral topics by referring to “scientific consensus,” but from the comments I can see that it wasn’t. That, of course, is my fault. Do I think that the scientifically obvious status of an unborn child as a distinct human life by itself settles the abortion question? Certainly not.  

Third, with that being said, I do think the “choice” argument doesn’t come close to adequately addressing the moral implications of biological reality. A child in the womb is a separate — though highly dependent — human life. It is not mere “potential” life. It is not a tumor. This scientific reality should rather dramatically shift the burden of moral proof. If a child in the womb is a unique human being and — absent illness or outside intervention — will grow to be fully independent, what are the moral justifications for killing him or her? Right now, we can kill for our own personal convenience, a posture consistent only with a profound selfishness and disrespect for the humanity of others.