A pro-abortion leftist named Patrick Tomlinson posed a hypothetical on Twitter today that allegedly destroys the pro-life argument. His tweets detailing this far-fetched and absurd scenario have gone viral with many of his fellow pro-aborts sharing it and taunting the pro-life crowd. "Bet you can't answer THIS. We got you now!"
The hypothetical goes like this (I'm paraphrasing):
You're in a fertility clinic. Suddenly, a fire breaks out. The building begins to quickly burn down because the clinic apparently has no sprinkler system, in clear violation of safety codes. As you're about to make a run for your life, you hear crying in another room. You open the door and for some unknown reason there's a five-year-old child standing in the frozen storage unit of this facility. Why is the fertility clinic keeping frozen five-year-olds? You don't have time to figure that out. You also notice on the other side of the room a big box marked "1000 viable human embryos." Do fertility clinics really keep human embryos in boxes labeled "viable human embryos"? Maybe, apparently so, but anyway. You have to choose between saving the five-year-old or the box of embryos. Why can't you grab both? Maybe you're holding your Starbucks latte in the other hand. Who knows? You can only save one. That's the game. Which do you choose?
Patrick explains that everyone would choose the child, which proves that human embryos have less value, which proves, somehow, that abortion is OK. Patrick then goes on to declare repeatedly that NO pro-lifer has EVER or will EVER answer this question honestly. He's employed the very constructive (and totally honest!) debating tactic of accusing his opponents of lying before they even open their mouths.
I'll answer the question as simply and honestly as I can: Yes, I would save the kid.
No, that does not prove that the embryos have no value or even less value. It also has absolutely no relation to the abortion question whatsoever. Allow me to explain.
First of all, the decision of who to save in a burning building is more an emotional one than a moral one. The whole reason we're put in the burning building for this hypothetical is to get us to forfeit our moral reasoning and adopt emotional reasoning. But emotional reasoning in a burning building is perfectly fine. In an abortion clinic, it isn't. My personal and emotional connection with my own child would lead me to save him over someone else's. Does that mean I don't recognize the value of someone else's child, or that it would be OK for me to kill someone else's child?
Second, there is a huge difference between leaving someone in a burning building because you cannot save them, and killing them outright. It is morally permissible to commit a good act (saving a child) which may indirectly lead to something bad (the embryos burning). In that case, my intention was to save the child, not to kill the embryos. Indeed, I did not kill the embryos. I just failed to save them from being killed. This is called the principle of double effect. So, just because it would be justified for me to leave the embryos to die does not mean it would be justified to kill them directly. In order for this to be similar to abortion, you'd have to had set the fire yourself. Or else you'd have to run into the room, grab the child, and then throw the embryos into the flames like a maniac.
Third, OK, but have I not proven that I value the embryos less by saving the child? Well, it doesn't matter how I value them personally. It's their intrinsic value that matters. I value my family over your family but your family has the same intrinsic value. I'm making the decision based, as I said before, on emotion. I can see the child. I hear him crying. I'm looking him in the eyes. I grab him. It's instinct. But there's also some logic to it. I don't really know how many of those embryos are still viable and whether they'll ever be implanted and given the chance to develop. Again: this calculation WOULD NOT justify killing the embryos under any circumstance, but it would justify my decision to save the child instead. By the way, if it were a five-year-old and a 70-year-old in there, I'd save the five-year-old. If it were a five-year-old and Patrick Tomlinson in there, I'm still saving the five-year-old. Sorry, Pat. But does that mean Pat's life has less value? Does that mean I could crush his skull and suck his brains out with a vacuum hose? No, it just means that my emotional impulse leads me to the child, not the pretentious pro-abortion dude who spends his time posing disingenuous hypotheticals.
What is intrinsic value? Intrinsic: belonging to a thing by its very nature. In other words, if human beings have intrinsic value at all, then they must have it from the first moment they exist as a distinct entity. If they do not have value, or if their value is less, then their value is not intrinsic and never will be. You see, all we've done by removing intrinsic value from the embryo is remove intrinsic value from the five-year-old, who was an embryo not long ago. I am not comfortable doing that. I do not think it's right or logical or moral. So the five-year-old must have intrinsic value. So the 70-year-old must have intrinsic value. So even Patrick Tomlinson has intrinsic value. So the embryo has intrinsic value.
There's your answer, Pat. Now I have a question of my own. Maybe you can help me out. Why is the pro-abortion side so incapable of debating abortion on its own terms?
Your arguments almost always involve elaborate hypotheticals ("You're in a burning fertility clinic!" "You're surgically attached to a stranger through a series of tubes!") or worst case propositions ("You're a 12-year-old girl pregnant with your father's baby"). You don't seem willing to put all of your fantasy scenarios aside and just deal with what abortion is 99% of the time: the willful choice by a healthy woman to kill a healthy unborn child because the child is inconvenient. There's no burning building. No rape, most of the time. No terminal illnesses in the majority of cases. But for some reason our discussion of abortion ignores the 99% and focuses exclusively around situations that never happen or rarely happen.
Why? Because you're afraid. You're afraid to stare abortion in the face. These hypotheticals aren't meant to convince pro-lifers. You're arguing with yourself. You're trying to quiet your own conscience by presenting abortion in the most noble and sanitized way possible. "Yes," you tell yourself. "It's just like saving a kid from a burning building. Yes, that's it. That's a good way of looking at it."
No, I'm sorry, that's a completely delusional way of looking at the intentional killing of a human person.
Here. If you like hypotheticals so much, try a more appropriate one:
You're in a fertility clinic. There's no fire. There's a box with one human embryo. It's your child in there. Not some stranger's. Yours. Do you: A) Open the box and purposefully destroy the human life inside, or B) not?
Let's try another one:
You just lost your job. Your life is falling apart. You have a newborn infant. You're worried about how you might care for him. He is now a huge burden. He cries all the time. He's expensive. He's needy. Do you: A) Drown him in the bathtub, or B) not?
You're lost in the desert with your five-year-old son. The same one from the fertility clinic. You brought him out here to thaw, I guess. But you can't find your way back. You have only one loaf of bread and a bottle of water. You don't know if there will be enough for both of you. Do you: A) Bash your son to death with a rock so that there will be more food for you, or B) not, and instead make whatever personal sacrifice is necessary for his sake, because he's a human being, and he's your son, and it's your duty as a parent to sacrifice or him?
There you go, Pat. These are hypotheticals that involve the avoidable, intentional, direct, violent killing of your own child, committed for utterly selfish reasons. That's abortion. Let's talk about abortion, if you have the courage.