The Pro-Life Argument That’s Not Pro-Life

This cartoon is one of the more recent Facebook memes to make its way around Christian circles. It’s popped up in my newsfeed several times over the past few weeks, each time with at least tacit approval by the person who posted it. This worries me a little because although it might seem like it is pro-life, it actually makes an argument more fitting of the pro-choice movement.

But before I get into that, a quick word on the first frame, where the character angrily asks, “If you are a loving and merciful God, why didn’t you send someone to cure cancer, or true leaders to govern us? What’s your problem God???” God’s answer to this question is that he did send them but they were aborted. This is the wrong answer. God already sent someone who would cure cancer and be a good leader. His name was Jesus, and he wasn’t aborted. At his first coming, he set about reconciling man to God. At his second coming he will end all disease and rule benevolently over the earth. Sickness and corruption are not caused by abortion keeping good doctors and leaders from being born, and they will not be stopped by lessening the number of abortions. They are caused by sin and will continue to be a problem until King Jesus returns to end the earth’s rebellion against her Creator, thus lifting sin’s curse from the planet.

But the main reason why I don’t think this is a pro-life cartoon is that the point it makes is that abortion is wrong because we are aborting babies who could grow up to cure cancer or rule justly. First of all, facts seem to argue against this. In Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner write:

What sort of woman was most likely to take advantage of Roe v. Wade? Very often she was unmarried or in her teens or poor, and sometimes all three. …

…the very factors that drove millions of American women to have an abortion also seemed to predict that their children, had they been born, would have led unhappy and possibly criminal lives. …

Perhaps the most dramatic effect of legalized abortion, however, and one that would take years to reveal itself, was its impact on crime. In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years–the years during which young men enter their criminal prime–the rate of crime began to fall. What this cohort was missing, of course, were the children who stood the greatest chance of becoming criminals. And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world. Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.

Before you react vicerally to that information, know that Levitt and Dubner were not arguing for abortion. In fact, they go on to examine the issue in more detail before concluding that “even for someone who considers a fetus to be worth only one one-hundredth of a human being, the trade-off between higher abortion and lower crime is, by an economist’s reckoning, terribly inefficient.” In other words, the crimes those aborted babies would have committed as adults would not have caused enough damage to justify ending their lives in the womb.

But the fact remains that arguing that abortion is wrong because we are aborting people who could possibly cure cancer or rule justly is a bad argument to make because the data seems to show that we are aborting more potential criminals than anyone else. There will always be stories like that of the child who doctors said should be aborted but who grew up to be an NFL quarterback (Tim Tebow) or the poor, unwed teenage mother whose baby grew up to be President of the United States (Barack Obama), but those seem to be exceptions, not the rule. They serve as illustrations that there is always a chance to beat the odds and that data provide trends and probabilities, not hard and fast rules. Plus, even if we were aborting mostly criminals (or even solely criminals), abortion would still be wrong, which brings me to my next point, and the biggest objection I have to this cartoon.

Whether intentionally or not, it assigns value to a life according to the contribution it makes to society in fields like medicine and politics. This is absolutely horrifying and a view more in line with the eugenics of the radical pro-choice movement rather than the sanctity of life argument of the pro-life movement. All human life has value simply because it is human life. The contributions a person makes to society has no bearing on this fact.

I have an uncle with Down’s syndrome on my dad’s side and an uncle with autism on my mom’s side. They will never cure cancer or run for political office, but their lives are just as valuable as people who will. David’s words in Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah’s in Jeremiah 1:5 apply as much to them as to doctors, scientists, athletes, government officials … or criminals. And it would have been just as wrong for my grandmothers to abort them as for a woman using abortion as a form of birth control to abort a healthy baby. After all, “Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:15) A person’s value comes from being created by God and in the image of God, not from physical or mental ability, wealth, or social status.

Buying into pro-choice views on the value of life weakens our arguments and leads to a cheapening of life’s value. We need to hold fast to the assertion that all human life has value and dignity because it was created by God in his image. Otherwise we might find ourselves determining that the mentally handicapped, physically disabled, elderly, and others who “contribute” less to society are inherently less valuable or less worthy of life than others, thus buying becoming complicit in the culture of death instead of standing up for life.

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