Saplings, Eaglets, and Little People

I want us to pause for a bit and consider a few other arguments for abortion. Judith Jarvis Thompson (and others) have put forward reasons for accepting abortion. We should listen to the best arguments and think about them because there are people who think they are doing good by supporting abortion rights for women. So, let’s have a conversation with a few of the better arguments for abortion.

First, some would say that the child (fetus, conceptus) in the womb is not a human life. Rather, they would say that it is a potential human life. Just as an acorn is not exactly an oak tree; so, the fetus is not a human baby. They would argue that it has the potential to become a tree, but it does not yet possess “tree-ness.” In the same way, the fetus does not yet possess humanness, even though it has the potential to become a human being. So, they would conclude that aborting the fetus is not killing a human being; rather, it is terminating a process which had the potential to produce a human being.

In response to this first argument, let us say we must compare apples to apples, or, in this case, acorns to acorns. The analogy does not hold between an acorn and a fetus for the simple reason that the acorn is not germinated, and the fetus is already fertilized and already in the growth process of what it is meant to become. If one were to compare an acorn to a fetus, then he would need to make the comparison between the fetus with a tender, young shoot of the acorn as it has germinated in the ground and broken through the surface of the earth. Even a sapling is not yet a tree, but we do not doubt the “tree-ness” of the sapling. If one were to pull the sapling out of the ground, we would understand that he just killed the tree, wouldn’t we?

Even more clearly, the point can be made by looking to our environmental and animal protection laws (even as crazy as some of them can be). Father Tad Pacholczyk, in an article titled “Imposing Our Beliefs on Others,” points out that our federal laws protect the eggs of eagles, yet allow for destroying the human child in development. We have seen bumper stickers like, “Save the baby whales, but kill the baby humans.” Something appears to be amiss in a culture which protects plants and animals in development but not human beings. We may wish to agree that saplings and eaglets have value and deserve a measure of protection, but wouldn’t we also want to agree that human beings have value, too?

What do you think?

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