Pro Life Review of 5 Common Abortion Arguments

This is a series on some of the arguments for legalized abortion from a pro life view point:

Abortion Argument 1: If abortions are illegal, we will have women dying from back alley abortions.

Abortion Argument 2: If you are so Pro Life, why don’t you care about the kids who are born into families who don’t want them?

Abortion Argument 3: It’s my body, my choice! The life of the mother is more important than the potential life of a fetus.

Abortion Argument 4: It’s not really a child. It’s not human yet, just a bunch of cells/tissue.

Abortion Argument 5: If you defund/close down Planned Parenthood, where will women get health services?

The 5th one is not specifically about abortion, but it is an issue that has been in the news lately. If you believe that human life has intrinsic value, and it begins at conception, then all of these arguments fall flat when examined from a pro life viewpoint.

A Pro Life Look at Arguments for Abortion 4

I’m doing a few posts about some of the arguments for legalized abortion from a pro life view point. I want to really look at them, and try to explain why they are not persuasive for someone who supports making abortion illegal.

Other posts in this series:

Abortion Argument 1: If abortions are illegal, we will have women dying from back alley abortions.

Abortion Argument 2: If you are so Pro Life, why don’t you care about the kids who are born into families who don’t want them?

Abortion Argument 3: It’s my body, my choice! The life of the mother is more important than the potential life of a fetus.

Abortion Argument 4: It’s not really a child. It’s not a human being yet, just a bunch of cells/tissue. It’s not a person.

Frankly, this is the weakest argument for abortion, in my opinion. It is tied to the 3rd argument in this series in that it seeks to strengthen the notion that a woman has control over her body, and anything inside it.

Pro choice advocates will sometimes admit the fetus is “human” but not a human being. The unborn child is human like any part of a body is human, but it isn’t a person yet. They point to historical views of pregnancy, which might not consider a fetus as  person before “quickening”, where the baby moves. Of course, with modern medicine, we know much more about the development of the fetus in pregnancy.

They may say that since the child is inside the mother it can’t be defined as a different person from the mother. An article from the Pro Choice Action Network website states (among other things):

Besides the capacity to experience emotions, we generally think of personhood as possessing the qualities of intelligence, self-awareness, and moral responsibility.

Fetuses do not share these characteristics. On a more practical level however, the term “person” is really a legal and social construction. Persons enjoy legal rights and constitutional freedoms, such as the right to assemble, travel, protest, speak, and believe as they wish. Persons have birth certificates and social security numbers. Persons earn income, pay taxes, and vote, or they are registered dependents of those that do. Under this definition, it is an indisputable fact that fetuses are not persons. They are literally incapable of exercising legal personhood in any meaningful way. Although you could call a fetus a “potential person,” a potential person cannot have personhood rights either, in the same way that a 6-year old cannot obtain a driver’s license just because he’s a potential 16-year old. Potential persons have only potential rights, not actual rights.

When I read that the word “poppycock” comes to mind. In this article, the author asserts that pro life (anti-choice) people “beg the question” when they say that it is a scientific fact that the unborn fetus is a human being. But the author makes the exact same mistake here, when arguing that the legal status of an unborn child is defined by the inability to exercise the rights legally given to a person. If you can’t do the things that legal personhood allows you to do, then you can’t be legally a person.

Pro life people know that a fetus is not legally considered a person. We want that law changed. We know that fetuses can’t currently exercise the rights mentioned above. But does that alone mean they are not entitled to them?

If I choose to not write this article and exercise my 1st amendment rights, does that mean my right to do so does not exist? If I am illiterate, do I forfeit my 1st amendment right to write whatever I want simple because I cannot yet write? I have the potential to learn to read and write. Do I still have those legal rights?

Let’s reverse this, and look at end of life care. An poor, elderly man with alzheimer’s. He is on life support.  He’s not self aware or capable of moral responsibility. He can’t speak or assemble, or travel. He doesn’t contribute to society, he doesn’t pay taxes, earn income or vote. He can’t do any of the things this author says are necessary to be legally considered a person.

If I walk into the hospital room and inject deadly poison into his arm, ending his life, did I murder a person or not? If so, why? If a person is only legally a person because they can do certain things, not because they have the potential to do them, this this old guy is not a person. According to this argument, the fetus isn’t a person because of its current state. This old man’s current state would mean he is not a person either, under this definition.

The fundamental question is this: What makes a person a person?

Does something happen that changes the fetus to a baby in the process of birth? A child that is one minute old is the exact same as it was right before birth. The baby didn’t change.

From conception that little child has 23 different chromosomes and different DNA, it’s a different being. Sometimes the baby even has a different blood type. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the unborn child is a part of the mother.

Often the argument of viability comes up… where people say that if a baby cannot live outside the womb it should not be considered murder to kill it. Premature babies are often born without being developed enough to survive outside the womb. Parents put them on machines and hospitals work miracles to keep them alive.

What is the moral difference between a 23 week fetus that is aborted and a 23 week preemie that doctors labor to save? Is it simply that one is wanted and the other isn’t? There is no developmental difference. But one is legally a person and one isn’t. And we should note, the preemie that everyone is trying so hard to keep alive can’t do any of the things on that list any more than the elderly man in the example above.

If someone murders a pregnant women the criminal is sometimes charged with a double homicide. Again, is the only difference whether the child is wanted or not? Is that what makes it a human being?

If you believe that the baby in the womb has the same level of being a newborn infant does, then the argument of viability goes out the window. Whether the child is wanted or not does not impact the fact that the unborn child is a human being. Pro life people will not be persuaded by this argument.

Next up: Abortion Argument 5: If you close down Planned Parenthood/women’s health clinics who do abortion, where will women get health services?

A Pro Life Look at Arguments for Abortion 2

I’m doing a few posts about some of the arguments for legalized abortion from a pro life view point. I want to really look at them, and try to explain why they are not persuasive for someone who supports making abortion illegal.

Other posts in this series:

Abortion Argument 1: If abortions are illegal, we will have women dying from back alley abortions.

Abortion Argument 2: If you are so Pro Life, why don’t you care about the kids who are born into families who don’t want them? Abortion stops kids from being born into horrible situations. And helps kids already in families who cannot support another child.

I’m probably going to tip my hand here, but put another way from a Pro Life perspective, this argument claims it would better for a child to be killed than to be born into a difficult or harmful life.

Back in July, 2015 Daily Kos ran an article that quoted a Nun: Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

Sister Chittister is exactly right. If the extent of your pro life views ends at the birth of a child, then you really are just anti abortion, not pro life.

Here are some fact about kids in tough family situations:

  1. There are almost 400,000 kids in the foster care system, just over 100,000 are available for adoption. Same article states: “As of 2012, more than 58,000 children in the U.S. foster care system were placed in institutions or group homes, not in traditional foster homes.”
  2. From PBS: “While inter-country adoption may be the most visible category, the majority of American adoptions actually involve children adopted out of foster care. About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59 percent are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26 percent are from other countries, and 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished American babies.”
  3. There are several pro life websites that reference a quote from something called “Business Library” which says “there are up to 36 couples waiting for every one baby placed for adoption.” The problem is that this website these articles link to doesn’t exist anymore. So we can’t verify anything about the source. Several other pro life websites claim that there are 1-2 million infertile couples who want to adopt.
  4. Childwelfare.gov site has a PDF which says that “Of women who had considered adoption, about 2.6 million (14.3 percent) had actually taken concrete steps toward adoption.” and went on to say that only 614,000 had completed an adoption.
  5. It can cost up to $50,000 to adopt a child. The average cost of adoption in the US is $30,000.

What does that mean?

1.There are millions of people who want to adopt. Many more who want to adopt than children who are available for adoption.

2. The adoption process is difficult and expensive.

It’s time to reform the adoption process in the US. It’s crazy to think that there are literally millions of people who want to adopt, but can’t afford it.

Back to the argument at hand, I know several families who have adopted, are adopting, are foster care homes. These are loving couples who provide a home for kids who need one.

I know, not every child gets placed in a good home. Not every unwanted child is lucky enough to be placed anywhere. How many times have we heard about children who are abused?

The world is one messed up place. But there are people who want to take in these unwanted children, love them provide for them, and raise them.There is hope for any unwanted child. If we are truly pro-life and not just anti abortion, we should help make that happen.

Many of the churches I have attended have ministries to help young women with unplanned pregnancies. They provide physical and financial assistance, and either continue help the new mother after the birth, or help the child get placed in a loving home. Not everyone has the same opinion about these sort of ministries. Do a search for “crisis pregnancy center” online and you will see a lot of articles from pro-choice organizations claiming all kinds of things about them. But my experience has been that the people who see in these ministries want to help young women in difficult situations.

But let’s assume there is no option for a mother who doesn’t want her child. She can’t get any help, cannot let others adopt her kid. Let’s assume that the baby is going to be born into the absolute worst situation ever… And look at it from a pro life, the fetus in a human life perspective. Here are a couple of horrific scenarios:

-If the baby is born they will have parents who physically, sexually abuse them. 

So, if the parents are going to commit crimes, the answer is to kill the child?

-The family cannot afford to have another child. This extra mouth to feed, person to clothe, etc… will make it so the entire family suffers.

So, even though there is both government and private non-profit assistance available, let’s kill the child?

Can you see how any sort of reasoning that argues for killing an innocent child because of outside circumstances or the potential actions of the child’s parents (or others) can never persuade someone who thinks the unborn fetus is a human life? 

Now, let me address a question you might have. Would I, a religious conservative, support a gay couple who was trying to adopt. That’s a simple answer for me: While I do believe that the ideal family situation is one man and one woman raising children, if the alternative is to murder innocent kids, then yes I support adoption by single people or same-sex couples. If you’re going to kill the baby unless I let them be raised by a gay couple, that’s not even a choice. Human life has value because we are made in the image of God.

As I said before, every life is precious. Mother and child. This article doesn’t address all arguments for why someone might want to have an abortion, but this argument will never persuade a pro life person.