The abridged (summary) notes for session #1 are below. The exhaustive notes for each session are here:
Summary Notes for Session #1:
I. Review of the Basic Pro-Life Argument:
A. Definition and syllogism:
1. Abortion defined (Kaczor): The intentional killing of a human fetus. This definition begs no questions. Moreover, there is no such thing as a “woman’s perspective” on abortion that trumps all rational inquiries into the subject. Indeed, feminists, let alone women in general, have no single perspective on the issue. Gender is irrelevant. It is arguments that must be advanced and defended.
2. Pro-life syllogism:
(a) P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
(b) P2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
(c) P3: Therefore, abortion is morally wrong.
B. Scientific support for the pro-life argument:
1. The science of embryology establishes that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. True, they have yet to grow and mature, but they are whole human beings nonetheless. Leading embryology textbooks affirm this. For example, in “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology” (Saunders/Elsevier, 2008), Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud write: “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm...unites with a female gamete or oocyte...to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” T.W. Sadler’s “Langman’s Embryology” (Saunders, 1993) 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.” Embryologists Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller write, “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed” (Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996).
2. That elective abortion kills a living human fetus is conceded by many who perform and defend the practice:
(a) Dr. Warren Hern, author of Abortion Practice—to a Planned Parenthood conference: “We have reached a point in this particular technology [D&E abortion] where there is no possibility of denying an act of destruction. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.”
(b) Editorial in California Medicine, 9/70—“Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra-or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because while a new ethic is being accepted the old one has not yet been rejected.”
(c) Ronald Dworkin, in Life’s Dominion—Abortion deliberately kills a developing embryo and is a choice for death.
(d) Faye Wattleton, former President of Planned Parenthood—“I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don't know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.”
(e) Naomi Wolf, a prominent feminist author and abortion supporter, in The New Republic—“Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life...we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.”
(f) Camille Paglia: “Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue.”
II. Philosophical argument for the pro-Life view—Humans are equal by nature not function
A. Key philosophical question: Given the humanity of the unborn, does each and every human being have an equal right to life or do only some have it in virtue of some characteristic which may come and go within the course of their lifetimes?
B. Pro-life advocates contend there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that would justify killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying you had no right to life then but you do now. Stephen Schwarz suggests the acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of these non-essential differences:
Size: You were smaller as an embryo, but since when does your body size determine value?
Level of Development: True, you were less developed as an embryo, but six-month olds are less developed than teenagers physically and mentally, but we don’t think we can kill them.
Environment: Where you are has no bearing on what you are. How does a journey of eight inches down the birth canal change the essential nature of the unborn from a being we can kill to one we can’t?
Degree of Dependency: Sure, you depended on your mother for survival, but since when does dependence on another human mean we can kill you? (Consider conjoined twins, for example.)
C. In short, humans are equal by nature not function. Although they differ immensely in their respective degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature—and they had that human nature from the moment they began to exist. If I am wrong about that, human equality is a fiction. Think, for a moment, about your 10 closest friends. Would you agree that each of them has the same basic rights and that each should be treated equally? But if all of them should be treated equally, there must be some quality they all have equally that justifies that equal treatment. What is that characteristic? Only this: We all have the same human nature.
1-Minute Soundbite: “I am pro-life because the science of embryology establishes that from the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living, and whole human being. True, you were immature and had yet to visibly develop, but the kind of thing you were was not in question. And there is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, development, environment, and dependency are not good reasons for killing you then but not now.”