Those scientifically backward pro-choicers

Unlike Marco Rubio, I am not comfortable with abortion being illegal even in cases of rape and incest. I hasten to add that I cannot defend that position theologically or philosophically. Yes, I am being emotional here. But I can't help it. I have had both friends and people under my spiritual care who have been the victims of rape, and I'm sorry, but I could not force any woman to bear a rapist's child.

Again, I can't defend that position ethically or theologically. But there it is. The failing is mine, and I frankly admit it. I believe it was LCMS theologian John Warwick Montgomery who, when asked in a debate whether he would prevent his daughter from getting an abortion if she were impregnated by a rapist, said, "I can tell you exactly what I would do. I would find her the best doctor available. I'd pay for the abortion. I'd drive her to the clinic. I'd hold her hand while the procedure was being done.

"There's only one thing I wouldn't do: tell myself that I was doing the right thing."

That's my position, too. As I said, I cannot defend it philosophically or theologically. But there it is. I have no doubt that there will be many who will be judgmental about that. I do not seek to inoculate myself from their criticism, because- as I say- I cannot defend my own position.

But I just can't do it.

That said, this conversation between Sen. Rubio and CNN "journalist" Chris Cuomo is fascinating. Rubio- who takes the position I cannot in conscience take- takes Cuomo to school on the issue of abortion. Cell division begins at conception, and that makes it life. Not being a kangaroo or wombat fetus, but a specifically human fetus, it is therefore a human life. As Sen. Rubio points out, it can't be anything else, being both alive and human!

Cuomo insists on confusing the question of personhood- which, contrary to his continued assertions, is not a scientific matter at all, but a value judgment- with humanity and life. It is an absolute scientific fact that as of the moment of conception we have a human life; it is a philosophical and theological question whether that human life is the life of a person.

Roe v. Wade says that it is possible for an indisputably living and indisputably human entity not to be a person. Those of us who are pro-life maintain the opposite. That philosophical debate- which by its very nature cannot be settled by science- is the difference between, say, Chris Cuomo and Mario Rubio.

So how is it possible for the radical New York governor's son to think that somehow the humanity of the fetus is in question? As Sen. Rubio repeatedly pointed out, rarely is a human fetus born as a porcupine or an orangutan.

National Review's Kevin Williamson has the answer. It appears that Mr. Cuomo is doing precisely what he repeatedly accused Sen. Rubio of doing; imposing his personal religious beliefs on the subject and pretending that they're science.

Cuomo's position seems to be based on Catholic theology- but not good or even contemporary Catholic theology. It's the theology of Aquinas, the theology of the Middle Ages, which followed Aristotle in arbitrarily deciding that male fetuses became "ensouled" at 40 days- and female fetuses at 90 days. Which is not science. Nor is it even particularly Christian.

Nor is "ensoulment" personhood. "Ensoulment" is a pseudo-scientific and purely arbitrary event; personhood, on the other hand, is a frankly philosophical characteristic which by its very nature cannot be decided scientifically.

What can be- and in fact is- scientifically established is precisely what Sen. Rubio pointed out was scientifically established, Cuomo's denials to the contrary: that a human fetus is 1) a living entity in which genetic information is not only stored, but in the process of being expressed; in which cell division and growth is taking place; and in which all the processes which scientifically define life are taking place; and 2) unavoidably and emphatically human.

An unborn child is, as a matter of indisputable scientific fact, both alive and human. Ergo, it is a human life.

Mr. Cuomo and those on his side of the abortion debate are certainly entitled to argue that not all who possess human lives are persons. But that's not an idea with a particularly glorious history, and one whose ethical pitfalls seem to me to be rather obvious.

Obvious, at least, to anybody whose biology is more modern than that of Aristotle.


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