There is an article going around claiming a sci-fi writer has stumped pro-life advocates with his amazing new and exciting question about whether they would save 1000 frozen embryos or one healthy child.
My whole world is flipped upside down. I must immediately become pro-choice, shut down Pro-Life Texas, and switch to the Democrat party!
This is obviously a re-imagining of the class Trolley Problem. The Trolley Problem is an ethical quandary about a runaway trolley and on one track there are five people you are about to hit or you could switch tracks and kill one person. The show The Good Place (great show) created several humorous variations of it this week. Spiderman is also put in this situation in his origin story where he must save a group of people or the girl he loves. Sorry brah, you’re not cutting any new paths here. You just got a few people excited on Twitter.
There are several challenges with assuming this quandary would somehow validate abortion.
Viability is Not Value
We all instinctively know you save the most viable human being, but being more viable does not equate to being more valuable. A doctor in a triage situation is not evil or cruel for passing several dying patients to focus on the ones most likely to survive. Frozen embryos outside a womb are no longer in an environment suitable for life and growth. Just like you could remove someone without an immune system from a clean environment and they would die so is it that embryos out of the womb would die. This does not make either less human.
Inaction is Not Action
Some of you may remember the finale of Seinfeld. *20 year old spoiler alert* In the finale Jerry and his crew are arrested for not assisting a fat man (played by the late John Pinette) who was being carjacked. They are taken to trial and several characters from the show’s past testify to their poor humanity. They are jailed for being bad citizens.
This is humorous because while we may want to do this to people we do not actually believe that not helping someone is the same as assaulting them.
In the case of abortion, you are not just refusing to save the life of embryos, you are actively ending their life.
This is part of another ethical quandary (also used in The Good Place). You are a doctor with five patients about to die. You can save them but you have to kill a healthy person for their organs. Sorry, but if that is the only answer those five are going to die. It is not ethical to cause harm to the one innocent to save the others. Such is the case with abortion. Actively killing one is not the same as inactively allowing them to die.
Greater Value Does Not Equal Without Value
Giving the author some rope to hang himself with let us assume the answer to his questions are that you save the baby purely because he/she (oh no, am I supposed to use all 28 new genderless pronouns here?) is of greater moral value. Okay, but again, that in no way creates the idea that human embryos are of no moral value and can be cast aside due to convenience or lack thereof.
We tend to hold a view that people of certain ability or youth have greater societal value than others, but that does not mean the disabled and elderly are without value.
Common Historical Trend
Throughout history, there are always people such as this writer that want to deny human rights to certain human beings. The blacks in slavery, the Japanese in internment, the Jews in the Holocaust, the gays in Chechnya. There are always people claiming other people aren’t people.
“That group over there does not deserve the right to life and liberty.”
Sadly, until we recognize there is value in all human life then we can never find real equality in human rights. As John Laurens says in the Broadway musical Hamilton:
“But we’ll never be truly free
Until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me
You and I. Do or die. Wait till I sally in
On a stallion with the first black battalion
Have another shot”
Perhaps it is time our sci-fi writer take another shot at it as well.