Or, “Stop Insisting that I Hate Women and Thump Bibles Just Because I Take a Viewpoint You Oppose.”
A guest post by Pete Hitzeman
I am a Christian. I am a conservative. I am Pro-Life. But I am not a Republican, nor a fundamentalist, nor am I part of any alleged war on women. I am a libertarian (lower-case “L” intentional), who believes in things like the Fair Tax, limited drug legalization, electoral reform and a host of other causes that are as excellent as they are unlikely to ever be enacted. I draw the ire of friends and family members of all political persuasions with at least one of my views, such as my refusal to vote for a Republican candidate who I believe to be disingenuous just to oppose a Democrat candidate.
But nothing will so quickly alienate me from many of my friends and family than my stance on abortion. I am ardently and unabashedly Pro-Life, something that can bring even the warmest of friends to the verge of hurling obscenities. I must hate women and disrespect them. I must not believe that women have authority over their bodies. Surely my poor wife must be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, while I drag my knuckles around my cave and grunt. Equally, my Christian friends would shun me because I believe the Christian Right has done more damage than good to the Pro Life movement, and I’m not afraid to say so. To them I must be an atheist in Christian clothing, a heretic, a sympathizer of evil.
None of that is true, and this is why. My Christian faith does establish for me the sanctity of human life, and by that the evil nature of murder. But even most of my atheist friends would agree that innocent human life must be protected. Whether you believe, as I do, that we are made in the image of God, or that we are all simply stardust, everyone recognizes that the human race is something special, something different, something entirely apart from all the rest of known creation.
So the issue was never about protecting human life, because we all agree that that is a noble thing. The disagreement lies in the qualification of human life, and the characterization of the development of that life within the womb. And this is where I believe abortion advocates, more than those who oppose it, suspend their belief not in God, but in science.
At the moment of conception, the genetic information of each parent is combined into a new, unique, distinct and wholly other entity. It is a new, living organism by every definition, and so is no longer a part of the woman’s body, only contained within and supported by it. Further, the new organism is most definitely human, because its genetic makeup says so. It could not become a frog or a chicken or a palm tree, only a human being.
Inasmuch as one’s rights extend only to the point that they violate someone else’s, there is no such thing as a one’s right to terminate the life of another innocent human being. The new organism inside the woman is human, and it is alive. This is according to biology, not theology. It has committed no crime against the mother or society, and so is innocent. Any further argument regarding abortion depends entirely on some ambiguous definition of personhood, a definition that relies much more heavily on faith (of the secular variety) than science, and that has some truly dangerous and frightening conclusions if it is followed. Under the more vague definitions of personhood, the practice of eugenics becomes the only logical outcome.
This is where members of the Christian Right fall into an insidious trap. In their eagerness to embrace and proclaim their faith, they wail that abortion is wrong because God says so. That may be true, but it will never be a winning argument with an increasingly atheist society, because it is meaningless to them. And then they introduce instantly doomed initiatives like the Personhood movement, which can never succeed so long as its proponents push it as a faith initiative instead of a legal one. Abortion law was decided by the government, so only the people, through the government, can change it.
Even more uncomfortable for my moderate friends is the fact that the definitions I laid out above allow for no exceptions. There is nothing in the process I described that makes a child resulting from a rape less alive or less human, and certainly not less innocent. The exposure of the fallacy of sub-human life in the womb makes us face the cold reality that evil has terrible consequences. We, as a flawed race, as a woefully imperfect society, must come to terms with those consequences, and work to exterminate the evil, rather than the result.
Beyond that, if we admit to abortion being what it is, namely the termination of a human life, we then have to examine our own fault in the perpetuation of a great evil in itself. No one wants to admit complicity or support for evil, even if it was unwitting. But as we once were forced to confront and expunge slavery from our culture, so too must we face the unjust extermination of millions of innocent human lives, in order to avoid suffering or inconvenience ourselves.
And so, exiled by friends and family from all sides of the argument, I will take my advice from John Adams, and will “always stand on principle, even if [I] stand alone.”