Challenge Response: All Human Life Is Not Equal

Here's my response to this week's challenge:



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Is all human life equal? Apparently not according to one author who writes this week's challenge. Here's what she says:

I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice….

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal…. [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. …

[Abortion] saves lives not just in the most medically literal way, but in the roads that women who have choice then get to go down, in the possibilities for them and for their families. And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

There's a lot being said in that challenge, but let me try to understand two possible rationales that are going on in the mind of this author. Let me say up front: Either one of these rationales going on in her mind is very disturbing and very troubling.

The first possibility in terms of her rationale is that she thinks that the unborn is a human being – a human being just like you and me – but that it is still okay to kill that innocent human life because, she says, she's the boss, and her rights automatically trump the rights of the unborn child.

Notice she's acknowledging the unborn is a human being. In fact, it’s her own son and daughter that she’s saying is okay for her to kill. Her own son and daughter. Good grief. Here's a person that I would not want to babysit my kids. Why? Because obviously, if she thinks it's morally permissible to kill an innocent human being that is inside her womb, then she would think it's morally permissible to kill an innocent human being that's outside of her womb. Remember, she acknowledges the fetus is a human being and a human life.

The second possibility in terms of understanding her rationale is that she's suggesting that although the unborn is a human being, it's not a valuable human being because, in her words, it's “not autonomous.” I take it to mean that she thinks the unborn is not independent, but rather dependent upon her body for sustenance and for survival. 

Now, if this is the case, this woman is engaging in an egregious evil - unjust form of discrimination. She's basically saying that yes, this is a human being, but I can decide that this human being deserves to be killed because I have deemed that some particular characteristic is relevant to the question of value, and this is autonomy. Because she says this characteristic is what makes the unborn human being valuable, therefore she can go ahead and kill it. This is a horrific act of unjust discrimination and a particular kind of discrimination that, in fact, we've seen many times throughout history.

Take a look at U.S. history. For example, we had a period in our time in which African-Americans were discriminated against. People said yes, they are human beings, but they said there is a quality or characteristic – namely skin color – that we're going to decide is important. Therefore, because it's important and because African-Americans don't satisfy the terms of that characteristic or quality according to the way we want, we can therefore abduct them and force them into slave labor.

The same thing happened with WWII and the Jews. They were considered a class of human beings, but some people said there's a characteristic – their ethnicity – that we are going to deem to be relevant to the question of value. Since you don't qualify because you're Jewish, therefore, we can experiment on you and we can exterminate you.

The same thing is happening with unborn children today, as is the case with this author. She’s saying yes, you are a human being, but I'm going to decide based on my whim that autonomy is the relevant factor. I’m going to discriminate against you because you are not autonomous, and because of that, you are no longer valuable. Therefore, I can also kill you because you get in the way.

This is why I say, on this understanding of her rationale, this is an egregious evil.

It's unjust discrimination in the worst form because it results the death of innocent human beings. Either way you take her understanding, her rationale, in this particular challenge, it's deeply disturbing. She either thinks it's okay to kill bona fide human beings – even her own children – because she's the boss, or she thinks it's morally permissible to discriminate against some classes of human beings based on characteristics which she herself deems to be important based on a whim which, of course, is also incredibly disturbing.

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Alan Shlemon