I rarely watch newscasts of debates. I want to jump through the radio or TV and say, “No, say this. . . . You missed an opportunity to clobber him. . . . Don’t go there. She’s trying to get you off track.”
So I was pleasantly surprised when I read an exchange between Ben Shapiro and a college student on the topic of abortion at Salisbury University in Maryland. Here’s how some of it went:
Shapiro: I don’t think that killing babies is the solution to you making bad sexual decisions. End of story. The unsuccessful decision that you made was the decision you made to have sex out of wedlock and then get pregnant out of wedlock, that decision is not alleviated by killing. . .
Student: So women should just suck it up and have a child?
Shapiro: If you get pregnant, yes. Because you don’t get to kill things just because it’s in your uterus.
Student: It’s my body, how about you just stay out of it.
Shapiro: How about it’s a baby. You don’t get to kill it just because it’s in there. I don’t care about your appendix. I don’t care about your thorax. I don’t even care about your uterus. I care about what’s in it.
Student: I can take out my appendix if I don’t want it. Why can’t I take out other parts of my body?
Shapiro: Because they’re not independent living human beings.
Student: They’re not independent living beings when they’re a bundle of cells. (H/T: Breitbart)
Then it got really interesting.
Shapiro asked her, “At what point does that bundle of cells become a human being in your judgment?”
“Um—,” the student said.
“No really,” Shapiro pressed her.
“No, I just need to calm down for a second,” she said.
“That is the relevant question. If your argument is it’s a bundle of cells, then the question becomes when it’s not a bundle of cells,” Shapiro explained.
When a woman gives birth to an appendix that breathes, laughs, cries, eats, sleeps, pees and poops, then this young woman’s argument will have legitimacy.
In the 2007 film Juno, 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) discovers she’s pregnant. She first considers abortion. On her way to the abortion mill, she runs into Su-Chin, a classmate, holding a sign that reads “No Babies Like Murdering” and chanting “All babies want to be born!”
Su-Chin tells Juno that her baby “probably has a beating heart . . . It can feel pain . . . And it has fingernails.”
Juno takes a seat in the waiting room. She notices fingernails on a little girl and a woman scratching her arm. She starts seeing fingernails everywhere. “The receptionist clicks her nails on the front desk. Another woman blows on her fresh manicure. Everyone seems to be fidgeting with their fingers somehow.”
Juno leaves and decides to have the baby and give him up for adoption. She realized that her unborn baby was a separate person. His fingers were not her fingers. When the baby was born, Juno would have her fingers and the baby would have his.
Here’s a line of reasoning that I use with people who have not thought through the abortion issue but who would say that it’s up to the mother to make the decision. I first used it when I spoke to a religion class at Emory University.
I drew a line on the board that represented nine months. “At what point on this nine-month timeline would you say that it would be wrong to kill this unborn baby?”
The students were reluctant to answer because they sensed a trap, so I facilitated the process. “Would it be OK to kill the unborn baby as soon as he or she was born?” (I drew an oval at the right end of the line that represented the just-born baby.)
No one said anything.
“How about when the baby is half in and half out of the birth canal?” (I drew a vertical line through the middle of the oval.) Still no answer.
“Would it be OK to kill an unborn baby when the crown of the baby’s head begins to show? (I moved the vertical line so it just touches the right of the oval.) I suspected that no one in the class would have said that they supported abortion in any of the examples.
It’s at this point that I asked a student to come up and mark on the line when it would be morally justified to end the life of the unborn baby. They all saw the dilemma they were in. So I pick a point around three months, the end of the first trimester and I drew a line. To the left of the line, abortion is morally justifiable. To the right of the line, abortion is not morally justifiable. Some would agree with this but would change where the vertical line was on the nine-month line.
Once a place on the line is drawn, I ask what has changed one second to the right of the line that makes killing the unborn baby morally justified at that point.
While this line of argument won’t work with everyone, it will make most rational people think about the issue in a way they may not have considered the subject.