Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro masterfully handled a student’s claim that a first-trimester fetus isn’t human life during a Q&A session at his highly anticipated speaking event Thursday at the University of California, Berkeley.
What did the student ask?
“I just wanted to know why exactly do you think a first-trimester fetus has moral value?” the unidentified student asked.
What Shapiro said
- “A first trimester fetus has moral value because whether you consider it a potential human life or a full-on human life, it has more value than just a cluster of cells. If left to its natural processes, it will grow into a baby.”
- “So the real question is where are you gonna draw the line? Are you gonna draw the line at the heartbeat? Because it’s very hard to draw the line at the heartbeat. There are people who are adults who are alive because of a pacemaker and they need some sort of outside force generating their heartbeat.”
- “Are you going to do it based on brain function? OK, well what about people who are in a coma? Should we just kill them?”
- “The problem is that whenever you draw any line other than the inception of the child, you end up drawing a false line that can be applied to people who are adults. So either human life has intrinsic value or it doesn’t.”
The tense exchange
“We both agree that adult human life has intrinsic value — can we start from that premise?” Shapiro asked.
“I believe that sentience is what gives something moral value, not necessarily being a human alone,” the student replied. Sentience is the capacity to feel and perceive, or to reason morally.
“OK, so when you’re asleep, can I stab you?” Shapiro asked.
“I’m still considered sentient when I’m asleep,” the student said back.
“OK, if you are in a coma from which you may awake, can I stab you?” Shapiro asked again.
“Well, then, uhh, no,” the student answered. “That’s still potential sentience.”
“I agree it is potential sentience. You know what else is potential sentience? Being a fetus,” Shapiro declared to loud cheers.
How did the student respond?
In response, the student explained he believes the “burden” that “unwanted” children have on potential parents should be weighed when considering abortion policy.
“Now you’re shifting the argument,” Shapiro told him. “I don’t believe that you being a burden on somebody is justification for them killing you.”