In abortion debate, faith defines 'innocent human life'


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Just like a liberal?#34;the opposition is ready to club you over the head, politically if not physically, and the best you can muster is a squeaky "Why can't we all just get along?" I don't see any common ground on abortion, only opportunism. Here's why, though, I hope I'm wrong:

There's no argument about whether it is or is not "human life." The fetus is obviously alive, and it's certainly not a chimpanzee. But of course, this is also true of a cyst, or uncannily close to early embryonic development, a teratoma?#34;that odd kind of tumor that actually evidences cell differentiation, though unlike the orderly process in a fetus, the differentiation occurs wildly. The philosophical question at the core of the debate is whether?#34;or when?#34;a fetus is a person. A "right to life" is something that adheres to persons. Alas, the definition of "person" is ultimately more a matter of faith than fact. (I wonder how much it has to do with appearance?#34;the beauty is one of us, the beast is not. Perhaps cuteness is nature's way of keeping kids alive. But I digress.)

"Well," you may say, "OK, sure, even if a fetus may be a person, isn't the mother clearly a person? What about her rights?" And that's when you begin to hear?#34;especially from the dogmatists who would protect fetuses but harm other people for all manner of offenses?#34;the adjective "innocent." The fetus is esteemed as not just "human life" but "innocent human life." Outside of a strict legal context, however, innocence too is essentially a matter of faith, as Job so eloquently bemoans. In our stochastic universe, where not only do bad things happen to good people, but all manner of random, meaningless things happen to ambivalent people, the closest synonym I can think of for "innocent" is "lucky."

So there you are. It's a matter of faith. They have it, and you don't. And that doesn't bode well for you.

I remember journeying with my wife many years ago to an ACLU dinner in Milwaukee. It was in January, and there was a strong wind blowing off the lake. A few dozen anti-abortion picketers were gathered in front of the hall protesting the ACLU's support for abortion rights cases (I think it was right around the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade). She wondered how they could stand outside in -25 degree weather. I said, "It's only -5 without the wind chill; fanatics don't feel the wind chill." They don't. They were still there when we left.

Ken Perlow
Oak Park

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