Friday, August 02, 2013

Roger Olson on miscarriage

Some of Roger Olson's comments on his abortion post:

Roger Olson 
My appeal was to intuition. I have known many, many women who suffered miscarriages. None thought the loss was commensurable with the death of an already born child.
Roger Olson 
I grew up in churches and around churches and never heard of a memorial Mass or service of any kind for a miscarried embryo until after the pro-life movement really got going.
Roger Olson 
I never heard anyone say anything like that until the pro-life movement really got going. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s (pre-Roe vs. Wade) and knew many, many women (in the church my father pastored) who had miscarriages. I never heard that any of them expressed the sentiment that the lost pregnancy (usually just an embryo) was as tragic as losing an already born child. My wife suffered a miscarriage and, while we were very sad about it, it never even entered either of our minds to consider it in the same category of loss as if our already born daughter had died.
Roger Olson 
Second, holding funerals for miscarried embryos, if it ever happens, is a result of some in the pro-life movement thinking through the logical implications of an absolutist position on abortion. I still have never heard of one for a miscarried embryo.

i) Notice what Olson is saying. Only a prolife "absolutist" would hold a funeral service for a miscarried baby. And since he opposes prolife "absolutism" (or "extremism"), he evidently thinks it would be wrong to hold a funeral service for miscarried babies. 

Now, there's a difference between saying  church ought to hold such a service, and saying a church ought not hold such a service. I think that's up to the parents. 

ii) In addition, Olson is suggesting that because parents don't grieve as deeply for a prenatal child as they do for a postnatal child, the unborn baby had less intrinsic value. But that's obviously fallacious.

Assuming parents grief less deeply for a miscarried baby, that's because they had less time to form an emotional attachment with the baby. They barely got to know the baby–especially the father.

Take a comparison. Suppose a mother puts her newborn baby up for adoption. Suppose her child dies in a traffic accident at the age of 17. Suppose the birthmother finds out.

Although she might mourn the death of her child, she won't grieve as deeply as she would had she raised the child. She'd be closer to a child she actually raised. All those memories.

Does that mean the 17-year-old was less intrinsically valuable? 

It's easy to come up with other examples. Suppose a father loses a custody battle, and his visitation rights are quite restrictive. Or maybe he has to live out of state. That's where his job is.

He may not be as close to his child because he never got the chance to form a close emotional bond. He wasn't allowed to spend much time with his kid.

Does that mean his kid is less intrinsically valuable? 

To take another example: suppose, in one case, I grow up with my stepbrother, but in another case I don't grow up with my stepbrother. If he dies, how deeply I feel the loss will depend on whether or not we grew up together. Does that make his death less intrinsically significant? 

iii) Is Olson suggesting that the value of human life is relative to how much we are valued by others? 

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