A major story hit the pro-life circuit today. The “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (H.R. 1797), passed the House of Representatives. It imposes a 20-week gestational age limitation on abortion at the point of development purported to be when babies are capable of feeling pain. At the surface this vote appears to be a victory for the pro-life community, but let’s take a closer look to make sure.
Much like the morally noxious idea of relativism, incremental thinking focuses on a particular detail of an issue and fails to see the larger picture. Instead of thinking of babies as equally valuable individuals, who all have a right to live, this mindset separates subcategories of babies from the rest. In drawing a line in the sand to make some appear more pertinent than others, younger babies are cast aside. Those who are purported to feel pain (20 weeks) are singled out and the powers that be champion their lives. But consider the testimony of Dr. Maureen Condic, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She has testified that the unborn child is capable of reacting to pain as early as 8-10 weeks. So who do we charge with the delineation? Where does that line really lie? And is that really the issue at all?
Different But Equally Valuable
If we (rightly) realize that God loves all of His children, we soon come to the revelation that one group or another is not more worthy of saving. Whether she is a newly fertilized human being, still searching for implantation, or 20, 25, or 30 weeks in gestational age, she is an ensouled human creature of God almighty – at a different stage of life but of equal value. How then, can we differentiate? Much like the relativity of measuring our offenses against those of someone committing more atrocious offenses, this method of comparison distracts from the real issue. Moral relativism presents a quandary by removing the right or wrong of an act and displacing the wrongness of the act with a dimension of comparison. What fails to be considered is that intrinsic evil has no metering. An intrinsic evil simply is – evil.
But Won’t Incremental Victories Culminate in a Complete Win?
That has been the battle cry of many in the pro-life movement for decades now. In the past forty years, over 53 Million babies in varying stages of development have been given a death sentence. Add to this number, the fact that countless others die from the abortifacient aspect of the Pill and now Plan B, and you have a mind-boggling unknown figure. Given the fact that much incremental pro-life legislation has been passed and signed into law, one would expect the annual figures of abortions performed to drastically drop. That, however, has not happened. Even though there are now methods of abortion that can’t be documented (such as the abortion pill), and therefore are not a part of the statistics, the rate of abortions remains jarringly similar year after year. So what have all of these incremental ‘victories’ really won?
What Has Happened and How to Achieve Real Victory
What we see from the incremental approach is that the focus is misplaced. Instead of holding our representatives’ feet to the fire, we are allowing them to sidetrack us with supposedly small but important ‘victories’. Our mission should call them on their bluff and force them to face the entire picture. If it’s wrong to kill a 20 week fetus, then it’s wrong to kill a 10 week embryo and a newly fertilized egg. To further illustrate the wrong-headed thinking of incrementalism, remember that abortion for babies who feel pain is relevant whether or not they were conceived in rape or incest. If we pound out the fact that a real human life is at stake, we won’t succumb to the bait and switch tactic of ‘saving some is better than saving none’. As we have seen with the Pain Capable Act, in order for the bill to pass, the concession of rape and incest exceptions were added. This illustrates that relativism insures a lack of effectiveness of pro-life legislation. If we concede that certain pre-born children can be considered exceptions, we lose the battle for the acknowledgment of the humanity of all. Instead we create a ‘class’ of individuals who are deemed unworthy of protection and their God-given right to life – simply because of the circumstance of their conception. Natural law says otherwise and the Constitution bears it up. Are we going to fall for the flimflam or will we finally get a clue and start working for all the marbles? As Pope St. Felix III so wisely spoke:
“Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it; and indeed to neglect to confound evil men, when we can do it, is no less a sin than to encourage them.”