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Dealing with Intrinsic Human Value

Prelude | Essence and Potentiality | Definitions | What is human? | Intrinsic Value of humanity | Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part a) |  Of fetuses, infants, disabled, and others (Part b) | Functionalism and Utilitarian ethics revisited | Conclusion

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One of the more charged terms in the abortion debate is the word “murder.” Those who are pro-life use this term quite a bit, calling abortion murder, whereas those who are pro-choice think equating abortion to murder is egregious rhetoric. Of course, the issue is quite simple; if the fetus is a human being, then the intentional killing of the fetus in murder (with few exceptions). If the fetus is not a human being, then killing the fetus is no more an act of murder than killing a wild animal that threatens livestock, or killing off numerous skin cells by taking a shower.

That is what the abortion debate – and multiple other life debates, such as what to do with the disabled, the mentally retarded, the terminally ill, and the like – hinges upon; is “it” human?

As seen in Part 5 from the Intrinsic Value series, being a human being means that you have certain rights, the most foundational of those rights being the right to life. All other rights are based upon this one right. Without a right to life, ultimately we have a right to nothing. This right is not given to animals, nor is it given to inanimate objects; this right is placed solely on humans.

Human, All Too Human

To provide a brief overview of the last parts, we determined that a human is both material an immaterial (though it is not necessary to believe this in order to believe that humans have intrinsic value); the material aspect of humanity is shared among humans in our DNA. Humans are individual human beings and though at times reliant upon other humans for our existence, we are ontologically separate from other human beings. We are self-aware, we have the ability to forgo our instincts, and we are creative.

We are individuals at every stage of development; no matter how much our bodies change, who we are doesn’t change. Thus, once a human, always a human. When our essence changes, this means that we have ceased to be, that is, we have died.

So the question comes up – what about those who do not show the attributes of being a human? What of those that show no capacity for reason, are tinier than other humans, are inching closer to death, are in vegetative states, or so on and so forth? This seems to be the question of the day. Often times abortion rights advocates will declare, “It’s a woman’s uterus; what she is killing inside her uterus is not human” and seek to provide a justification. When we kill the severely deformed, the advocacy is, “they are not really humans.” Or, as the Nazi father from the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas says about the Jews, “Those people aren’t really people.”

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