Sanctity vs. Quality Of Life

You can immediately see that there is a huge difference between those who argue for the sanctity of life versus those who argue for the quality of life. For the secular pragmatist, any life that lacks a high degree of quality is essentially worthless. From a Christian perspective, this is ghoulish and sickening, but it is a common philosophical argument in support of abortion and infanticide. It immediately breaks down, however, when we consider the fact that quality of life and inherent personal value do not go hand-in-hand. Otherwise, the decision in the Dred Scott case of 1857, in which the Supreme Court ruled that black slaves were “non-persons” and could be owned, bought, and sold as slaves, starts to make strikingly good sense. They might have had all the necessary components to be considered “humans”, but slaves had almost no expectation for a high quality of life. No freedom to play music, produce art or poetry, practice true self-determination, express opinions, or operate every day without the constant threat of violence – sounds like a very low quality of life to me. Not to mention the value that was placed on a slave’s life by his or her owners! The less work a slave could get done (old age, injury, disability, etc.), the less valuable his life was. I wonder if people really want to go down that road when they argue an unborn baby or a baby with a severe handicap is less valuable than others!

Value is not determined by human achievements, mental or economic capacity, development, or potential quality of life. It is invariably given to all humans at conception from God. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:26-28) masterfully crafted in the womb with a sense of identity before birth (Psalm 139:13-16). The words used to describe an unborn infant in both the Hebrew (yeled in Exodus 21:22) and Greek (brephos in Luke 1:41, 44) are also used in other contexts (both secular and Biblical) of born children (Acts 7:19). Nobody determines our value but God.

“But how is it ethical,” the argument goes, “to knowingly bring a child into the world with disabilities or conditions that will inhibit his or her happiness?” I often wonder, though, whose happiness we are really worried about! A person’s quality of life is not destined from conception. Quality of life is entirely subjective, since life is what we make of it. Who are we to decide, in advance and without any evidence whatsoever, that a person with a disability will not consider his or her life incredibly high in quality? We cannot make that determination! Quality can sometimes only be seen in hindsight, because even in the midst of our suffering we might actually be on a journey to a very rewarding and substantial outcome (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4). Who are we to deprive any human of the right to life, with all of its ups and downs, heartbreaks and healings, painful defeats and rich victories?

The pure pragmatist might find this irrational, but caring for the weak and innocent is one of the highest ideals. We are commanded by God to be kind to widows and orphans (James 1:27), even though they are considered a drain on society by many. Jesus routinely reached out to the “dregs of society”, so to speak, when he encouraged and healed paralytics, blind beggars, and lepers – the lowest, most useless members of society. Do you want to know how you alleviate the suffering of babies with disabilities, or unwanted infants? Well, it is certainly not by killing them! Rather, God calls us to alleviate their suffering through kindness, care, acceptance and charity (Psalm 82:3).