“The abortion controversy is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. It’s not about privacy. It’s not about trusting women to decide. It’s not about forcing one’s morality. It’s about one question that trumps all others.” — Scott Klusendorf, Life Training Institute
It has taken me awhile, but I finally decided to write about the issue of abortion. In fact, I started composing this article some time ago, then put it on the shelf. I was prompted to pick it up again by recent news items, such as efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and, of course, pro-life questions in the GOP presidential primary debates.
Actually, I have broached the subject in a few posts (e.g., here and here), but this time I wanted to tackle the pro-life position a bit more head-on. Get down to the core of it, if you will. You might think that I would use all kinds of Biblical references, but, while there are some very relevant passages in Scripture, this argument for the pro-life position is primarily a non-religious one. It is not original to me, of course, but it’s my take on what I have learned from some of the best thinkers & trainers on the subject (e.g., Greg Koukl, Scott Klusendorf, Frank Beckwith). In fact, I probably unconsciously stole a few lines nearly verbatim. (Sorry guys.) If you’re somewhat familiar with pro-life apologetics, you may have heard it; if not, maybe it will get you thinking….
Let me preface any further remarks by stating that I understand the serious emotional, financial, etc., issues involved. Finding oneself with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, or discovering that a desired child growing within will have serious mental and/or physical challenges, can seem overwhelming. Bringing such a child to term and raising him/her can be emotionally and/or financially quite taxing. It can be an embarrassment and put a strain on personal relationships. It may require you to change your plans for further education, job, savings, vacations, etc. In general, having a baby (particularly one that wasn’t planned for and/or with complications), and especially raising one, can feel like a GIANT inconvenience! So, I understand the temptation to solve the “problem” relatively quickly and inexpensively by spending a few hours at a clinic to have an abortion.
But, in the end, the decision to abort a baby is much more serious than embarrassment, emotional heartache, financial struggle, and certainly more serious than putting a crimp in your lifestyle or plans for your immediate future. (And I’m not even referring to the subsequent emotional, psychological, and physical problems that often occur as a result of having an abortion — a fact rarely disclosed by groups like Planned Parenthood.)
While the abortion issue may seem emotionally, and sometimes financially, burdensome and complicated, it is the moral question that ultimately trumps all. As it turns out, the moral question is really pretty simple, and it comes down to this: What is the unborn? If it is not human, then no justification for killing it is needed. You may consider the unborn an invasive pest and destroy it like you would a rat, spider, ant or termite. (Unless you’re Hindu or Jainist, I suppose.) Problem solved. But, if it is human (and the most innocent and defenseless, at that), then no justification for killing it is adequate.*
“Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being — a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.” — Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981
The zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus gestating in a human female is fully human from the point of conception. Most scientists, philosophers, and even many pro-choice advocates recognize & concede this fact. After all, the terms “zygote”, “blastocyst”, “embryo”, & “fetus” do not designate a separate kind of plant, animal, or other sort of being. Rather, they are terms describing particular stages of development. It isn’t like there is an undifferentiated, generic lifeform that suddenly turns human, or dog, or oak, or whatever, at some point. Certainly, no human mother has ever given birth to anything other than a human child, nor has any aborted zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus taken from a human host ever been identified as inhuman. Genetically speaking, the unborn has DNA which in this case defines it as being human, yet is unique and different from its biological parents. Thus, not only is the unborn much more than a mere “blob of tissue” or “inanimate lump of cells”, it also cannot legitimately be considered “part of the mother”, as some claim. Even if this was not scientifically and philosophically clear, surely a humane society should err on the side of caution to preserve life, rather than risk “accidentally” slaughtering millions of innocent children. (Over 53.5 million abortion deaths in the U.S. alone since Roe v. Wade in 1973!)
Of course, not everyone agrees with this assessment. (If people disagree on something, does that mean there is no right answer?) It assumes a couple of important points: 1) Objective moral truth exists and can be known; 2) humans have intrinsic worth and are to be valued not merely for their functional abilities. Regarding the first assumption, Christians and other theists ground this in the existence of the transcendent, Creator God, but many atheists & agnostics also accept the reality of objective moral principles. So, you don’t have to be “religious” to believe assumption #1. As for #2, theists believe humans get their intrinsic value by virtue of being created in the “image of God”. Others have a harder time philosophically grounding such a belief, but their own moral intuitions tell them humanity is qualitatively different from and superior to other living things.
So… Bottom line? Abortion takes the life of an innocent, fully human child for morally insufficient (and often frivolous) reasons. Most people and societies recognize the Right to Life as a fundamental, “human right”. In the U.S., the Constitution recognizes this as an “unalienable right” granted from God. Thus, an unborn human should be granted the same legal protections as any other human being.
In a few days, I’ll continue the pro-life argument by looking at a few ways pro-choicers dehumanize the unborn, thereby making it psychologically easier to kill them.
* Actually, there are rare, exceptional circumstances in which an unborn baby — usually at the earlier stages of development — may ethically be destroyed for the sake of the mother. But, I’ll leave that discussion for another post.