By Paul Stark, Communications Director, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life
In his book A Defense of Abortion, David Boonin describes photographs on his desk depicting his son, Eli, at different stages of life. “Through all of the remarkable changes that these pictures preserve,” Boonin writes, “he remains unmistakably the same little boy.”
In the top drawer of my desk, I keep another picture of Eli. This picture was taken … 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clearly enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows the same little boy at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point.
It would have been okay to kill Eli, Boonin argues, because at that age Eli had not yet acquired the characteristics that Boonin thinks confer rights or value. It was not enough that Eli was Eli. He needed something more in order to really count.
Many defenders of abortion hold this type of view, but it raises very troubling questions. Who decides whether and when I matter? Which characteristics do I need, and why do those traits make such a difference? How much of them do I need? What happens when I lose them (e.g., because of injury, illness, disability, or age)—do I lose my human rights? And since no two people share any such characteristics to the same degree, is equality just a myth?
The deepest kind of love is seeking that which is good for other people—seeking their well-being or their flourishing.
But this kind of love isn’t contingent. It doesn’t seek others’ flourishing only some of the time while sanctioning their destruction at other times. It always wants that which is good for them.
Abortion is the opposite of love. Abortion deprives human beings of the good that is their life. It attacks their well-being and undercuts their flourishing. Maybe you matter at some times of your life or in some conditions, abortion says, but at other times you don’t matter at all.
Love says something else. It says that you matter just for being you. And that’s enough.