Uncommon God, Common Good
11/11/13 at 02:37 PM 0 Comments

Aborting Healthcare for the Human Unborn

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One of my fears with screening fetuses for diseases and handicaps, among other things, is the desire to abort “unwanted” pregnancies. Please don’t take this as a right or left thing. The commodification of human identity is no respecter of partisan politics. The danger exists that the market will govern the totality of our lives, no matter our political stripe. However, it does not govern the biblical narrative’s emphasis on the sacredness of human identity. To put a spin on Jesus’ words, it is not simply the Sabbath, but also the market that was created for man, not the other way round.

Jonathan Sacks, who served as the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, writes: “The fatal conceit for Judaism" (and Evangelicalism in many spheres, in my estimation)

is to believe that the market governs the totality of our lives, when it in fact governs only a limited part of it, that which concerns the goods we think of as being subject to production and exchange. There are things fundamental to being human that we do not produce; instead we receive from those who came before us and from God Himself. And there are things that we may not exchange, however high the price (Jonathan Sacks, “Markets and Morals,” First Things, No. 105 {Aug./Sept. 2000}: 28).

See also Michael J. Sandel’s work, What Money Can’t Buy: the Moral Limits of Markets (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012). Sandel argues that we have shifted dramatically over the past three decades due to market triumphalism’s rise. We have gone from having a market economy to becoming a market society, where nearly everything is up for sale based on thinking—faith—that markets provide the primary means to achieve the public’s good. According to Sandel, while the market economy is a valuable and effective tool for organizing productive activity, we have crossed the line. Not everything should be viewed as a transaction. Where do markets serve the common good, and where do they crowd out other important values and goods? Markets should not govern personal and public relations, including education, health, national security, etc. The financial crisis has caused us to back up and reevaluate the ability of markets to solve all problems.

I was eating lunch with a few liberals the other day. While they don’t share my pro-life stance, they concurred that there is a moral tension that progressives like themselves need to account for in discussions of abortion. They added that many in their circles balk at such notions; it would entail conceding to the enemy—those on my side—a moral victory of sorts.

Not so quickly. Conservative Evangelicals like myself need to account for the moral challenges of the progressives. What do we do about the crisis many women face, when they feel they have nowhere to go and are in a desperate state? Crisis pregnancy centers certainly can help quite a bit, but there is quite a bit more that needs to be done. Along these lines, it is not enough to safeguard a fetus’s safe arrival into the world; we have to make sure that their life in the world is safe and that they won’t fall through the cracks. Those like me who are “pro-life” need to be pro-life all across the board. We need to make sure that we safeguard programs for the poor, including food stamps, so as to alleviate malnutrition and related challenges to caring for a child’s health.

Back to screening for pregnancies. R. Kendall Soulen says of the market and the commodification of human life:

The market . . . promises to make the consumer king, and encourages us to think that we are in charge. But the market charges a high price in return, namely, the increasing commodification of human life itself. To take just one example, as genetic knowledge becomes more complete and available to consumers through law, prospective parents will be subject to pressure to screen their pregnancies in order to screen out inefficiencies such as mental retardation, genetic disorders, etc. (R. Kendall Soulen, “‘Go Tell Pharaoh,’ Or, Why Empires Prefer a Nameless God,” Cultural Encounters: A Journal for the Theology of Culture 1, no. 2 {Summer 2005}: 54-56).

hat happens if the child doesn’t have a disorder of any kind, but isn’t the “right” gender or have the right genetic disposition for becoming an ideal human specimen? How ideal is a society that allows such preferences to shape our valuation of human life? Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Affordable Care Act were to safeguard the lives of the unborn because of its stance that insurance providers cannot turn away those with “pre-existing conditions” who want healthcare coverage? Wouldn’t it be honorable if we as a society did not judge fetuses and those around us based on their pre-existing conditions and genetic makeup but based on the unconditional regard for the sacredness of all human life?

This piece is cross-posted at Patheos and at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins. Comments made here are not monitored. To join the conversation, please comment on this post at Patheos.

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths and Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church. These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).