I have a question about abortion.
The assertion that “no one knows when life begins” disregards modern science. Leading embryologists, such as Drs. Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud in their embryology textbook, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, confirm that the life of a human being begins at fertilization. Moore and Persaud write, “Human development begins at fertilization when a sperm fuses with an oocyte to form a single cell, the zygote. This highly specialized totipotent cell (capable of giving rise to any cell type) marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”¹ (Read statements by other embryologists.)
This is not a controversial statement based on ideology. It is merely good science to state that at fertilization a distinct, living, whole human is created. The zygote (entity formed by sperm-egg fusion) is distinct because it is not a part of mother or father. Both sperm and egg donated their genetic material to give rise to something genetically unique. The fact that the preborn are living is evidenced by growth, cellular reproduction, metabolism, and reaction to stimuli. Further, because living things reproduce after their own kind, the preborn are human. And, they are not merely parts, like sperm or egg—whose capacity to do anything is defined by their role as parts of a greater body—but are entire (though immature) human beings.
1. Keith L. Moore, T.V.N. (Vid) Persaud, Mark G. Torchia, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 10th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2015. p. 11.
While an acorn is not an oak tree, it is still a member of the oak family. There are many phases of development for members of the oak family: acorn, sapling, full grown tree. Similarly, there are many stages of development for members of the human family: zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, adolescent, teenager, adult. Humans and members of the oak family look and act differently as they pass through these respective stages, but what they are—their human or oak nature—remains consistent throughout their lives.
An acorn is to a tree as a human female fetus is to an adult woman. It is unfair to ask a fetus to exercise capacities fulfilled by more mature members of her species (e.g., self-awareness). Her developmental maturity is irrelevant to the kind of entity she is. Who we are does not depend upon how developed we are.
While the process of twinning may be mysterious, it does not follow that because two human beings result from the division of an embryo, there was not a distinct human being in existence prior to the split. If you cut a flatworm in half, the result is two flatworms. How this happens is indeed fascinating. But would anyone argue that prior to the split there was not a distinct flatworm? Of course not. It does not follow that because one organism may split into more than one it is not a whole organism prior to splitting.
Moreover, this question is generally irrelevant because the division into identical twins occurs within the first two weeks after fertilization. Most women, however, do not know they are pregnant until well after this. Thus, by the time they would pursue abortion, any potential for future twinning would be complete.
The claim that preborn children are part of women’s bodies flies in the face of modern science. Preborn children are dependent upon their mothers, but they are not part of their mothers. They have their own blood type, bone structure, and genetic code. In fact, the notion that the preborn is part of the mother would result in inane conclusions—such as the mother having four arms, four legs, and, in the case of a preborn boy, even male genitalia.
We also know there are limits to “choice.” The autonomy of any one person does not permit her to infringe on the rights of, or endanger, another. For example, the right of a man to do what he wants with his body does not permit him to rape women. And a woman’s right to do what she wants with her hands ends when she uses them to drown her children.
Choice, then, is not absolute. Indeed, some choices are wrong: rape, murder, abuse, etc. Since we would not allow a mother to kill her born children by choice, we must not permit her to kill her preborn children for the same reason. Once a woman is pregnant, the baby already exists. The question is, what will she do with this baby? Parent her? Place her for adoption? Or kill her?
Is it wrong to kill you because you feel pain or because you’re human? Consider the situation of Gabby Gingras, an American young woman with a rare condition (hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy, Type 5) that prevents her from feeling any pain. As a child, she scratched her eyes and chewed on her fingers, never feeling the warning signal of pain.
In spite of the fact that Gabby cannot feel pain, it would still be wrong to kill her because she is a human being. If the preborn are also human, then inability to feel pain is not adequate to justify killing them since we would never treat born humans, like Gabby, that way. The only true difference between Gabby and a preborn child is age—which is reflected by their relative size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. This prejudice against the preborn is nothing more than ageism—discrimination against the very young.
The fetus is declared viable when current technology can support her outside of her mother’s womb. But our value is not tied to technology. It is rooted in our common humanity.
In developing nations, the fetus is not considered viable until later in pregnancy than in the United States due to lack of certain technologies. It would be absurd (and ethnocentric) to conclude from this that fetuses in America are valuable while those at the same age in developing nations are not.
All humans are created equal—born and preborn—regardless of the state of technology.
It’s true that human embryos and fetuses are not self-aware; however, abortion advocate and Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer has noted that neither are newborns. According to Singer, then, if fetuses aren’t human persons because they aren’t self-aware, neither are newborns.
Self-awareness is one of many capacities humans exhibit throughout their lives. These do not define our humanity; rather, they describe our stage of development. A fetus cannot immediately exercise self-awareness in the same way that a female newborn cannot yet get pregnant. These development markers do not negate their humanity; rather, the newborn and fetus are exhibiting the exact characteristics of humans in those respective stages of development.
To select any characteristic humans exhibit, such as self-awareness, and make it the benchmark for human personhood is prejudicial and destroys human equality. If our value is tied to our self-awareness, then it would follow that those who are more self-aware are more valuable and deserving of more rights than those who are less self-aware. The only way to establish veritable equality is to recognize that as soon as a human begins to exist—which is at fertilization—she is inherently equal to every other human regardless of varying stages of development (or skin color, sex, etc.).
Our argument can be summarized this way:
It is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings.
Elective abortion intentionally kills innocent human beings.
Thus, elective abortion is wrong.
Most people agree with our first claim—that it’s wrong to purposefully kill innocent humans. That’s why we oppose school shootings, terrorist attacks, and other violent acts—because someone is intentionally killing innocent human beings, which is wrong.
The critical question, then, is: Does elective abortion intentionally kill innocent human beings?
Even abortion supporters admit that the embryo is human. For example, pro-abortion bioethicist Peter Singer writes, “It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as the equivalent to ‘member of the species homo sapiens.’ . . . In this sense, there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”¹
Clearly, then, the embryo killed in abortion is a human being.
Still, some say that this young human is not a person—because she differs too much from us. But there are only four differences between an embryo or fetus and a born human: Size, Level of development, Environment, Dependency. These differences do not justify stripping personhood from humans.
We know this because newborns, compared to adult humans, differ in the same four ways: they are smaller, less developed, generally occupy different environments, and are more dependent on other people. But a newborn is no less of a person than her parents. In the same way, an embryo or fetus is no less of a person than her parents.
Therefore, elective abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being—a human who is no less of a person than the rest of us.
That is why we oppose abortion. Indeed, to oppose other acts of purposefully killing innocent humans while accepting abortion is inconsistent at best and bigotry at worst.
Why do men who favor abortion get to have an opinion but those opposed to it do not? If men shouldn’t have an opinion on abortion, then Roe v. Wade should be reversed. Not only was the majority decision written by a man (Justice Harry Blackmun), but not a single woman sat on the Supreme Court at the time.
As Francis Beckwith has said, arguments don’t have genders; people do. What matters is not the gender of the person making an argument but the validity of their position. To attack a pro-life individual because he is male is an ad hominem logical fallacy and avoids what really matters: his case for the personhood of the preborn.
There may be many ways to intentionally kill innocent humans, but all of them are wrong. In pill abortions, the baby is starved, suffocated, spewed from her mother’s body, and swirled down the toilet.
It does not matter that she is not dismembered, as in surgical abortion. The purpose and practice of the pill abortion is to kill her. To say surgical abortions are wrong but pill abortions are okay would be like telling a mother she should not shoot her toddler but she may poison him. Both methods intentionally kill her child.
Pill abortions usually involve two drugs. The first, mifepristone (also called RU486) starves and suffocates the baby. Before it is administered, the baby is receiving nourishment and oxygen-rich blood through her mother’s uterine lining, in which she is nestled. After mifepristone is taken, the mother’s production of progesterone is blocked. This hormone is needed to stabilize the lining of the uterus. As the uterine lining breaks down, the baby’s flow of nourishment and oxygen is cut off, starving and suffocating her.
It is critical to note that progesterone can be taken after mifepristone to reverse the abortion pill. Many women have successfully saved their children from abortion when they change their mind after taking the first drug. See AbortionPillReversal.com for more on this.
After the baby has been killed, another drug, misoprostol (also called Cytotec) is taken to force the dead body out of the mother’s uterus. This drug causes cramping and bleeding to expel the baby’s corpse. The bleeding and contracting can last a few hours to several days. It is often intense and painful for the mother, who suffers alone.
Whether the mother takes pills or hires someone to dismember her child, it is wrong to intentionally kill her baby.
Parents are not required to donate their organs to their children, but they are required to give basic care (i.e., nourishment and protection). Thus, while it might be unreasonable to expect parents to donate a kidney, it is not unreasonable to expect them to provide security and sustenance for their children.
So is pregnancy an organ donation? No. When an organ is donated, it is kept by the receiver. It does not return to the donor. Throughout and after pregnancy, the mother retains her own uterus.
Rather, in pregnancy, the mother provides basic care to her baby with the use of her own body. This is similar to a breastfeeding mother supporting her child with her body. Neither the uterus nor the breast is donated to the child. They remain with the mother.
Because all humans are equal, the baby in the womb has as much right to parental care as the one outside. Neither may have a right to their parents’ kidneys, but both have a right to basic care. This may mean the parents have to work to provide financially. They may have to stay up late with a bottle for nutrition. And, when the babies are younger still, mothers will need to provide support in utero.
Parental responsibility may look different in various stages, but it begins when children do—at fertilization.
Do newborn babies have a right to expect their parents to feed and protect them? Yes. The government recognizes that parents do have responsibilities toward their children. While they’re not liable if their neighbor’s children are neglected, they are held responsible if their own children starve. Younger (preborn) children deserve the same protections as older (born) children.
Furthermore, abortion is not merely “withholding support.” It is direct and intentional killing. The abortionist dismembers, decapitates, and disembowels the preborn baby. If an individual no longer wishes to serve in the parental role, they may place their child for adoption—but they should not kill that child.
The circumstances surrounding an unplanned pregnancy can be extremely complicated with new emotional, financial, and professional challenges. However, since we would not permit the killing of born children because of these difficult circumstances, they also fail as justification for killing a preborn child.
Just as we can recognize the difficult circumstances surrounding an event of child abuse while also condemning the action of abuse, we can recognize the difficult circumstances in which parents find themselves while condemning the action of killing their preborn babies. The moral question is simple, even though the circumstances and ensuing resolution may not be.
Additionally, abortion does not in any way provide a solution to the true problem. It does not make a woman in poverty wealthy, provide her with a career, or keep her safe from an abusive partner. We need real solutions. Killing innocent babies is not the answer.
Does ___ justify abortion?
The question is not will people face suffering, but how will we respond when they do? Many suffer daily due to poverty, but we don’t kill poor people to end their suffering. Why not? Because they’re human. If the preborn are also human, then no amount of potential suffering is adequate justification for killing them—to treat them differently is to be guided by blatant ageism.
We seek to alleviate suffering, not to eliminate sufferers.
The act of rape is reprehensible, and all rapists should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those who hold to a truly pro-life ethic recognize this and do not seek to minimize the injustice done upon the woman. However, to oppose the killing of the child is not to diminish the violence of the rape; rather, it is to prevent a secondary crime from occurring. The injustice of rape does not justify a second injustice.
Imagine a situation in which a woman is raped a day after she has sex with her husband. She later discovers that she is pregnant and doesn’t get an abortion for fear she will abort her husband’s child. She continues with the pregnancy, and after birth, a paternity test is performed. It is determined the baby’s biological father is the rapist.
Should it be lawful for the mother to kill the newborn child because of the biological father’s crime? No. Why not? Because the newborn is human. But the preborn baby is no less human than older (born) children.
Additionally, if it’s wrong to kill children conceived in love, then it must also be wrong to kill children conceived in violence because, in both cases, there are children involved. The value of a human isn’t determined by how she is conceived but instead by who is conceived—namely, a unique human being.
As a side note, abortion does not “unrape” a woman or erase her trauma. It could add further pain and certainly makes another victim.
There are unwanted born children in America right now—children living in poverty, orphanages, and abusive environments. What if someone devised a plan to kill all of them to solve the problem? Would it be justified for you to oppose this evil plot even if you did not intend to adopt all of the unwanted children? Yes, it would—because the objective humanity of the unwanted children stands apart from your subjective interest in adopting them.
Prior to passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, critics of slavery’s abolition asked, “Who will take care of these unwanted people newly freed from slavery?” While this question could lead to a worthy discussion, it had no bearing upon the objective truth that human slavery was morally wrong. Similarly, while we should discuss and work toward improvements to foster care and adoption systems, this is irrelevant to the objective immorality of killing preborn children.
Finally, what should a civil society do with those who are “unwanted”? Kill them? No. We should reject that idea and find actual solutions to the problems faced by society.
We should alleviate suffering, not eliminate sufferers.
This is our principle when taking care of born humans with a terminal prognosis. We do not kill cancer patients with little hope of survival. If treatment fails, we seek to make them comfortable in their remaining days.
Because embryos and fetuses are no less human than the cancer patient, we should treat them the same—seek to alleviate suffering but not eliminate the sufferer.
When time is short with a loved one, it becomes even more precious. Parents who know their baby will not survive after birth should be supported so they can make the most of the time they have with their child. But we should not tell them to kill their child just because the time is short.
When pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, a moral crisis occurs because the lives of two people are at risk (by “life of the mother” we do not merely mean she will be inconvenienced but that her very life is threatened). The goal should be to save the lives of both mother and child, as the pro-life ethic has always been to save as many lives as possible. If the life of the mother is endangered after fetal viability¹, when the baby can survive outside the mother’s body with the help of current technology, then the solution is to try to save both lives by inducing labor or performing an emergency C-section.
However, if the mother’s life is endangered before fetal viability, then the child will die if the mother dies. Ectopic pregnancies are the most common example of this, wherein the embryo implants someplace other than in the uterus—usually in the fallopian tube. When the tube ruptures, the baby dies and the mother could hemorrhage and die as well. In this case, we should save the mother’s life, but by means other than abortion, since that is the intentional killing of a preborn child.
In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, a physician would perform a salpingectomy to remove the part of the fallopian tube in which the child has implanted, thereby saving the mother’s life. The embryo will die as a result of this procedure, but the intention is to save a life—not take one. In other words, the baby’s death is foreseen, but it is not intended. The only reason she dies is because we currently lack technology to keep her living once we remove her from the environment in which she cannot survive.
This moral crisis would be like carrying one person out of a burning building and then looking back, seeing other people who are about to die. You foresee that they will die, but it is the fire, not you, causing their deaths. You are not guilty of their loss. Rather, your duty is to save as many lives as you can—even if it is just one person.
It should be noted that the age of viability changes with advances in medical technology and also varies with geographical access to current technology. If it were medically possible to keep the youngest of preborn humans alive outside the womb, this question would lose its relevance as there would be this obvious solution.
While there is evidence to doubt the common claim of overpopulation, for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s legitimate. How would it follow that the proper course of action would be to kill preborn children? What if, for example, instead of targeting the preborn, we elected to kill all children under two years of age in order to reduce population? Would this be permissible? Or why not kill everyone over the age of 65 to make room for the younger ones? Perhaps that would solve the problem, but it is inconceivable because we recognize the humanity of toddlers and the elderly. Since the preborn are no less human than the born, we know it would be immoral to kill them, too, because of potentially limited resources.
This idea (sometimes referred to as the Donahue-Levitt hypothesis) begs the question—that is, it assumes what it has not yet proven. This hypothesis assumes the preborn are not human but presents no scientific evidence to substantiate that conclusion. If the preborn are in fact human, then far from lowering the crime rate, legalized abortion has caused that crime rate to skyrocket since 1973. Now more than one million additional innocent human beings are killed each year.
Is it good for the law to tell a woman she may not drown her child in the bathtub? This is a clear example of society legislating morality. However, no one finds fault with such a law because we recognize that innocent children should be protected from violence. In fact, all law—including criminalizing rape, murder, theft, or any other harmful acts to other humans—is legislating morality.
Thus, the question is not whether society should force views on its people, but which views will it enforce? The law tells women they may not kill their children. However, we are terribly inconsistent when we enforce this only with children old enough to be born. Once again, we return to this question: Are the preborn equal to the born? The only difference between these two groups of people is age, and to allow humans which are younger to be killed because of their age is unjust.
Neutrality is impossible on abortion. The government either recognizes and protects a particular group of humans or it does not and permits killing them. By removing protections and allowing parents to choose to kill their preborn children, the United States government is stripping basic human rights from this class of humans. This is far from neutral.
What if we decriminalized killing toddlers? Would this be neutrality? Not for the toddlers who would be dying daily. What really matters is: Are the preborn equal to us in their humanity? If so, then the government should recognize and protect them.
First of all, the statistics and language usually used to describe “back alley” abortions is inaccurate. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now NARAL Pro-Choice America), has confessed that the figures often used were utter fiction. He states, “[I]t was always ‘5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year.’ I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it.”¹ According to the U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics, 39 women died from illegal abortions in 1972, the year prior to Roe v. Wade—a far cry from the “thousands per year” figure.² Dr. Mary Calderone, while medical director for Planned Parenthood in the 1960s, claimed that 90% of illegal abortions taking place in the states at that time were being performed by licensed physicians in good standing.³ Thus, claims that women were dying by the thousands prior to Roe v. Wade are false. While “back alley” imagery may be a clever rhetorical device, it’s not factual.
Secondly, however, the question of whether or not abortion is wrong does not depend upon whether abortion is safe for the mother. For example, it is clear that bank robbery is dangerous for the bank robber since he could be hurt or even killed by law enforcement officers seeking to stop him. Society could make robbery safe by making it legal, but we know that such a proposal would be readily rejected. Why? Because bank robbery is wrong. The question, therefore, is not whether abortion is dangerous but whether it kills a baby.
Lastly, in order to change public policy, we must first change public opinion. We believe that by educating the public about the reality of abortion, we can make it unthinkable in the same way as other injustices of the past. Abortion must become unthinkable to become unlawful.
- Nathanson, Bernard. Aborting America. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1979. P. 193.
- From the U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics Center for Disease Control, as cited by Dr. and Mrs. J. C. Wilke. Abortion: Questions and Answers. Rev. Ed. Cincinnatti: Hayes Publishing, 1988. P. 101-2.
3. Calderone, Mary. “Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem.” American Journal of Health 50. July 1960. P. 949.
This is a common misconception. Many are familiar with Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling of 1973 that made abortion legal in the United States. This ruling divided pregnancy into three trimesters, declaring that states have no right to restrict abortion in the first six months of pregnancy, but that in the final trimester a state would have a right, though not an obligation, to restrict abortion to cases in which the mother’s health is jeopardized. However, far fewer Americans are familiar with Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, handed down on the same day, which defined the mother’s “health” so broadly that abortion became permissible throughout the duration of pregnancy. In Bolton, the court clarified that “health” must be defined “in light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors relate to health.”¹
Following the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law trumps state law. By federal mandate, then, in the United States a woman is guaranteed access to abortion for virtually any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
1. Doe v. Bolton 410 U.S. 179, 192 (1973).
If abortion were criminalized, women who had abortions previously would not face legal consequences because there was no state-respected law in place at the time. However, if a law were put in place, punishment would vary depending upon culpability—just as it does for other crimes. Not all women who kill their born children face the same punishment. Some are imprisoned, while others receive lesser judgments based on the circumstances.
In the same way that a court of law determines culpability and appropriate consequences for women who kill their born children, consequences for abortions would be determined on a case by case basis. Nevertheless, once there is a law recognizing and protecting the personhood of the preborn, it is entirely consistent to hold that those who break this law should be held responsible. But just as there is first, second, and third-degree murder, so there would be varying levels of culpability for those who commit an abortion—from mothers and fathers to abortionists and their staff.
What would you do?
What someone would do in a situation does not change the facts of that situation. Whether one would choose to save the toddler or the embryos does not change the fact that they are all human beings.
Imagine a similar situation in which a man is in a classroom with his own daughter and 25 other children. If the room is on fire, the father would most likely save his own daughter before the other children. But this does not mean the 25 other children are not human. What it tells us is something about the father’s psychology—that he is more attached to his daughter than the other children. It is totally unrelated to the humanity of the other 25 kids.
Similarly, if someone were to save the toddler before the embryos, this would tell us something about the person doing the rescuing. But it would have no bearing on the objective humanity of the human embryos left behind.
Thus, while this question is interesting psychologically, it is irrelevant to the humanity of preborn humans. Regardless of what any one person would do in any situation, the preborn are human beings we should not purposefully kill.
Injustices are wrong because they violate objective moral principles. Thus, abortion is wrong whether those who oppose it are willing to help babies after birth or not.
For comparison, even if opponents of human slavery had no interest in helping slaves who have been set free, human slavery would still be wrong. Child abuse would still be immoral even if those who oppose it had no interest in adopting the abused children.
Human slavery, child abuse, and abortion are wrong because these actions involve intentionally harming (or killing) innocent human beings. That is wrong regardless of the attitudes or behavior of those on either side of the issue.
As for our team, because we believe all humans are created equal, we do care about babies before and after birth. Members of our team have adopted, provided foster care, and given ongoing assistance to mothers who choose not to kill their babies. However, we know this does not make abortion more wrong.
Abortion is always wrong because it is always the purposeful killing of an innocent human.
True contraceptives prevent fertilization from taking place, which is different from the larger category of “birth control.” While all contraceptives are considered a method of birth control, not all types of birth control are contraceptives. Some types of birth control act as abortifacients, in which the primary role may be to prevent conception while a backup early abortion results in case that fails.
These methods vary in frequency and likelihood to cause abortions, and the research is somewhat debatable. We urge erring on the side of caution since it is wrong to kill a preborn child surgically or chemically.
This argument begs the question. To conclude embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) saves lives, one must prove that the preborn entity killed in the process is not a human. If preborn embryos destroyed by ESCR are human, then this process actively kills humans in order to benefit other humans. It would be akin to saying that if you are in need of a kidney transplant, you are justified in killing your neighbor so you can take his kidney. No matter the age of the person you are killing, this is still wrong.
Note: In addition to the immorality of ESCR, it is interesting to note that it has been far less effective in actually treating medical conditions than adult stem cell research, which poses no threat to the individual from which the stem cells are taken and therefore crosses no ethical lines.