The following is a post with a response from the CARM discussion board on abortion with a person named Jamie. The original post is in brown with CARM's response in green.
Jamie: I don't think many people would refer to their pregnancy as a parasite, but it is in fact, scientifically descriptive and provides a basis for understanding the built-in traps inherent in discussing the "right to life" arguments.
Matt: In order for us to make our sins more palatable, we often use words that are void of morality. For example, adultery is called an affair. The word, "adultery," carries with it the issue of sin. But, the term, "affair," doesn't. Secularism tells us people had an affair--not that they committed adultery and broke their covenant with each other and with God.
Likewise, the term, "parasite," contains a negative connotation. The use of the term, "parasite,"--when describing a life in the womb--strongly tilts the emotional reaction to that life towards the negative. When that negativity takes root, it is far easier to destroy that life. This is why it is so important to use proper terms when discussing such a moral issue, and abortion is a moral issue!
Don't be mistaken, the built-in trap is when ethics and morality are stripped away through sterilized words which avoid the ethical and moral responsibility given to us by God to protect and defend the innocent and weak. Just because something might be technically correct in the definition, does not mean that it is sufficiently descriptive and proper to use. We are more than technicalities. We are human beings living in a moral world, and we will be held accountable for our actions by a very moral God.
Jamie: A human fetus ceases to become a "parasite" when it can sustain an independent existence outside the womb.
Matt: All right, for the sake of argument, since you are a male named Jamie, I'll now appoint you a pregnant wife for this dialogue:
Matt: Hello, Jamie. [I look at your wife's abdomen] I see you are with parasite.
Matt: With parasite. [I point to her abdomen]
Jamie: Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a parasite. It is our future child.
Matt: It is not a child now, correct?
Jamie: Correct, it is a fetus.
Matt: Is it not sucking the life from your wife, feeding off of her body, taking nourishment from her, and forcing her to go through various unpleasantries as she works hard to increase her food intake so as to provide for her own life as well as the parasitic life in her womb?
Jamie: Well, technically, yes, but . . .
Matt: And is the fetus giving anything back in return?
Jamie: No, except maybe, well . . .
Matt: So, it is feeding off of your wife and not giving anything back. Therefore, you have a parasite growing in her. Wouldn't the smart thing to do be to kill it?
Jamie: Wait, you are being way too cold and rude about this.
Matt: I am being perfectly logical. Can you please tell me if you have decided to kill the parasite or not?
Jamie: Look, I don't like how this conversation is going. You are being insulting.
Matt: How, by calling what is in your wife a parasite? How is that insulting? Is that not an accurate description?
Jamie: Yes, but it is demeaning.
Matt: What do feelings have to do with the technically correct term? I fail to see the wisdom in continuing to have a parasite indwelling your wife when you know it is sapping her strength and feeding off of her body. I think you are illogical.
Jamie: Look, I've had about enough of this. You are insulting to our child.
Matt: It is technically not a child according to you, and it is also technically correct to call the thing a parasite. Can you please tell me if you have decided to keep or kill the parasite?
Jamie: We have chosen to have this child. We are going to have a baby.
Matt: I see. So you have chosen to retain the life of the pre-viable parasite.
Jamie: I suppose you're correct. [Jamie's wife smacks me upside the head.]
Jamie: The humanness of the fetus does not depend upon its status as a parasite or as a viable independent organism. Parasite is a descriptive term of a developmental phase of humans. Conceding that life begins at conception does not alter the developmental phases of the fetus or its pre-viability parasitic nature.
Matt: If the humanness of the fetus is independent of its status as a parasite or viable organism, then what you are saying is that its nature is not contingent upon its dependence on the mother. This means that it has human nature (since it is the product of human sperm and a human egg) and the argument of location (in or out of the womb) is irrelevant to the nature of the life. The parasite is inside of a woman, according to you. But when that same life is outside the woman, it is no longer a parasite. Therefore, it is you who is not being consistent.
Also, a correction. Life does not begin at conception. Life continues at conception since the sperm and the egg are both alive, come together, and produce a fertilized egg--which is human in its essence.
Jamie: The relevance of the parasitic status of the fetus comes into play in determining whether or not the fetus may or may not be at a viable stage in its development at the time of an abortion, in which case life support measures could be undertaken to sustain its existence.
Matt: So clean and sterile a description. How distant it is from morality and decency. This is the formula of death--an appeal to the neutered description of barren fact so that "objective" measurement can be made to determining whether or not the parasite should live or die. Its humanity is irrelevant. Only the convenience of the mother should be the deciding factor over life and death.
Jamie: The arguments for an elective abortion end at the point that the fetus is capable of independent existence, at which point, the fetus is entitled to some protection. However, the mother's choice to terminate a pregnancy still trumps that of a viable fetus when serious medical complications arise. Most 3rd trimester abortions are done to save the life of the mother, or because the fetus is seriously deformed or suffering from a disease that will cause it to have a brief, but miserable life. There is no state that allows 3rd trimester abortions merely for "convenience."
Matt: Secularism does not agree with you. The option of abortion continues up to the moment of birth in the atrocity known as partial-birth abortion. You offer nothing morally to object to that heinous act. You simply state that the fetus is entitled to some form of protection at viability. By what standard do you assert that? Do you make it up? Why is viability the point where protection should be offered? What you're promoting is arbitrary and subjective opinion. What moral standard do you have by which you claim this?
To say that the mother's choice trumps the right of protection of the life in the womb is to say that the life, which is human by nature, has no inherent human value. If it did have inherent human value, due to its human nature, it would automatically be entitled to full protection. But this cannot be the case when you offer us stripped, sterilized, and amoral descriptions of that human life. With such hygienic terms, you provide a cold and hard surface on which to build the doctrine of death.
Late trimester abortions of badly developed children are a more complicated topic worth deeper discussion. But, let me tell you that I have personally experienced that exact situation with my son, Jacob, who had a birth defect that killed him shortly after birth. My wife and I never entertained the idea of destroying him because he was not perfect. If the world were to live by that standard that the destruction of life is related to its "perfectness," then we'd better hope and pray that a despotic government doesn't take over and redefine what is perfect as it looks out upon the field of its population in order to decide what is chaff and what is wheat.
Jamie: Of course, not many people, if any, use the term "parasite" in reference to the unborn; it is still, however, scientifically descriptive and helps us understand violations of bodily integrity that an unwanted pregnancy presents.
Matt: It is a parasite when you don't want it. It is a baby when you do. This is a dangerous precipice to draw near to. Once you fall into the pit of granting value to human life based upon what you desire about that life, then you cannot complain when someone stronger than you deems your life less valuable and seeks to destroy it for the same rationale. You cannot retreat into the "viability" option and the inherent value of human life at this point because the antagonist needs only to strip you of your humanity by describing you in sterile and cold words in order to justify his action.
Jamie: The innocence of the fetus in its pre-viable parasitic phase has no relevance. The innocence of the third party does not make a difference in whether or not a forced pregnancy is a violation of bodily integrity. You have the right to guard the integrity of your bodies using whatever means necessary even when that integrity is threatened by a non-sentient organism such as a fetus. Courts have even upheld a person's right to defend via force or killing against the advances of an attacking somnabulist.
Matt: When you use the terms, "pre-viable parasitic phase," to describe the baby in the womb, then, of course, the morality that underscores innocence has no footing. There can be no innocence with parasitic material because innocence implies humanity, purpose, integrity, and morality. As soon as these are introduced into the discussion, the coldness of your descriptions become glaringly insufficient, and the consequences of morally reprehensible behavior are made evident. What you have convinced me of the most is the ploy used by the unbelievers to strip the child of humanity and of emotional attachment and natural value and replace it with pre-viable parasitic sterility so that they can justify killing it for their own comfort.
When your wife gets pregnant, please make sure that you have a T-shirt made for her to wear out in public that says, "Developing, pre-viable, non-human, parasite inside."
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