Life: Who Is Qualified?

peopleHave you ever stopped and thought about what it means to be a completely unique, completely individual human being? Have you ever considered the fact that, out of all the people who have ever been and who will ever be, there has never been and never will be someone who is exactly like you? God has created each of us with an eternal soul, making us each perfectly one of a kind, which means that, from the very instant of our conception, we are a completely irreplaceable person, simply because God gave us life. Whether a person lives to be 100 years old or is aborted in their first trimester, nothing can alter the fact that that life was completely individual and irreplaceable.

Unfortunately, sometimes in our eagerness to stress our pro-life cause, we begin to act as if it is our potential itself that makes us valuable, rather than our individual and unique God-given life itself. We find ourselves arguing for life on the basis that the unborn have the potential to become someone “important,” and therefore should be allowed to live, saying things like, “Just think, you could be aborting our future president! Or the scientist who discovers a cure to cancer! Or the inventor who solves world hunger!” and on and on. However well meaning this message is, when we attempt to argue for the pro-life cause using statements like those above, it both discredits us personally and our cause publicly. After all, how can we act like it is our potential that makes us special when the message at the heart our cause cries out for equality for all life, regardless of any external factors?

The path of validation in such a way is a treacherously slippery slope to start down, because once the question of worth is introduced in terms of life, the rating scale has to be determined. Who is to say what life qualifies as worthwhile or not? Maybe we could all agree that the star football player in a world-class team has justified his life (and his parents’ decision to keep him), but what about a simple schoolteacher? Or an autistic child? Are these people worthless just because they are not important by the world’s standards? Consider your own significance in our world—do you think you would make the cut and deserve to live? It calls to mind an old exercise that used to be put to students in philosophy classes, and which asked whom the student would choose to eliminate if they had to choose between a doctor, a scientist and a mother who are stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of an ocean. Typically, the “right” choice was the mother, since her contributions to society were clearly the least significant. After all, she wouldn’t exactly be doing anything essential any time soon, right? Who would miss a simple housewife?

A pro-choice journalist named Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote an article recently entitled So what if abortion ends life? which is refreshingly honest but shockingly selfish. Ms. Williams says that it is idiocy for those in the pro-choice movement to pretend that the fetus is not a human life, since it is clearly both alive and human. At this point her logic fails, as she goes on to say this: “Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice…  Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal.” She continues: “Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides … And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.” Read that last line again… “A life worth sacrificing”? One wonders if Ms. Williams would be so comfortable with that if it was her life being sacrificed, and whether she considers anyone else’s life as being “worth sacrificing,” such as the elderly, the disabled, or the unwanted.

Although this attitude of valuing life based on potential is in keeping with the inconsistency of the pro-choice movement, the irony is that they do not honor any possible idea of “potential” in a fetus to “become” a human being. Apparently, potential is only important when it is beneficial to find it so. There is no logic or truth in this, and we in the pro-life cause simply cannot play by those rules. There is no such thing as a life that is not important, because our worth is not determined by fame, fortune, or worldly effect, and our potential does not validate our life. In the eyes of God and of the pro-life cause, a janitor is worth just as much as a millionaire, and a child with Down syndrome is just as valuable as a celebrity. We are each irreplaceable and priceless, simply because God chose to give us life: life without reservation or qualification.

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Rebecca Smith is a music teacher at a Catholic elementary school and serves as music director (pianist/organist, choir director and cantor) for a Catholic parish. She can be reached at [email protected].

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