There has been a tremendous amount of discussion and anger about Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal tissue. The emotions felt by those watching the videos and those defending the organization have been very powerful. The purpose of this post is not to take a political stand on the status of Planned Parenthood. I am also not interested in expressing an opinion on the precise video methods used in producing the highly publicized Planned Parenthood videos. The purpose of this post is to simply express some reasons why the sale of fetal tissue is morally objectionable to Christians. I am not trying to attack people with different viewpoints; I am simply hoping that our culture will take this moment to reflect on the ethical/moral implications of intentional abortions.
OBSERVATION #1: THE TAKING OF THE LIFE OF AN UNBORN CHILD IS MORALLY WRONG. I realize that not everyone believes that abortion is morally wrong. In fact, some would take great offense at this moral judgment made by Christians. However, it seems reasonable that in a country where the majority of people still believe abortion should be illegal that we should at least consider the ethical difficulties that surround intentional abortions. [Note: CNN/ORC Poll conducted this past August indicated that 39% of adults think abortion should be legal in most circumstances, while 58% think abortion should be illegal in most.]
In 1973 Roe v Wade decided that the right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. However, the court determined that this right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting women’s health and protecting the potentiality of human life. This ruling affirmed that a person has a right to abortion until the viability of the baby. Viability was defined as “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid,” adding that viability “is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”
It’s clear that the Supreme Court recognized the inherent value of the human life growing inside the woman. Of course, the court decided to use “viability” to describe the moment in which the fetus becomes a human being worth protecting. However, think for a moment about some of the inherent difficulties of concluding that a fetus only becomes a human being when it is viable.
- What if the unborn becomes viable at a much earlier time in the future due to scientific advancement? Would we need to change the law to protect the unborn at an earlier age?
- Do we measure human life differently over time or in different countries based upon advanced scientific technology?
- Is the essence of humanness really based upon something that can change from one generation or one culture to another?
I believe it makes more sense that human life begins at conception and must immediately be protected (unless it threatens the life of the mother). Although not everyone believes that conception is the beginning point of human life, maybe it’s time to re-examine this question in light of the truly remarkable process of human development. Think about what happens as the unborn develops:
- 5 weeks—A baby’s tiny heart begins to beat – at twice the rate of the mother. His entire “body” is only about the size of a sesame seed.
- 6 weeks—Facial features (like eyes and nostrils) are beginning to form, and little buds appear where arms and legs will develop.
- 10 weeks—The embryo has become a fetus. His vital organs–-such as kidneys, intestines, brain, and liver–-are starting to function. Tiny fingernails and toenails are forming.
- 19 weeks—The baby can hear the mother’s heartbeat and sounds that come from outside her body, such as a partner’s voice. Your baby might even be startled by a loud noise.
- 28 weeks—The baby may be dreaming. She has eyelashes, and her eyesight is improving. She weighs about 2 1/4 pounds and is about 15 inches long, head to heel.
How can a person argue that this entity suddenly becomes a human life worth protecting under the law—simply because they can survive outside the womb? Isn’t it simpler to acknowledge that at the moment of conception a human life has begun and should be protected? After all, if the unborn child is a human being a day after they are born; a day before they are born; a month before they are born; two or three months before they are born—the most reasonable explanation for the beginning of human life is the moment of conception when a human being starts the unstoppable process of maturity.
Our country has historically defended the rights of those who were helpless and denied basic human rights. Why not defend the most helpless and defenseless within our society—the unborn? Isn’t the thought of terminating the life of a developing human being ethically troubling enough that we should treat the unborn child with the same sacredness as we grant to all human beings?
OBSERVATION #2: THE SALE OF FETAL TISSUE SHOULD NOT BE SEPARATED FROM THE MORAL ISSUE OF ABORTION. It’s important to realize that Christians are not fundamentally again research; nor are Christians inherently against any positive programs of Planned Parenthood. The concern surrounding the sale/use of fetal tissue exists because Christians are deeply troubled with the practice of intentional/elective abortion. Although the result of fetal tissue research is promising and helpful for the discovering of cures to deadly diseases we can’t ignore its connection to abortion. They are intertwined! Imagine if a hospital became the beneficiary of an organized homicide system which provided a fresh supply of cadavers—people would naturally question the ethical decision of the hospital. Imagine a banker who regards the drug trade as morally wrong, yet accepts drug money in order to provide low income housing—people would be very concerned with the connection. In the same way, Christians are concerned about the connection between the use of fetal tissue and intentional abortions. The benefits of fetal tissue research do not excuse or remove the ethical difficulty of abortion itself.
OBSERVATION #3: THE NECESSITY OF MAKING MORAL JUDGMENTS. I understand that it is not fashionable in our politically correct culture to categorize actions as moral or immoral. Many people view this as judgmental or intolerant. However, it’s important to realize that as a society we make moral/ethical judgments all the time:
- We deem certain kinds of warfare (use of chemical weapons) as immoral or unethical.
- We believe that genocide (the intentional eradication of a culture based upon ethnicity, religion, or culture) is morally wrong.
- We believe that those who profit from human sex trafficking are morally culpable for the enslavement of human lives.
- We believe that certain actions are universally wrong (taking of an innocent life, torturing babies, and raping another person).
Why is it suddenly politically incorrect to have a rational and reflective discussion on whether or not the taking of a life before birth is ethically/morally wrong? At the same time, shouldn’t we have a discussion on whether or not activities (selling of fetal tissue) that were made possible through intentional abortion are ethically troubling?
I am sure that most citizens of our country want to be part of an ethical and conscientious culture. We are troubled when we see trends that are clearly harmful to our society. For example, most people are troubled by the epidemic of violence within our culture. People recognize that the media, video games, and violent family life have created a nation-wide apathy to the detrimental effects of violence. They are disturbed because violence in our society has become epidemic.
In a similar way, many are deeply concerned with the cavalier manner in which the remains of fetuses are discussed in the Planned Parenthood tapes. Regardless of the origin or editing of the tapes—should we tolerate such a callused viewpoint of life itself? Even if a person doesn’t believe that life begins at conception—surely everyone agrees that at some point we are looking at a truly sacred moment when human life is developing inside a mother. Isn’t our culture better off if we continue to respect and appreciate everything that surrounds the sacredness of the unborn?
I trust that this post can lay a framework for a thoughtful discussion about the troubling ethical difficulties of fetal tissue and intentional abortions.