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fundevogel's avatar

What do you think about value ascribed to "innocent lives", specifically young children, babies and the unborn?

Asked by fundevogel (15037 points ) November 4th, 2012

PLEASE READ THIS FIRST

It occurred to me recently that aside from all obvious things trotted out when abortion rights are debated there seemed to be a cultural value judgement under the surface of the matter. The idea that an innocent life is lost in an abortion. Certainly the idea that innocent life is a greater loss than guilty life isn’t remarkable, but this isn’t that at all. With the issue of abortion this is an issue of which life will be protected, that of a mother that wishes to retain autonomy over her body and her future or that of a potential life which depends on the body of it’s mother. Here unborn innocence is often asserted as the more worthy priority, not by virtue of having lived better than the other life in question, but by not having lived at all. Or maybe those people just think taking away someone’s control of their body and their future is a small price to pay to preserve any life, but that in and of itself is still and admission of valuing life in the technical sense of a collection collection of cells, membranes and organs over a life as defined by it’s experiences, ambitions and accomplishments.

It seems to me that by putting this brand of innocence on a pedestal you establish a culture that implicitly tells us that living is just one long journey of corruption and that none of us will ever be as virtuous as when our list of experiences and accomplishments was zero.

I don’t bring this up to debate abortion, but because this is the instance I recognized the issue in. My interest is in the cultural idea, no matter how unconscious it maybe, that a life depreciates from the moment it starts and what consequences the idea has on a cultural and personal level.

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19 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

UH. time worn age old argument. can’t wait to leave this country ROEvWADE is published, perhaps post that.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That’s an interesting thought. But what if I take the opposite side, and say life can be an uphill journey to good and positivity? I was born, I was just there. Feed me, change me, I just existed. I didn’t have any affect in life. As I made my journey in life I figured it’s better to do good than bad. I just try to make my little corner of the world better. I don’t want to debate on abortion. I can’t make that call for anyone else. But I can’t judge which clump of cells has more value than the other either.

marinelife's avatar

I think that the extra value ascribed to the innocent and the unborn represent our imperative toward survival of the race.

It is the potential of a baby’s life that is valued so highly.

glacial's avatar

Well, it would explain the apparent hipocrisy of being anti-choice and pro-death penalty. I think you may have something there. It does, however, raise questions about the “worthiness” of the person making legislation about (for example) which to save in the fetus-in-jeopardy vs. mother-in-jeopardy argument. I mean, if all people become increasingly corrupt with experience, then one might think that the same experience that, say, qualifies one for office would also disqualify that person from holding office and writing that legislation.

whitenoise's avatar

I think the term innocent life is just a rhetoric tool to reinforce a stance.

Overall, I am under the impression that we do not value children’s lives that much at all. Pediatricians earn less than the other medical specialists for instance.

I feel we value life most if it is a rich person’s life. We care more about rich grown ups than we care about children even if we may care about the children of these grown ups. (As long as their parents pay the bill.)

livelaughlove21's avatar

@trailsillustrated Did you bother reading the question? The OP made it perfectly clear that this isn’t about abortion, it’s about the rationale of a mindset within that argument. Roe V. Wade has nothing to do with the value of innocence at birth.

This is an interesting question. And I agree that it would explain why many that are pro-life drop that belief in the face of capital punishment. Life is precious until you make bad decisions, and in that case, screw your life.

I’m also thinking that not all religions view a child as innocent. Those that baptize babies believe that we’re born with sin and must be saved and “reborn”. So, I wonder what those people would make of this argument.

And while @whitenoise may be right about the value of children from a medical or business standpoint, I believe that children are valued much more than adults from a religious or personal standpoint. We believe that children are precious, they are the future, and that parenthood is quite possibly the most important job we have as adults.

Even with the innocence vs. corrupt argument, the whole “Abortion is wrong but the death penalty is okay” still makes no sense. If all lives are precious, the baby’s should be no more so than the criminal’s, innocence be damned.

Shippy's avatar

Call me stupid, if you wish but to me all your ‘premises’ are mixed up. Innocent and guilty lives? I think innocence in most contexts it is used means that they do not contribute nor have the capacity to for ‘it’ e.g. fight a war. But anyway I am just confused overall by the question, so I will call myself stupid!

Trillian's avatar

It seems like an argument which makes assumptions and ignores potential for extremely bad results. It is also an arrogant bit of interference which forces someone else to live in a way dictated by a third party who then has the ability to walk away.
What is not addressed is the long term results on society as a whole. The inability to abort which results in a child who is consequently raised in a single parent, low income environment is plain as day when one sees the news every day.
Anti abortionists are the same hard liners who want maximum punishment for offenders, failing to see the irony of this attitude. Where is the line between the child they wanted to save and the adult they want to punish?

starsofeight's avatar

To view the cultural or social implication, one must keep in mind the influences that bear upon that developing society. Political bearing, shallow and self-serving, changes too often to be considered applicable. Yet, thoughts about the value of life have filtered into all cultures, and more often than not, they are the same. The calcification, over time, of such opinions and convictions arises from the influence of religion.

Children are special, they become people. They are the continuation, and one might even say, the upgrade of not only mankind, but, in a national and community sense, our cultural identity. This identity stems directly from the sense of familial continuation and upgrade—that smallest and most basic unit of humanity—steeped historically in a nurturing and sustaining faith. That has been the fact for as far back as organized and maintaining religion may be seen.

That is not to say that there is not a strong inclination in an individual toward the demise, if not the ignoble or untimely demise of our fellow humans. We view the death of a child, most trusting and least capable of defending itself, as a harsh and wanton waste—and that because of our personal unspoken dread of death. The fact that any other death touches us must be viewed as: it touches ‘us’. It reaches deep into the core of our survival instincts.

That said, there have been cultures and societies that killed newborns that were defective, or that simply were not the son and heir expected. However, today, in western society, even hardened criminals value the life of a child more than that of an adult. This bears out in the fact that criminals charged with abuses against children are themselves greatly reviled and abused by the greater population within a prison.

However, a fetus and a child are not exactly the same. Some view the potential for being human as equal to the acquisition of particularly human qualities such as the power of reason or the possession of a soul. Some do not. Upon that latter point, philosophical and religious thoughts are divided into several schools as to when, exactly, the human soul comes into play, and the thing that is just alive becomes an actual living soul.

Unbroken's avatar

Well I only read a few of the responses because I am pretty sure I have the answer on this. I am not saying it justifies itself, but here, I believe is the prevailing “reason” behind the judgement.

Old Testament, biblically speaking judgement is about punishing those that commit sins. From Eve and Adam and the serpant ( God punished the entirety of human race yet to come, based on their sin), to Cain and Abel (God cursed all of Cain’s offspring). With this theory, the judgement of the religous against women who have abortions is just that, the women commit a sin, murder in their view, the fact that this is legal is quite appalling to these Christains, because there is no legal punishment. They view any negative after effects as proof that abortion is morally wrong.

The fact that they use these unborn children to create sympathy toward their cause. On the flip side the death penalty is only appropriate for those quilty of capitol offenses.
That this about the guilty sinners makes the flip of their core beliefs justifiable in their minds.

Now to read the rest of the comments.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m thinking this is a very narrow view. Much of the world doesn’t even consider a child to be an individual until after the first few years because of the high incidence of death among the youngest age group.

glacial's avatar

@rosehips But the two examples you give (“punishing the entirety of human race yet to come” and “all of Cain’s offspring”) are of god punishing those whom most would consider to be “innocent”. So either (a) god doesn’t see newborns or fetuses as innocent OR (b) god punishes the innocent.

How does either of these possibilities show that there is more value ascribed to innocent lives?

Unbroken's avatar

Biblically speaking they aren’t innocent. We bear the sins of our forefathers. Also while he did punish the predecessors, this may be viewed as further punishment to the originators of the crime. As a race, we are supposed to as parents, put our children’s well being over our own lives.
In any case they aren’t innocent, they all have contain the unclean flesh. Which will cause them to sin. It is the potential, what we are created for. But they also are innocent because if they die before the age that they do know right from wrong and willingly chose to do wrong, they will be carried to heaven.

Does it make sense, of course not. But those were the principles I was raised on. It had nothing to do with the value of one human over another. It was about the weight of guilt and retribution.

Symbeline's avatar

That’s an odd and kind of depressing relation to make; that the value of life as we generally accept it may has the exact same worth as that of an unborn fetus that hasn’t done anything yet. Although I certainly see your point, I’m guessing that this relation isn’t quite right when you consider that pro life people believe that it isn’t fair to take away a life that hasn’t had the chance to do anything yet. I don’t think it’s an attribution to nihilism. (that’s if I understood your question right) Most especially not when considering who’s most likely to be pro life, and this draws in the cultural and societal aspect of the question I think.
@YARNLADY gave an answer that makes me think of something, for example. Countries where children aren’t really their own people, and even before they are born, their roles are decided, well long into young adulthood. Who they’ll be married to, what career they’re going to have…thinking along the lines of Islamic places.
Now I may be extremely misinformed about Muslims, but I do know there are countries that nearly sell their kids, or where men beat their many wives to instill fear into them and other crazy control oriented stuff like that. This is all part of some cultures, and is normal for some them, as much as washing your car is over here. It’s usually centered around a strong sense of patriotism or cultural preservation, as is Western pro life. So in this example I have to ask myself what degree does the value on innocent life expand into. A child is innocent, yet people do what they want with them; this kind of defeats the purpose of value in and of itself, at least as I understand/see it. Or is the value of life nothing more than just being thankful for being alive, no matter what kind of life you have, or has been set out for you?
Now I’m not saying, let’s rip out every fetus out of every woman that we see, not at all, and I realize this isn’t a debate about that…but it’s kind of hard forming an answer without bringing up elements that are near debate like material. I am trying to post as little personal opinion as I personally can here, save for what is at hand in the details.
So to actually answer anything, I think the value of innocent life subscribed to abortion seems a little jumbled and aimed in the wrong place. Life is a lot of things, whether it’s a fetus or a conscious person, living their existence. But there sure seems to be motivations behind the issues of abortion that disregard the aspect of life, even though the whole thing is fueled by that idea. All the debates about this stuff always seem more centered around individual ideas and beliefs, rather than the welfare of the life in question. Blowing up abortion clinics for example, doesn’t convince me very much that these are actions which value and cherish life. Then again, I can certainly see how some people don’t like pro choice, either.
In all of that, to me life and its values isn’t just being able to be alive, but how that value is handled for the rest of a person’s life. I think ours, and many other culture are too deeply rooted in selfish and egoistical values to say that the value of life itself as seen in abortion and its future, or lack thereof, is truly appreciated or respected. That is, with reasons given to justify both pro life and pro choice. That’s why I say the very idea and notion of value seems jumbled up to me, even though it should be simple, since we’re talking about life. The value thereof doesn’t seem to always fit the bill, nor does it once the life is able to think and act for itself.

flutherother's avatar

It is a natural instinct to love and cherish the very young and the unborn as they are the future. They might not be as innocent as we like to think but they are all we have.

wundayatta's avatar

I see it quite the other way around. I see a human value as being related to what a person can do. That has to do with mental and physical abilities.

A baby can’t do much, and thus isn’t worth nearly as much as an older child or a teen or an adult. An unborn child is worth even less.

The thing that the young have is potential. They may grow up to become valuable persons. But that takes resources, and we may not have resources.

Adults who are incapacitated for mental reasons, or for bad judgment or for physical failings also have potential, but they are damaged, too. Those of us who have been damaged may have more to prove. I think people who have committed crimes against society should have more to prove before they earn full rights again.

But I think we have to make a practical calculation about the future. I don’t think any human being is guaranteed rights. Societies guarantee rights, and we only do it when we see it as a fair trade off. We watch out for each other. We protect each other.

We need to protect our children because they are the future of our genes and of our society. But how far should we go to protect them. I think there is a different answer for individual cases than there is for society in general. For society, individuals don’t matter so much. It doesn’t matter if a few children are lost. There are plenty left.

However, for individuals, it matters a great deal more. I want my own progeny to be protected. For a person like me, who had a great deal of difficulty having biological children, protecting every embryo was crucial. We had four or five of them frozen, and one of them became our son. It would have been horrible hell had the embryo freezing facility lost power in a storm like Sandy (and they were in NYC). I would have felt like my children had been murdered.

Except when they were replaced, several of them died, anyway. On their own. We were lucky to get one child born out of them all. Over all, 8 embryos and 2 children.

That’s the kind of thing you can take very personally. If someone else wants to have an abortion, well, that’s their choice. I have no interest in their embryo. I don’t think society does, either. But when it’s my kid, even if it is only ten cells, I would hate for anyone to do anything to terminate it. To kill it. That would be killing a part of me. That would be killing my genetic future. It would most certainly be a kind of murder. Unless I didn’t care. Unless I didn’t want a child.

I don’t think you can apply a general rule here. I can’t say what the value of an innocent life it. Because that’s personal. That’s different for everyone. No one can tell me the value of my children. I am the only one who gets to say what that is.

Maybe when they are older, society gets to have a say. I don’t know when that social interest starts. Perhaps at birth. Maybe later. It’s tricky.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think it is interesting that these “lives” are innocent unless they are the result of rape or incest. Then it is okay to abort because, I guess, they are no longer innocent???

Also reminds me of the old “women and children, but especially children first.” I personally do not think that my life is any less valuable than someone else regardless of their age. I may give my place on the lifeboat to someone else, they may be younger or older, but I will decide, end of story.

So if your supposition is indeed true, then I think it is a load of baloney, IMHO.

deni's avatar

Babies. Yeah they’re innocent, big deal, they do nothing and they need to be cared for constantly. They are very dependent and barely their own person. I’m not sayin that to hate on babies, but it is true, which is why I don’t get that whole sentiment in the first place. The idea that their early life or even their life up to the point that they are just a ball of cells, is more valuable than a human being who has thoughts, emotions, is self sufficient and has life experiences, is just ridiculous. I will never understand people who feel that way.

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