After having read Democratic Candidate for US Congress (NJ, 4th Dist.) Brian Froelich's blog piece on the Patch titled "It's Not Junk Science" I felt it necessary to take the opportunity to address what I believe is his charge that the Pro Life Platform, most notably Pro-Life Republicans, is rooted in people wanting to impose their religious beliefs on others while denying the "rights" of women that may not hold the same beliefs.
It is without doubt that his piece and so many others in the mainstream media as well as elsewhere on The Patch are a result of the comments made a week or so ago by Republican Representative Todd Akin from Missouri where he stated that women "rarely" get pregnant if they are victims of "legitimate rape". I will readily admit that Mr. Akin's inability to articulate a clear and concise Pro Life position compounded by his no less than idiotic substantiation that a woman's body can "shut down" during a rape to prevent pregnancy has made the Pro Life Platform an easy target for those to cry "religious zealots".
All too often the Pro-Life Platform is defined by its opposition, it is characterized by those on the Pro-Choice side of the aisle as against women's "rights" and wanting to impose its "religious views" on others. Very rarely can any individual of any prominent public attention, be it a politician, an actor, or an activist citizen make a clear and concise case for being Pro Life, and to be honest, even if they could, I highly doubt they would get the media attention required to allow the articulate definition of the Platform to be conveyed to the masses.
Despite what Mr. Froelich has presented, the Pro-Life Platform is NOT a religious one. It is NOT a religious view sought by zealots wishing to impose their "beliefs" on "non-believers". I say this to you as a Roman Catholic. I mention my faith specifically because I do not hold the Pro-Life position because I am Catholic, I defend it because I am Catholic. You may be asking yourself "what's the difference?" and there really is a simple explanation as to what the difference is.
If being Pro Life were a religious belief it would solely be argued on Biblical grounds by quoting scripture, the problem with that method is the Bible is silent on abortion, it does not come right out and say "thou shalt not abort". So if the Pro-Life Platform is not a religious one, why is it mostly defended and espoused by people of faith? This too is pretty simple, people of faith tend to believe in truth, moral truth to be exact, and it is their religious beliefs that move them to defend that truth.
I would highly doubt anyone reading this article would disagree with me that examples of moral truth are the fact that you should not kill a stranger because they cut you off while driving, you should not kill your neighbor because their dog pees on your grass, and you should not kill your child because he or she misbehaves in the supermarket. These are without question, simple, moral, truths. I highly doubt any community of faith would be so readily attacked defending the aforementioned moral truths as they are for defending the Pro-Life Platform.
So you may ask "if the Pro-Life Platform is not based on religion, what is it based on?" and to this there is also a simple answer. Truth. The truth that willingly killing an innocent human life is morally wrong. With that being said, the crux of the debate is no more than this, what is the unborn? If the unborn is simply a mass of cells not unlike those that shed from our skin or makeup our hair then there really isn't a debate at all is there? Unfortunately science tells us otherwise.
The Scientific Community has for quite some time acknowledged that a new human life does indeed begin at conception, there can be no other scientific or rational explanation where and when it begins. From the moment of conception, two entities that were once unique to their respective male and a female contributors become one to create an entity that is entirely unique unto itself with the blueprint and capacity to develop itself through the various stages of human life. Every single one us us went through the same exact stages of development I speak of. Putting science aside for a moment, is it even rational to say that while you were unborn, that which resided in your mother's womb wasn't indeed you just an an earlier stage of human development?
So with science firmly establishing a new human life begins at conception, those opposed to the Pro-Life Platform shift to the more philosophical argument that "even if the unborn are human, they're not a person yet". The "personhood" argument boils down to assigning value on the unborn based on what they can do, whether they are "viable" or even "self aware". It asserts that an unborn human life does not have intrinsic value, it must acquire that value once it can process deliberate thought and be "aware" of itself. The problem here is that every personhood argument made against the unborn can equally be applied to born people at various stages of their post-birth development.
When an unborn child is born does it magically become "a person" because it made the 12 inch journey through its mother's birth canal? In those twelve inches did the child somehow become "aware" of who he or she was, capable of deliberate and rational thought? The answer is obviously no. If that is the case does the child acquire personhood a few hours after birth, a few days, weeks, or months? If it is one of those timeframes then why can we not, as Princeton Professor Pete Singer and author of Practical Ethics proclaims, abort that child for some time after birth. I think every rational person would immediately discredit that notion as morally wrong.
If personhood is not acquired outside the womb then it must be at some point inside the womb while unborn, but when is that? Is it when the brain develops? When the heart starts to beat? When facial features are recognizable? Maybe it is when the unborn becomes "viable" as the Pro-Choice advocates like to proclaim. The Pro-Choice Platform assigns "personhood" wherever and whenever it is convenient to support their position without any consistent application of the philosophical argument, only because they said so.
The Pro-Life Platform is simply this, the belief in the moral truth that it is wrong to willingly kill innocent human life, that human life begins at conception, human personhood is inherent by that life not because of some developed skill or acquired characteristic but because of the intrinsic value human life possesses.
Now I am fully aware that the next logical attack from the opposition is "do you hold that position under all circumstances?" and we all know what is meant by that question. The question that is really being asked is if the Pro-Life Platform is against the "right to choose" even during cases of rape and risk to the mother's health. These are the two bedrocks of the Pro-Choice stance once the notions of "right to privacy", "you can't tell me what to do with my body", or any of the other popular straw men that are used to defend the Pro-Choice position are rationally defeated.
In the case of "risk to a woman's health", one assumes that means to save the mother from imminent death if the pregnancy were to go to full term. On the surface this is appalling to think someone or some group would deny a woman an abortion to save her life. The reality is, a woman's health, as defined by Roe v. Wade can mean anything the woman wants it to be such as emotional distress, anxiety, or even financial hardship which are not justifiable reasons to condone the willful killing of the unborn.
The only foreseeable risk to a pregnant mother's life is that of an Ectopic Pregnancy where implantation occurs outside the uterus and it is very likely the mother could die from internal rupture if there were an attempt to bring the pregnancy to term. It is in this case that the Pro-Life Platform recognizes a genuine risk to the mother's life, acknowledges it is a pregnancy the unborn child would not be able to survive, and stand firmly on the principle that it is morally justified to terminate the life of the unborn to save that of the mother. I welcome any other examples of genuine risk to the mother's life.
As for the case of rape I want to first acknowledge that I am not going to address the semantics of "forceable rape" or "legitimate rape" because that discussion requires its own forum and for the purpose of this article rape is rape. Defined by the dictionary as "the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse". Without any doubt, rape is a heinous crime and not for one second should it not be acknowledged that it is NEVER the fault nor provoked by the woman who is undeniably the victim in every case. Any man who chooses to rape a woman should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and every resource made available to the woman to cope with the aftermath.
With the aforementioned in regard to rape in mind, if human life has intrinsic value from the moment of conception, why do the circumstances under which that conception took place serve in any way to devalue it? How does adding a second victim to the aftermath of rape somehow heal the wounds of the first victim. I fully understand that a few sentences on this aspect of the debate is not sufficient. I fully understand that the written word is not sufficient enough to express the compassion and desire Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates have to help rape victims cope with the aftermath of their experience, but condonation of creating two victims out of one is not a practice Pro-Choice advocates are willing to accept.
In summary, the Pro-Life Platform is not a religious belief as Mr. Froelich lays claim to and not an attempt by a religious group to impose their views on those who don't hold them. It is a platform that is held by both people of faith as well a people of no faith at all. The only real difference between the two is that people of faith are more willing and feel more compelled to defend it therefore tend to be the loudest voice for those with no voice at all.
If you have managed to get to this point I want to sincerely thank you for your time and willingness to endure the entire piece. I fully expect folks from both sides of the issue to engage in this topic and respectfully ask that if you choose to do so you proceed with substance and not rhetoric as I have made every attempt to do so here.
Thanks in advance for your comments,