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Pro-Life Logic, Part II: Quality of Life vs. Sanctity of Life

How you would respond to this argument made by many pro-choice individuals?

If a baby will be born handicapped, in pain, or unwanted, then a mother has a right
to abort her pre-born child, for the sake of the child’s “quality of life.” 

What would your reply be? For one reply, the ministry Choice42 offers their parody video called “Better Off Dead.” In addition, we offer a reply below that places the abortion debate within the context of an often unknown deeper clash of worldviews. This clash is featured in our free booklet Pro-Life Logic: Murder, or Tyranny?

Most fundamentally, there are two clashing worldviews about the value of human life: quality of life vs. sanctity of life. In our era, the quality-of-life ethic is becoming more popular, especially in American higher education. But throughout history, the sanctity-of-life ethic has been more prevalent — and ultimately, the sanctity of the human person is paramount.

Christian scholars, such as Dr. Peter J. Kreeft, have provided us insights into this deeper clash of worldviews. This clash is like most of an iceberg being underwater, and the abortion issue is a surface by-product, a symptom, like the iceberg’s tip sticking out of the water. 

Let’s look deeper into the quality-of-life ethic. This view believes the value of a human life should be judged by its “quality,” which is determined by three things: (1) wantedness, (2) level of pain, and (3) handicapped status. This quality-of-life view says that only some people have an innate and inalienable right to life; their lifespan is determined by other people who believe they have the authority to “draw the line” between life and death. 

  1. Wantedness: On the abortion issue, the quality of life ethic says: “If the mother does not want the fetus, then aborting it is permitted.” Outside of the abortion issue, and speaking historically, we can see the perfectly consistent logic in other practical examples. As scholars note: During the Holocaust, if the Nazis did not want the Jews, then gassing them was permitted. In U.S. history, if some Whites did not want Blacks, then lynching them was permitted. Under Communism, if some people held undesirable religious ideas, or undesirable political beliefs, or undesirable amounts of wealth, then murdering them was permitted.
  2. Pain Level: Similarly, if a person’s level of pain is “too great,” as defined by the subjective views of other people (ostensible “experts”), then that person may be killed.
  3. Handicapped: Or if one’s handicapped status is “too great,” as defined by the subjective views of other people (ostensible “experts”), then killing the person is justified.

Conversely, the sanctity-of-life ethic says the value of a human life should be judged by its sanctity, which is the built-in goodness of a person’s existence, essence, whatness, and “original package.” In contrast to the quality-of-life ethic, which holds that only some humans have a right to life based upon a subjective, manmade, artificial dividing line of “desirable enough” or “pain level” or “handicapped level,” the sanctity-of life ethic says all human life — every single person — is equal in the most basic sense: Every person, merely because of his or her nature (being, essence) or humanness, has a fundamental right to life, and therefore no person should intentionally kill an innocent person. Murder is wrong.

This sanity-of-life ethic says it is standing up to those human beings who think they can say to another innocent, defenseless human being: “You shall die.” This view says it is standing up to the stronger who wish to bully the weaker. The sanctity-of-life ethic is about equality in the most basic sense of ontology (being). It does not discriminate, i.e., a person’s life or death is not based upon age, race, size, political views, religious ideas, income, sexual identity, health, intelligence, physical ability, genetics, level of pain, external wantedness, birth status, or length of life. Humans are worthy to live based upon the value of their essence, who they are: not what they can do, not their functionality, nor their current circumstances.

Read more in our educational booklet Pro-Life Logic: Tyranny, or Murder? Our other training materials can be accessed here.

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