Tomorrow is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. As I mentioned here, in a post that was more eloquent than this one is likely to be, this day each year always leaves me somewhat tongue-tied. What are we able to say, as the years pass by, and our land continues to be governed by an abortion regime that does not permit the protection of the unborn child to any legal entity?
One thing we must not do is become jaded and embittered. I here would caution my fellow ardent pro-lifers against becoming embittered by the thought that overturning Roe v. Wade would "merely" return the issue to the states and allowing this to make us feel that overturning Roe v. Wade is not a worthy goal. Be assured: It is a worthy goal. It is a worthy goal in terms of truth-telling, for no longer would our country's Constitution be so abused and lied about as it currently is, when we are supposed to believe that the murder of the unborn is a constitutional right. It is a worthy goal in terms of the education of the minds of the young, for law is a teacher, and if you tell young women that it is their constitutional right to kill their children, they may well think that right a good thing, as will the men who wish to have sex with them without consequences. It is a worthy goal practically in terms of the solidity of the abortion license, for if the matter is returned to the states, we will have enormously greater scope for protecting unborn children. The abortion license will be able to be removed or greatly restricted in various states, making "abortionist" a less attractive career option for risk-averse doctors. It is a worthy goal in terms of the encouragement of pro-lifers, for if it becomes once more possible to protect children in law, we will no longer be tempted to the deadly discouragement that tells us that our educational efforts are at least partly pointless, since even if we converted large numbers of people to the pro-life view, they would be stymied as far as shutting down the abortion mills. It is a worthy goal in terms of protecting young women from coercion and pressure, for in those states where abortion is outlawed or greatly restricted by law, "respectable" parents, husbands, and boyfriends will no longer be able to tell the young woman they are pressuring that this is a legal option. It is a worthy goal in terms of protecting the ability of pro-lifers to protest, picket, and persuade, for it is Roe, ultimately, that serves as the justification for such additional abominations as the FACE act, and FACE, bubble zones, and the like will be easier to attack once the abortion license itself is governed only by a patchwork of state and local laws.
Do not listen to those, either on the left or on the right, who hold themselves aloof from the mainstream pro-life cause and from Sanctity of Life Sunday on the grounds that overturning Roe isn't that big of a deal after all.
And, now, on the more philosophical side and following up on my previous post, a couple of argumentative points.
I propose that pro-lifers should not agree with their opponents that it is question-begging to call the embryo or fetus a human being. In philosophical discussions with pro-choice or "agnostic" (about the pro-life position) opponents, we are usually willing to acquiesce in not repeatedly calling the unborn child an unborn child or a baby, at least not as part of our set-forth argument. But we need to call foul roundly when our opponents engage in a tactic that I will dub term-grabbing. Term-grabbing occurs when the pro-lifer uses a phrase like "human being" or "member of the human race" and his opponent claims that this is question-begging and then redefines the term so that it refers only to those members of the species homo sapiens to which he wants to grant value. At that point, suddenly, a newly conceived member of the species homo sapiens isn't even a human being! Why, no, it isn't. Only the late fetus, or the newborn child, or whatever entity the opponent wants to grant to be unkillable is a human being!
Dear readers, I submit that this is ridiculous and illicit. In other contexts, "human being" is a parallel term to "dog," "cat," or "fish." Thus to say that a human embryo is a human being is like saying that a dog embryo is a dog. The opponent wants to call the use of the phrase "human being" question-begging in this context merely because most of us know in our hearts that all human beings do indeed have value and that innocent human beings are not killable just because of their stage of development. Hence, the term "human being" does indeed prompt one to think that there is a problem with saying, "Some of these beings are killable." But that does not mean that the use of the term is question-begging. Consider the following parallel: A Peter Singer disciple wants to argue that newborn babies ought to be killable. He then proceeds to tell you, as you argue against infanticide, that you must not refer to the newborn baby as a baby or an infant, for such terms would be question-begging, even though they were previously, and are in other contexts, absolutely standard words for referring to the newborn child. Now, he insists, you must refer to the newborn child by his chosen distancing term of "neonate" while the term "baby" is reserved for a human child that is old enough for him not to regard it as killable. Term-grabbing. Don't let it pass without comment.
In that same vein, I wish to suggest that, if we do not permit term-grabbing, we are well within our rights to make note of the fact that the human being is, from conception onwards, either male or female and that a term like "girl," normally used to refer to a biological female of the species homo sapiens, can be applied to very young human beings. Which gives us the following argument:
1. All girls are human persons with a right to life.
2. A 12-week female fetus [you can plug in whatever age is most relevant to a given argumentative context here] is a girl.
3. A 12-week female fetus is a human person with a right to life.
Your opponent will then have to deny one of the premises. Heh.
Blessings upon all of you who fight for the cause of the sanctity of human life. I will quote again here the encouraging words of Fr. Neuhaus:
Whether, in this great contest between the culture of life and the culture of death, we were recruited many years ago or whether we were recruited only yesterday, we have been recruited for the duration. We go from this convention refreshed in our resolve to fight the good fight. We go from this convention trusting in the words of the prophet Isaiah that “they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
The journey has been long, and there are miles and miles to go. But from this convention the word is carried to every neighborhood, every house of worship, every congressional office, every state house, every precinct of this our beloved country—from this convention the word is carried that, until every human being created in the image and likeness of God—no matter how small or how weak, no matter how old or how burdensome—until every human being created in the image and likeness of God is protected in law and cared for in life, we shall not weary, we shall not rest. And, in this the great human rights struggle of our time and all times, we shall overcome.