Humanist Kristine Kruszelnicki, president of Pro-Life Humanists, opens her pro-life proclamation, “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them” by quoting three people who are also pro-life. One is a theologian; one a philosopher; and one, an historian. She goes on to quote a journalist. All of them are atheists. None of them are scientists.
In Kruszelnicki’s version of biology, “When it comes to normal human reproduction, sperm and ovum merge to form a new whole.” By throwing in the word “normal,” Kruszelnicki attempts to pre-arrange the dismissal of any refutation she might encounter and pre-excuse herself from having to explain her assertions when scientific findings (present and future) are contrary. This is not the mark of a pro-lifer or atheist, but of a passive-aggressive; and not in the “left an unsigned note of scolding on the office microwave” kind of way, but rather in the DSM-IV Appendix B kind of way (i.e.: “[passive-aggressive] individuals view themselves as vulnerable to control and others as demanding and interfering”). What better way to disguise and protect the vulnerability of the self and the argument from interference and demands than to so narrowly define the terms that every disagreement with the premise could be automatically disregarded for falling outside the definition?
Having done so, Kruszelnicki thinks she isn’t on the hook for explaining what constitutes normal and abnormal human reproduction, thereby resting easy in the shallow end of a much deeper body of water, the latter of which contains ectopic pregnancies; pregnancies of the technically fertile but still very young child; any pregnancy that isn’t viable to the point of threatening the health and life of the pregnant female; and/or pregnancies of regret (Biology is itself rife with mistakes, thus extinctions; more on that later in this article). If she didn’t want to be on the hook, then Kruszelnicki shouldn’t have opened that particular can of worms. Throwing up a humanist shield to deflect rational, scientific discourse doesn’t excuse her from having to prove the validity of what she thinks. It obligates her.
There is a reason we don’t issue birth certificates and death certificates, submit obituaries, conduct burials or cremations and hold funerals for the biological mass that is the result of miscarriage, even as this is what’s done for the stillborn child. We don’t charge anyone with illegal disposal or mishandling of human remains when a miscarriage occurs near a toilet or in a field. We as a society — to include those who don’t adhere to scientific principles and those who do — recognize the difference between a life lost and the loss of a potential life.
I am certain the scientific community will one day be able to prove beyond all doubt when the potential for a human being becomes a human being. When that day comes, it would be nothing less than criminal for society to deny the parent(s) whose child died early in utero the same amenities currently afforded the stillborn and birthed child who later dies. At that same time, it would be nothing less than criminal for society to force every pregnant female to carry a pregnancy to term when what she is carrying is not a human being, but rather the potential for it.
There is no scientific evidence to support her claim that a clump of human cells stemming from the merge of ovum and sperm is “self-aware” or “sentient.” Too, there is most definitely scientific evidence to refute her suggestion that, “Science can’t tell us whether it’s wrong to rape women, torture children, enslave black people, or which physical traits should or should not matter when it comes to determining personhood.”
Whew, lots to take issue with here: It is proven the female of the human species chooses her mate with specific criteria, which includes her ability to choose that mate. The negative effects of spanking a child is well-researched and proven to be detrimental to the point that it has the potential to interfere with biological processes, so it’s hardly a stretch to find the same is true of torture and enslavement. Given her assertion that science can’t tell us the right or wrong of that which it already has, her misguided notions of right and wrong are not appropriate or ethical springboards for legislation that would strip others of their rights so as to ease her discomfort.
“When we talk about rights and personhood, we leave the realm of science for that of philosophy and ethics.”
When we talk about any as-yet scientifically undefined and/or unexplained occurrence or mechanism, we don’t “leave the realm of science” and settle in nicely with whoever offers up the best sounding explanation. “No scientific explanation yet” is not equal to whatever we grab-ass out of thin air. This applies to all things, including rights and personhood. That science can’t yet explain a given occurrence or mechanism is all the more reason to keep seeking the scientific explanation. Lack of a scientific explanation is not justification for saying, “We’re done here” while clinging to an unproven guess as if it were a necessary lifeline, only to have to abandon it later (or worse, adhere to it with all the feverish ignorance of a Neanderthal) when the scientific explanation proves the contrary.
While Kruszelnicki is convinced that straddling the fence between science and philosophy is the best wedgie ever, facts make no such accommodation. When we don’t know for sure what’s what, we don’t turn our backs on science and glue ourselves to whatever ideology helps us forget our troubles. This, however, is what Kruszelnicki does by first using science to define her point, dismissing it at the first sign of point-making trouble, only to turn around and use it bring all that wishy-washiness home.
“Only the pro-life position — that all human beings should be granted the common right to continue their lives as human persons, regardless of their age, stage, gender, sexual orientation, race, or physical form and abilities — is truly egalitarian and fair for all human beings.”
There is no such thing as a “pro-life” position. The position does have a name, but it isn’t what is claimed. This is made irrefutably clear by what Kruszelnicki and her ilk first and foremost insist upon, starting with the dismissal of any and all reproductive rights of the pregnant person and moving on to everyone who is alive today. We have not only systematically, willfully, and lawfully abandoned many to homelessness, starvation, dehydration, disease, enslavement, assault, and death; we did so after they were born.
“The more vulnerable and dependent someone is, the more we are obligated to not abandon them.”
The dogma of the “pro-life” movement has yet to put its biological resources where its philosophical mouth is. The insistence that every pregnancy be taken to term is not met and equaled with someone being there for every child born. Everything that happens after a child is born is not and has never been the primary, monetary, legal, moral, or ethical concern of those who insist every pregnancy must be taken to term. Where this is no primary focus on life, there is no viability to the claim “pro-life.” There is only “pro-born.” That there is overlap between those who insist every pregnancy be taken to term and those who diligently assist the already-born does not negate the fact that the goal of the entire “pro-life” movement is myopically defined as and confined to the passage of a human being from its mother’s body.
Kruszelnicki again takes the coward’s way out from under her assertions by asking questions rhetorically: “After all, if we make abortion illegal, won’t that make them more dangerous for women? Do we believe women who have abortions should face jail sentences? Should fetuses be counted in the census, and if so, what happens when a female miscarries? Are we trying to put a stop to the work of Planned Parenthood and other women’s clinics?” She tops the questions with a nice neat bow as if she herself weren’t every bit as obligated to answer them as she insists every pregnant female is to carry a pregnancy to term: “To adequately deconstruct these concerns would require lengthy articles unto themselves.”
Kruszelnicki gives the least word-count to an abridged attempt to gloss over the realities often incurred by pregnancy and birth: “If we all work together to come up with real choices for women — better birth control, better maternity leave, subsidized daycare, a living wage, flexible work schedules, better schooling options, more attractive open-adoption and temporary foster care options, etc. — abortion may roll itself into the world of obsolescence, regardless of its legal status.” Even as all of this would most certainly bring more comfort to many, it doesn’t address and instead disregards numerous other realities, none of which could be made better by the sanctimonious argument that every pregnancy is somehow meant to be.
If (when Kruszelnicki is on the side of science) we’re going to take our moral, ethical and legislative cues from biology, we would need to start by doing away with law, etiquette, civility and even everything we know about biology because biology doesn’t care about any of that – or us. As human beings, we are here entirely by chance. Something biologically worked so it kept going. Something else didn’t and went extinct. The only thing that distinguishes us from dandelions is our neurology – yet another biological chance occurrence. Nothing is less apathetic and unfeeling than the billions-of-years-long game of darts that is evolutionary biology.
We don’t — and we absolutely shouldn’t — take our moral, ethical, and legislative cues from biology because biology is a relentless and uncaring bitch who throws billions of darts at a board to see which hundreds will stick. This is why a female can become pregnant from rape – as an adult or as a young child who, while technically fertile, is not physically or psychologically equipped to take a pregnancy to term, much less one in which the sperm is that of a pedophilic relative. This is also why the human eye cannot perceive infrared and why there are non-smokers who die of lung cancer.
Biology has missed the board more times than not (hence the extinction of more species and traits than currently exist). We have no choice but to exist within its laws, but we have learned we can — and should, for the betterment and endurance of all species — move the boundaries of our participation ever further outward (e.g.: effective treatment and cure of disease instead of wishing away what ails us or making things worse with whatever snake oil is being hawked at any given time).
Kruszelnicki cites no opposition to human participation in biology’s game of living things except where it involves a pregnant female. Again with the myopia of “pro-life.” Disease and injury research, plant engineering and anything to do with male reproduction are not part of Kruszelnicki’s insistence that we are not supposed to interfere with biological processes because she is concerned with only one process: a personally-held and scientifically unproven preference she wishes to legally insist upon others like a god from above.
Kruszelnicki could not have sold herself out more than by this: “I want to do whatever I can to make abortion both unthinkable and unnecessary.” No, she doesn’t. She offered all of 53 words to preventive measures and 2,006 words and a graph to support what she really thinks – that every pregnant female — regardless of age and/or the viability of the pregnancy and without regard for the circumstances by which she became pregnant — is ethically obligated and should be legally required to carry her pregnancy to term because that’s Kruszelnicki’s preference without regard for scientific evidence or the lawful and human rights of the person who is pregnant.