I heard an argument for abortion over the weekend that basically stated an abortion is no different than removing life support for a comatose patient who is brain dead and only being kept alive by artificial means.
At first, this may sound like a good argument for abortion. But I believe it fails horribly before it even gets off the ground.
When someone is put on artificial life support, it is due to the ceasing of normal, biological means to provide oxygenated blood to the body due to injury or illness. In the case of those who are brain dead, often family make the decision to end life support so that their loved one can die with dignity. One may even include feeding tubes in the equation, but you could make an argument that those who cannot swallow or have the mental capacity to properly feed themselves use feeding tubes and no one would think to remove that tube to end the suffering of not being able to eat normally. But we have to remember that those who are not brain dead and are not incapacitated have the ability to breathe on their own and even feed themselves in most cases and we would say they have a right to life.
Umbilical Cords are not artificial life support
During pregnancy, the unborn child is attached to its mother via the umbilical cord. The cord provides Oxygen and removes Carbon Dioxide through the unborn child's heart as well as providing nutrients from the mother. But here is where the difference between life support and pregnancy lies. The unborn child is being kept alive exactly how they should be during a pregnancy. There is nothing artificial about it. The womb is the natural habitat of an unborn child and the biological mechanism that feeds and supplies blood to the child is the natural, biological method of life for the unborn child.
If an abortion is performed, life support is not merely removed from the child, but rather the child itself is killed intentionally. When artificial life support is removed from a comatose patient, artificial breathing is removed and the patient is allowed to naturally die from either the lungs not being able to supply enough oxygen or the brain's inability to send signals to the lungs to function. These are clearly different circumstances. The reason a family makes the tough choice to end life support is because they understand fundamentally their loved one has already died, only their bodily functions are being kept in motion. The natural, biological means of life is no longer present in their loved one. But in the unborn, the natural, biological means of life is present and functioning normally just as it should be. For life support to be removed from the unborn, in effect the mother would have to be killed.
Clearly, this is not what happens during an abortion.
But what is the pro life position on the question of end of life decisions?
As Scott Klusendorf of LIfe Training Institute has stated, "The fundamental principle of the pro life position that is demonstrated above is we should never intentionally take the life of an innocent human being. But it doesn't follow from that position that we should always resist natural death.
The question facing us is when does treatment for the patient become permissible to remove? The answer to this question is guided by two principles:
At that point, what you are doing is not anti-life, you are simply trying to make the patient as comfortable as possible."
So in the case of someone who is comatose and brain dead, removing a breathing tube is not what is killing them, in fact, we would say that they are already dead, we are simply oxygenating their blood to keep the body functioning.
But with abortion, we are intentionally taking the life of the unborn who are not being kept alive though artificial means.
This is the fundamental difference between these two ideas and yet the similarity is the intention behind the act.