I have been quite excited to read Scott Klusendorf’s The Case For Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (paperback, Kindle, GoodReads, Video Trailer, Interview, Life Training Institute). From my elementary school days, I have been exposed to pro-life Christians who have faced ridicule, fines, physical harm, and even jail time for their commitment to the unborn’s right to life. It was not until my exposure to Christian apologetics that I became aware that the fight was more than each side just emoting at one another. In this book, Klusendorf provides the scientific case for the humanity of the unborn and the objective moral wrongness of killing them. He addresses many common and powerful challenges to the pro-life position. The book is divided into four parts and is 243 pages in length. This chapter-by-chapter review series will cover one part per month for the next four months. Today I will summarize chapters 1 through 4.
Part 1: Pro-Life Christians Clarify The Debate
Chapter 1 – What Is The Issue?
Klusendorf begins by clarifying that there is one issue that is up for debate – the one issue that will make or break the case for the pro-life position. He explains that every other issue in the discussion is a red herring if this one issue is not resolved first. The key question that anyone must ask before they decide to act on something is, “What is it?” In the context of the pro-life/abortion debate, the action is killing, and “it” is the unborn. We must determine if the unborn is human or not before we decide if it is justifiable to kill it. Klusendorf points out that if the unborn are not human, then there is no more justification needed to remove it than is necessary to remove a tooth (and any efforts to lower the number of abortions is really worthless). However, if the unborn is human, then no justification is sufficient to deliberately kill it.
Chapter 2 – What Is The Unborn?
After establishing the crux of the debate, the pro-life advocate must make the case for his or her contention: that the unborn are human. Klusendorf says that three attributes need to be demonstrated: that the unborn are distinct entities from the mother; that the unborn are alive; and that the unborn are whole entities (not merely parts). The significance of these are:
- If the unborn is not distinct from the mother (or father, for that matter), then the mother has intrinsic rights over it as it is her body.
- If the unborn is not alive, then it cannot be killed. An abortion would just be removing something not alive. There would be no more controversy to even debate
- If the unborn is not a whole entity, then it is legitimate to ask the question, “When does the unborn become human?” Prior to that point, it would be morally acceptable to remove it (alive or not, distinct or not).
He provides several arguments from both embryology and philosophy in support of his claims. He addresses several objections to the arguments and also critiques arguments supporting the opposite contentions. He concludes that science and philosophy exclusively support the fact that the unborn are distinct, alive, and fully human throughout the time span of being in the womb.
Chapter 3 – What Makes Humans Valuable?
Having established that the unborn are human is not enough, though, to condemn abortion-on-demand. It must be established that humans have value which would apply to the unborn in virtue of their being human. Klusendorf is careful to make the point that science alone cannot establish that anything has value; however, science can be used to in arguments for value. He begins by establishing that the unborn do not “become human,” but that they are human. He then builds his case for human value based on everyday experience and the source of rights. He explains that if rights originate with the government, then rights can be removed as easily as they can be given. But if rights are intrinsic, that does not help the pro-choice advocate much. For people cannot claim an intrinsic right to an abortion without claiming intrinsic rights exist, and if the right to life is an intrinsic right for humans, then the right is intrinsic to the unborn.
Klusendorf does address the issue of religion in this chapter. Even though it is easy to build a case for intrinsic human value by appealing to religion, a case can be made via non-religious sources. Just because the case can be made through religion, it does not follow that the secular case for human value can be dismissed by the non-religious person.
Chapter 4 – Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex?
Klusendorf now turns his attention to the debate surrounding stem cells. There is a distinction between embryonic and adult stem cells. The research that is morally controversial is embryonic stem cell research because the stem cells can only be harvested destroying the embryo. Klusendorf appeals to the same arguments as in previous chapters to establish that this is an ethically unacceptable practice. The entire controversy can be avoided because functionally identical stems cells have been identified that do not require the destruction of embryos.
Despite the fact that other options are less expensive, have produced results, and do not present a moral issue, some people still insist on using embryos. Klusendorf transitions into discussing cloning, the processes involved, and the ultimate expected outcomes. He explains that laws that “ban” cloning do so by making birth of cloned embryos a criminal offense. He stops just shy of implying that it is itself “anti-choice,” being so pro-death that refusal to abort is punishable by law. The mother has no choice in the matter, thus undermining any right that the pro-choice advocate claims for the mother. He concludes that the reasons given for embryonic stem cell research and cloning, along with the immense challenges and the fact that they demand killing human beings, are not enough to justify continuing the research. The promised results of embryonic stem cell research are being realized by perfectly ethical alternatives without all the risks, so it really is not necessary.
Next Month I will examine Part 2 which will cover the ground rules of the debate, the foundations of each side of the debate and whether or not the Bible speaks directly to the topic of abortion.