Friday, 18 April 2008

Abortion and the beginning of life

Two of the US presidential candidates were recently asked if life begins at conception or not. In case you just arrived from another planet, the significance of this question is that if life does begin at conception, then abortion can only be classified as murder. Here are their answers:

Barack Obama: This is something that I have not come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means — when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.

Hillary Clinton: Potential for life begins at conception. . . I am a Methodist, as you know. My church has struggled with this issue. In fact, you can look at the Methodist Book of Discipline and see the contradiction and the challenge of trying to sort that very profound question out. But for me, it is also not only about a potential life — it is about the other lives involved. And, therefore, I have concluded, after great concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, that our task should be in this pluralistic, diverse life of ours in this nation that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.
Both candidates are, their voting records show, strong supporters of a right to abortion. Senator Obama has even put on record, in the Illinois  Senate, his support for the right to kill disabled babies even immediately after birth, as well as before it.

There are many things that we could say about the above two answers. There's one point I wanted to make though. It's to take a step back and point out that the answers both show that pro-abortionists are badly losing the intellectual debate. Both candidates, when all is trimmed away, say "I don't know" in answer to the question "does life begin at conception?" That means, they also don't know if abortion is immoral and if modern states are turning a blind eye to the murdering of millions of the most vulnerable every year. It means they don't know if abortion is on the one hand an important human right, or on the other hand the greatest moral atrocity of modern times. They're both campaigning to become the most powerful person in the world, but this fundamental question... well, they're not decided. Hmmm.

Why does this mean that pro-abortionists are losing the debate? Because, a generation ago, they confidently exclaimed that life did not begin at conception; at that point we were just dealing with a blob of cells. This was the whole basis for legitimising abortion - at that point, we were told, there was nothing more than an unwanted growth in the womb, which could be dealt with however we pleased - even up to 18, 22 or 26 weeks, depending on what figure you felt like plucking out of the air when you got out of bed this morning.

That position is now untenable. Babies have been born, and survived, at less than 22 weeks. Babies have been born, and died, younger than that - and nobody dares say they weren't real babies whilst they were struggling for their little lives. Modern technology has allowed the most amazing insights into the baby's life within the womb, showing their highly developed existence even at half the number of weeks mentioned above. Through modern scientific answers, we know that once a baby has been conceived, all it needs is protection and nourishment to make it into the outside world: there are no fundamental subsequent stages in its existence that can be pinpointed as "the beginning of life" rather than at conception. That's leaving aside the moral and philosophical arguments.

In the light of these answers, pro-abortionists have it tough. It's become increasingly untenable to say "that thing's not alive, so it's OK to hack it to pieces - it's not a moral issue!" They're now reduced to saying we don't know. If at this stage you can't work out which side of the debate is in the right, you're in real trouble...

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