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Parable of the Good Soccer Mom

October 2, 2006

Ryan T. Anderson writing at FIRST THINGS:

The Parable of the Good Soccer Mom

“You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Chris Bell, because he wished to be elected governor, asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

Consider
the Parable of the Good Soccer Mom: An embryo fell into the hands of
ambitious scientists after she was left over in the freezer of an in
vitro fertilization lab.

A molecular biologist happened to be
journeying through the lab. Seeing that the embryo was very small and
didn’t look like other human beings, he decided that it was not a human
being. And he passed to the other side of the lab and left the embryo
for his colleagues.

Likewise a moral philosopher came to the
place and launched into an exposition of human embryology and
developmental biology. He concluded that the human embryo was a whole
human being at the very beginning of her life. The embryo possessed all
of the internal resources necessary to guide herself—by a self-directed
process—through further stages of development toward the maturity of
organismic life. In doing this, the embryo integrates herself so as to
keep her unity, identity, and determinateness all intact. No mere part
of some other organism—as the sperm and egg cells whose union brought
her into existence were—the embryo is both functionally and genetically
distinct from any other organism, a whole and complete (though
immature) human being. The term embryo is just a way of classifying the early human being, just as the terms fetus,
newborn, infant, child, adolescent, adult, and octogenarian all refer
to human beings at other stages. These terms, he concludes, refer to
the same self-developing, unitary organism: the human being.

While
the molecular biologist got the science wrong, the philosopher got it
right. But the embryo could feel no pain or pleasure and exhibited no
consciousness of any type, and so the philosopher concluded that the
human embryo had no moral status and possessed no rights. And he, too,
passed to the other side of the lab and left the embryo to the tender
mercies of the scientists.

But a Soccer Mom who came upon the
embryo was moved by both scientific fact and right moral reason. Aware
of the humanity of the embryo as established by modern embryology, she
wondered what was owed to the human being in the embryonic stage of
life. She thought that whatever was owed to human beings at other
stages of life was owed to them at the embryonic stage. For age and
stage of development certainly are not morally significant. Older
people do not have greater moral status; neither do the more fully
developed. All human beings are of equal moral worth, she reasoned,
because they are equally human. So, what is owed to human beings? Why,
human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, possessing free
will and rational natures that make them entities of intrinsic—and not
mere instrumental—worth. They are to be treated as subjects and not as
objects. Hence they are owed protection, support, and aid. In a word,
they are owed love.

She summed up her findings: A human
embryo is a whole member of the human species. Each human being entered
life as an embryo. And all human beings are subjects of profound,
inherent, intrinsic worth in virtue of what they are, not what they can
do. And if they are subjects of worth in virtue of what they are, then
they bear this worth from the moment that they first come into
existence.

The Soccer Mom then rescued the embryo, transferred her to her womb, and cared for her.

“Mr. Bell, which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the embryo?”

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