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If life begins at conception, there is no justification for pro-life relativism

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If life begins at conception there is no justification for pro-life relativism

The last couple of days have been very challenging within the conservative community on social media. There seems to be as many debates between conservatives and Christians over whether or not the Alabama abortion bill went too far as there are between conservatives and progressives about the abortion issue in general.

There are few simple answers. In fact, I can only think of two. Before I get to those, here’s a Twitter thread I made. Sometimes I tweet knowing people will like and share it. This falls under the category of being too controversial for even my pro-life friends to share freely.

For those without Twitter, here’s the text version:

relativism is not about the moral choice or compassion for women who are raped. It is an unacceptable stance for many because it betrays the most important question: “Does the government recognize personhood the moment a human is conceived?”

I literally weep for women who are victims of rape. It is the most heinous crime short of murder (barely) because it fundamentally changes at least 1 person’s life for the sake of sexual perversion and misogynistic control. Life in jail should be on the table for violent rapists.

We must protect women better and we must support them through their pregnancies in all circumstance, especially when there are factors such as birth defects or when the mother was the victim of rape. As Americans, we must do better by those who need help.

It is incumbent on us to recognize and share the fact that pro-life laws are not an attack on a woman’s right but an acknowledgement that once they are pregnant, there is a new and separate life that must be protected as well. It is more than a clump of cells. It’s a unique life.

I appreciate the emotional response by fellow conservatives and Christians who are swayed away from believing a human life must be protected even when conceived in rape, burdened by birth defects, or any other detrimental circumstance, but we need to remember the real question…

If we believe the miracle of life begins when a human is conceived, then we must defend that life as a fellow creation of God regardless of the circumstances. Then, we must do everything in our power to aid the mother through the challenges she and her child will face.

I’ve been watching conservatives bend over backwards trying to either not sound “too religious” or to justify relativism by saying one of three things about the Alabama law:

  1. “It’s too extreme for political reasons.” – This argument is easy to fall into accepting until we look at the facts. The stated goals are to overturn Roe v. Wade, reduce/eliminate abortions in America, or both. To do this politically, we need a law to get to the Supreme Court that works as a foil to the pro-abortion laws being passed in other states. The Alabama law does more to open both doors – overturning Roe v Wade and reducing/eliminating abortions – than any other.
  2. “I can’t justify making rape victims suffer more.” – Of all the arguments, this is the one that is the most moral. It’s very understandable to want to protect women and help them to put their lives back together following the horrific violence of rape. We want to help them move on, and carrying a reminder of their awful experience for nine months can be a separate trauma. I don’t dispute that. But it doesn’t change the premise that human life must be preserved. One must negate that premise in order to justify allowing the exception for moral reasons.
  3. “We need to take steps towards reducing abortion, not a giant leap.” – It’s similar to the first argument, but more devious. I can dismiss the first justification because it’s out of ignorance and I can understand the second justification because it’s an emotion choice, but to place the debate in terms of political strategy is disingenuous because it’s demonstrably false. We have not been able to ease our way towards eliminating abortion in this country even though there have been dozens of attempts to do so.

This does come down to a religious argument, and as much as I wish it were just framed within a Christian argument, it’s not. Regardless of one’s religion, the decision must be made about whether or not there’s a human being inside of the mother at the moment of conception. If not, when does that “clump of cells” become a human with the Natural Right to live? Or, if you prefer, the Constitutional right to live? Some say at birth. Others say at viability. The moment the heartbeat can be detected has been a popular marker. And despite the protestations of nearly everyone, it’s still a religious issue.

There is no “scientific consensus” on the matter because there cannot be. In fact, it’s embarrassingly ignorant to claim a “scientific consensus” on the issue because science cannot answer the question of when life (or, for legal purposes, personhood) begins. Scientists can be gathered to form consensuses, but even then the question is not one within their skillset to answer. This is a religious question regardless of whether one’s religion is Christian, Muslim, or atheistic humanist. It comes down to belief systems and worldviews. The laws of the land are rarely decided by science and this clearly isn’t such an instance.

The first simple answer to the question is the commonly accepted notion that legal life begins at a point after conception. As noted above, that could be birth, viability, or heartbeat.  But let’s simplify it even further by breaking down the pro-abortion side’s real argument. They don’t really care when the baby can officially be called a human life. Their focus is on making sure a mother has ample time to decide she doesn’t want the baby all the way up to birth (or even shortly after birth). This is why any restriction that a majority of the population agrees is reasonable, such as viability between 20-24 weeks of development, is still unacceptable to the pro-abortion crowd.

The second simple answer is that personhood begins at conception. Many claim to believe this but still push for moral exceptions. But argument for exceptions such as rape, incest, and genetic deformities cannot jibe with a belief that personhood begins at conception unless one parses out degrees of personhood. Is a person conceived in rape less of a person than one conceived through consensual sex? Does someone with Down Syndrome have diminished rights compared to someone without genetic defect? Nobody who claims to be pro-life believes either of these things. But their compassion is their justification for disregarding the premise of personhood beginning at conception.

True compassion cannot accept relativism in the pro-life argument. It just doesn’t fit, even at an emotional level. This is why I urge those making the argument for exceptions to reconsider why they’re pro-life in the first place. If it’s a belief in life at conception, then it’s time to run their logic through a a filter of clarity. They may finally see the fallacy in their arguments.

Some may ask whether the life of the mother is a worthy exception for abortions. While I’m torn to some extent because of how this can be utilized as a loophole, the purest examples of this argument is the fatal choice: if the baby is delivered, the mother will die. Any situation in which such a choice must be made is difficult, but that choice should, in my humble opinion, continue to be allowed. It’s not a decision to kill. It’s a decision regarding who should be allowed to live.

If there’s one silver lining to all the debating that is taking place around abortion, it’s that we get to examine our beliefs on a more personal level in open conversation. This is beneficial to the pro-life argument because truth has an illuminating effect.

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