Has Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of Britain’s biggest abortion provider, BPAS, just admitted being responsible for killing 66,000 human beings in the last year? Judging by a comment she makes in her new book, I would say that absolutely she has.
In The Moral Case for Abortion, Mrs Furedi has written that there is nothing morally wrong with destroying a “foetus” because:
“it kills a being that has no sense of life or death.”
There are two parts to this statement. The second is the idea that the baby in the womb has no sense of life or death, and I’ll come on to that in a moment. But to begin with let’s just look at the first part of her statement.
She uses the word “kills”. It may be stating the obvious here, but this is a clear admission that the abortion procedure causes death. You cannot kill something unless the something in question possessed life, and so Mrs Furedi has admitted that the procedure which her organisation carries out 66,000 times per year kills something.
As I say, that might sound like I am stating the obvious, but it is an important point because it is extremely rare to hear an abortion advocate using this word. In fact, I cannot say that I have actually heard anyone who advocates abortion using it at all. In general, apologists for the industry seek to turn the attention of what happens away from the “foetus” and solely onto the mother and her wishes. Hence the use of words and phrases such as “choice”, “her decision”, and “her body”, which are all rather clever ways of getting people not to notice what is actually going on when that “choice” or “decision” is acted upon. But here Mrs Furedi comes clean. According to her, when that choice is made, something is killed, something dies, and something that was alive is alive no more.
Her second choice of words is equally stunning. She says that the procedure kills a “being”. What does she mean by a “being”? The word implies something that is alive, which since she has already admitted that the process kills, is an obvious inference. However, there is more to it than this. If the thing being killed is a being, as Mrs Furedi suggests, the logical next question is to ask what kind of being it is?
We know that the being that is alive must have a genetic code which has been derived from its mother and its father. And since we know that its mother and father are human beings, we are well on our way – through impeccable reasoning and logic – to being able to declare with absolute certainty that if the thing that is killed is a being, it must be a human being.
Defenders of Mrs Furedi might say that I have twisted her words when I claimed that she has – as Chief Executive of BPAS – admitted responsibility for killing human beings, since she simply used the word “being” and not “human being”. However, all I have done is to make a logical inference from her description of the thing killed as a being. Since science can demonstrate unequivocally that the thing killed inherited a genetic code direct from two people we know to be human, it is up to the critics to explain what other type of being she could have been referring to. A fish-being perhaps? Maybe a bird-being? Put it this way: is it possible that a “being” which has a human mother and human father could be anything other than a human being? Readers can be left to work that one out for themselves.
Once again, I find myself being somewhat startled by the language that Mrs Furedi has used, and I can imagine that many abortion advocates will be equally startled and probably not a little unnerved. Just as apologists for abortion tend to shy away from using words like “kill”, for obvious reasons, they tend also to steer clear of using words like “being”, again for obvious reasons. But for anyone who wants to quibble with the terminology she uses, I would point out that having been in her post since 2003, Mrs Furedi is something of an expert on the process that “kills beings”.
But what of her second claim? Admitting that the process she supports “kills beings” is one thing, but she goes on to justify it with the claim that the being in question has “no sense of life or death.”
A first point would be to say that even in the case of the unborn, this is a contentious claim. I am told (though I can’t bring myself to watch it) that video footage shows the human being desperately trying to escape the death-suction that is trying to kill it. Of course it can’t articulate it. But then neither can a newborn or a three-month-old. Yet this is far from being the same as having no sense of life or death.
Secondly, what of those newborns or those three-month-olds? Since they are not able to articulate a sense of life or death, presumably there would be nothing morally wrong with killing such beings. There are some who argue exactly this. For instance, DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, Peter Singer, has written that “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons… the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.” Professor Emeritus at the Department of Philosophy and Religion in American University, Jeffrey Reiman, said that unlike mature human beings, infants do not “possess in their own right a property that makes it wrong to kill them.” No idea whether Mrs Furedi agrees with that, but the logic of her claim would suggest she should.
But the biggest flaw in the reasoning (if you can call it that) that killing a human being who has “no sense of life or death” is okay can be demonstrated by other instances where a being has no sense of life or death. For example, a person who has fallen into a coma after a car accident has, as far as we know, no sense of life or death. But what should we say to someone arguing that it would be okay to kill them, since they not only have no sense of life or death, but would also not feel a thing if a lethal mixture of drugs were injected into them?
We would answer that the morality of killing them has nothing whatsoever to do with whether they have a sense of life or death. It’s wrong because this is a human being. Period. So too with the unborn baby or the infant. In other words, self-awareness cannot be the arbiter of the rights or wrongs of killing, although it is worth noting that just as the car crash victim will regain a sense of life or death when they come out of their coma, so too will the unborn or the infant if you leave them alone and don’t kill them.
If you are an abortion advocate, are you persuaded by all this? No? Okay let me try one final argument. The problem with the abortion debate is that it is often held in the abstract. It’s about women’s rights over their bodies, and not about – to paraphrase Mrs Furedi – the being that is killed. So let’s make it a little more personal. You were once in the same state as those 66,000 beings that Mrs Furedi’s organisation kills every year, but clearly your mother decided to bring you into the world. That being the case, can you stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eyes and utter the following words: “My mother had the absolute right to kill me?”