We all know the phrase mother knows best. Most of us remember it as a tactic used to convince us to listen to their mothers, but for Beto O’Rourke and his supporters, it is also their approach to abortion. In a recent campaign event, the 2020 Presidential candidate fielded a question from a member of the audience regarding late-term abortion. The individual asked the former congressman whether his life had any value on the day prior to his birth in 1989. This question was a direct reference to O’Rourke’s opinion expressed during a previous campaign event in Ohio, during which he stated his favor for third trimester abortions.
The question itself presents a moral challenge which must be faced by all those who are in favor of abortion on demand. When does a child in the womb transition from having no value to retaining the values inherent in all human beings? Who makes this decision and how does one arrive at this point? For Beto O’Rourke, the decision is made by the woman carrying the child. In reference to the question asked by the individual in the audience, he answered that abortion is “a decision that neither you, nor I, nor the United States government should be making.” In other words, neither the State, nor anyone else is allowed to make a decision regarding the worth of a child until it is outside the womb; that is the role of the woman carrying the child.
Based on the loud applause and cheering which followed this response, it is evident that either O’Rourke’s supporters are wholesale supporters of this view or they have no idea what exactly the implications of this view really are. Since the beginning of the modern abortion debate, the question of value has always been a significant part of the debate. Doctors, scientists, ethicists and philosophers have recognized the importance of the “value” question in determining the ethical framework through which abortion must be considered. It is necessary in order to understand how a human being can suddenly transition from being considered to have no worth to having the same worth as a fully developed human being. Why is terminating the life of a human being somehow different when the person is 35 years old than when they are in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Regardless of how one responds to this question, it is still a question which must have an answer. Many have taken the approach of using viability outside the womb as the primary means of determining value. Although, with modern medical technology this now has the potential of including children born as early as 22 weeks gestation. For this reason, many States have restricted abortion to only those who are within their second trimester. The further along in gestational age one allows for abortion to be an option, the more challenging it becomes to defend the position of viability as the starting point at which human value is finally achieved.
The reason O’Rourke is unable to offer a good defense for his view is because there is not a logical argument which can successfully defend how birth generates value, but yet is absent only one day prior to this date. The only way to logically answer the value question is to recognize that it is the woman carrying the child who gives a person their value. This proposition means that every person who has ever been born only has value because their mother chose to give this value. The reason you or I have human worth is because our mothers made a decision that we should be given it.
Whether O’Rourke and supporters of third trimester abortion really understand this or not is uncertain, but it is the only logical ends to their position. Either a child has value one day prior to birth and thus should be protected, or the child does not have any value until the mother assigns it at birth or at some other moment. Furthermore, such an agrument begs the question as to whether the mother of a child retains the right to remove the value of the child at any time she chooses. If human value is given by a mother, it would be logical to conclude it can also be taken away; at any age and for any reason.
It seems hard to believe anyone would argue for the right of a mother to take the life of their child at age 2 or 3 or 35 years old, but that is where the logic of this position will lead such proponents. If the State should not be involved in the preservation of life one day prior to birth, why should it be involved in anything from birth onward? Yet, we know those who advocate for abortion and even third trimester abortions, would also be the first people to defend forcibly removing a child from their mother if there was suspicion of child abuse, especially if the child’s life was endangered. The inconsistency is a testament to their acceptance of logical fallacies as long as it allows them to achieve their end goals.
Make no mistake, this is not a matter of politicians not understanding the logical fallacy of their arguments, but a desire to appease the culture. Politicians might be naive or ignorant regarding particular issues, but they are generally not stupid. They are completely aware talking points are not necessarily written with a logical argument at the foundation, but to rally a crowd and fire up their base. In O’Rourke’s case this is women who care about their right to have an abortion whenever and under whatever conditions they so choose. It means what takes priority is not logical argument which attempts to reconcile the inconsistency or incompatible of a position, but cultural appeasement. Not just appeasement to a small group, but a desperate attempt by the current group of presidential candidates to appease every special interest group possible.
As Christians, we need to be prepared to take the conversation a level deeper than merely responding with our own set of short, pithy talking points when engaging on such topics as abortion, the environment or any other significant or moral issue. In order to actually influence the culture we must be both willing and able to engage in meaningful, level headed conversation. This is the only way some people may come to the realization their position on a particular issue may not support their presuppositions. For Christians that means thinking through these issues carefully and biblically. It involves taking an active role in knowing the details of an issue beyond the surface level. Most importantly, it means knowing our Bible.