In today’s Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz reviews Ramesh Ponnuru’s anti-abortion tour de force The Party of Death. In this critical review, Berkowitz puts forth the same pro-abortion arguments that have been refuted time and again by pro-lifers. He writes:
Invisible to the naked eye, lacking body or brain, feeling neither pleasure nor pain, radically dependent for life support, the early embryo, though surely part of the human family, is distant and different enough from a flesh-and-blood newborn that when the early embryo’s life comes into conflict with other precious human goods or claims, the embryo’s life may need to give way (source).
The problem with Berkowitz’s critique is that none of the deficiencies he lists make a human a human. His argument is essentially this: “Since the unborn are really small, since they are not fully developed, since they are after all invisible to us in their mother’s womb, and since they are dependent upon another for life support, they therefore do not have a right to life as other persons do.”
Is this really what Berkowitz believes? Do we treat small people as less human than bigger people? Do we treat one-year olds as less human than the fourteen year olds because the one-year olds aren’t fully developed yet? Do we treat the person who depends on insulin or kidney dialysis as less than human because of the degree of their dependency on another for life? Of course not. We don’t treat such people as less than human because we all know that personhood is not dependent upon size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency.
Berkowitz really misses the point here, and his critique of Ponnuru rings really hollow precisely for this reason.