If you are an abortion apologist, you probably have claimed many times that an unborn baby is just a “potential person,” not a real person. While in the womb he is merely a “clump of cells,” or some other demeaning phrase that better describes the average Walmart shopper than the average unborn baby. He will soon become a real person, full of worth and dignity and beauty, but for now he is nothing but potential, and that potential has no worth or dignity whatsoever. It can be slaughtered like a pig and tossed in the garbage like used diapers.
This is a very, very stupid argument. And I’d like to explain why.
I will not waste much time pointing out that the “fetus” is indeed a real person. Scientifically, there is no such thing as a potential person. There are only people and non-people. A sperm has the potential to become a person, but it is not itself a potential person. A sperm left on its own, in its natural environment, will never be anything but a sperm. It must combine with an egg to become something else entirely. Once conception occurs, a genetically distinct human organism has now come into being. Nothing else needs to be added to it. If left to its own devices, it will grow and develop all of the physical features of a human being, and this process of growth and development will continue after birth and beyond. Yes, the unborn child is dependent on his mother’s body, but that does not make him less a person. A born baby is also dependent on his mother’s body, yet he is a person. You are dependent on air and food and water, and maybe even still on your parents, yet you are a person.
You may call this human being an “embryo” at its earliest stage, but you must call it a human embryo. It is not a warthog embryo or a kangaroo embryo or a moose embryo. It is a human embryo, like an infant is a human infant, and an adult is a human adult. These are merely stages of growth. Human growth. One will follow after another, naturally, unless death interrupts the process.
But these scientific facts are almost irrelevant to the case. Here’s the really incredible thing about the pro-abortion position: it would still be wrong even if the unborn child was merely a potential person. I could concede the point — I don’t concede it, but I could — and I would not automatically be conceding that abortion is morally acceptable.
Indeed, the pro-abortion person must do two impossible things: 1) He must prove that the unborn child is a potential person, not a real person. 2) He must prove that it is OK to kill the potential person. Even in some fantastical sci-fi world where he could prove the first point, he still would not be able to prove the second. “Let’s kill it” does not logically follow from “the fetus isn’t a full person.” Pro-lifers could be wrong about the personhood of the “fetus” (they aren’t) but they’d still be right about abortion. Pro-aborts could be right about the non-personhood of the “fetus” (they aren’t) but they’d still be wrong about abortion. Pro-aborts are so wrong that even if they were right they’d be wrong.
A “potential person,” if such a thing existed, would deserve to be cherished and protected. It would still be an incomprehensibly valuable and precious thing; a thing with more value than every object or animal on Earth. It’s a potential person, for God’s sake. To destroy such a thing would be still be evil, still tragic, still murder, still the destruction of something beautiful and priceless and unique. Only with human beings do we use the “potential” qualifier as a means to remove all worth from a thing. With anything else, we place the same value on the potentiality as we do on the actuality.
Let me demonstrate.
Imagine that you are on your way to the lottery office, ready to cash a 50 million dollar winning lottery ticket. What you hold in your hand is not 50 million dollars. It is just a receipt. It is nothing but the potential for 50 million dollars. It is on its way to becoming 50 million dollars but it is not itself 50 million dollars. Now imagine that I run up in some crazed fit, snatch the ticket, and proceed to burn it right in front of you. I’m not burning 50 million dollars! I’m just burning a thing that was about to be 50 million dollars.
How would you react? Like a person who’d just lost a piece of receipt paper? Or like a person who just lost 50 million dollars? The fact that the thing had not yet been redeemed and officially converted into 50 million dollars would seem, to you, an irrelevant technicality.
Or imagine that you are walking down the beach and you stumble across me as I am in the process of gleefully stomping on a whole pile of endangered sea turtle eggs (which would be a criminal act on my part). If you are pro-abortion, then you must believe that those sea turtle eggs are just “potential sea turtles.” They are not themselves sea turtles. Yet you would likely treat me as a killer of sea turtles. You would probably pick rocks out of the sand and attempt to stone me to death in an hysteria of rage.
In the case of the potential sea turtles, you have no problem at all recognizing that they are as valuable as real sea turtles. You see no distinction whatsoever between the murder of potential sea turtles and the murder of actual sea turtles. Those eggs I squashed represent a dozen fewer sea turtles. The world will now be deprived of those sea turtles, which is a great tragedy. It is no less a tragedy than it would have been had I waited until they hatched to bash their turtle skulls.
The same would be true if you caught me making omelets of bald eagle eggs (also a crime) or performing an abortion on a bottlenose dolphin (probably a crime, but I haven’t checked). In the case of any other creature or thing on the face of this Earth, you see no moral distinction at all between the “potential” thing — that is, the thing at its earliest phase of physical existence — and the thing itself. Only with humans do you suddenly discover the utter worthlessness of the potential.
Strange, isn’t it?
Now excuse me while I finish my omelet.