N.B. This dialogue was precipitated by my posting of a link to http://www.fightfoca.com/. Sign the petition now and get others to sign, as well – thank you and God bless you and yours.
J: who’s to say it truly is murder, though? before the brain begins to form, is it not just a wad of cells inside the womb?
WRH: Peter Kreeft responds to this argument in the following way in his exemplary article “Human Personhood Begins at Conception.” Unborn children are individual members of the species homo sapiens, and are biologically/genetically human beings. Human beings are a subset of persons; persons are not a subset of human beings. A person is someone who is naturally/intrinsically capable of performing personal acts. Someone can be a person without fully functioning as a person (e.g., a man in a coma does not choose, reason, or communicate/speak/write). Though the zygote has no brain, it has the material that will become a brain; infants lack speech but have what will develop into speech. If the zygote is not a human, then you will be forced to affirm the absurd proposition that something that is not human has the ability to grow a human brain, etc. We can’t define a person in terms of functionalism because then people of differing ages and intellect and abilities will have different degrees of personhood. The zygote already has everything “built in” that will distinguish it as an individual. I have tried to avoid appealing to the religious notion of an immaterial soul, the existence of which I am happy to prove at another time if you so desire. For now I am trying to argue from non-controversial premises.
J: if not, is that to say birth control is equally immoral and should also be banned? (hell,you might as well illegalize masturbation!)
WRH: Yes, my position is the Catholic position, which is that both of those practices are sinful. You are absolutely right to say that the immorality of one entails the immorality of the others. Granted these are radical and unpopular positions! However, we can discuss those in the future.
J: furthermore, why should the government be in control of that decision? women certainly aren’t savages -can’t they can make moral judgments without the state breathing down their necks?
WRH: The state has the duty to protect the lives of its citizens. No one has the right to commit murder, because murder is intrinsically immoral. Since human life and personhood must begin at conception if we are to avoid the absurd implications I hinted at above, abortion (the direct and intentional killing of an innocent unborn child) is murder (the direct and intentional killing of an innocent person), and therefore abortion is not a woman’s “right.” I feel sorry for women who get abortions just as I feel loss knowing that an unborn child has been murdered, because abortion is emotionally and spiritually destructive for the women who procure it. I pray you will join me in appreciating what an abominable crime abortion is.