The objection that pro-life advocates or organizations aren’t really pro-life because they don’t also advocate [fill in the blank] is one you’ll encounter. Scott Klusendorf responds to this "single issue objection" in The Case for Life:
How does it follow that because pro-life advocates oppose the unjust killing of innocent human beings, they must therefore take personal responsibility for solving all of life’s ills?
Speaking at a pro-life convention in Alberta, a local cleric chastised pro-lifers for focusing too narrowly on abortion when they ought to consider broader “life issues” such as occupational safety, AIDS, poverty, and capital punishment. The result, the cleric said, is a “fractured Christian witness that hurts the cause.”
The cleric is typical of many on the political left who insist that because pro-life advocates oppose the willful destruction of an innocent human being, they must therefore assume responsibility for society’s other ills. In other words, you are not truly pro-life unless you treat the deforestation of the Amazon with the same moral intensity that you do the unjust killing of a human fetus. This is careless thinking and highly unfair to those who take abortion seriously.
Imagine the gall of saying to the Canadian Cancer Society, “You have no right to focus on curing cancer unless you also work to cure AIDS, heart disease, and diabetes.” Or try telling the American Heart Association, “You cannot reasonably oppose cardiac arrest unless you fund research aimed at stopping all loss of life.” Ridiculous indeed, but how is this any different from what the cleric told pro-life advocates?
Consider what he is demanding. Local pro-life groups must take their already scarce resources and spread them even thinner fighting every social injustice imaginable. This would be suicide for those opposed to abortion As Frederick the Great once allegedly said, “He who attacks everywhere attacks nowhere.” ...
Given a choice, I’d rather pro-lifers focus on at least one great moral issue than waste their precious resources trying to fix all of them.
I think part of what’s behind this objection is ignorance. There are many people who are unaware of the multitude of local, national, and international ministries out there addressing crisis pregnancies, single mothers, poverty, prison issues, human trafficking, disaster relief, religious freedom, education for the poor, etc., etc., etc. No one person can, or should, be intensely involved in all of them at the same time. This is why we have the body of Christ. The eye does his job, the ear does his job, and both are needed. (If you ask the person expressing this objection to measure his own life and causes according to his “you must give equal time to every issue” standard, he might more quickly see your point.)
And ultimately, for many people who make this kind of objection, no amount of service on the part of a pro-lifer will be enough, as illustrated by this classic interaction a caller had with Greg.
Must We Kill Humans to Save Other Humans? by Alan Shlemon: “Removing stem cells from a human embryo kills the developing human. Without stem cells, a week-old human can’t build his or her body. That’s why ESCR is morally wrong: It kills an innocent human being. Fortunately, scientists have discovered another source of stem cells: adult human beings. Since stem cells have been self-renewing since our embryonic days, they continue to grow and live in our bodies today. They are found in our bone marrow, brain, fat, eyes, and many other places.... Adult stem cell therapy has helped human beings for the last 20 years. To date, stem cells have been used in the treatment of 73 different conditions. How many successful human treatments have embryonic stem cells achieved? Zero. None. Nada.” (Read more)
Taking the Heat by Brett Kunkle: “Our relationships with other believers should be marked by love—the kind of love Jesus has for us. And you might expect that if the world looks in and sees that kind of love amongst believers, they would naturally be drawn to it. However, Jesus alerts us to the typical reaction of the world: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also” (vv. 17-20)…. So what should be the response of Christ’s followers to the world’s anger and hatred?” (Read more)
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When a person’s mind conflicts with his body, which should we help him to change? While speaking at the ERLC National Conference last month, Denny Burk said:
At the heart of the transgender revolution is the notion that psychological identity trumps bodily identity. In this way of thinking, a person is whatever they think themselves to be. If a girl perceives herself to be a boy, then she is one even if her biology says otherwise.
But as Burk explains, our society takes the opposite view when it comes to “Body Integrity Identity Disorder”:
Fox News did an anonymous interview in 2009 with a person named “John” who has been consumed with feelings of dissatisfaction with his body for as long as he can remember. Ever since he was a child, he has felt like a one-legged man trapped inside a two-legged man’s body. He has suffered psychological angst his entire life because of his two legs. Even as an adult after 47 years of marriage, he still wishes and hopes to have one of his legs amputated….
It turns out that “John” has a condition that pychiatrists call “Body Integrity Identity Disorder.” According to a 2012 study, the only known treatment that provides psychological relief is amputation. Nevertheless, doctors have by and large resisted this, and people suffering from this disorder typically cannot find doctors willing to do the surgery unless they injure themselves….
We consider it wrong to amputate healthy limbs—it’s considered a mutilation of the body, out of bounds for respectable doctors, even if the would-be amputee desires it.
Burk then makes the obvious connection to those who desire sex-reassignment surgery:
If that is the case with amputations, then what are we to make of the woman who claims that she is a man trapped inside a woman’s body? …
The ethical question that we have to ask is the same one that we have already asked. Is it right for people to amputate otherwise healthy limbs? Is the problem here damaged limbs or a damaged mind? Does the body need adjusting, or does the thinking? …
Over the last few years, we have seen a number of reports about parents who are letting gender-confused children undergo hormone therapy to delay puberty indefinitely until a decision can be made about gender reassignment surgery (see here). Ironically, these parents believe that it is permissible to surgically alter a child’s body to match his sense of self but it is wrong to try and change his sense of self to match his body. Yet this leads to an obvious question. If it is wrong to attempt to change a child’s gender identity (because it is fixed and meddling with it is harmful), then why is it morally acceptable to alter something as fixed as a biological body of a minor? The moral inconsistency here is plain. To this we must also observe that the vast majority of children who report transgender feelings grow out of those feelings. I would argue that it is irresponsible and wrong to physically alter a child’s body through surgery or hormones when we know that most of these children grow out of their gender-conflicted feelings (source).
Why, only when it comes to gender disorders, do we accept the idea that the body must be changed to fit the mind? As with those who have Body Integrity Identity Disorder, shouldn’t we rather do what we can to help the suffering person adjust his gender identity to fit his body? Shouldn’t responsible doctors likewise refuse to amputate their healthy body parts?
As it turns out, even if it weren’t problematic for doctors to agree to these surgeries, we may not be doing people any favors by removing their healthy body parts at their request. I’ve posted before about “Why the First Hospital to Do Sex-Reassignment Surgeries No Longer Does Them,” and this week Stella Morabito compiled a number of stories of people who greatly regretted their surgeries here. The stories are tragic.
We ought to have a great deal of compassion for those who have gender disorders. As with those who suffer from Body Integrity Identity Disorder, we may not be able to provide relief through changing their minds. But that doesn’t mean we should assume relief would be provided through mutilating their bodies.
As a follow-up to Melinda’s post on “death with dignity,” here’s an excerpt from a post by Wesley J. Smith titled “How Assisted Suicide Advocacy Hurts the Sick.” A friend of Smith’s who had ALS wrote this in 1997, during a time when there was a similar push for assisted suicide in the media. Since he was fighting to live, he said, “They are trying to drive me from the well-lit boulevards into the dark alley,” and he wrote “I Don’t Want a Choice to Die” for the San Francisco Chronicle explaining his anger against those who promote assisted suicide:
[A]s Chicago’s beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote to the Supreme Court just before he died: “There can be no such thing as a ‘right to assisted suicide’ because there can be no legal and moral order which tolerates the killing of innocent human life, even if the agent of death is self-administered. Creating a new ‘right’ to assisted suicide will endanger society and send a false signal that a less than ‘perfect’ life is not worth living.”
Euthanasia advocates believe they are doing people like me a favor. They are not. The negative emotions toward the terminally ill and disabled generated by their advocacy is actually at the expense of the “dying” and their families and friends. We often feel disheartened and without self-assurance because of a false picture of what it is like to die created by these enthusiasts who prey on the misinformed.
What we, the terminally ill, need is exactly the opposite — to realize how important our lives are. And our loved ones, friends, and, indeed, society need to help us feel that we are loved and appreciated unconditionally.
Instead, reporting in the media too often makes us feel like token presences, burdens who are better off dead….
If physician-assisted suicide is legally available, the right to die may become a duty to die. The hopelessly ill may be subtly pressured to get their dying over with — not only by cost-counting providers but by family members concerned about burdensome bills, impatient for an inheritance, exhausted by care-giving or just anxious to spare a loved one further suffering.
In my view, the pro-euthanasia followers’ posture is a great threat to the foundation upon which all life is based, and that is hope. I exhort everyone: Life is worth living, and life is worth receiving. I know. I live it every day.
Read the rest of what he wrote. Wesley J. Smith’s blog, Human Exceptionalism, is an excellent resource for following the latest bioethics issues in the news—surrogacy, transhumanism, euthanasia, ESCR, etc. I recommend it.
This week’s challenge is about embryonic stem cell research:
I think abortion is wrong, and it saddens me to think that hundreds of thousands of leftover embryos are going to be discarded by IVF clinics or just kept frozen. Wouldn’t it be a more meaningful life for them (and better for society) to be used for scientific research that could benefit millions of people who suffer from diseases and disabilities rather than be wasted in death or an endless frozen state?
What would you say to a friend who challenged you with this? Do you have an answer? Tell us in the comments below, then we’ll hear Alan’s response on Thursday.
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.