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The Illinois Reproductive Health Act &
The Philosophy of God
Mary Kate Knorr | 20 June 2019
From the moment the Reproductive Healthcare Act[i] was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly back in February, late term abortion and infanticide began to dominate the conversation. From a public relations standpoint it makes sense: many polls suggest late term abortion is one of the least palatable issues up for question in American politics today. While Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia pointedly defended infanticide just a few months back,[ii] it’s clear that the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the like understand infanticide is not an issue with which they’ll win.
These two topics are critically important however, they do not touch upon the core of what it is we are dealing with. Both in this legislation and on a larger scale in the ongoing debate surrounding legalized abortion, infanticide, and late term abortion are outliers of a much deeper philosophical question. Surprisingly, and disturbingly from my perspective, Illinois’ Reproductive Healthcare Act does touch on this question. The question is one of our fundamental rights.
As I traveled the state speaking at churches, schools, and in private homes I repeatedly found myself discussing with others the correct approach to take regarding how to best argue the pro-life position. Time and again we’re told this conversation must be separate from religion. We can’t talk about God because it discounts our arguments. We must only talk about science they say; point to the science. Show images of the child in utero. Talk about the baby’s fingernails, toenails, and eyelashes. Emphasize that the baby feels pain. All of these are important. And yes, I agree they’re compelling arguments and they point to the truth. These facts matter greatly.
But here’s the problem: the pro-abortion side of the argument doesn’t care.
Back in the 70’s when the science was scarce and anecdotal evidence (much of it invented, but we’ll save that topic for another day) was what carried most weight, the pro-abortion side of the argument demanded scientific proof because they were able to claim that there was none. Pro-lifers have perhaps mistakenly, allowed this to drive the narrative by meeting them in that accusation. We have sought example after example of scientific support for life at conception to meet this demand for information that our opponents have created. What has been the response; not widespread conversion if that’s what you were expecting. No, the response has been at most a shrug. They simply do not care. What’s more they fight it at every turn. They deny it, ignore it, pretend it is relative, or debatable (just like every other scientific debate – gender theory, anyone?). The left wants what they want, abortion included, and regarding science they simply don’t care.
So, this creates quite a debacle for the pro-life movement. We’ve spent the past half century investing in scientific evidence and attempting to separate ourselves from theology or religion. To a certain extent I believe culture has led us to water and tricked us into drinking. We’ve allowed philosophy, the exercise of human logic, the very gift from God that makes us most like Him and therefore gives our lives great meaning, to be shamed out of the public square and into the fringes of society. How often have we chuckled at hearing that a college student has chosen philosophy as a major? “Good luck getting a job,” is the response we give. I fear we’ve disarmed ourselves. It’s philosophy, human logic, that is one of our most powerful weapons against the enemy.
How do we know this; because of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest, most notable thinkers in human history who was a profoundly devout Catholic Christian. In his great work, Summa Theologica, St. Thomas begins his arguments by proving the existence of God.[iii] Why?
The existence of God changes everything.
One might argue we can discuss philosophy without involving God in the conversation. Can we? The existence of God changes everything. A man who’s philosophized a hedonistic view of the world would likely find his worldview turned upside down (or rather, right side up) by the context that God’s existence gives to human suffering. Without God our lives have no purpose and without any purpose life’s value is subject to relativity; to changing external circumstances.
If we remove God from the equation fundamental rights no longer come from an omniscient Creator rather, they come from us.
What does all of this have to do with the Reproductive Healthcare Act? As I mentioned previously, the question at the core of the RHA is one of fundamental rights. It’s true that it legalizes late term abortion, infanticide, lifts the ban on partial birth abortion at the state level, requires private insurance companies to cover abortions, and threatens the repeal of parental notification. All these charges are accurate. It also includes two provisions that, from my perspective, are most important. It provides that an individual has a right to an abortion and a fetus doesn’t have a right to life. It’s in these two provisions that the core of this legislation becomes deeply philosophical. In this legislation, we see how the enemy’s designs for our country rest on a philosophical framework and as a movement, I fear we’ve been distracted away from a real and effective way to argue a pro-life position.
The Reproductive Healthcare Act was authored by a group of people who apparently believe that the willful killing of an unborn child is a woman’s fundamental right. Just the same, they apparently believe because a child is weak, lacks self-awareness, or requires the sustenance of his mother to go on breathing and growing, that the child in question does not have the fundamental right to live. Science doesn’t matter here. If these provisions were reflective of genuine truths what would it mean for the source of our fundamental rights? Often, logic tells us that to have a complete understanding of something we must look at where it comes from. Just as we deduce that a fetus growing inside of a woman is a human because the parents of that organism are human, so we must look at the source of our rights to deduce what our rights actually are. This is a critical piece of the pro-life argument, and it is exactly what St. Thomas Aquinas has, thanks be to God, already done in Summa Theologica.
As a movement we cannot go on arguing science alone. To have a real, lasting impact we must look at the Author of science who informs humanity of its meaning and the meaning of everything around it. We must begin to ague a philosophy which is rooted in the existence of God. We cannot hope to communicate the value of life without acknowledging the One who gives it.
[i] Senate Bill 25 was signed into law on June 12, 2019. You may view the legislation here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/101/PDF/101-0013.pdf.
[iii] See Summa Theologica, I, Q. 2, Arts. 1-3.
Mary Kate Knorr, is Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life