Don’t pit the sanctity of life against economic interest
Human beings should be viewed as a credit rather than a debit to society
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During a Senate Banking Committee hearing last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen decried abortion restrictions as detrimental to the economy. And, with just one sentence, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., obliterated her argument and refocused the abortion debate on the heart of the issue: the victimized child.
“I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy,” Yellen stated. In an exchange with Sen. Scott, the secretary complained that women’s inability to procure abortions will lower the labor participation rate and restrictions will have a particularly negative effect on women who are “of low income and often black.”
Sen. Scott replied, “As a black guy raised by a woman in abject poverty, I am thankful to be here as a United States senator.”
Sen. Scott, like so many others, is the embodiment of the objection to Janet Yellen’s purported concerns. Hardship and poverty do not determine a person’s dignity or limit a person’s future. Children born to struggling moms and dads are not inevitably consigned to lifelong misery. There are countless stories of people who defied the odds to become incredibly influential and successful: Ben Carson, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few. According to the dark logic of Secretary Yellen, their mothers would have been better off aborting them—and the economy would have benefited, too.
Consider that, for a moment: Would the economy be better off if, say, Steve Jobs’ mother had chosen abortion instead of adoption? Doubtful. It is difficult to even quantify how his innovations have contributed to the world technologically and economically. Moreover, how could someone considering an abortion know all possible future outcomes for the unborn child? No one can be certain that their situation one day will be their situation the next. There’s a hint of economic and social Darwinism in Yellen’s comments incompatible with a Christian view of time and providence.
This underscores an important difference in how people view human beings—either as a credit to society or as a debit. Just as climate activists describe babies as a drain on resources, liberals like Secretary Yellen view babies as a burden on the economy—or say so for political purposes. In reality, the existence of human beings is why we have an economy at all. Humans are the reason we have commerce, technology, medicine, charities, transportation, and all the inventions and systems that improve our world. Aborting people who could make groundbreaking contributions to our world is, from a practical standpoint, foolish. Societies that kill future generations before they’re born do not fare well. Human beings are overwhelmingly beneficial, not detrimental, to societies and economies.
But there is a much deeper, more important truth found in Sen. Scott’s response. The words before he mentions his status as a senator are the most crucial. Because even if Tim Scott had never become Sen. Scott, even if his life had been marked only by suffering, even if he had grown up to be homeless and poor, even if he had never contributed anything of note to society, he would still be here, on Earth, as a human being. It is because he is human—not because he is a senator—that his life matters.
It is not a person’s usefulness that makes them valuable. Christians understand that human value is innate. It is inextricably intertwined with our humanity from the moment of conception. No matter the size, age, sentience, dependency, ability, race, class, or productivity of an individual, he has more dignity and worth than any other organism on earth simply because he is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). God says that each person matters and that murdering a person is a grave sin (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 20:13).
The Christian reason for opposing abortion is ultimately theological: We believe and agree with what God says about human dignity. While there are compelling economic, scientific, and moral arguments against abortion, ultimately they all fail to explain why a person in the womb—or any person—matters and has a right not to be murdered. Only the God who created humans, and therefore ascribes us value, can do that.
Janet Yellen represents the dark, dystopian view typical of the secular, pro-abortion side that human beings are nothing more than meaningless matter that can be discarded based on economic needs or simply as a woman sees fit. Sen. Tim Scott highlighted his existence to reveal the callousness of Yellen’s logic. And their exchange was a profound reminder that the debate over abortion is not a matter of only right vs. left or Republican vs. Democrat, but of light vs. dark and, indeed, of life vs. death.
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