In recent days my attention was drawn to an article written by an abortion-choice broadcaster from England, Miranda Sawyer. The article details her recent re-examination of her abortion-choice views. Its significance is twofold. First, Ms. Sawyer is honest and candid about the inadequacy of many of the arguments advanced in behalf of abortion-on-demand. Secondly, it reveals just how far people are willing to go to preserve their point of view. The will often trumps the intellect.

Ms. Sawyer was prompted to re-examine her view of abortion after she became pregnant.

“My mind kept returning to the pregnancy test. If my reaction to those fateful double lines that said ‘baby ahead’ had been horror instead of hurrah…then I would have had little hesitation in having an abortion. But it was that very fact that was confusing me. I was calling the life inside me a baby because I wanted it. Yet if I hadn’t, I would think of it just as a group of cells that it was OK to kill. It was the same entity. It was merely my response to it that determined whether it would live or die. That seemed irrational to me. Maybe even immoral. … when you’ve experienced the out-and-out weirdness of pregnancy and birth and the fantastic beauty of the resulting child, it’s hard not to question what a termination does, or is.”

So why not abandon her abortion-choice position in favor of a pro-life one? According to her, it’s because she is “not religious.” This is revealing. Apparently she believes that opposition to abortion could only be justified on religious grounds. This is an indictment on the pro-life movement. We have a responsibility to make a case against abortion that does not appeal (at least primarily) to a religious grounding.

How did Ms. Sawyer resolve the conflict between what she wanted to believe, and what she was being led to believe by both experience and reason? By accepting the abortion-choice philosophical claim that there is a difference between being alive, and being human (or stated by others as a distinction between being human and being a person). In her words:

“In the end, I have to agree that life begins at conception. So yes, abortion is ending that life. But perhaps the fact of life isn’t what is important. It’s whether that life has grown enough to take on human characteristics, to start becoming a person.

“In its early stages, the foetus clearly hasn’t, so I have no problems with early abortions. … But once an embryo has developed enough to feel pain, or begin a personality, then it has moved from cell life into the first stages of being a human. Then, for me, ending that life is wrong. … That’s why late abortion will always be tricky. Who are we to say whether the life inside is a person, or not?”

Her escape hatch is the personhood theory of human value. If the unborn look enough like those of us on the outside of the womb, and if the unborn behave enough like those of us on the outside of the womb, then they are valuable and should be protected. The question is, Who gets to decide how much one must looks and act like us before they are valuable? And who gets to decide what qualities are to be measured. Different people have different lists. Where is the objective basis for determining this? Ms. Sawyer seems to recognize this, but ignores what she recognizes. For while she says we cannot say whether the life inside the womb is a person or not, she has said who is and who is not a person. Those who feel pain and exhibit personality are persons; those who don’t aren’t. What people won’t put their mind through in order to keep their will on the throne!