The Enemy Within

In the classic science fiction film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, aliens from outer space invade people’s bodies as part of a plan to rule Earth. A few weeks ago I couldn’t help wondering if one abortion advocate was watching this fim when she hatched a bizarre new abortion argument. Political science professor Eileen McDonagh has written a book called Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent. McDonagh notes that many Americans have come to believe that human fetuses are actually human beings. That’s a biologically accurate view, of course. But from a pro-choice perspective, it’s dangerous. To deal with this development, abortion supporters must find arguments that can justify the use of deadly force against these tiny humans. And that’s what McDonagh has done. She’s found her argument in, of all places, the law of self-defense. As McDonagh writes: "Even in a medically normal pregnancy, the fetus massively intrudes on a woman’s body and expropriates her liberty." If the woman does not consent to this use of her body, McDonagh reasons, "the fetus’s imposition constitutes injuries sufficient to justify the use of deadly force to stop it [just] as in rape, kidnapping or slavery." After all, McDonagh explains, if a woman has the right to defend herself against a rapist or kidnapper, why, then she should also have the right to use deadly force to expel an unwanted fetus. There you have it: Abortion is no longer murder; it’s self-defense against an invading alien. Imagine this argument being turned into the plot of a movie: It could be titled Attack of the Killer Fetuses! Of course, McDonagh’s whole argument is patent nonsense. The law permits the use of deadly force only when a person has a reasonable fear for his life or physical safety. And the argument that the unborn child simply showed up without warning is disingenuous at best: It rests on the assumption that the mother did nothing to invite the fetus—that it simply showed up out of nowhere and attacked her—just like those aliens in science fiction films. But when men and women consent to sexual relations, they are, in effect, issuing an invitation. As the late Christian essayist Sheldon Vanauken puts it, "A pregnant woman is a hostess. When, through carelessness or design, the invitation has gone out and... the happy guest is inside the home, is that the time to... poison the guest in the name of controlling one’s own house?" McDonagh’s "Attack Fetus" argument is so absurd that I wonder if anyone—even McDonagh—takes it seriously. The answer is: yes, they do. You see, once people demand autonomy—the right to be their own gods—there’s no limit to what they will do to justify their acts. That’s really what’s at stake here: freedom from any restraints. McDonagh’s argument recalls the words of the Apostle Paul, who warned that people will exchange the truth of God for a lie. Claiming to be wise, they will instead become fools. And that’s what we have to rememeber when we hear bizarre new arguments for abortion. Arguments that treat babies as alien body snatchers are better suited for the sci-fi channel than for the public square.


Chuck Colson


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