Recently I was listening to the July 23, 2011 broadcast of Unbelievable, a great UK radio program that faces off Christians and non-Christians on a range of theological, philosophical, and moral/social topics. The July 23rd broadcast addressed the issue of abortion. Representing the pro-abortion side was Wendy Savage, and representing the anti-abortion side was Madeleine Flannagan. While much could be said concerning the dialogue, I want to focus on one particular comment from Ms. Savage. Ms. Flannagan was arguing that it was just as wrong to kill a baby in the womb as it is to kill a baby outside the womb. Ms. Savage responded to the effect, ‘It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus.”
Pro-choicers often make this sort of “argument.” The problem is that it commits a categorical error. “Fetus” is not a type of life distinct from a “baby” or “human being,” but the name we give a particular stage of human development—on the same level of “adolescence, toddler, adult,” etc. So to say “it’s not a baby, it’s a fetus” is only to say “it’s a younger human being, not an older one.” But that observation does not tell us whether or not it is morally acceptable to kill younger human beings. That’s the million dollar question, and one pro-abortion advocates like to skirt.
To drive this point home further, what if biologists created a new term for human development, “leptomicus,” to describe the period from birth up to two months. Would anyone say to those who opposed killing a 1 month old newborn, “It’s not a baby, it’s a leptomicus”? Of course not. You cannot just define someone’s humanity out of existence.
Attorney G. Tracy Mehan III wrote a good article on partial birth abortion. One paragraph is worthy of note: “And consider the first time you and your spouse saw the ultrasound pictures of your child, pre-viability. One of you didn’t say, ‘Oh look, Honey, it’s our fetus!’ No one calls an unborn child a fetus except when the subject of abortion comes up. Then the mental filters go up, screening out the humanity of the being about to be destroyed.” Exactly.
G. Tracy Mehan III, “Neither Partial, nor an Abortion”; available from http://spectator.org/archives/2006/11/14/neither-partial-nor-an-abortio; Internet; accessed 28 January 2011.