Unfortunately, in the last few years we’ve had more than one opportunity in this nation to ponder this question: Why are we more grieved and outraged when a child is murdered than when an adult is murdered, even though both are valuable human beings? As I’ve watched, listened, and considered, three reasons have come to the forefront:
- The child didn’t have a chance to live his life.
- We feel a special responsibility to protect children because they’re dependent on us.
- The more innocent the human being, the more deeply we grieve the crime perpetrated against her.
The younger the child gets, the more our horror increases: A high school bus is hit by a drunk driver, and we mourn; elementary school students are murdered by a gunman, and we have national grief; babies at a daycare are targeted by a terrorist, and our shock and anger at the heinousness of it consumes us. The horror increases as the age decreases... until we reach the womb. Then suddenly, all our moral reasoning is flipped on its head.
Once we go back in age beyond that magical point, we use those same three reasons not to condemn abortion, but to justify it:
- Instead of opposing abortion because a child has her entire future outside the womb taken from her, we justify it by saying she didn’t yet have any “interests” since she wasn’t aware of what she’ll be missing.
- Instead of opposing abortion because of our keenly-felt responsibility to protect the most defenseless of children, we justify it by saying their total dependence on us is parasitical and therefore we have a right to deny our consent for them to depend on us.
- Instead of opposing the violent actions of abortion taken against the most innocent of us, we justify it by comparing those unborn children to violent attackers from whom we have a right to defend ourselves.
Do you see the ridiculousness of this? If it’s a tragedy when a five-year-old loses the rest of his life, isn’t it an even greater tragedy when an unborn baby loses every experience waiting for him outside the womb? A five-year-old has seen much of what life is about, though only for a short time. An aborted baby has had even that short time stolen from him. It’s the very fact that an unborn child has not had a chance to become aware of his objectively real interests that makes his death more tragic, not less.
Why are we not consistent on this moral principle of increased horror with decreased age? It makes no sense to arbitrarily flip this principle upside down and use the very points that normally condemn violence against the young to justify it.