Abortion and Childlikeness

Daddy, what’s abortion?

That’s the question Garrett Kell was forced to answer when his four-year-old daughter heard the unfamiliar word and wondered what it meant. His account of the experience closely mirrors the story my mother tells of the time I asked her the same question.  My response was the same as Kell’s daughter: 

“Why would someone do that?” 

Life is full of complexity and paradox. As we mature, we see that life requires us to make imperfect choices and conciliate between sometimes conflicting values: friendship versus responsibility; family versus honesty. 

Great art portrays such tension, none more than the Bible. Why would such catastrophe afflict such a righteous man as Job? How is a father to respond to the return of a wayward son – and what of the other son who did no wrong? What exactly does it mean to love your enemy? 

As imperfect people, we don’t always handle these situations well. Even those closest to Jesus Christ struggled. In Matthew 18, the disciples seem to be having a dispute amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest. Do you remember what happens?

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (v. 2-4)

In the midst of life’s most complicated questions (or, in the case of the disciples, selfish ones), childlikeness is a touchstone. That isn’t to say that critical thinking, prudent consideration, and the counseling of wise friends are unnecessary. The opposite is true. But when faced with one of those tough situations when what’s good seems gray, the word of a child unsullied by the complications of the world, may be a witness to the truth.

“Why would someone kill a baby?” Lots of reasons. Yet the horror of a four-year-old’s response bears witness to the truth that it’s an awful, immoral practice and rarely warranted. 

  1. Nick Stuart
      It’s a lot easier if the baby is dehumanized. “Just a clump of cells,” or “the fetus.”

    You’re not bribing, extorting, pressuring your wife, daughter, girlfriend into ending a human life, you just want her to have a “procedure.”

    You’re the center of your universe. Anything that would interfere with that can be eliminated. It’s your right.

    You need a good harvest, so the infant has to be sacrificed (wait, that was Baal worship, different post altogether).

    The hardness of the heart that abortion has introduced into our culture is frightening.

  2. Aaron Miller
    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor: 

    In the midst of life’s most complicated questions (or, in the case of the disciples, selfish ones), childlikeness is a touchstone. That isn’t to say that critical thinking, prudent consideration, and the counseling of wise friends are unnecessary. The opposite is true. But when faced with one of those tough situations when what’s good seems gray, the word of a child unsullied by the complications of the world, may be a witness to the truth.

    Very well said.

    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor:

    “Why would someone do that?”

    The same reason that drives so much politics: It’s easy to hurt someone when you don’t have to look the person in the eye. And it’s tempting to be selfish… especially when the sacrifice is so great.

    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor:

    … rarely warranted.

    More accurately, almost never. With modern medical knowledge and facilities, how often is a mother’s life threatened by childbirth?

    And don’t mention rape. It is never acceptable to kill an innocent to spare oneself pain or hardship. I sympathize and don’t judge the mothers, but I won’t hesitate to judge the action. It’s plainly wrong.

  3. Aaron Miller

    It’s worth noting that even in those rare cases when the mother’s life is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth, abortion should not be an automatic decision.

    If I had to choose between surviving through the killing of my son or risking my life for the possibility that my son might survive (even to be raised by strangers or holed up in an adoption agency), I’d like to think I would not hesitate to choose the latter.

  4. iDad

    The correct answer to the question “Daddy, what’s abortion?” is ”It’s something we shouldn’t discuss because it makes Republicans less electable.” 

  5. Olive

    “Why would someone do that?”

    Yes, it’s so simple even a child can understand it. As the author and others have pointed out, selfishness stands at the root of why anyone would want to kill a baby. Pro-aborts have to tie themselves in knots to make it complicated, and to equate abortion with capital punishment, i.e., How can you pro-lifers be pro-death penalty? 

    As if the difference between a person who’s never done anything wrong and a convicted murderer were a difficult distinction to make.  

  6. Olive
    Aaron Miller

    And don’t mention rape. It is neveracceptable to kill an innocent to spare oneself pain or hardship. I sympathize and don’t judge the mothers, but I won’t hesitate to judge the action. It’s plainly wrong. · 36 minutes ago

    Many reasons not to allow for a rape exception; among them, women who have submitted to a post-rape abortion feel as if they were violated twice; the abortion does nothing to erase the crime of the rapist and in fact makes the trauma worse; persons conceived in rape will tell you they are glad they were given a chance to live despite their father’s crime.

  7. Robert E. Lee

    I’m always amazed by the so-called prolife folks whose concern for human welfare seems to stop at the moment of birth.  Once you are born you are just one more burden on society, at least, that is, if you have no money.  In another discussion the debate was about the expense of taking care of the sick and elderly.  It’s seems, for some, the sacredness of human life only extends to those parasitic creatures in someone elses womb.  The moment they might become your responsibility, then it’s a problem.

    I’m pro-choice.  No surprise there.  But I’m also anti-abortion.  While I think a woman (or anyone for that matter) should have absolute control over what happens to her body, I’d prefer that every unborn child have a happy and loving home.  It’s just the sanctimony involved in this topic in general never ceases to irk me.  The group most fervent in their defense of personal liberty balks at extending that to women.

    I’m sorry you had to explain all this to your 4-year old.  I wouldn’t wish to explain it to a 40-year old. 

  8. Scott R

    My son’s reaction, age 8 or so: “That’s legal?!”

  9. Aaron Miller
    Robert E. Lee:

    I’m pro-choice.  No surprise there.  But I’m also anti-abortion.  While I think a woman (or anyone for that matter) should have absolute control over what happens to her body, I’d prefer that every unborn child have a happy and loving home.  ….

    So, better that a child be killed than be raised in poverty or an unhappy home?

    In the vast majority of cases, the mother had a choice. She chose to have sex. That choice includes the “risk” of responsibility for another person’s life.

    The only sanctimony in this thread is yours, for assuming that any sympathies or plans not immediately expressed must not exist. How such children may be cared for has no bearing on their basic God-given right to live.

  10. Nick Stuart
    Robert E. Lee: I’m always amazed by the so-called prolife folks whose concern for human welfare seems to stop at the moment of birth. 

    Robert, I would be amazed at pro-life folks whose concern for human welfare stops at birth too. Who specifically do you have in mind, or is this just a straw man argument?

    Catholic charities alone would be a significant example countering your assertion. There are many others.

  11. Robert E. Lee
    Aaron Miller

    So, better that a child be killed than be raised in poverty or an unhappy home?

    Sure, why not?  You adopted any starving African babies lately?  Any handicapped children?  Any children at all?  Even bought condoms for someone to prevent a pregnancy?  Or is it always someone else’s responsibility?

    Nick Stuart

    Robert, I would be amazed at pro-life folks whose concern for human welfare stops at birth too. Who specifically do you have in mind, or is this just a straw man argument?

    Here and now, as in: http://ricochet.com/member-feed/The-Medical-Crisis-No-One-Wants-To-Discuss

    People here on Ricochet talk a lot about how expensive caring for human beings is.  They are right, it is expensive.  They say that we shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s care.  I agree.

    Aaron Miller

    How such children may be cared for has no bearing on their basic God-given right to live. · 9 minutes ago

    What God-given right to live?  Men claim that God gives the right to live.  If that were so, they would live.  Instead people die in droves daily from war, famine, disease.

  12. danys

    My 5-year-old’s reaction was, “Why not donate them?”

    I found her word choice interesting.

  13. Scott R
    danys: My 5-year-old’s reaction was, “Why not donate them?”

    I found her word choice interesting. · 4 hours ago

    Yes, and I bet she didn’t mean to science.

  14. Aaron Miller
    Robert E. Lee

    Aaron Miller

    So, better that a child be killed than be raised in poverty or an unhappy home?

    Sure, why not?  You adopted any starving African babies lately?  Any handicapped children?  Any children at all?  Even bought condoms for someone to prevent a pregnancy?  Or is it always someone else’s responsibility?

    This argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Conservative Christians, the majority of which consider abortions in general abhorrent, lead the world in charity toward children, and always have. Everyone knows the Church is heavily involved in adoptions and programs for the poor.

    Robert E. Lee

    Aaron Miller

    How such children may be cared for has no bearing on their basic God-given right to live.

    What God-given right to live?  ….

    If you do not accept that we all possess at least an inherent right to life, then how can believe in other inherent rights? Do you not accept the premise of the Constitution that certain inalienable rights precede any government? How could the basic right to not be murdered not be first among these?

  15. NonProfit

    My child’s response at age 9 or so: a sharp intake of breath then uncontrolled weeping.  She simply could not believe it.

  16. NonProfit
    Aaron Miller: It’s worth noting that even in those rare cases when the mother’s life is threatened by pregnancy or childbirth, abortion should not be an automatic decision.

    If I had to choose between surviving through the killing of my son or risking my life for the possibility that my son mightsurvive (even to be raised by strangers or holed up in an adoption agency), I’d like to think I would not hesitate to choose the latter. · 8 hours ago

    Thank you for putting it just this way, Aaron.  It finally puts this tired canard to rest.  A woman has a right to give her life for her child if necessary.

  17. Aaron Miller
    Robert E. Lee

    I believe saving the life of a human being is more important than saving something that might become human if it survives. 

    ….

    *I believe it is important to note  here that I do not believe a fertilized ovum is a human being.  I believe it becomes human sometime in the first trimester, if it lasts that long. 

    I respect the difficulty of defining and identifying personhood. But I believe it is incumbent upon a mother to know with absolute certainty (or try to know, at least) what she is killing before she kills it.

    Otherwise, it’s like seeing something moving in a bush and firing bullets into it without first identifying the animal. You should be damn sure it’s not human before shooting it.

  18. Aaron Miller

    I have never heard a definition of personhood which explains why a newborn baby is inherently precious but an adult chimpanzee, which exhibits more self-awareness and intelligence, is not.

    Note that a baby is precious for who he or she is at that moment, and not just for who he or she may become later in life. Many parents have been told by doctors that their children would not long survive, and loved their children anyway.

  19. iDad
    Robert E. Lee

    What I find sanctimonious are when this very complex issue is boiled down to platitudes.

     

    Is ”Those who oppose abortion aren’t really concerned about children because they don’t support [fill in the blank] policy or engage in [fill in the blank] charity” a platitude?

  20. Robert E. Lee
    iDad

    Is ”Those who oppose abortion aren’t really concerned about children because they don’t support [fill in the blank] policy or engage in [fill in the blank] charity” a platitude? · 33 minutes ago

    Yup, I’d say that was…er…platitudinous.

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