expecting mother shows ultrasound image

What Makes the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act a Good Law?

I found very interesting some of the arguments made by members of the U.S. House of Representative in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Those arguments reminded me of a debate I had on Amendment 1, the pro-life amendment on the ballot back in 2014. Much is revealed by the different approaches to the issue of life.

Getting to the Fundamental Issue

In 2005, a Jewish women’s political organization came to my legislative office to discuss Amendment 1. They said they appreciated my religious convictions regarding Amendment 1 but didn’t think I should allow my religious views to influence public policy.

I told them that I would be happy to speak with them about the issue without reference to my religious beliefs, so I suggested that if we could come to an understanding of what it was we were aborting, then we could more easily discuss the moral and ethical issues surrounding the medical procedure involved with abortion.

To that end, I asked them, “What is it we are aborting? Is it a human being?” To make a long story short, they said “it” was a “potential human being.”

I then probed the meaning of the word “potential.” I asked if, by potential, they meant there was a point during gestation in which the essential nature of that which had been conceived changed from something other than a human being into a human being. To bring clarity to the question, I then asked, “Although in every known instance of pregnancy a woman has delivered a child, a human being, by ‘potential human being’ did you mean a woman might deliver something else?”

Their answer, “Well, no. Of course not. What we mean is that under the Talmud, until a baby is quickened…” and it was at this point I cut them off. You see, they had turned to their religious beliefs to answer the fundamental question, “What does it mean to be human?”

Is Alleviating Pain Fundamental?

I share that story because, in supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, we must not let the act’s opponents avoid the fundamental issue: Are we talking about a human being? In other words, is the bill good simply because we shouldn’t inflict pain on an unborn child, or is it good because we are talking about the death of an unborn child, whether he or she feels pain or not?

This is critical. If an unborn child could be painlessly given an anesthetic prior to the abortion, would that then make it okay? If pain is the only issue, then the answer is yes.

Why a Biblical View of Life Matters

In our effort to achieve a particularly good result, the pro-life community must not lose sight of its goal, namely, a restoration of a biblical understanding of what it means to be human, a view of humanness that can alone stand at all points in opposition to the various reasons given by abortion proponents for their view.

We cannot win the long war for life if we make our arguments only on the premises or grounds that abortionists get to set ahead of time. If all we can argue is “science,” then we’re not arguing on the only ground that will make a fundamental difference, long-term, in the argument.

I’m reminded of what Abraham Kuyper, a noted theologian and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said in the late 1800s:

There is no doubt then that Christianity is imperilled [sic] by great and serious dangers. Two life systems are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while, on the other hand, all those who reverently bend the knee to Christ and worship Him as the Son of the living God, and God himself, are bent upon saving the “Christian Heritage.”

From the first, therefore, I have always said to myself,—”If the battle is to be fought with honor and with a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing life-system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life-system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power.

Similarly, respect for human life and abortion are “wrestling with one another” in what is truly “mortal combat” with respect to the unborn. Abortionists have a view of humanity that they have “constructed” in which they can decide when human dignity attaches. The pro-life community has a view of humanity grounded in the transcendent Creator God and human dignity is grounded in having been made in His image.

Consequently, “if the battle is to be fought with honor and with hope of victory” as Kuyper writes, then we must “take our stand” in a “life system” in which the pro-life’s fundamental principle is made to stand against that of the abortionists. We must never lose sight of that fact.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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