A few weeks ago, a really smart comedian broke the internet with a really intense hypothetical scenario that went something like this:
You’re in a fertility clinic that’s on fire. You stumble into a room with a five-year-old little boy and a container filled with 1,000 embryos. You can only save one. Which do you save?
He made the point that obviously anyone with an ounce of compassion would save the little boy. This obviously means that you, the pro-lifer, believes the boy, more fully grown and developed than the embryos, has more value.
He claims that “in a decade of arguing with anti-abortion people about the definition of human life, I have never gotten a single straight … answer to this question. And I never will. They will never answer honestly, because we all instinctively understand the right answer is [to save the child]. A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically.” (You can read the full tweet thread here.)
Actually, what’s true here is that we’re put into an impossible hypothetical situation and in order to play along by the imaginary rules, we’re forced to choose one.
In response, and because we love mind games, too, we decided to develop our own hypothetical scenario. Tell me which one you’d choose.
You’re in the same scenario. The building is burning, and the same boy is stuck in the same room and like before, you don’t have time to save everyone in the room. Only this time, instead of the container of embryos, there’s a 95-year-old couple holding hands. You can save them, or you can save the little boy. Who do you choose this time?
We’ve only asked a few people this question, because honestly, the scenario sucks. Hypotheticals never end well because usually they pit two extremes against each other and force you to choose. Then they exclaim, “Ah ha!” as if making a choice in their hypothetical world indicates your true values for this world.
In that split second to choose, this time you’d probably still save the boy. Why? Because you’d want to remove emotion from your decision and you’d probably reason that he has more life ahead of him. You may also cause harm to the elderly couple as you’re trying to get them out, they may not move quickly enough to save them, and they likely don’t have as long to live anyway.
According to Tomlinson’s logic, your choice to save the boy means you believe his life has more value than the couple’s.
Fun place to be, right?
But either way you slice it, this is a terrible situation. Ultimately, just because you choose to save the little boy doesn’t mean you believe the elderly couple’s lives don’t matter.
In the same way, just because you don’t choose to save the container of embryos doesn’t mean you think the little boy’s life has more value. He’s had a life of more value than the embryos, but it doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.
What it means is, in a not real situation, I had to make a not real decision. I had to choose between saving lives, which is honestly a manipulative situation to be in. Thank goodness it’s all hypothetical.
Now, why would this really smart comedian pose such a ridiculous scenario? You’ve probably figured it out. He wants to prove that even “pro-lifers” don’t place as much value on the lives of embryos as they say they do. If life really started at conception, you’d choose to save the container of embryos. After all, he argues, you’d be saving more people that way.
But here’s a final scenario. Tell me what you’d do.
You’re in the same fertility clinic, only this time there’s no fire to be found anywhere. You enter a room, and on one side there’s a container of 1,000 embryos. On the other side, sits a five-year-old boy, happily coloring in a book. There’s a line of infertile couples out in the waiting room waiting to adopt an embryo to start their families via IVF.
And you choose to destroy the container with the embryos in it, robbing the couples of their chance at having a child.
Sound harsh? Maybe I took this whole thing way too far? I don’t think so.
This hypothetical isn’t like the others, but it does demonstrate the reality of abortion and why people are so passionate about this issue. The destruction of embryos affects other people. Whether we can’t save them from a fire or whether they’re destroyed right before they get adopted, their destruction is a tragedy.
No matter the level of development of those embryos, those lives were inherently valuable and would have greatly impacted the families waiting for them.
My new “hypothetical” is simplistic and crude, but it’s what happens every day. Every day in America 3,000 babies have their lives ended, and 1,920 of those were most likely ended under pressure. 1,920 women didn’t really want to have an abortion today, but they did because they felt like abortion was their only option, and because their friends and trusted medical professionals told them abortion would be easiest and best.
It’s time for a reality check when it comes to hypotheticals. And maybe if we focused more on grounding people back in reality than playing along with silly hypothetical situations that don’t correlate to real life, we’d end up empowering and helping women who want to keep their babies.