The Sanctity Of Life
A medical doctor recently drew an analogy that left me bumfuzzled. I do not know the man’s political or religious affiliation, and I don’t intend for this article to be a political statement on handling COVID-19. But I found his comparison unsound.
His observation went like this: The very people who argue for reopening the country and resuming normal life are often the same people who oppose abortion on the grounds of the sanctity of life. Conclusion: If you believe in the sanctity of all life, logically you should advocate for keeping the country under lockdown because innocent people will die without proper social-distancing measures.
Here are some brief comments on this argument:
1. I do believe all human life is sacred because we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28).
2. I do not believe that the sacredness of life demands sparing it at all costs. For example, God Himself instituted capital punishment on the basis of life’s sanctity: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). To argue that because life is sacred we are morally bound to protect it in every situation is a non-sequitur (an inference that does not follow from the premises).
3. Abortion and the circumstantial transmission of coronavirus are not analogous. Abortion is a deliberate act to end life. In the vast majority of cases, it is killing for the sake of the mother’s convenience. While returning to normalcy will potentially increase risk that comes with the normal processes of life (work, education, travel, shopping), such are necessities of the human experience, not conveniences. Again, we can discuss the relative risks of doing so, but to equate such with abortion is flat out invalid.
4. Prolonged lockdown is not benign. While a pandemic may be curtailed to some degree, isolation has its own lethal economic, emotional, social and criminal side-effects. Our society is now debating the risk of continued social distancing versus the risk of viral exposure, and the lockdown advocates do not hold unquestioned higher moral ground on life’s sanctity.
5. There is no such thing as riskless life, either as the perpetrator or victim. Yes, it is prudent to exercise caution personally and societally and seek the safety of others, but such concerns can be extended to the breaking point. A friend years ago was deeply troubled by the notion that driving his car contributed to air pollution, which, in turn, potentially was making someone in the world ill. If this degree of cause and effect is valid, then we were all guilty long before the present pandemic. Every time we go out in public we are breathing; coughing; touching door handles, restaurant menus and grocery carts; shaking hands, etc. This contact could potentially make someone sick, but are we culpable for that by an unintentional, indirect, “connect the dots” impact? If so, the only remedy is to live in permanent isolation from the rest of humanity, which is manifestly impossible on myriad levels.
Some radical, humanistic environmentalists and epidemiologists seem to think that man is a scourge on the planet and we need to reduce our carbon and/or viral footprint to zero. Well, death is the only way to achieve that, and such isn’t a very attractive option. The problem before us is complex, and simplistic answers and non-sequitur arguments are not helpful.
Where is Solomon when you need him?!