Christians and Abortion – Ignorance, apathy and shame

15 Feb

slave

Christianity and Slavery

It shouldn’t be a particular surprise to anyone that most Christians ethical views are influenced and informed far more by the media and the cultural zeitgeist than by a Christian world-view. What this means is that most Christians tend to be ignorant about a number of things that are shaping the minds and practices of people here in the UK. One example I will focus on specifically is that of abortion. I don’t think it would be an over statement to claim that abortion is the twenty first centuries ethical equivalent of the chattel slavery so prevalent in the nineteenth century. If anything it is far worse, and like slavery it has serious cultural consequences with respect to how we view certain groups of people within our society. In Wilberforce’s day the big question was whether or not it was wrong to treat black people as inferior to whites and therefore justifiably use them as a means for their desired profitable ends as slaves. The answer to this questions would affect how you would view and therefore treat them, because if they weren’t a human ‘person’ with moral value then there really was little problem with chattel slavery.

Thankfully, led by a number of Evangelicals, non-conformist Christians and secularists legalised slavery was ended in 1833. They argued that since all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore endowed with certain rights, one of which was not to be forced into slavery and treated as a mere possession. At a great cost to the British economy slavery was made illegal and subsequently political pressure was put on other countries to follow the British lead. Those in opposition to legalised chattel slavery were known as abolitionists, they did a number of things to change the public perception of slaves. Wilberforce for example published  life-like paintings that demonstrated the reality of modern slavery and sent shock-waves through society as they brought what was hidden away on imperialist plantations to the streets of Britain’s cities. Josiah Wedgwood produced the now famous anti-slavery medallions which stated ‘Am I not a man and a brother?‘ hoping to kick apathy into disgust.

These abolitionists realised that if a culture is apathetic and ignorant about how a particular group of human beings are treated then nothing will change, people will remain ignorant and apathetic. What the abolitionists realised was that their culture must be shamed into action.We are currently in the same position in regards to abortion. Continue reading

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A Response to Peter D Williams – The use of graphic abortion images

18 Oct

This article is in response to Peter D Williams recent article over at the Catholic Herald here. I must start by making it clear that I fully appreciate Williams point of view and other great work but maintain that he is mistaken on this point.

For some reason Williams feel it necessary like pro-abortion advocates to mention that showing images of abortion is in some way related to the US as if that’s something inherently negative or even relevant. Yes, Abort67 may be supported by The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform an American organisation, but that’s of little relevance when its realised that the practice of displaying graphic images was something that has its roots here in the UK and was in fact an export to the US rather than the other way round. Even if this were not the case, images and arguments have neither gender or nationality and should be allowed to speak for themselves regardless of who does or doesn’t practice using them. It was in fact William Wilberforce who first commissioned images of human slavery to demonstrate to the public the horrific reality of slavery to those who were either ignorant or apathetic to the plight of African slaves.

Wilberforce realised that it’s extremely difficult to argue with an image, these images made it difficult for people to ignore the obvious evil of slavery and made it increasingly difficult to justify. That’s not to say that people still didn’t try to justify slavery much like people still do today in the case of abortion for economic purposes, as if the value of a human life is trumped by financial circumstances. This is the strength of abortion images, they encroach on the area of support and appeal to our most basic intuitions and conscience leaving room for only irrationality or blind obedience to a radical pro-choice ideology.

Williams then argues that showing abortion images is counter-productive for the UK pro-life lobby and thus we should be in ‘total opposition’ to such tactics. He thinks that even if it does indeed stop some abortions it will ultimately cause offence and harden hearts, I can only imagine that this sort of thing was also said by well meaning Christians in response to Wilberforce’s use of images of slavery. Of course images may offend, but more importantly they make it impossible for abortion to remain hidden, socially acceptable and out of the public’s eye and instead make it something that must be addressed head on rather than swept under the cultural carpet. This of course is not to say that this is the only thing pro-life advocates should be doing but its certainly one important and vital cog in the whole operation, even if it makes some people uncomfortable.

Certainly not everyone is going to be ecstatic at seeing an abortion image, but I speak for myself and a number of others I personally know where the use of images has been instrumental in changing their politically correct views into philosophical and scientifically defensible ones.

Williams then states that because displaying abortion images may result in false accusations and lies that we should avoid using them so the pro-life lobby doesn’t get charactered in the same way. Again going back to the use of images of slavery, it could be argued that slavery eventually would have been outlawed had images not been employed, of course this may have been the case, but it happened much quicker and effectively by using them! The truth is that when images are displayed near abortion clinics, they are silent protests, trained women are there to council women if they want to talk, there is no shouting or intimidation, just displays of what abortion does to the unborn. If pro-aborts wish to distort what happens that is up to them but we shouldn’t stop doing something that has proven to be effective because we wish to avoid mud sticking to our cause.

There seems to be no perfect way of practising pro-life advocacy in the UK which is why I think its important that we use a variety of different approaches, some of which different people will be more comfortable with than others. Similarly this applies when preaching the gospel, some like Alpha, others street preaching and door-knocking. Each has individual strengths and weaknesses but I would never tell someone not to preach the gospel because I disagreed with their particular approach assuming that it was done with the right heart. It may be true that some may be further hardened by seeing an abortion image but likewise it may change other peoples minds who otherwise wouldn’t have known the reality of abortion by other means. The article from the Vitae Foundation is an interesting piece even if it is based on anecdotal observations but as I’ve stated such methods must be used in partnership with other methods and are not in themselves stand alone approaches. To think otherwise is both simplistic and unrealistic.

Sometimes a picture says more than words ever can.

The ‘gentler’ approach used by Williams may make us more friends in the short-term but ultimately abortion is something urgent and it should be treated as such whether that wins us friends or not, whether we are preaching the gospel or being pro-life advocates we should not go looking for trouble or even intend it but sometimes the truth has a habit of causing controversy and conflict (Luke 12:51-53). The goal of pro-life advocacy is not to make friends but to speak the truth in love by doing what is necessary to raise awareness of the person-hood and rights of the unborn. Crisis Pregnancy Centres and the like do an amazing work and service but I think more is needed and I think the use of images can be affective at University campuses and near abortion clinics. Perhaps standing outside abortion clinics isn’t ideal but I can’t help but think that it’s a necessary endeavour that in partnership with a number of different approaches can and will have a dramatic affect on our society. We need to make sure women are cared for and valued themselves and given any help they need to help them support their baby whilst endeavouring to create a society where the unborn are valued, and a culture that doesn’t see killing as a possible solution.

Francis Beckwith on Function and Personhood

11 Sep

‘Because one can only develop certain functions by nature (i.e, a result of basic, intrinsic capacities) because of the sort of being one is, a human being, at every stage of her development is never a potential person; she is always a person with potential even if that potential is never actualized due to premature death or the result of the absence or deformity of a physical state necessary to actualize that potential. For example, a human being without vocal cords in a society in which there are no artificial or transplant vocal cords never loses the potential to speak, but she will in fact never speak because she lacks a physical state necessary to actualize that potential.’ – Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life, p.134

The Logic of ‘Pro-Choice’: Why Abortion is Murder

29 Aug

This article was originally written and published at Apologetics UK by Daniel Ventress.

Recently, a pair of ethicists, Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of Melbourne University, authored a paper that was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled: “After-Birth: Why Should the Baby Live?”[1] In said paper, they argued in favour of what they refer to as “after-birth abortion” purely on the basis of current pro-choice arguments. Whilst those of us within the Church have been arguing that the arguments in favour of abortion apply equally to those outside of the womb too, the scary thing here is that these ethicists are serious advocates of killing newborn children. Let’s think about this.

The argument presented by these two “ethicists” is as follows:
1. Post-birth abortion and pre-birth abortion are morally equivalent.
2. Pre-birth abortion is morally acceptable.
3. Therefore, post-birth abortion is morally acceptable.

However, since premise two is what is under debate, this is clearly an example of begging the question. Furthermore, the conclusion flies in the face of our moral experiences. Given that the immorality of killing newborn babies is much more plausible and obviously true than the alleged morality of killing unborn babies, the correct argument should be:

1. Post-birth abortion and pre-birth abortion are morally equivalent.
2. Post-birth abortion is morally unacceptable.
3. Therefore, pre-birth abortion is morally unacceptable.

The crucial premise, however, is, of course, the first one. I assume most pro-choice advocates are at least rational and moral enough to recognise that killing newborn babies is morally wrong. The question is, are post-birth and pre-birth abortion morally equivalent? The usual strategy is to deny that unborn children possess one or more properties that would typically embue them with protection from being killed. This is evident in how advocates of abortion use language that attempts to dehumanise the unborn, such as referring to them as “foetuses” instead of children. The top four properties that pro-abortion advocates deny the unborn possess are as follows:

1. Being a life form.
2. Being human.
3. Being biologically distinct from the mother.
4. Possessing personhood.

Sometimes you will even see pro-abortion advocates claim that unborn children are “parasites,’ and thus attributing to them the property of being a parasitic organism (again, trying to dehumanise them.) Let us look at these. The first two seem blatantly false. To be considered alive, something has to meet a set of criteria that most of where presumably taught in middle school via an entertaining acronym of some kind. There are certain characteristics that something must possess in order to be considered a living organism.[2] In order to be a living organism, something must have signalling and self-sustaining processes: the ability to undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce, and adapt to their environment via natural selection via successive generations. This is the scientific definition of life, and an unborn child possesses all of these.

As for whether or not unborn children are human, this is a claim that does not even merit a response. Any DNA test would be enough to refute this. Furthermore, arbitrarily declaring unborn children to be non-human presents other difficulties. At what point does an unborn child magically become human? How could two human beings produce non-human offspring? The third claim is similarly ridiculous, which, again, a simple DNA test can disprove. It is the issue if personhood, however, that is most intriguing. Personhood is a philosophical concept, but one that is difficult to define. For sake of argument, we shall use the following criteria. P is a person iff:
i. P is a rational being.
ii. P is a being to which states of consciousness can be attributed.
iii. Others regard (or can regard) P as a being to which states of consciousness can be attributed.
iv. P is capable of regarding other beings as beings to which states of consciousness can be attributed.
v. P is capable of communication.
vi. P is self-conscious; that is P is capable of regarding him/her/itself as a subject of states of consciousness.

The problem with this strategy is that whole classes of humans would lose their right to life. For example, newborns lack many of the characteristics most would consider necessary for personhood. Thus, if unborn children can be freely slaughtered in the womb in as consequence free an environment as possible, then it follows that the same applies to newborns who similarly lack personhood. For how can a newborn be considered rational? How is a newborn capable of regarding him or herself as a being to which states of consciousness can be attributed? How can a newborn regard others as being to which states of consciousness be attributed? No, the right to life is a basic human right. Given that unborn children are biologically human, it follows that the right of life be extended to them also. To deny them that right thus seems completely arbitrary. Thus, when people attempt to deny that unborn children do not have a right to life, then it strikes me as being extremely sinister and reminiscent of eugenics programs.

The tactic of alleging that unborn children are parasites, however, seems to me particularly odd given that the same pro-abortion advocates tend to simultaneously claim that women have a right to their own body and so can freely terminate their own unborn children, thus implying that an unborn child is not biologically distinct from the mother. Consistency apparently isn’t for everybody. Nonetheless, even if they aren’t implying that, there are those who do make that argument. Either way, are unborn children parasites? Once again, let us look at what it means to be a parasite. A parasite is a member of one species living in or on a member of another species, whereas an unborn child is a member of one species living in the uterine cavity of a member of the same species. This is an obligatory dependent relationship, not a parasitic relationship. A parasite is an invading organism from an outside source, whereas an unborn child is formed from a fertilised egg that comes from within the mother’s body, an inside source.[3]

Other inconsistencies include a parasite remaining with the host as long as it or the host lives, whereas an unborn child is eventually born. A parasite is detrimental to the reproductive capabilities of the hose, whereas an unborn child is absolutely essential to the mother’s reproductive capability as an unborn child must begin the first stages of their life in this way in order for the mother to successfully reproduce. Parasites usually involves an immunological response on the part of the host, whereas an unborn children is rendered immune to this response by the trophoblast. A parasite likewise also sometimes triggers a response from the host body that attempts to cut the parasite off, whereas an unborn child evokes no such response. In fact, the mother’s tissue established close contact between the child and his or her mother. Lastly, parasites are usually harmful to the host, whereas an unborn child is not.

Thus, we can see that unborn children aren’t parasites. Simply killing unborn children for being biologically dependent upon their mothers is not valid either. As aforementioned, a second strategy amongst pro-abortion advocates claim that a woman has a right to her own body. Thus, since an unborn child is dependant upon a woman’s body, it is morally permissible for the mother to terminate that child according to pro-abortion advocates. This is erroneous for several reasons. First of all, the most that could be granted is that it would be permissible for a woman to have her unborn child removed, not outright killed whilst still in the womb (which is what abortion is.) Secondly, a right is an exclusive claim that does not refer to other people. So, a woman does have a right to her own body. However, an inclusive claim that affects other people is invalid and not a right. People simply do not have the right to kill another human being. Now, the pro-abortion advocate might respond that there are some instances where it is morally acceptable to kill another person. I do not dispute this, however, in offering the above argument in favour of abortion, pro-abortion advocates are simply begging the question that abortion is morally permissible.

What is under question here is whether or not killing an unborn child is morally permissible if a woman decided to exercise her right to her own body by killing her unborn child. It is my contention that this is simply not the case. Let us consider the example of conjoined twins. These are twins whose bodies are fused together in some respect. Sometimes, a pair of conjoined twins share body parts. In such a scenario, each individual has a right to their own body. However, suppose that one twin wants to be separated from the other in order to have a better, more functional life. Would it be morally permissible for this twin to remove the other twin whilst keeping the body parts they share? Unless the other twin consented, then the answer would obviously be no. Now, whilst an unborn child does share body parts with the mother, it IS on the other hand connected via an umbilical chord to the mother. In order to remove the unborn child, this chord must be severed, which would lead to the unborn child dying. However, as we have seen with the conjoined twin example, it would be immoral to eliminate a person biologically dependant upon you without their consent.

Another example which is analogous but not exactly similar is how a newborn child is dependant upon his or her mother for his or her survival. Newborns need to be fed, clothed, and looked after by adults in order to survive into childhood, and even in childhood retain some level of dependence upon their parents. Newborns, however, are completely helpless and defenceless and require others to do everything for them. Now, people have a right to their own property. What if the parents one day decided that they did not want their child and decided to exercise their right to their own property and remove their child from their property by dumping them elsewhere? This would necessarily result in the newborn’s death if they were not happened upon by well-meaning passer-bys. All rational and moral people would agree that this is immoral. So, why is it moral for a woman to directly kill her child simply because it happens to inhabit her womb? There are simply no good, valid reasons for doing so. The human right to life applies to all humans.

A third tactic of pro-abortion advocates is usually to resort to bringing up cases of rape, incest, et al. Of course, this is not an argument. A pro-abortion advocate would need to show that these are morally permissible reasons to abort an unborn child. Secondly, simply showing that there are some cases were abortion is morally permissible does not somehow mean that all abortions are morally acceptable. Is abortion in cases of rape morally acceptable? It is hard for me to see how killing an unborn child is morally acceptable. As many pro-life advocates ask, how is it moral to punish an innocent child for something it had no control over? In cases where the mother’s life is in danger, then it would be moral perhaps to attempt removing the unborn child early, but, of course, this is again not a legitimate reason for killing said child. However, the primary reasons why women have abortions are for ‘social reasons.'[4] The top reasons given are:
a) It would interfere with work, school, etc.
b) It would be too expensive to raise a child
c) Family problems
d) Too young
e) To limit childbearing.

None of these are valid reasons to kill a newborn child, so why are they considered valid reasons to kill an unborn child? Why do allegedly sane, rational people crave unborn blood so fiercely? There simply is no justification for the life-destroying myth that abortion is morally acceptable. Abortion is simply murder and is at every level immoral.

Notes:
1 Will Heaven, “‘After-birth abortion’ is logically sound: that’s why it will boost the pro-life movement,” The Telegraph, February 29th 2012, http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/willheaven/100140331/after-birth-abortion-is-logically-sound-thats-why-it-will-boost-the-pro-life-movement (Accessed August 28th 2012)
2 Daniel E. Koshland Jr., ‘The Seven Pillars of Life, Science, 22, March 2002, http://www.sciencemag.org/content/295/5563/2215.full (Accessed August 18th 2012) and Chris P. McKay, ‘What is Life—and How Do We Search for It in Other Worlds?,’ PLoS Biology, September 14th 2004 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC516796/?tool=pubmed(Accessed August 28th 2012) See also: http://www.buildingthepride.com/faculty/pgdavison/BI%20101/Overview%20Fall%202004.htm
3 Thomas L. Johnson, ‘Why the Embryo or Fetus Is Not a Parasite,’ Libertarians for Life, 1974, http://www.l4l.org/library/notparas.html (Accessed August 28th 2012)
4 Akinrinola Bankole, Susheela Singh and Taylor Haas, ‘Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries,’ International Family Planning Perspectives Volume 24, Number 3, September 1998, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/2411798.html (Accessed August 28th 2012) and: Lawrence B. Finer, Lori F. Frohwirth, Lindsay A. Dauphinee, Susheela Singh and Ann M. Moore, ‘Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives,’ Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005, 37(3):110–118, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/psrh/full/3711005.pdf (Accessed august 28th 2012) See Also: Kelly Clinger, ‘Twenty weeks pregnant with twins, but last week she had an abortion,’Life Site News, August 13th 2012, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/twenty-weeks-pregnant-with-twins-but-last-week-she-had-an-abortion (Accessed August 28th 2012)

Video

Christopher Hitchens Pro-life?

26 Aug

Jay Watts on Abortion and the Hard Cases

22 Aug

Abortion and the case of rape, incest or risk to the life of the mother are often brought up in discussions, Jay Watts does an expert job in explaining the pro-life case in these challenging circumstances.

Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Listen here.

Naomi Wolf on the Presentation of Abortion Images

6 Aug
“The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers’ practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics…[But] how can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. Besides, if these images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted with them, then we are making the judgement that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision. This view is unworthy of feminism.” – Pro-choice feminist Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” New Republic, October 16, 1995, p. 32.
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