Creating a potential life

Number 601 • January 5, 2021


I have heard and am sometimes asked to answer the argument of “pro-choice” people that pregnancy in a female is simply “the presence of a potential life” and, since it is only potential it is not wrong to remove it. Reference to what is in the womb as an it, a non-specific nebulous unidentifiable thing and not as a living being, a human person, is significant and perhaps necessary for the narrative of the pro-abortionist. If it is only a mass of tissue then removing it is no different than removing any other unwanted matter – no more important or consequential than clipping your toe nails or hair, removing a wart or a bad tooth, but probably more complicated since it is deeply umbilically rooted in the body. But referring to the unborn as a potential life is an oxymoron, a rhetorical ploy, a way to dehumanize it and deflect attention from the rights it would have if recognized as a developing organism, as an unborn human child.

Whether used as a noun or adjective, potential is a potent but ambiguous word: applicable in many ways but easily misunderstood and misapplied. Potential can be a stand-alone word and can be either a noun or an adjective. Saying someone or some thing “has potential” makes potential a non-specific noun. But “has potential” simply means it can become something, it can be made, or perhaps make itself, into something. But the particular something is not stated. When a particular resultant object or condition is stated – it is then a specific noun – it can immediately be judged as true or false, possible or impossible. Transmutation – changing one definite definable substance into a fundamentally different definite definable substance – is not possible. Remember the ancient adage: “You can’t make a silk purse from a pig’s ear.” How about these? You can make money from lead, but you can’t turn lead into gold. You can wake up and smell the coffee but you can’t turn coffee into orange juice. You can smell the flowers, but don’t expect to find to find orchids growing on your rose bushes. To make fine ceramics you must begin with a certain composition and quality of clay; you can’t make fine ceramics from common mud.
Using potential as an adjective, as in a “potential life” is oxymoronic. Saying something “has the potential to be” is also a nonsense statement, a contradiction in terms. There are only two possibilities for anything: to be or not to be. A thing either is or it is not. A non-existent thing has no potential. So we can say potential life is an oxymoron. Nobody but God can create life, create a living entity or being. But not even God can make a thing be and not be, exist and not exist, be alive and not alive in the same sense at the same time – it is an utter and absolute impossibility. Any thing and every thing is either alive or not alive, it either has life or does not have life. Without being salacious or prurient, but to repeat a well known scientific fact, a living fertile non-defective male and a living fertile non-defective female can, by a specific copulative interaction with each other, set up the potential for reproduction or regeneration of life, the production of a human child. They cannot create life. Fertile and non-defective humans have the potential to become parents, to reproduce themselves or extend their life into new separate entities disparate from themselves. What they produce may live or not, may have sustainable life or not, but they cannot produce life from non-life. If their progeny continues to live there are other options (potential) for it.

Consider this: you can, as just noted, set up a potential for reproducing / regenerating life, and there are other options for any new living entity you produce. You can produce a life with potential – the possibility of becoming someone important, someone potent, someone able to keep producing the life obtained from you (and those before you who produced you). But remember, neither you nor your progeny can create life from non-living matter.
As you can’t create life, you also cannot create soul or spirit. Traducianism, as believed and taught by some religions, is also a kind of transmutation that does not and cannot happen. The doctrine says the parents generate a new soul/spirit as well as body for any offspring they produce, that in effect the parents extend their own conjoined souls/spirits into their children. So, in some sense the child is simply an extension of the parents. This allows them then to say that each child comes into the world with the same sin-diseased spirit that was in the parents. Traducianism, the idea that the soul/spirit of the child is generated and transmitted by the parents, is necessary to support the doctrine of original sin and inherited sin and corruption. This inherited depravity / sinfulness started with the supposedly changed “nature” of Adam and Eve after their sin, and their “sin nature” has been transmitted to all their descendants (except two, Jesus and his mother Mary – those two alone, out of all humanity were preserved from any taint or hint of sin, either inherited or personal). The point, for the present essay, is that body, soul, and spirit of the child are supposed to be the extension of the parents, especially of the mother since the father’s contribution in production of the child is momentary and minute compared to the mother’s, in particular the nine months or so of gestation in her womb. This may be part of the ego-centric attitude which prompts a mother to speak of her daughter as her “mini me” or a father to speak of his son as his “mini me.” But that is really only acknowledging a similarity, a recognizable likeness. We look alike. We think alike. We have similar abilities, preferences, etc. Nothing more than that is usually implied.

Most of us are astute enough to know my child is not me and I am not my child. Having shared DNA or shared characteristics does not mean identity of being. We may be ever so much alike, but we are not the same person. Now it seems incomprehensible that a pregnant woman can lose that astuteness, so that she thinks the developing entity in her womb is just an extension of herself. She is then able to think removing “the product of pregnancy” from her womb is simply like removing an unwanted bit of her tissue – maybe like clipping fingernails or hair or removing a wart or cyst or cancerous growth etc. Or maybe it’s like liposuction to remove unwanted fat or cellulose? Anyway, she refuses to think of that mass of tissue, bones, nerves, organs including an independent heart and a brain that will develop acute self-awareness as a separate human being. Her self is not augmented by the child in her. Her self is not diminished when, whether in the course of nature or by violent extraction from her womb, the child is released from her. It is not tissue, not an invading extraneous parasitic growth – it is a human baby waiting to be born. It is her child, also the child of the man who partnered with her in its conception.
The baby in the womb has a body generated by its father and mother, and has separate soul / personhood which it will develop over time, and an eternal spirit essentially produced by God in His own spiritual image (Zechariah 12:1). Who understands how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman (Ecclesiastes 11:5 ESV). The baby is not a dispensable keep-it-if-you-like-it-and-want-it or dispose-of-it-if-you-don’t-like-it-or-want-it commodity. It was once dependent on its mother for protection and nurture while developing viability. It will still be dependent on its parents for protection and development after birth. Like it or not, and whether the child was conceived intentionally or not, the parents (it deserves and needs both parents, not just one or the other) are under divine obligation to care for it, provide for it, and nurture it physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. The child should be received as a gift of God. Careful and proper nurturing of the child should be seen as the parents’ gift to God. There was a time when we grieved and sympathized with parents when a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) occurred and a child was lost. But with the advent of induced abortion or forced miscarriage and the necessarily reconsidered nature of the unborn as not real life or personhood but simply as potential but unrealized life, an unbelievable number of those who aborted or miscarried are viewed and treated as throw-aways. May God please lift the veil of ignorance and selfishness from us! But we cannot expect mercy from Him for selfish and deliberate murder of the innocent child.

The conception, development and pre-natal condition, and birth of the child are not the child’s fault or choice. No matter what the circumstances of the birth may be the child is not at fault and cannot be blamed, and the obligations of its parents cannot be refused. Once conceived the child has a right to life in the womb. Once born the child has as much right to life as the parents do. The rights of parents cannot remove their obligations to the child they have produced. Those who destroy an incipient human being while it is forming in the womb (notice we do not say “potential” life) are no less guilty than those who unjustly destroy any other human being. A baby in the womb has unknown potential, but it is not a potential life or a potential human or a potential product of its parents. Deliberately ending the life and development of a human at any stage of its life is unwarranted killing, homicide, and will be duly noted and responded to by God. In God’s sight all unwarranted killing – including abortion and so-called mercy killing (euthanasia), and even what some mentally and spiritually retarded persons call “honor killing” will be judged as murder and responded to appropriately and punitively by God. Many should begin praying, continually imploring, “God please forgive me for neglect or abuse of what You gave me, what You entrusted to me.”

#geraldcowan #abortion #conception