It can’t be both depending on how we feel

Last week, I saw the sad news that Kate and Rio Ferdinand had lost their unborn baby. It doesn’t matter who you are, such things are always an absolute tragedy.

I was surprised by two things in the article. First, and the less, but nonetheless still, surprising thing was that this hit the news at all. That isn’t to diminish it, just to say I don’t tend to expect national newspapers to bother running these sorts of stories. Certainly not the kind of broadsheet I happened to read it in. I was surprised it was deemed especially newsworthy for most people.

But the much more surprising thing was the headline and nature of the content. The headline was very clear: Kate Ferdinand announces loss of her and husband Rio’s unborn baby. The content was even clearer still. It referred to them as having ‘lost their unborn child’ and reported that it was announced because ‘our baby had no heartbeat in our 12 week scan and I had to have surgery.’ I was surprised because their baby was referred to clearly as a baby and an unborn child despite only being 12-weeks old.

This is notable because we are continually told that babies of such an age are merely ‘clumps of cells’. They are usually referred to exclusively as foetuses. They are rarely referred to as babies or children. Yet here, at a mere 12-week scan, it is seen as appropriate to report that this was the loss of an unborn child, a real baby. Certainly that is how the Ferdinand’s view matters and it is what the newspaper affirms.

Which begs the question how foetuses and clumps of cells can be aborted and terminated while babies without heartbeats and unborn children are most definitely lost lives despite both being at the same stage of development? Either this is no great loss, just another clump of cells lost, or it is indeed the terribly sad loss of an unborn, living baby. Which means equally, every termination is either the mere destruction of clumps of cells, or the murder of a living, unborn child.

Some would insist the difference is how the parents view it. Which is an odd argument to make because we wouldn’t allow their feelings to override objective realities when faced with any other person. We cannot claim two identical organisms, of the same age and stage of development, are both a person and not a person respectively depending on how someone happens to feel about it. That is a position that simply will not wash. We can’t insist on personhood when we’re sad about it and cell clumps when we’re not. That is deeply dishonest and not a little troubling.

In the end, we have to choose. Is this a human life or not? If it isn’t a baby really, we should be telling the Ferdinands to get over themselves and stop making mountains out of mole hills. It is not different to having some skin peel off. It is a total nonsense to make such things national news: couple distraught at clump of cells no longer existing. If, however, it is a real human life, not only is their sadness justified, it is entirely right and well placed. And as justifiable and proper as devastation at the loss of a child is, so too ought we to be horrified by the wanton destruction and murder of such same unborn children. But it clearly cannot be both.