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 3

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.

This argument centers on the belief that forcing a woman to carry a baby she does not want full term is not right. She should have the right to end the pregnancy. We should not force a woman to endure the pregnancy. We should not force a woman to be a mother, even if she gives the baby up for adoption. It’s her life, her body, she chooses what to do with it.

One part of this argument, that even a lot of conservatives agree with, centers on cases of pregnancy caused by rape or incest and cases that put the life of the mother in danger. Many pro-life conservatives (especially politicians) would give an exception to illegal abortion in these cases.

NCBI said in 1996 that there are over 32,000 pregnancies that result from rape each year.

A book called “Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation: A Multidisciplinary Approach” written by by Hazelwood, Robert R. (Editor)/ Burgess, Ann Wolbert, quotes a 2005 study that 3-5% of rape cases result in pregnancy. It goes on to say that this number may be higher since not all sexual assaults are reported.

Not everyone agrees with these numbers. Some pro-life sources claim numbers that are under 1000 per year.  Susan Perry from Minn Post wrote, condemning people who claim that there are not a lot of pregnancies from rape/incest:

“In a 1996 study, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina set out to determine the rape-related pregnancy rate in the United States. They estimated that about 5 percent of rape victims of reproductive age (12 to 45) become pregnant — a percentage that results in about 32,000 pregnancies each year.

“Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency,” the researchers wrote. “It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence.”

Four years later, another study, this time conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, estimated that rape led to as many as 25,000 pregnancies in the U.S. each year.

“Pregnancy following rape is a continuing and significant public health issue,” concluded the authors of that study.

Furthermore, in a 2004 national survey of a representative sample of women who had undergone abortions, 1 percent of the women indicated that they had been victims of rape. In addition, slightly less than half a percent said they became pregnant as a result of incest. At the time of that survey, an estimated 1.3 million women were undergoing abortions annually in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The survey thus suggests that each year about 19,500 U.S. abortions are undertaken to end pregnancies that occurred as a result of rape or incest.

There is definitely a lot of swing in the numbers (1,000-32,000+), but we can all agree that any pregnancy that comes as a result of rape or incest is traumatic for the woman involved. I can’t imagine if someone I loved were forced into this situation.

But we can also agree that if we think the unborn child is a human being, then they are innocent of the crimes of the father. I know that many women may not be able to live with the knowledge that they are carrying the child caused by this brutal assault. I see that. It’s that fact that causes many pro life people to make exceptions for rape and incest.

As for the life of the mother, even if we hold (as I do) that the unborn child is a human being; if the life of the mother is threatened, then the mother should have the option to abort. No one can make another person risk their life for anyone else. If I’m walking along a cliff and see someone hanging off, about to fall, I should not be legally compelled to put my life in danger to try to save that person.

I respect the decision of any woman who is faced with the choice of their life or the child’s. I hope I never have to walk through that choice with my family.

But that’s about the only exception I can definitely agree to. A young women who just doesn’t want to carry the child, or maybe it’s inconvenient timing… I’m sorry but sex sometimes causes pregnancy. If you make the choice to have unprotected sex, then you might get pregnant. Those of us that believe the child is a human being even in the womb will never excuse killing that baby for convenience.

The whole “it’s my body” argument fails flat when you realize that from conception that little child has 23 different chromosomes and different DNA, it’s a different person. You gave up some of your rights the moment you became pregnant. (I’m stealing my thunder for the next argument)

I know we live in a world that glorifies sex and sexual identity. We live in a world that encourages sexual experimentation and sexual freedom. The freedom to have sex when you want with who you want has consequences. One of those might be unplanned pregnancy. If you are not ready to accept that, don’t have sexual intercourse. That is your choice, and that is when you have the power over your body.

But once that child is conceived, you are no longer responsible for just your own body. A choice was made that brought a new person into being. That little baby is just as much a human as anyone already born. What you do to it isn’t something you do to your own body. Abortion kills a human being. Abortion doesn’t kill part of the woman’s body, doesn’t remove an unwanted chunk of cells. It kills a person.

For the pro life person, the baby is a human being from conception. And the argument that  the woman’s body is hers to do with as she wants falls flat if you believe that the unborn baby is a complete person. And the argument that the mother’s life is more important that the baby’s life doesn’t work either. Both the mother and child are people. I believe they both have value if for no other reason than they are both made in the image of God. For one to kill the other because she doesn’t want to be pregnant is wrong.

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

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.