Gregory Koukl

The pro-choice enterprise in any of its forms is doomed to fail morally because it ultimately reduces human value to functional terms.

For example, Michael Kinsley dismisses embryonic value because of size. They are “microscopic groupings of a few differentiated cells.” First, this only works if human size determines human value. Second, since size is relative, human value based on size would be relative, too. If bigger is better and smaller is lesser, what is the proper frame of reference for comparison? All human beings are much bigger than some things and much smaller than others.

For Kinsley, embryos are so small compared to him that their moral status is negligible. But for others, contemplating the size of the universe is enough to convince them all human beings are insignificant. Compared to Michel Kinsley, embryos have no value. Compared to the size of the cosmos, Mr. Kinsley has no value. Both conclusions are flawed for the same reason: Size does not determine value.

Location fares no better as a criteria for human worth. If you are a valuable human being, do you cease being valuable because you move from the store to the sidewalk? Or from the kitchen to the den? Or simply roll over in bed? If it's wrong to kill an innocent human being at one location, then it's wrong to kill that same innocent human being located somewhere else. This is obvious and axiomatic.

Even so, some pro-lifers lose sight of this logic when it comes to ESCR. Senator Orrin Hatch thinks that the moral status of an embryo in a petri dish is different from one in it’s “proper” environment attached to a uterus. He believes the first will never become a human being and the second already is one. Note, the only difference between the two is location. The embryo itself is exactly the same in each instance.

Of course, it is correct to think such embryos will never grow unto full human beings, but only because it’s very difficult to grow that large in a Petri dish. Seal up a senator in a Mason jar and he won’t grow much, either.

Following this rationale to its logical conclusion reveals its flaws. What if science were to advance beyond IVF to the point where artificial wombs could successfully domicile human embryos for the full nine months of gestation until “birth” (a technological eventuality, some say). Applying this same moral logic—the human isn’t a real human unless it’s in the right environment—what is pro-lifer Hatch to do now? This full-term fetus would not be human and, following the logic of ESCR, could legitimately be mined for his spare biological parts.


Gregory Koukl

Gregory Koukl is founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization devoted to a thoughtful and engaging defense of classical Christianity in the public square. He is also a radio talk show host and author of Relativism—Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air.

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