Monday, January 17, 2011

What's in there?

Justin Taylor shares how the Balloon Boy saga can help us think about abortion.
On October 15, 2009, Richard Heene released a large gray helium balloon that looked like a UFO from a 1950s movie, then called the authorities to report that his nine-year-old son, Falcon, was trapped inside. As the balloon floated some fifty miles across the Colorado sky, newsrooms across America sprang into action. People prayed. Emergency medical teams stood by. Police squads were mobilized. Denver International Airport was shut down. Several National Guard helicopters were in hot pursuit.

As the helium began to leak, the balloon eventually crashed in a field. Rescuers made a mad dash to lessen the blow, then to save the boy’s life—if he was still alive. As it turned out, there was no one inside the balloon! A manhunt was quickly organized, thinking that perhaps Falcon had fallen out earlier. But then came word that Falcon was safe and sound at home. He had been hiding—per his father’s instructions—in the family attic. He got sleepy, had fallen asleep, and awoke a few hours later to a media frenzy.

He went to sleep as Falcon and awoke as Balloon Boy.

This is not a chapter about balloons, hoaxes, and men who use their children as pawns to pitch a reality TV show. It’s a chapter about abortion—one of the most painful and politicized issues in our public discourse. So what exactly does the killing of a baby in the womb have to do with the boy in the balloon? I bring it up for one reason. It helps to focus our attention on a crucial question: what’s in there? If we believe that there is a human being within that balloon, we will stop at nothing to protect and to preserve that life. No amount of money or energy or equipment is too big: we must do everything we can to protect and preserve the life of a fellow human being in distress. Likewise, if we believe that what’s growing inside of a woman’s womb is a living human being, should we not think the same? If the balloon is merely filled with air, or if the womb is merely occupied with a clump of cells, then no action is needed. Knowing what’s inside makes all the difference in the world.

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