Charles Lewis: When does a baby become an ‘it’?

  • October 24, 2019

I have been following an online course on St. Thomas Aquinas provided by the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans. 

Each week I get two e-mails from the Thomistic Institute that includes a short video, a podcast and readings. I have always wanted to understand Aquinas and his masterwork the Summa Theologica.

It can be frustrating but I am like a dog with a bone and I will not quit because I know there is much beauty in his teachings.

Every once in a while I get an insight and then I can see how it applies to the world we live in.

One of the lessons dealt with “the principle of non-contradiction.” It simply means something cannot be and not be at the same time. 

It seems obvious but it is also profound. It is almost impossible to think of something that would break this principle. However, I think I am right in saying that the pro-choice position does exactly that.

Let me explain:

Say the Smiths are pro-choice. It does not mean they would ever have an abortion and they could even be upset if a friend or family member terminated a pregnancy. But they would say, as most Canadians would, we have no right to judge someone else’s actions. After all, we are pro-choice.

Now the Smiths are thrilled to be pregnant. They find out their baby is a boy — notice I said baby and not fetus or “it” — and they begin to pick names. It will likely be Matthew after the wife’s late grandfather. The husband’s late grandfather was named Horatio but no point with saddling the kid with that name and the possible schoolyard bullying certain to follow.

The Smiths decorate a room for the baby, take classes about birthing and parenting and read books all in anticipation of Matthew’s arrival.

Obviously if something were to go wrong in the pregnancy, God forbid, the Smiths would be devastated. But assuming all goes well, they will be overjoyed — and so will all of those who love them. 

Now this is where I think I found an exception to the principle of non-contradiction.

Say the Smiths decided not to have their baby. Maybe some of their friends and family would be upset but they would say it is the couple’s choice.

At this point the Smiths no longer refer to what is growing in the wife’s womb as a baby. They do not care whether it is a boy or a girl. They start referring to the child inside as an “it” or a “fetus” or simply “a problem.”

They will begin to depersonalize this “problem,” which under the laws is fine. Recall that in Canada a child is not a person until it takes its first breath outside the womb.

So here we have a situation in which — depending on the decision of the couple, or just the mother in some cases — what is in the womb only gets a definition based on a decision to give birth or abort.

In the pro-choice world, the baby is a baby and not a baby; a child is child and not a child. It is all up to the parents. This may seem like semantics but I do not think so. It is an ingrained mental attitude that fogs truth. The baby will always be a baby. It cannot be otherwise.

This also applies to euthanasia. Murder is a crime. It is also one of the 10 things God said we could never do. Why? Because life comes from God and it is precious and we are made in the image of God. However, when someone is seriously ill, then suddenly taking a human life is regarded as OK and legal, at least in Canada and a few other jurisdictions. Even some Christians argue that euthanasia is okay. Just like abortion, it is called a personal choice.

There is a wonderful book called Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed. Its premise is that when we know the God-given truth we are sane. When we do not we are insane — not violent or running amok but outside of reality. Or as the dictionary explains, “In a state of mind that prevents normal perception.” 

That seems about right.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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