My gender does not preclude me from having an opinion on a moral issue, and I believe abortion is one of the most important moral issues of our time. I will never be pregnant, but I can sympathize with people facing tough decisions. My heart breaks for the life that is ended, and aches for the mother that felt she had to make that choice. The abortion debate is highly politicized and emotionally charged. We’ve created all sorts of grey area and loopholes for people to justify their beliefs until they find a place that feels comfortable, but it’s an issue that you cannot fence sit. I’d like to lay out what I believe is a moral case against abortion, and why you should side with life.
I Love the Born and the Unborn
I want to approach this discussion from a place of love, and not all pro-life people do that. Standing outside planned parenthood with pictures of dead babies is shocking, but it doesn’t do much to move people to pro-life positions. Issues that are already extremely polarized are not helped by being more polarizing. Instead, I think you present your beliefs in as loving a way as possible, and people might start to listen.
I don’t think this is just a women’s issue. I think men need to have opinions on abortion, whether or not it is moral, and whether or not it should be legal. Some women want to shut men down, and tell them they can’t have an opinion on abortion. Hopefully by the end you’ll understand why I think men can have an opinion on the issue. You still might disagree, but I hope you’ll be clear on why I think my gender has no bearing on the value of the unborn.
Moral Arguments Against Abortion
I want to layout some moral arguments against abortion. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but they are some that I found compelling as I was researching the topic. I’ll cite different links as I go, but this Prager U video is a great start. Below, in bold, are arguments for the pro-life position that I believe refute many pro-choice arguments. I’ve also tried to create a logical flow between each argument, so hopefully it doesn’t feel like four separate and independent ideas.
1) A living being doesn’t have to be a person to have intrinsic moral value and rights.
Many people will argue that a fetus is not a human being, and therefore it does not have the same rights as a human being. This argument falls apart quickly, because being “human” isn’t required to have intrinsic moral value and rights. We accept that animals have value and rights. We protect endangered species and fight against animal cruelty. Animals are not humans, and yet they have value and rights. We even find value in the environment and seek to protect it.
This is an important first argument. Most pro-choice advocates attempt to argue that a fetus is not a human. Even if that is true, which I don’t believe it is, it’s hardly sufficient to conclude that abortion is morally acceptable. If I believe the unborn human fetus has value, why does it have the right to not be killed?
2) A human fetus doesn’t get its rights from other humans, but has its rights because it IS human.
I don’t think you need to go into a full discussion about where our rights come from to make this argument. You can argue that our rights are God given, or talk about natural law, but most people agree we have certain rights as humans, simply because we are human. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for example.
When does the fetus attain those rights? Do we attain human rights? If our human rights are inalienable, then it means we have those rights simply by being part of the human race. A human fetus is clearly human, and has the DNA of a human from conception. We do not have human rights because other human beings say we do. You and I don’t have value because someone passed a law saying we do. Peter Kreeft says…
Are human rights “inalienable” because they are inherent in human nature, in the human essence, in the human being, in what humans, in fact, are? Or do you believe that all human beings have rights because some human beings say so—because some human wills have declared that all human beings have rights? If it’s the first reason, you are secure against tyranny and usurpation of rights. If it’s the second reason, you are not. For human nature doesn’t change, but human wills do. The same human wills that say today that all humans have rights may well say tomorrow that only some have rights.
Our rights as humans are either inherent in our being human, or they are given to us by other humans. I believe you have the right to life simply because you are human, and that right is not conditional on your status, or on the opinion of others. This forces the pro-choice position to deny the fetus is human, or most commonly, that it is not fully human.
3) The viability of a human fetus outside the womb is not a measuring stick for being human.
Some people believe that until the baby is born, it has no rights, and can be aborted. This view is really extreme. How about 5 mins before the baby is born? It hasn’t passed through the birth canal, so it’s not human, so you can kill it? Thankfully, very few people are OK with this. At this point, many people decide that there exists a cutoff inside the womb when the fetus becomes human, and it finally has the rights of a “real” human being.
From conception to birth, the fetus is constantly changing. Here is a good summary of many different views on this progression. Many people seem to have drawn their line at when the fetus is “viable” outside the womb, which is somewhere around week 24. The viability outside the woman becomes the moment at when the fetus becomes truly human. But does viability confer personhood?
A lot of people take up this position because they start to get uncomfortable with abortion. Very few people are OK with aborting a fully formed 39 week old baby, so they start to walk back until they get to the point where they can feel comfortable with the abortion. But should the humanness of the fetus be defined by the current level of advancement in medical technology? This would mean the definition of being human has changed over the last 100 years. As medicine has advanced, viability has crept to a lower and lower number of weeks. What if 50 years from now, science finds a way to transplant a 15 week old human fetus into a machine so that it can finish developing. Does that mean a human fetus now “becomes a human” earlier? The only logical explanation is that it is human from the beginning. To draw a line in the sand at a certain number of weeks is not about whether the fetus is human, but is instead an effort to assuage the conscience.
If you look at the polls, a majority of people are OK with abortion in the first trimester, but then a majority are against it in the second and third. If you fall into this group, have you determined when exactly you think it’s wrong? Can you say for certain when that fetus is now human? I bring this up, because the next argument addresses this uncertainty.
4) Unless the pro-choice position can prove that a fetus is not human, we should err on the side of life.
There are four potential cases regarding abortion and whether a fetus is or is not a person. This is the heart of the matter. Is an abortion the killing of a distinct person? I’m summarizing from this article.
-The fetus is a person, and we know that.
-The fetus is a person, but we don’t know that.
-The fetus isn’t a person, but we don’t know that.
-The fetus isn’t a person, and we know that.
What is abortion in each of these four cases?
In the first case, this is murder. We know the fetus is fully human, and abortion ends the life of a human.
In the second case, the fetus is a person, and it’s aborted, but we didn’t know it was person. This is manslaughter. Your failure to know it was a person does not make it OK to kill a person.
In the third case, the fetus isn’t human, but we don’t know this. This is like driving down the road at night and seeing a jacket in the road that looks like a person. You’re not sure if someone is in the road, or if it’s only a jacket, but you run over it anyways. That’s extremely negligent behavior, even if it turns out to only be a jacket. Your lack of knowledge should cause you to avoid what might be a person. If one claims a lack of knowledge about the personhood of a fetus, you should avoid potentially killing a human.
The fourth case is the only case where abortion is morally acceptable, but this case requires you to know for certain that the fetus isn’t a person. The pro-choice position must prove beyond all skepticism that the fetus is not human, and I’ve yet to hear a good argument that proves this.
What is Your Position, and Why?
If you are already pro-life, I think it’s important that we equip ourselves with the arguments necessary to defend what we believe. You shouldn’t believe things blindly, or because someone else told you to. It takes time to read, to discuss, and to develop our positions. We need to make sure our beliefs aren’t shallow, and that we can defend them.
Some Christians are personally against abortion, but don’t want to take a stand against it. I think this is flawed. We take a stand against murder, and rape, and all sorts of other injustices. Abortion takes us down the same moral road. It is not popular opinion that decides whether or not a human life is worthwhile. We have an obligation to stand up and be a voice for the unborn.
And to those in favor of abortion, I hope there was something new here that you hadn’t considered before. I also hope the ideas were presented in a way that shows love, not hate. I’m not asking for anyone to care more for the unborn than the mother. I’m asking for people to care for them equally.
This is my moral case against abortion. Next up are common arguments made on the pro-choice side. What statements are made in defense of abortion, and do those statements justify the practice? In Part 2 I take a look at these common arguments, and why they fall short. You can read it here.