Author Frank Peretti recently posted the following on his Facebook page. It’s well worth the read.
PROLIFE vs. PROCHOICE; the Issue behind the Issue.
The material I’m going to present now and in the days to follow will explore a pro-life argument that I hope will carry us past the surface debate to reveal a deeper issue I’ve never heard anyone talk about. For too long – forever? – we’ve framed this whole debate in terms of the rights of the woman versus the rights of the unborn child, forcing us to bicker about whether the child is really a child, and so on, but deep down under all that back-and-forth is a crucial issue we’re all missing. I’m going to argue that, if we are to speak in Truth and Love, we must observe and affirm that the rights of the woman and the rights of the unborn child are not two rights in opposition, but one right, and this is because …
Well, we have time and space here, so let’s explore the Question more carefully. Let’s find the layers of meaning and conflict that lie beneath and see whether Truth and Love have an answer, especially for the woman – after all, this is her issue more than anyone’s.
First of all, let’s get one point that should be obvious but is not, out of the way:
CHOICE, in and of itself, does not make something right. I may choose to spit in public, drink and drive, lie, steal, rape, or murder, but choosing to do so doesn’t give me the right to do so.
So, CHOICE is not by its own virtue a sacred, inviolable right. The “right to choose” depends entirely on what is being chosen, and as Alan Keyes put it, “No one has the right to choose what is wrong.”
Okay, now we have that officially said.
So now let’s hear the Question again …
“Do you believe in a woman’s right to choose?”
… and explore in a deeper way what the Question is really asking.
At a surface level, we could expand the Question to this:
“Do you believe in a woman’s right to choose whether to end or continue her pregnancy?”
Even at this level, the Question often evokes ambivalence, a certain discomfort in people:
“Yes, she should have that right, but it’s a difficult decision.”
“We must provide abortions, but work to make the need for abortions rare.”
“Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.”
Difficult decision? Make the need for abortions rare? Intensely personal, with the involvement of family and clergy? Perhaps abortion isn’t as morally neutral as some try to think it is. Perhaps, deep in the conscience, it bothers the woman, her family, her doctor and her clergy.
So go ahead: Ask why.
Well, the Question is really asking, “Do you believe in a woman’s right to end a human life?”
Yes, I’ve already loaded the question with an assumption that the fetus is a human life, but only because that whole issue is going to come up any time an abortion is considered, like it or not, and the same debate is going to ensue: When does human life begin, is the fetus human or a potential human, and on and on. But the fact that we are even having such a debate indicates an assumption lying beneath the Question that we can phrase this way:
“Do you believe in a woman’s right to arbitrarily decide what a human life is and what it is worth?”
Now we’re getting close to the heart of the matter because every woman’s decision, whether she wants to admit it or not, hinges on the above phrasing of the Question. Also bear in mind that at this level we can no longer limit the Question to only the woman. Now the Question touches everyone: the woman, her family. her friends, and ultimately our whole society. This is because, in even asking the Question at this level, we assume a still deeper level:
“Do you believe that the value and definition of human life are arbitrary?”
Do you believe that anyone anywhere can decide for him- or herself what a human life is and what it is worth?
Do you believe human life is sacred, or is it open to definition and valuation by anyone, anywhere, at any time?
In the days ahead I’m going to argue that a moral landmine lies beneath that “bumper sticker” Question, something so huge and devastating that it is not just a choice by one woman regarding an abortion; it is a decision being placed before our society that will dictate how we view ourselves.
More next time.