Despite a relatively low amount of media coverage, you have likely run across the case of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor (labeled a monster) who ran what many have called a ‘house of horrors’ abortion mill. Last month, he was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to life in prison. But, given typical pro-choice sentiments, one has to wonder: what was the real problem leading to such public outrage?
On my worldview – that of Christianity – Kermit Gosnell certainly is a monster and his lair a definite house of horrors. If you can stomach it, do a quick web search and read a bit of the laundry list of charges against him, as well as the history of this ‘clinic.’ Yet, on the worldview of the pro-choice advocate, what was the big problem? What about this case caused almost universal exclamations of horror? Was it the unsanitary conditions at the clinic? Was it people without proper license to perform certain procedures or administer medications? Was it that he crossed a seemingly arbitrary line our legal system has drawn concerning when it is OK to kill a baby?
No, I think it is because this case brought a glimpse of reality out from underneath the rhetoric and medical terminology being thrown back and fourth in the abortion debate. I don’t just mean that we realized there might be others like Kermit Gosnell out there; that seems certain. I mean that we came face to face with the issue of how we are treating other humans. Going back just a bit in history, I’m sure it was one thing to debate over national superiority and ethnic purity, but quite another to discover Auschwitz. This case has brought the reality of abortion into the public eye in a visceral way.
It has also exposed the shambles of our legal status surrounding the issue. The media didn’t seem to know what to do with it. The pro-choice camp knew they had to react somehow, but didn’t know quite what to say. The rest of us stared on in horror. It opens the way to start asking some serious questions about where we are really headed as a society.
Why is killing a baby post-birth so horrifying, if pre-birth is not? Is it just because we can see it happen? Why is there the legal difference in the protection of this baby over a slight change in location and minutes of time? I am unaware that science has uncovered a special gland in the birth cannel which secretes human-rights enzymes. The absurdity of this legal reality becomes more clear than when two people are bantering over an infant vs a ‘clump of cells.’
It would seem that we are caught in transition between two opposing value systems, and our law reflects this. We need to help others face this reality and this case can help. On the Judeo-Christian worldview, human rights are intrinsic and come from being made in the image of God. Or, as the founders of the United States put it, inalienable rights endowed by our creator. No need for human-rights enzymes, nor to be granted by some governing body on this view. If you are human, you have them.
But, when this worldview gives way to secularism, what remains, as far as I can see, is a utilitarian basis at best. What defines human value, is decided by someone in power, whether individual or government. Rights are then conferred, based on some criteria. What we have currently seems to be a legal-kludge attempting to bridge the chasm. The discrepancies are glaringly obvious if one only take the time to look!
In the case of abortion, rights are granted to the baby by the mother and her doctor, depending on her want of the baby up until some arbitrary point in time, depending on the jurisdiction. After this, the government grants rights to this baby, after which the mother and/or doctor can be held accountable for not recognizing those rights, with the greatest severity of punishment for failure to do so. Whatever this is, it is certainly not, inalienable rights endowed by our creator. It seems more like insanity.
Where is this all headed? I think we can gain some hints by looking at the current discussions in medial ethics. For example, just quickly scan this list of topics in the May 2013, Journal of Medial Ethics. And if infanticide doesn’t scare you, or you doubt this utilitarian slide, consider what is happening at the other end of the life-spectrum. The more entrenched this alternate worldview becomes, the harder it will be to reverse. The time to start pushing back from all angles is now. I think the Gosnell case presents a good starting point if you have been struggling to engage in this issue.
Why is this relevant to the Christian apologist? First, because it is a hot-button cultural issue. Often, Christians will be labeled as the crazy ones opposing the progress of women’s rights. So, in order to get to the Gospel, this issue often needs to be answered and moved out of the way. Christians have been historically at the forefront of women’s rights. We’re just concerned about the youngest women (and men) too! Second, Christian apologists need to join in the effort to inform everyone on pushing for cultural change. We aren’t exempt from being salt and light. This issue is THE human-rights issue of our day, and we apologists need to be right on the front-lines.
Note: We will be discussing the topic of abortion at length in future articles, including challenges from the pro-choice position and answers from the Christian worldview.