TORONTO, February 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – As my godson is being prepared for Confirmation, he has a lot of the questions natural to teenagers: “Why do we believe in God?” “How do we know Jesus really exists?” “What about the dinosaurs?” As his godmother, I’m expected to answer them.
I was trained in dogmatic theology, not apologetics, so I decided I could use some backup. After consulting with Catholic parents, I ordered a copy of Trent Horn’s 2017 book Why We’re Catholic. While reading it, I came to a chapter titled “Why We Defend Life.” Although I’ve been listening to pro-life arguments all my life, I was impressed by the freshness and vigour of his presentations.
First, Horn compares a father’s right in Ancient Rome to kill his children to that of modern mothers’ right to kill their unborn children today. Infanticide–usually by leaving the baby outdoors to die of exposure–was commonplace in Ancient Rome. But from the very beginning–that’s two thousand years ago–Christians opposed abortion and infanticide. Some Christians even rescued the abandoned babies and raised them as their own.
“Fathers in the Roman Empire had the right to choose what happened to their families, but Christians said no one has the right to ‘choose’ to directly kill another innocent human being,” writes Horn.
Second, Horn presents an answer to the old chestnut “Don’t impose your morality on me.”
“Civilized people impose morality on each other all the time,” he observes, citing the laws against stealing (very annoying for shoplifters) and child abuse (inconvenient for cruel adults).
Third, Horn observes that arguments between pro-life and pro-abortion people really boil down to whether or not the human embryo or fetus is a human being. After all, if the embryo or fetus is not a human being, then abortion is “just a routine surgery” and opposing it is rather “odd.” However, if the embryo or fetus is a human being, then “personal opposition is not enough,” Horn writes. “If we care about justice and equality, then we must change people’s minds” and protect the lives of unborn humans with the law.
Fourth, Horn builds his case for the humanity of the unborn child. He points out that since the fetus is growing, it must be alive, and since it has human parents and human DNA, it must be human.
To those who think humanity consists in thinking and feeling, he points out that newborn infants do not noticeably think or feel more than non-human animals, and yet we value them and consider them human beings. To those who say a baby who still needs his mother’s body to survive isn’t a person, he points out the injustice of removing any other human being from his natural environment to one that will kill him. (Horn imagines Martians transporting readers to Mars, where we suffocate from lack of oxygen. I thought of Canadian scandals involving police abandoning intoxicated men on their city limits in sub-zero weather.)
Fifth, to the argument that people can do whatever they want with their own bodies, Horn points out that doctors will now refuse to give pregnant women thalidomide to control their nausea, knowing that it causes severe birth defects. Meanwhile, as Horn notes, it’s “true that we have the right to control our bodies, but that doesn’t give us the right to use our bodies to hurt other innocent human beings.”
Then, sixth, Horn brings up the thorny issue of child support: “If we expect fathers to be responsible and pay child support for the children they create, then shouldn’t we expect mothers to be equally responsible for those same children? Shouldn’t they provide ‘child support’ through bodies that are naturally designed to care for those children?”
Well, yes. Nine months–that’s all we’re asking.
Where I think Horn is at his most brilliant is in the seventh section, when he confronts the wrong-headed notion that unborn babies are objects that are “constructed” in the womb, akin to the way cars are constructed in a factory. They aren’t. From the very beginning of their existence, at conception, human beings are unique, developing individuals.
Horn points out that the tiniest of human beings, provided with “time, nutrients, and the right environment”, develops into a fully grown adult. He borrows an analogy from law professor Richard Stith to make his point: a Polaroid photo of the Loch Ness monster.
To paraphrase the analogy, if you and your pal were in a boat on Loch Ness, and Nessie herself made a lightning appearance, and you snapped her photo with a Polaroid camera, you would have the first contemporary photo of Nessie–but as yet undeveloped. At first, Nessie’s image would look like a brown smudge. Given enough time, however, the brown smudge will become clearer, as it develops, until the perfect image of Nessie appears.
If, however, your pal–unacquainted with the science of Polaroid photos–threw the photo overboard with a groan of disappointment, assuming it was just a photo of a brown smudge, then your unique, perfect and valuable photo of Nessie would be gone. What a waste.
And what a waste every time a human baby, mistaken for “merely a blueprint” or “a clump of cells,” is thrown overboard.
So far my godson hasn’t voiced doubt about the humanity of unborn babies or asked why faithful Catholics are so concerned with protecting them. But thanks to Horn’s excellent presentation, I’ve got some great answers ready.