The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Scott Klusendorf. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.
BA: Hello this is Brian Auten with Apologetics 315. Today’s interview is with Scott Klusendorf. Scott is President of the Life Training Institute found on line at prolifetraining.com Scott travels throughout the United States and Canada training pro-life advocates to persuasively defend their views in the public square. He’s participated in numerous debates given countless lectures, and is also author of The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture. The goal of this interview today is to look at some of the essential elements of the Pro-life position, answer some of the common arguments from the pro-choice position, and look at how Christians can be better equipped to make a strong positive case for life.
BA: Wow that’s good. Now in today’s interview I have a whole number of questions I would like to ask you, but before we start delving into this subject of abortion and the pro-life position, I just want us to define our terms before we get into it. What do we mean when we say abortion?
SK: The two big things to be aware of are Supreme Court decisions that happened in the United States and in Canada. That framed the debate in North America. In the United States the Supreme Court case of Roe vs. Wade and the Supreme Court case of Doe V. Bolton, which were both handed down simultaneously, defined both the legality of abortion, and what the states can do to restrict it. In Roe vs. Wade the court said that the State may restrict abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, if and only if those restrictions do not interfere with a woman’s so called “health,” and I put health in quote marks. In Doe vs. Bolton the court went on to define health so broadly you could drive a Mac truck though it.
And so what we end up with is that for all practical purposes, abortion remains legal through all nine months of pregnancy even in the third trimester because of that health exception. In Canada the date to keep in mind is 1988 where the Supreme Court of Canada in the infamous Morgentaler decision declared essentially that abortion must remain legal up until the moment of birth however if parliament chose to legislate on the matter it could. Now there is the differences between the Canadian and American court cases. In the American court case the courts co-opted the issue from the legislative and executive branches. In Canada the courts stepped into a vacuum where there was no legislative agenda and dictated its own policy and up to this point Parliament has refused to do any thing different from than what the courts have done.
In the United Kingdom the important date to remember is 1967 and the abortion act of 1967 was passed at that time. At the time, it was one of the most liberal laws regarding abortion in all of Europe. Northern Ireland, though, is somewhat different in that though that law technically should apply, of course you’ve had a greater resistance in Ireland overall due to the heavy Catholic influence.
SK: It is a moral issue, with a political application, with a theological foundation, and a behavior requirement. The moral issue is simply this, “it’s wrong to take innocent human life without justification; elective abortion is the taking of human life without justification. Therefore elective abortion is a moral wrong.” That’s the simple moral argument. So it definitely has a moral dimension.
Philosophically, we argue using that SLED acronym that you mentioned a moment ago that there’s no difference between that embryo we once were and the adult we are today. The adults we are today that justify killing us at that earlier stage of development and as Steven Schwarz points out, the differences between that embryo and the adult that you are today are one of size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency. Think of the acronym SLED and you will remember those four differences. Size, yeah you were smaller as an embryo, but since when does body size determine the rights that you have. Shaquille O’Neal, the seven foot two basketball star with the Boston Celtics, is a foot taller than I am, but he doesn’t have a greater right to life simply because he’s bigger.
But for the person who is more honest in bringing the question up, and there are people who are more or less pro-life but they are just stumbling over this particular question. I take a different tact. What I do with that person is I ask this question: “Tell me, how should a civil society treat innocent human beings that reminds us of a painful event? Is it OK to kill them so we can feel better?” Now right away that’s going to bring the discussion back to the question, “What is the unborn?” Because if the unborn is human why should they be killed because they remind us of something painful any more than we would kill a two year old because he reminds us of something painful? I mean imagine if I did have a two-year-old here with me. His father was a rapist. If the mother said every time I look at this kid I’m reminded what happened to me. Can I kill him so I don’t have to have those memories? We would all be appalled. Well the only reason people say “abortion’s okay, because the child might remind the mother of the crime,” is if we begin with the assumption the unborn aren’t human. But that is begging the question, Brian, because the concept that the unborn are not human must be argued for, not merely assumed. So by asking the question “how should a civil society treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event we get back to the question that really matters here. “What is the unborn?”
And too often, Brian, as Christians we assume a burden of proof when we shouldn’t. When someone says to me that embryos aren’t self-aware therefore we can kill them. The first words out of my mouth are, “you tell me why self-awareness is decisive and not having, say, a belly button that points out rather than in.” They’re just making a raw arbitration assertion with nothing offered in defense of it. By the way, if self-awareness is what gives us value, we have a real problem; newborns are not self-aware. Does that mean we can kill them? Abraham Lincoln very aptly pointed out when he would defend the rights of slaves. That any argument used to justify dehumanizing a slave worked equally well to dehumanize many whites for example to paraphrase Lincoln, if you say that it is skin color that gives us value, meaning the lighter skin, man has a right to enslave the darker skin man. Take care, Lincoln said, because by that rule you are enslaved by the first person you meet with skin fairer than your own. If we claim it is intellect that gives the white man the right to enslave the dark man, take care again because by that rule you’re enslaved again with an intellect superior to your own. By the same token, if self-awareness is what gives us value, those of us who have more of it are more human and have a greater right to life than those who have less. You can’t just limit it to beings before they are born.