Richard Smith blogging in First Things, found a subtle philosophical dinstiction that might explain why defenders of abortion see the pro-life as religious extremism, and why pro-lifers see the pro-choice position as nothing short of murder. The difference is between development and construction. Abortion supporters see fetal development as a constructive process. They see the baby as being built in the womb, the way a home is built. To think of a tiny embryo as a baby is akin to thinking a concrete slab as a house. A house under construction does not become a house until near the end of the construction process. Likewise, the abortion supporter claims, a baby is not baby until near the end of its growth.
However, pro-abortionists make an important philosophical mistake. Babies are not made, they develop. The potential of a full-grown baby exists in the tiny collection of embryonic cells. Smith explains the difference this way,
Suppose we’re back in the pre-digital days and you’ve just taken a fabulous photo, one you know you will prize, with your Polaroid camera. (Say it’s a picture of a jaguar that has now darted back into the jungle, so that the photo is unrepeatable.) You are just starting to let the photo hang out to develop when I grab it and rip its cover off, thus destroying it. What would you think if I responded to your dismay with the assertion: “Hey man, it was still in the brown-smudge stage. Why should you care about brown smudges?” You would find my defense utterly absurd. Just so for pro-lifers, who find dignity in every human individual: To say that killing such a prized being doesn’t count if he or she is still developing in the womb strikes them as outrageously absurd.