Abortion is almost always in the news, and will be again when the Supreme Court hears the latest case out of Mississippi. But the news almost never gets abortion right. Some of our country’s leading politicians refuse to recognize that a preborn child is a human life. And when pro-life advocates fight hard to protect these preborn humans in our laws, they get painted as the bad guys.
The problem here is that our country’s culture is built upon a pernicious lie about the preborn. In the fight over abortion, our culture suggests that the preborn have to prove to us why and when they deserve protection, care and a chance to live. The preborn have to prove they won't inconvenience us. If the preborn are deemed too burdensome, too genetically different, or just too untimely and unwelcome, they can be killed.
But this approach seriously misunderstands what it means to be a human being. Our dignity as humans – our fundamental worthiness to exist – doesn’t have to be proven; it is an endowment we receive at the moment of conception and keep forever until our natural death. Nobody should have to pass a test to deserve to exist.
Does that baby measure up?
I know first-hand what it’s like to have your performance and your accomplishments determine your validity. For 16 years, I played professional football in the NFL. When you play a competitive sport, your every action and your every mistake is analyzed, turned into stats, and used to judge your salary, your status and even whether you have a career in that sport at all. Your place on the field is earned by sweat and effort.
When doctors deliver bad news: Your baby's prenatal diagnosis is not a death sentence. Just ask my giggling goddaughter.
I’m not complaining about the NFL. But there is something seriously wrong about applying that kind of mindset to something as fundamental as the right to life.
Whenever you conceive a child, our pro-abortion culture wants you to put that child to the test. It wants you to scrutinize his or her stats. Does a baby fit your lifestyle? Is the baby the right gender? (Thirty-nine states let you abort a child specifically because of his or her gender.) Is the baby the right race? (Forty-six states let you abort a child specifically because of his or her race.) Does he or she have any medical conditions or disabilities? Does the baby have Down Syndrome? Do you have just the right amount of money – or what you think is the right amount of money – for the child? Is he or she coming at an opportune time?
To be sure, many women and families do not abort their child cavalierly, they are pained over the decision. But those families need help and support. We should not pressure them into abortion or try to discount the seriousness of abortion by, for instance, normalizing abortion-themed merchandise.
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When you just look at the “stats” for preborn life, you get into a mindset where you need to justify the existence of pre-born life. As human beings, we tend to think that whatever looks good or is important to us is what ultimately matters and what ultimately has value. When we look at the preborn in this way, we’re unable to see the inherent dignity of the preborn.
But none of these things affect a person’s human dignity.
Nobody's stats are perfect
Everyone struggles with something; nobody’s stats are perfect. And while stats may matter on the sports field or in your college admissions process, they don’t matter when it comes to human dignity.
But this same mindset affects all aspects of our culture. It affects the way we treat vulnerable adult human life, too; how many of us simply discount the struggles and suffering of the poor, refugees or the oppressed? How many of us resent how much time and compassion elderly people need?
What we have to discover, as a country and as a culture, is a shared understanding that human dignity doesn’t have to be earned, and it can never be lost. Our culture should not determine whether the preborn should live, whether the poor should be cared for and whether the oppressed should be helped.
Why I chose late-term abortion: I had a later abortion because I couldn't give my baby girl both life and peace
Instead, we should insist at all times and in all places that that human life is sacred, worthy of respect from conception to natural death. If we could see the inherent worth of every human life, something as devastating and harmful as abortion would not simply be unwelcome or undesirable; it would be unthinkable too.
Benjamin Watson is a former Super Bowl champion and NFL tight end. He is the current vice president of strategic relationships with Human Coalition, a pro-life organization that operates several telehealth and in-person women’s care clinics.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Former NFL player: Our pro-abortion culture rejects babies' dignity