What Does “Pro Life” Mean?

In a recent discussion someone who is pro-abortion said that anybody could see that first trimester abortions were definitely fine, but third trimester abortions were definitely not. It’s only second trimester abortions which are a “gray area.” Upon further discussion it seemed the criteria used was brain development. The brain, he argued, is a good criteria for life, since it is the criteria we use to determine death (more on this in a later post).

Of course his statement is false. Most people, including most abortion supporters, would disagree with his criteria for deciding when a child has the right to life. Ask any two abortion supporters and you will likely get at least two different sets of criteria for this very important question.

People who identify themselves as being pro-life don’t fair much better when it comes to defining what they mean. A pro-life friend posted a claim that since lack of a heart beat indicates death, we should use the presence of a heart beat to determine life, and the legal limit for abortions. While this criteria would limit abortions to the first 3 weeks, and eliminate many abortions, it is just as wrong as the first claim.

There are those who say “if you were really pro-life you would support Obamacare (or some other social cause they feel strongly about)”. They have a notion that anything they feel is a good idea must be defined as a basic human right, as important as life itself.

On the flip side are those who say that pro-lifers don’t really want to end abortion because then they’d be “out of business.” They have narrowly defined “pro-life” and “anti-abortion.”

I don’t like it when pro-lifers says things like true pro life or even whole life to distinguish their position from the partial (and by implication lesser) pro lifers. It segregates the community, and is counterproductive.

But I do want to propose the definition which I use to define pro-life, which is also the position of the Catholic Church and many other groups. I believe it is the only scientifically objective way to define things – no politics, no wishy washiness, no wiggle room.

That position is that if you are human and alive, you deserve human rights, which at least includes the right to life. That’s it. Simple and well defined. No weasel words, nothing to debate timetables, stages, or anything else. And it’s objective, because Science™ has very clear, well established criteria to determine what is alive and what it human.

Life has very well established scientific criteria. Just open any biology textbook, and you’ll find something similar to the following. For something to be alive is must be composed of one or more cells, have a metabolism (use energy form the environment) maintain homeostasis (maintain its internal conditions), grow and reproduce, respond to stimuli and adapt to its environment.

Likewise, the term human is well established. The quality of being human can be determined by DNA, but there is an even simpler way, that requires no laboratory testing. It is the law of biogenesis. The law of biogenesis says that life does not arise spontaneously but organisms reproduce according to their own kind. Thus bacteria produce bacteria, dogs produce dogs, cats produce cats, and humans produce…wait for it…humans. Now, there are such things as mules (a cross between a horse and a donkey) but the child of two humans is unequivocally a human.

What does “pro-life” mean to you? Do you add (or remove) criteria from the definition that living humans have the right to life? What are your reasons?

Copyright 2014, Michael Lindner

Michael Lindner

Michael Lindner

Mike is a scouter, a science geek, a dad, a husband and a Catholic. He earns a living as a software engineer in beautiful New Jersey. In his spare time (ha ha) he muses at his blog What Does Mike Think? He is not a writer (which will be painfully obvious after reading his posts) but feels called to apologetics and evangelization anyway. You have been warned.

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