The New Math

How Much Is Human Life Worth?

Chemistry teachers used to tell us the human body is made up of chemicals worth only 98 cents. Today it seems that many abortion advocates take that analysis at face value: They want public policy to apply a strict “cost/ benefits” analysis to the worth of human life.

For example, Eve Gartner, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, recently won a case forcing Arkansas to pay for abortions for victims of rape or incest. She argued that abortions are cheaper than providing public services for children after they are born. In Gartner’s words, by funding all Medicaid abortions, we can “save more money.”

Nancy White of the National Abortion Rights Action League is even more forthright than Gartner. In American Feminist magazine, White was quoted as saying that single mothers “have bad children.” “Black children born to unwed mothers,” she went on, “are not productive members of society.” Unless these women’s pregnancies are ended by taxpayer-funded abortions, White warned, “the government is going to have to provide social programs like education and welfare” for all those unproductive children.

These statements bring into the open the terrifying logic of many pro-abortion advocates. Gone are self-righteous appeals to “a woman’s right” to an abortion or to any supposed constitutional “right to privacy.” Now there’s just the cold calculus of the bottom line: Because children are expensive to raise, taxpayers should take the cheap way out and urge unmarried women to abort their babies instead.

An argument of this kind by abortion advocates is a startling example of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a philosophy of ethics that teaches that the worth of a thing can be measured solely in terms of its utility—what it can do at what cost.

Stalin used utilitarian logic in wiping out millions of peasants whose lives were deemed to be meaningless—and therefore a useless expense to “the state.”

But can utilitarianism really figure the worth of human life? Can human qualities like faith, hope, and love be measured on a calculator? Abortion advocates want to answer these questions only in terms of social programs and tax dollars.

But there’s another answer, an old one, and the right one. It is that human beings are of such inconceivable worth that God sacrificed His own Son to save us from sin—not only the sin of underestimating each other’s worth but also of “fall[ing] short of the glory of God.”

That is an estimation of human worth beyond our comprehension. Because it is based on the fact that each of us is made “in the image of God.” Each of us is destined to live for eternity. As C. S. Lewis put it, nobody has ever met “a mere mortal.”

That is the “cost/benefits” analysis that puts abortion and taxpayer dollars into the correct perspective.

You and I need to keep reminding ourselves, and teaching our children, that the right answer to the question of the worth of human life is this: that in God’s sight it is priceless.


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