July 30, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The discussion regarding Planned Parenthood Federation of America and “SheDecides” raises questions that deeply touch the life of every human being. As part of their mission to ensure women’s health, they are pursuing a complete decriminalization of the killing of unborn human beings, which is trivialized in legal language as abortion. In order to achieve complete exemption from punishment, the pitfall of human life being destroyed by abortion must be avoided. In order to be able to act in conformity with the law, unborn life is therefore declared to be a thing, or it is to be determined by a social contract in which stage of development or life the human being is assigned the right to life. This could lead to legal consequences that affect the right to life as a whole.
“My belly is mine!” [the German equivalent of “my body, my choice”] – this battle cry has become an integral part of the collective memory of societies and reflects the demand to consider all that is present in a woman’s body as an integral part of her. No distinction is made between the contents of the stomach, intestines, veins or uterus. Only the woman should have the power of disposition over everything that is in her body; only she can and may determine what happens to the contents of her body. The fact that the contents of the womb, i.e. the unborn child, and other contents of the body are different, is ignored – they are regarded in toto as objects of rights and thus as things that the woman may dispose of, free from all restrictions. That is why the unborn human being is also only seen as a “clump of cells.” This deprives the unborn life of the legal quality of a legal subject, so that it cannot have any rights of its own. The legal subject, which has the human right to life, becomes a legal object through this viewpoint, which only has to be regarded as a thing. Since objects cannot be the owners of rights or claims, they cannot assert any rights or claims for themselves and are therefore completely subject to the mother’s power of disposition. This would mean that the woman could do what she wants with the unborn life.
Even if the right to life were to be taken away from the unborn child – the right to inherit remains. According to civil law, even the unborn child is entitled to inherit. If the testator should die before the birth of the child appointed as heir, the child cannot yet assert this right itself, not even through a representative, but at the moment of birth, this expectancy becomes a right that the child, represented by a representative, can assert with legal effect.
The unborn human being is entitled to this right, so that it cannot be called a thing simply by virtue of its capacity to inherit within the framework of our legal system, especially since it would contradict our idea that every human being must be regarded as imago Dei, as the image of God – with the consequence that every human being, whether unborn or born, has the right to life. In the case of abortion, therefore, the human rights of the mother collide with those of the unborn child. In this conflict, however, the right of the child must not be completely ignored; it must be taken into account when weighing the rights.
In order to avoid the pre-Enlightenment legal view that knew human beings as legal subjects and objects of law, i.e. both as free people and slaves or serfs, the two Australian philosophers Peter Singer and Helga Kuhse proposed that we would have to distinguish between “human being” and “person,” but this also means that “human being” is seen merely as a thing that can be freely disposed of. While the human being cannot claim a human right to life per se, the person should be entitled to it.
According to them, a person would become a person if he or she had self-confidence, self-control, a sense of future and past, the ability to make connections, and care for others. Only when a person has these abilities, according to Peter Singer, can he or she enjoy the protection of the right to life as a person. If he or she does not have these abilities, he or she is on the same legal level as an animal. Since the animal is a thing, the thing “human being” could therefore be disposed of at will.
On the basis of this assumption, it would be permissible to kill with impunity the unborn and those who are born within the first month, but also old, disabled and demented people. After all, all these people can be said to be deprived of the ability to have self-confidence, etc. This would open the door for society to free itself from unborn people, as well as those who only cost money. According to the guidelines of Singer and Kuhse, sleeping persons could consequently also lose the classification of “person,” since during sleep they are incapable of fulfilling the conditions that are supposed to be necessary to be privileged as a person. However, the two philosophers do not want to go that far, although it would be logical.
The fact that in many state legal systems abortion has been declared non-punishable in the first three months has already caused a breach of the dam. In the discussion regarding the legalization of abortion we went on a slippery slope, where now, there seems to be no more stopping. Once the notion is overcome that man, as an imago Dei, has the right to life as an intrinsic right, desires can be stirred that demand the removal of the criminal charge of killing any unborn life. But then it is only a small step to demand the killing of other people as well – especially those people whose care costs a lot of money and who can no longer pay for this costly care themselves. Since the costs of care would therefore have to be borne by the relatives, we can foresee that, in order to escape poverty of their own because of the assumption of the costs of care, they could press the relatives in need of care to agree to active euthanasia.
It is the very essence of a principle that, once it has been abolished, it can hardly be applied. We can follow this process in the discussion on the permissibility of active euthanasia. Whereas euthanasia was frowned upon after the end of the Second World War in view of the upheavals in the Third Reich, twenty years later consideration was already being given to allowing active euthanasia if the patient was irreversibly ill. Another ten years later, it was discussed that it should also be permitted to patients who were only seriously ill. After another ten years, the scientific discussion led to the demand to allow active euthanasia if the patient does not feel well. One step followed the next. In the meantime, active euthanasia is legal in some European countries.
These far-reaching consequences must be borne in mind when supporting institutions that advocate the widespread liberalization of abortion. In order to stop this development, it is necessary to demand a return to Christian ethics, so that all people, whether born or not, are seen as the image of God. A new evangelization would be the best way to achieve this.
Lothar C. Rilinger is a lawyer in Germany. This text was translated by LifeSite’s Martin Bürger.