But Is It Human?
When I was little, my dad told me about Spartan infanticide: How a new baby was brought to the father, who then either accepted/recognized him/her or directed that the child be killed.
I wasn’t that little, and this was by the way of being a joke on the fact that I was premature, very small and would never have survived. While old enough to understand the joke, I thought it was a barbaric and despicable system, putting the life of a newborn in the hands of a flawed individual who might just not feel really cordial that day, or kill the child for monetary and convenience reasons.
I was very glad we no longer lived in such a barbarous age.
For a while now, I’ve suspected I was wrong. Governor Northam’s speech was only the glaringly obvious slap in the face to prove that indeed and in fact, we do very much live in a world like Sparta’s. Only these days it’s not the father who gets to decide, but the mother.
You see, lacking a solid point at which we declare that life in the womb is/isn’t human, we have defaulted by degrees to “It’s human if it’s wanted.” Specifically, if it’s wanted by the mother.
Unfortunately, this opens the door to atrocity.
It’s not even a slippery slope, just a working out of the conclusion. If you’re not wanted once you’re born, why should you be accorded any more “humanity” than you were if unwanted in the womb? Why should there be a limit to when you stop being wanted?
Should the mother have the right to kill her children when they disappoint her? Should she be able to have her daughter killed at 14 because she had a C? To have her son killed at 16 because he turns out to be gay?
If not, why not? When does humanity stop being conditional on “Mommy wants you?” At majority? So, until eighteen you are the mother’s property and subject to the death penalty if you stop being wanted?
For a glimpse of what this would bring peruse your “pets” section of your local Craigslist and see how many expensive pets are “seeking a new home.” They were once very much wanted, sought out and paid for. But two years later, the new boyfriend is “allergic.” Work “doesn’t allow us time” and so on and so forth.
“Was wanted by mother” is a lousy way of determining humanity.
But we have no other. Abortion at any and all points of pregnancy — for reasons not nearly so dire as “life of the mother” or “incest and rape” — has left the door wide open to: when is an individual human a human, with that famed “right to life” that is enshrined in our founding documents?