Below is the text of the speech I gave at the 2017 Alberta March for Life (in Edmonton, May 11):
If the human fetus is a person in the morally relevant sense, we are killing human persons by the thousands by means of abortion. This is a horrifying thought.
I want very much for that not to be true. I want very much for it not to be true because if it is true, it is truly horrific. I would very much rather not think about it.
But when I do think about it–when I look at the relevant evidence, and consider the best reasoning on the subject—unfortunately for me, I find myself believing that this horrific thought is actually true.
Part of my reason for believing this comes from my religious tradition. Christians throughout the centuries have believed that abortion involves the killing of an innocent human being. One does not wisely and lightly set aside the wisdom of such a tradition. (Other, more recent, views on this subject are not a result of a better scientific understanding of fetus. This knowledge actually militates the other way.)
But the main reason I hold this view is on the basis of simple philosophical reasoning: I can find no convincing rationale for thinking that a normal adult human being is a person with a “right to life,” but a human fetus is not. I see no difference between an ordinary human adult and a human fetus that would entail that killing the former is a very, very serious matter, but killing the latter is not. Indeed, I have likely already lived the majority of my life. But a fetus’ life has just begun. So killing me would deprive me of far less than would killing a human fetus. So killing the latter would appear far worse.
Many explanations to the contrary have been offered, of course. But they all seem to be proven-false by clear counterexample. All such explanations—of how we have a right to life but the pre-born do not—entail things which we know are not true. They entail that it is OK to kill the temporarily unconscious, or the handicapped, those we don’t care about, or recently-born babies. Our ethical instincts—our consciences—show us that these explanations are wrong, because they entail obvious ethical falsehoods.
I am not saying that those who see it otherwise are less intelligent or generally less-ethical. They have their sincere, plausible-seeming rationale. But unfortunately, I do not see that these rationale ultimately stand up.
Logicians talk about ‘The Fallacy of Desire:’ People believe things because they want them to be true. Unfortunately, wanting something to be true is no indication that it is true.
I believe our society is guilty of a massive fallacy of desire. We believe that abortion isn’t killing someone, because we want very much for it not to be. It makes life easier to think that way. It avoids serious difficulties. It avoids the horrific thought that we’re killing people!
I believe far, far fewer people would be “pro-choice” if they weren’t motivated by such a very powerful desire for their view to be true. Or they weren’t motivated by a desire for the approval of others—another factor irrelevant to the truth.
But wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true. Nor does believing what’s popular.
God have mercy.