Unless you have been hiding under a rock or in a coma for the last 9 months, you are aware of the Ferguson Missouri incident which involved the shooting of an unarmed teen, Michael Brown, by police officer Daren Wilson. It became a national story in which the president and the department of justice investigated and it lead to riots in the city of Ferguson. Michael Brown happened to be black and Officer Wilson was white which didn’t help matters much. The incident also touched of a “hands up, don’t shoot” movement which spread from professional athletes to congress raising their hands in the universal symbol of surrender as a symbol of solidarity. The incident and others have culminated in racial polarization and it has re-ignited racial flames in America. Michael Brown and Ferguson Missouri became a rallying point and there were also peaceful marches across the country as well.
What does Ferguson have to do with the abortion issue? It is surely a tragedy when an 18 year old loses his life under any circumstance. But why is it so less tragic for an unborn child to lose his life in our society? There are around 1 million abortions each year in the United States. Despite comprising just 13% of the population, blacks account for 35% of all the abortions in the U.S. Well if my calculations are correct then there are almost 1,000 abortions performed on black women each day. Does that matter to anyone? Should it? If the unborn are not human then the answer is NO: abortion is a private issue and no one outside of the woman’s support network, her doctor and whoever else she decides to share in this decision should be involved in it. If the unborn are not human, then we pro-lifers are sticking our noses into a private matter and we have no business protesting, marching, or trying to change laws or convince others. But are we?
Not according to science. The science of embryology tells us that from the moment of conception, each one of us were complete, living, and whole human beings. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, a widely used embryology text, states: “Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte(ovum) to form a single cell – a zygote. This highly specialized, omnipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”
T.W. Sadler’s Langman’s Embryology states, “The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” Dr. Watson A. Bowes of the University of Colorado Medical School stated, “The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception.”
Of course, science alone won’t satisfy critics of the pro-life view who tell us that being human isn’t enough. What matters is personhood, meaning there are some humans you can’t kill because they are “persons” and others you can kill because they aren’t. “Persons,” so the argument goes, live independent lives and are sufficiently developed to think and feel like we do. But where does personhood thinking leave us? Sure, Michael Brown the fetus was dependent on his mother, but as a matter of principle, how does dependency justify intentional killing? For that matter, Michael Brown the newborn was dependent, but no one suggested killing him because he depended on his mother for nourishment. Does personhood based on location fare any better? When I leave my house, I don’t stop being me. If that’s true, why do I stop being me when I leave my mother’s womb? Or, suppose we make size and development decisive. Michael Brown the fetus was smaller than his adult frame, but as a matter of principle, large humans aren’t more human and valuable than small ones. And while it’s true Brown was less developed in the womb than he was at 19, why is that a good reason for saying he could be killed then but not now? In short, personhood reasoning doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and dehumanizes all of us—born or unborn.
The science of embryology tells us that Michael Brown was once a fetus, meaning that Michael Brown the fetus is identical to Michael Brown the young adult. If as an adult he is identical to his former fetal self, he had the same right to life then as he did on the day he died. After all, he’s the same Michael Brown. How can we be nonchalant about killing the unborn Michael Brown but ready to riot at the perceived injustice of the killing of the 18 year old Michael Brown? Again, he was still Michael Brown. We cannot take the life of the unborn and not expect there to be any repercussions on the value we have on life in general.
We know this. In 1977, a prominent civil rights activist compared abortion to slavery and pointedly asked, “What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the abortion of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience?” Those words belong to Jessie Jackson, who, before running for President as a Democrat, once valued intellectual consistency over political expediency.
Suppose we grant that Michael Brown’s killing was racially motivated and therefore unjust. The question for Jessie Jackson is this: If it was wrong to kill Michael Brown because of skin color and social status, why is it okay to kill him because of size and dependency? Either way, he’s the same Michael Brown.