In an interview posted today on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Frank Beckwith explains, “[B]y excluding the unborn from the human community, and claiming that this being is not the sort of human that requires the law to protect it, the state is in fact making a non-neutral claim: The unborn child is not one of us.”
He uses an illustration to clarify the truth that unborn human beings are, in fact, persons who can be wronged by our treatment of them:
Pro-lifers, with few exceptions, argue that the unborn is a moral subject (i.e., a person) from the moment it comes into being at conception, because it is an individual human being and all human beings have a personal nature, even when they are not presently exercising the powers that flow from that nature’s essential properties. These essential properties include capacities for personal expression, rational thought, and moral agency. The maturation of these capacities is the perfection of a human being’s nature. Contrary to what some abortion-choice critics claim, the human fetus can be wronged even before it can know it has been wronged.
To understand the pro-lifer’s point, consider this example. Imagine that an abortion-choice scientist wants to harvest human organs without harming human beings that are persons. In order to accomplish this, he first brings several embryos into being through in vitro fertilization. He then implants them in artificial wombs, and while they develop, he obstructs their neural tubes so that they may never acquire higher brain functions, and thus they cannot become what the typical prochoice advocate considers “persons.”
Suppose, upon hearing of this scientist’s grisly undertaking, a group of pro-life radicals breaks into his laboratory and transports all the artificial wombs (with all the embryos intact) to another laboratory located in the basement of the Vatican. While there, several pro-life scientists inject the embryos with a drug that heals their neural tubes and allows for their brains to develop normally. After nine months, the former fetuses, now infants, are adopted by loving families.
If you think what the pro-life scientists did was not only good but an act that justice requires, it seems that you must believe that embryos are beings of a personal nature ordered toward certain perfections which it is wrong to obstruct. This is why pro-life advocates would say that human embryos are not potential persons, but rather, that they are persons with potential.
Since this week marks the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, today's challenge is a question a Planned Parenthood employee asked Alan during some pro-life apologetics field training he was doing with students on the streets of Portland*:
"So, how many babies have you adopted?"
What's your response? Tell us what you think, and on Thursday we'll hear Alan's advice.
*See here if you're interested in having Alan give your students "Pro-Life Field Training." A description of the experience:
Whether you're a pro-life beginner interested in learning the arguments, or you'd like to become a more effective advocate for the unborn, or you're simply looking for an unusual option for a retreat, Alan has created an immersive pro-life experience for your student or adult group. The training—a mixture of classwork and in-the-field experience—provides rigorous instruction in the art of pro-life persuasion using proven scientific and philosophical arguments, role-play of common abortion-related conversations, and real-life engagement/discussion with pro-choice advocates. At the end of the classwork portion, your group will be taken to a local urban area to survey pedestrians about their views on abortion, creating opportunities for you to practice your newly-learned pro-life skills. It's an event that's certain to test, sharpen, and strengthen your pro-life ideas and arguments. (Length of time: two to four days. Groups in Southern California need not schedule the training on consecutive days.)
Alan’s and Brett’s January newsletters are now posted on the website:
Pro-Life Killing: An Oxymoron? by Alan Shlemon: “Many [pro-choicers] believe pro-lifers are being inconsistent. They claim that if we believe the unborn is a human being like every other person, then killing an abortion doctor wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. After all, their reasoning goes, if a man attempts to kill a toddler, deadly force might be justified to defend the child. Therefore, if we believe the unborn is morally equivalent to a toddler, then killing a doctor before they perform an abortion may be a permissible defensive act…. But pro-lifers neither advocate nor condone killing abortion doctors. This fact, abortion-choice advocates believe, betrays our true beliefs: We don’t think the unborn are true human beings. Therefore, we’re either inconsistent or we don’t believe what we say about the unborn. I disagree…. [D]efending a toddler with deadly force is not parallel to defending the unborn with deadly force. Three differences come to mind.” (Read more)
Getting Students off the Sidelines and into the Game by Brett Kunkle: “When we create opportunities for students to engage, there is a vibrancy that infuses the events. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Our teaching should not remain in a classroom or behind the four walls of the church. If we want to train students who can defend the faith not just intelligently but passionately, we need to get them in the game. Think about any sports teams. It’s the starters who are the most passionate about the game, right?... I think that’s one reason why our mission trips to Berkeley and Utah are exciting and successful. They get students in the game.” (Read more)
As it’s the last day of the year, here are some posts from 2013 with ideas to help you make a study plan for 2014:
A Plan to Begin a Year of Learning – “Everything on this list is written at a level that a layperson can understand—there's nothing too technical or overly academic. It will give you a good foundation in the Bible (which is most important), cover a few topics in apologetics that are big right now, and give you tools on how to think and have productive conversations.”
Meet the Bible Before You Read It – “As part of their current series on ‘How to Read the Bible,’ the White Horse Inn posted some lectures by Michael Horton (about 30 minutes each) introducing and summarizing each of the major sections of the Bible, explaining how each part fits into the whole. (Related articles, books, audio, and other study aids are included in the links below.) Take the time to listen this month, and you’ll be ready to start reading on January 1.”
You Can Change Our Culture’s Mind on Abortion – “Making the pro-life case is completely within your ability, I promise you. You just need to arm yourself with some information, a game plan, and some tools to help you get started. So I’ve put together a short list of resources, chosen for their simplicity, clarity, and accessibility. There are no textbooks in this list, and you don’t have to be a philosopher to understand any of this material…. I confined my list to a few essentials that cover the basics and will effectively equip anyone wanting to enter into this fight for universal human rights.”
Here are some popular posts (measured by number of page views in 2013) you may have missed this year. Enjoy!
10. Truth, Conviction, and Jesus Are Relevant – A story about a youth-group-member-turned-atheist shows that attempts to be relevant are making us irrelevant by crowding out what makes Christianity unique.
9. You Can Change Our Culture’s Mind on Abortion – “Making the pro-life case is completely within your ability, I promise you. You just need to arm yourself with some information, a game plan, and some tools to help you get started. So I’ve put together a short list of resources, chosen for their simplicity, clarity, and accessibility.”
7. Should Homosexual Couples Be Allowed to Adopt? – “The real question is whether a child who needs to be adopted is best served by a heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple – all things being equal. The question focuses on the needs of the child, not the wants of homosexuals who are politically motivated to normalize same-sex marriage and parenting.”
5. Be Ready to Discuss Same-Sex Marriage Today – “To equip you for…conversation, Ryan Anderson has a helpful, concise article titled ‘5 Things You Need to Know about the Supreme Court’s Marriage Cases.’ Here are the five things he covers….”
4. The Best Question to Ask When Starting a Conversation About God – “Ever found yourself looking for a way to initiate a conversation about God, but not sure exactly how to start?... I’ve tried a number of approaches. I continue to return to one simple, effective question, however, to start the most important of all conversations….”
3. It’s Not About Equality – When it comes to discussions about same-sex marriage, here’s an approach “that can help you move your conversations past the charge that you want to deny people equal rights to the real question: What is marriage?”
[Scientists] have learned how to reprogram adult cells so that they can do many things an embryonic cell can do. No human embryos are destroyed in the process. Along the way, embryonic stem cells—just a decade ago hailed as the future of medicine—have largely been bypassed. Some researchers still use them, but for now, the future belongs to adult stem cells and iPS cells, which are adult cells genetically reprogrammed to express specific genes.
Every year for the past 10 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded more adult stem cell research compared with embryonic research. For 2012, NIH grants totaled $146.5 million for embryonic stem cell research, but $504 million for adult stem cell research—a difference of $357.5 million. And the belief that adult stem cells are more promising than embryonic stem cells for therapies is now largely mainstream.
Why did I stop identifying as pro-life? Quite simply, I learned that increasing contraceptive use, not banning abortion, was the key to decreasing the number of abortions. Given that the pro-life movement focuses on banning abortion and is generally opposed [to] advocating greater contraceptive use, I knew that I no longer fit. I also knew that my biggest allies in decreasing the number of abortions were those who supported increased birth control use – in other words, pro-choice progressives. And so I stopped calling myself pro-life.
Are you making a mistake by taking the pro-life position? Would you actually be more pro-life if you were pro-choice? How would you respond to this challenge? Make your case in the comments below, and then on Thursday, Alan will post his response.
[Update: View the video response from Alan. Explore past challenges here and here.]