Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is it human?

Yesterday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Abortion was a political controversy before "Roe" removed it from the normal give and take of politics and made it a Constitutional right - thus depriving state lawmakers of the ability to give any legal protection to humans before they are born. Public opinion, however, has been shifting against abortion - even in liberal communities like mine. It took many years for the struggle to abolish slavery to succeed. This fight, like that one, will eventually succeed and the time will come, God willing, when those who argued for "choice" will be viewed in the same light as those who once justified slavery.

For those who have bothered to think seriously about the issue there are two fundamental questions. First, at what point does a "human being" exist? And, second, do all innocent [non-criminal] human beings deserve to have their lives legally protected? The first issue is addressed in an exchange at NRO that can be found here.

One participant argues that a human embryo deserves no more protection than stem cells - using pictures to make his point - contending, essentially, that if they look alike, they are alike - neither of them "human."

The response to that argument concludes:
An embryo and a stem cell are not the same thing, any more than an adult human and a liver or stomach is the same thing. The embryo, like the adult, is a self-integrating whole, a complete member of the species at a certain developmental stage. The stem cell, like the liver, is merely a part. The human embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, and adult differ not as to what they intrinsically are - they are human beings - but in respect of their age, size, stage of development, and condition of dependency.

Once that biological truth is firmly in view, one can then shift to the key ethical question: Do human beings possess inherent and equal dignity? Or does the dignity of a human being depend upon or vary with his or her age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency? Our view, which we have defended in various writings, is that the dignity of human beings is inherent and that all of us, as members of the human family, are created equal.
Source: Letters on Embryo on National Review Online

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