November 6, 2007

Response to "Abortion Isn't a Religious Issue" by Garry Wills

Abortion isn't a religious issue according to Garry Wills in a LA Times opinion. If you read the article with a highlighter, searching it for fallacies, you will have a very colorful document when finished. Please check out the article for yourself, I want to address some core issues here.

First of all, this rant against evangelicals opposing abortion on the basis of religion is terribly amusing given that he doesn't quote a single evangelical Christian theologian, philosopher, bioethicist, biologist, etc. Interestingly, he suggests that the relevant experts are
philosophers, neurobiologists, embryologists. Evangelicals want to exclude them because most give answers they do not want to hear.
Apparently his circle of influence is very small, he can't even find a Christian philosopher? And by virtue of his list of qualified professionals, he's left himself out, thus rendering his commentary null and void. After all, what could a historian possibly know about human dignity, when life begins, or about theological arguments supporting the life position?!

For a historian, he does make an excellent point about the issue of exceptions. I agree with him that a consistent life ethic would exclude making exceptions for abortion, because as he states,
"the circumstances of conception should not change the nature of the thing conceived." I've called Sean Hannity on this before.

The heart of Wills' article is the belief that "there is no theological basis for defending or condemning abortion." It's curious that he includes 'defending' abortion, I'm sure the folks at RCRC aren't very happy with him on that. What Wills misses is an entire body of work on the topic of human dignity. Human dignity is the basis for respecting persons and is grounded in the fact that all persons are created in the image of God. This is the basis for the evangelical prolife position and Wills misses it entirely.

The absurdities of this article continue with statements such as
The universal mandate to preserve "human life" makes no sense. My hair is human life -- it is not canine hair, and it is living. It grows. When it grows too long, I have it cut. Is that aborting human life? The same with my growing human fingernails. An evangelical might respond that my hair does not have the potential to become a person. True. But semen has the potential to become a person, and we do not preserve every bit of semen that is ejaculated but never fertilizes an egg.
Is this guy serious? Sperm is a necessary component of fertilizing an egg (unless we are talking about SCNT) but the sperm on its own will never mature into an adult human person. Do we really have to explain these things?

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