Most Common Arguments (in this order):
By far the most common response we received in terms of difficult pro-abortion arguments dealt with matters of rape and incest. Here is just a sample of your replies articulating this commonly cited position:
“If a child is conceived from rape or incest, why is it fair to subject her to nine months of pregnancy that involves a reminder every day of what she went through?”
“I had somebody give the hypothetical situation of ‘What if my 11-year-old, small-framed daughter got pregnant after being raped, and the doctor said her still-developing body is in danger if she carries the baby to term?”
“My brother told me a female friend of his was gang-raped by three men and she became pregnant. She chose to have an abortion. He doesn’t think her decision was wrong. How do I change his mind about choosing abortion under these circumstances, and still show compassion for his female friend who was brutally raped?”
It’s interesting to note that rape and incest are arguably the most common objections used in support of the legalization of abortion, yet abortions due to rape and incest account for less than 1 percent of all abortions in the United States.1 That should immediately tell us something about why abortion proponents use the rape and incest argument so often — it is the most emotionally gripping objection and can be powerfully applied despite its actual infrequency.
Another point worth noting is that rape and incest are often lumped together in these arguments, yet they are not synonymous. Though it’s hard for most of us to comprehend, some instances of incest may be consensual. A baby conceived in such a situation may be aborted to avoid family shame, out of fear of a genetic abnormality, or due to the oddity of having a child that doesn’t fit well in a convoluted family tree. In cases where incest is forced, the reasons for an abortion are similar to those involving rape.
Rape, of course, is a violent crime resulting in a deeply wounded victim. In defending the life of the unborn child, we must be careful not to minimize the harm inflicted on the mother. The act is horrible and offensive, and it is emotionally, physically, and sometimes spiritually debilitating to women. In my view, the perpetrator should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for forcing himself on a female, in the most intimate way, for his own selfish satisfaction.
When the mother is the victim of rape, abortion advocates generally speak out on her behalf using the following logic: the mother has been brutally victimized. To force her to endure a pregnancy she didn’t want and give birth to a baby who will be a constant reminder of the rapist only inflicts more damage on the mother.
So how do we respond? Shouldn’t we stand by the rape victim and help her avoid more pain and suffering? Before you defend the rape/incest pro-abortion argument, please consider the following three points:
1. Should we kill another human being because we have been victimized?
We agree it isn’t fair when a woman is raped and then faces the crises and hardships that come with an unplanned pregnancy. In fact, it is tragic. But does it give her or anyone else the moral right to kill an innocent human being?
Imagine you are robbed and beaten at gunpoint. You have months of suffering and healing ahead of you, and it may take years to recover from the psychological impact. The crimes committed against you were unfair — do you now have the right to kill an innocent stranger on the street because you’ve been victimized?
Of course not.
Yet somehow we find it morally acceptable to kill an unborn child — an innocent third party who was conceived from a rape. But if we truly believe that life inside the womb holds the same intrinsic value as life outside of it, then this argument collapses on itself. All unborn children —at every stage of development — should be afforded an equal right to life, regardless of how they’re conceived.
2. Should we kill an unborn baby because once born, he or she may remind the mother of her attacker?
As pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf argues, since when did we become okay with killing another human being because he or she reminds us of a painful event? Husbands and wives divorce. Children become estranged from their parents. Friends sever their relationships. Do we have the right to kill someone just because seeing that person again may be painful?
Untold numbers of women have borne children conceived from rape and then either placed those children for adoption or raised them with grace and love.
Frankly, I believe the argument that women can’t raise children conceived in rape because the child reminds her of the crime actually demeans women. Are women not strong enough to conquer the negative impact of rape and raise a child or place the child for adoption? Do they not have the will and compassion to love the child despite the pain of a horrible crime? Do they not have the power to turn an act of evil into an act of grace? Women are far stronger than this argument implies.
3. Should we kill another human being because he or she isn’t wanted?
There are certainly cases where a rape victim doesn’t want a child or isn’t ready to raise a child. But there are also mothers who aren’t victims of rape who confess they didn’t want children or weren’t ready to have them when they discovered they were pregnant. Is it okay to kill these toddlers because they weren’t initially wanted or planned?
Again, the abortion advocate gets away with this point because most of our culture legitimately devalues life in the womb — whether we’re conscious of it or not. But if we correctly view the unborn child as being equal in value to the toddler, then we must defend and protect the unborn child whether or not he or she is wanted. Our value as humans isn’t derived from an external circumstance such as desire. We are valuable because of our intrinsic nature as human beings.
My Body/My Choice
The second most popular pro-abortion argument we struggle with is the “My Body/My Choice” dilemma. Let’s take a look at some of your submissions about how this argument is phrased:
“It’s fine for you to personally feel pro-life, but why are you making it a legislative issue? Why are you pushing your morals on others?”
“Keep your laws out of my uterus.”
“The baby doesn’t have the right to use the mother’s body for nine months.”
“Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.”
The idea that a baby is just part of a woman’s body defies science. The decision to abort doesn’t involve just one body — it involves killing another human being that has his or her own body. Though a zygote or an embryo is not yet fully developed, both are human beings, both have substance, and both have bodies. You and I are just more mature versions of the zygotes we once were.
A zygote is a unique being that is distinct from the mother. He or she has 46 unique chromosomes and is internally driven to grow into more mature stages. Therefore, a zygote is fully human — as is an embryo, a fetus, and a born baby.
So when a woman trumpets her right to have an abortion by claiming, “My body, my choice,” she is ignoring the facts of life and medical science. Ironically, this right only pertains to females of a certain age, as roughly 50 percent of the 1.2 million unborn children who are aborted in America every year are females. [Citation to support statistic?] What about their bodies? What about their rights?
Let me respond specifically to the questions you submitted regarding the Body/Rights argument:
“Why are you making it a legislative issue? Why are you pushing your morals on others?”and “Keep your laws out of my uterus.”
A very common claim of the pro-abortion movement is that the government should not tell women what to do with their bodies. In 1999, Hillary Clinton said, “Being pro-choice is trusting the individual to make the right decision for herself and her family, and not entrusting the decision to anyone wearing the authority of government in any regard.”2In other words, morality cannot be legislated.
That is a ridiculous and uninformed claim because that is one of the primary functions of laws — to legislate and enforce morality. Why can’t we steal money from a bank? Because it is wrong to take money from other people. Why can’t we beat our children? Because child abuse is morally wrong. Why can’t we shoot and kill our noisy neighbor? Because murder is wrong and against the law. Of course we legislate morality. Government exists to do just that for the protection and defense of its people.
But going back to Hillary Clinton’s comments, if a woman exercised her right to choose to beat her toddler to death, would we say, “We’re just trusting her to make the right decision for herself and her family” and “We wouldn’t want to entrust that decision to anyone with governmental authority”? No, we’d want the government to step in and protect the child. We’d want the government to enforce the law and impose morality on the mother — whether she wants it or not. In other words, we want the government to legislate morality.
Again, this argument only works if we accept the flawed premise that toddlers are worth something and unborn children are worth nothing. But if we agree that both are infinitely valuable members of the human race, then both should have the full protection of the government and its agencies.
2. “The baby doesn’t have the right to use the mother’s body for nine months.”
Let’s carry this argument to its next logical conclusion: Does an infant have the right to nurse after he or she is born? Does an infant have the right to be put to bed, carried, cared for, changed, or nurtured after birth?
Pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf calls this “degree of dependency.” Since when do we have the moral right to kill someone based on his or her degree of dependency on another person? A toddler is more dependent than a teenager (well, sometimes). Do we have the right to kill the toddler but not the teenager?
Additionally, this argument assumes the baby is somehow intentionally enslaving the mother for his or her own selfish purposes. In the majority of abortion cases, the abortion is a procedure of convenience after unprotected sex. The mother elected to have sex that resulted in a pregnancy. Should we now kill the unborn baby because he or she was conceived — and may potentially inconvenience someone — due to the mother’s choice to have sex?
3. “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.”
What if we said, “Don’t like rape? Don’t rape anyone”? How would that statement go over on a bumper sticker today? While it serves as a catchy slogan, this argument collapses on itself when applied to any other immoral action.
Life of the Mother
The third most popular question was how to respond when the life of the mother is at stake.
It is my personal view that this is the only morally acceptable, although still extremely difficult, justification for taking the life of an unborn child. I have many good and thoughtful pro-life friends — including some people on staff here at Human Coalition — who disagree with me about this. They maintain there are no morally acceptable reasons for taking the life of an unborn child. I deeply appreciate that perspective. Both views indicate an intimate appreciation for the sacredness of life inside and outside the womb.
One of the fairest discussions on this topic is found in chapter 3 of Feinberg and Feinberg’s Ethics for a Brave New World, and I recommend this book to you.
It’s worth noting a few cautions and clarifications when dealing with this issue: the “health” of the mother and the “life” of the mother are two very different things. For decades, the “health of the mother” has been used to justify abortion for almost any reason. Because “health” is virtually impossible to define, a woman who is even mildly upset that she is pregnant can abort her child under this ambiguous phrase. Be wary of this critical distinction.
Another twist of words to be cautious of is “the health of the mother is threatened” versus “the life of the mother is threatened.” Pro-life advocates generally maintain that abortion is not morally permissible if the pregnancy may result in a decline in the mother’s health but isn’t ultimately fatal. Gestational diabetes is an example of a condition that is contracted during pregnancy, but it normally doesn’t kill the mother and is a treatable disease.
Morally speaking, the life of the mother and child are both priceless. Thus, the child’s life should be preserved, and the mother’s health should be treated and preserved as well. In those very rare cases where the life of the mother is genuinely at risk, difficult decisions must be made.
Sometimes issues regarding the health of the mother have nothing to do with the pregnancy. There have been numerous stories in the news recently about moms with cancer choosing to bear their children while refusing potentially lifesaving treatments in order to preserve the lives of their children. Sometimes the mother survives; other times the mother dies. I’m not sure any greater examples of maternal courage and sacrifice exist.
In cases where the life of the mother is genuinely threatened either because of the pregnancy or because of a pre-existing condition that can’t be treated because of the pregnancy, the family must make heartrending decisions. Prayer, comfort, support, and compassion should be extended to all during this time.
In all cases, however, I must stress that all medical and spiritual options, tools, and procedures should be implemented to attempt to preserve BOTH lives. All life is precious, and all innocent life should be protected.
The fourth most common pro-abortion argument you face deals with personhood. Here are some of your comments:
“It’s not a person yet.”
“It’s a potential life.”
“It’s a blob of cells.”
1. The “blob of cells” argument is uniformly refuted by science.
At the moment of fertilization, a zygote is created. The zygote has DNA provided by both parents and, therefore, all of the genetic information to develop into more mature stages. The zygote period lasts about four days. He or she develops into a blastocyst for some 14 days, and then develops into an embryo. After nine weeks post-conception, he or she is termed a fetus. [Comment: would it be helpful to have a citation here?]
From zygote to delivered baby, he or she is a human being. There is no point during development when he or she matures into a human or somehow “turns human.” He or she is a unique human being from the point of fertilization.
Though there are numerous definitions of what it means to be “alive,” the most common criteria scientists use to determine life are if something has the capacity to grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, adapt, and reproduce. Thus, from the time of fertilization, the zygote is alive because he or she possesses all of these qualities. The baby’s sex can be derived as early as five to nine days after conception. His or her heart beats around day 24, and brain waves can be detected as early as day 43. [Again, would a citation be helpful here?] There is no point during development when he or she is an inanimate blob of cells.
[NOTE: Since the argument has been made that science is on the side of the pro-life arguments, citations to these facts seem helpful.]
2. This brief biology lessons also refutes the “potential life” argument.
Emily Letts, the 25-year-old woman who recently filmed her own abortion, pronounced, “Yes, I do realize it was a potential life. I have a special relationship with my ultrasound.” Her statement is confounding and paradoxical. The idea of “potential life” is folly. We are either alive or dead. We are not “potentially” alive any more than we can be “potentially dead.” We either exhibit the qualities of living beings or we don’t. Letts willingly killed the life inside of her and instead has a “special relationship” with the sonogram picture of her now deceased child.
The idea of “potential life” presumes that something has the ability to, at some point in the future, become alive. But as our brief look at the zygote confirms, he or she is alive at the point of conception. Through internal self-direction, he or she is growing, metabolizing, responding to various stimuli, adapting to the environment, and already has the necessary genetic material in place for reproduction.
3. “It’s not a person yet.”
The question of personhood is really the crux of the pro-abortion argument. But if you run across a pro-abortion advocate who brings up this claim, just ask this simple question: What is the distinction between a person and a human being?
Using Scott Klusendorf’s SLED examples, here are some typical responses and refutations to the various personhood arguments:
1. When a fetus gets to a certain size, they are now a person. Since when does size (S) determine value? Is a toddler worth less than a teenager because the toddler is smaller? What size determines our personhood and who determines that?
2. We can abort a fetus before he or she feels pain. We agree that fetuses are less developed than we are. But should we kill them because they are so? People in their sleep, on anesthesia, or with certain health conditions don’t feel pain. Can we kill them? Why does level of development (L) determine value?
3. When the baby is born, they are now a person. Since when does location determine value? Am I worth more inside a house than I am outside on the lawn? There are many pro-abortion advocates who believe we should value the baby in the womb — but only at a certain age. So which is it? Inside or outside of the womb? Why does environment (E) determine value?
4. Before a baby reaches viability, they can be aborted. Does degree of dependency (D) determine value? Infants are completely dependent on others for sustenance. Can we kill them because they are dependent on us? Why does viability outside the womb determine value? 3
Morally speaking, there is no difference in value between a zygote and an adult. There is no distinction between a person and a human being. The pro-abortion industry uses the personhood argument because science has proven beyond all doubt that zygotes are members of the human race. So pro-abortion advocates had to come up with some other reason to kill unborn babies that wasn’t based on science. They made arbitrary (and frequently changing) definitions of personhood in order to advance their abortion agenda. Don’t get caught in that trap. In the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss, “A person is a person no matter how small.”
The Unborn Child Is Unfit/Unwanted
Although this was the fifth most popular response in our survey, this is actually the number one reason why men and women abort their children today. They simply don’t want a child.
This argument takes numerous forms:
“If a baby has Down syndrome, she should be aborted. She will have a tough life anyhow, and her family will struggle with a special needs child.”
“Better to be aborted than adopted by a pervert.”
“The world is overpopulated and resources are limited. We need abortion to control the planet’s resources.”
“What will become of a baby born into a drug-infested home?”
“I don’t want a child right now. I can’t afford it.”
1. “I can’t afford a child right now.”
With an overwhelming number of abortions being performed because of inconvenience and/or financial constraints, the Unfit/Unwanted argument is the primary cultural assumption we must aggressively defeat. Fortunately, it is one of the simplest to refute. Again, I refer to Scott Klusendorf who trains people using a concept called “trot out the toddler.”4 If we agree with science, medicine, ethics, and philosophy, then we agree that life in the womb is equal in value to human life outside the womb.
So when someone claims that if a pregnant woman wants an abortion because she claims she can’t afford a baby, we have an easy response: “If the mother has a toddler, why not kill him? The toddler is probably more expensive than the baby anyhow. The mother will save more money killing the toddler than the unborn child.”
2. “If a baby has Down syndrome, she should be aborted. She will have a tough life anyhow, and her family will struggle with a special needs child.”
The “trot out the toddler” argument can again be applied to those who claim that “unborn babies with defects should be aborted. It’s better that they aren’t a burden to society.” Our reply should then be: “Why not kill toddlers with Down Syndrome, too? How about toddlers in wheelchairs, or toddlers with birth defects or cystic fibrosis?” If we are okay killing them in the womb, then why not kill them outside the womb as well?
3. “Some babies shouldn’t be born into harmful homes. It’s better if they never have to experience that.”
Okay, what about preschoolers who are living in those conditions now? Why not kill them and save them years of pain and hurt at home? “Trotting out the toddler” forces the abortion advocate to defend why the unborn is less valuable than those of us already born. ALL of these arguments are based on the assumption that life in the womb is expendable but life outside of it is not. Would we seriously considering killing a five-year-old because his parents abuse him? Of course not — we’d work to protect and defend the child. Why are we okay with killing a child in the womb simply because of the potential that he or she may be born into a difficult home?
Would we kill a child with Down Syndrome because his conditions make caring for him more of a challenge than caring for a child who does not have Down Syndrome? If that were the case, why do we have unique events like the Special Olympics that honor kids with disabilities?
Make the abortion advocate define and defend why life in the womb is worthless. It’s an argument that can’t be won based on science or ethics. The premise of the pro-life position is that the value of an unborn child’s life is not determined by whether or not her parents want her or will be good parents. The value of the child’s life is based on the fact that the child is a member of the human race, created by God with a special purpose and amazing potential — the same value as toddlers.
Abortion Is Already Legal — Stop Trying to Change It
Finally, I will address one more argument that commonly surfaces when debating abortion: “Abortion is the law of the land — deal with it.” My response? Slavery was once legal in this country. Not permitting women to vote was once legal. Should we have continued those practices just because they were legal?
This is probably the flimsiest of the pro-abortion arguments. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right or moral. I wrote about this at length in my book Abortion: The Ultimate Exploitation of Women,and so I refer you to that resource. Suffice it to say that Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton are both examples of terrible laws. Not only is Roe v. Wade a sloppy decision that doesn’t even bother to address when life begins, but both laws are contradicted by another federal law that has been on the books for the last several years.
Laci and Conner’s Law protects unborn children, at any stage of development, from over 60 acts of violence.5 Reread that last sentence. Today there is a federal law that protects unborn children of any age from violent acts caused by other people.
But Laci and Conner’s Law makes a specific exemption for abortion. So the baby’s life is protected by the federal government if a woman, man, or child hurts the unborn child in the womb. But the baby’s life is deemed worthless if the mother kills the child through abortion.
In America today, the value of a baby’s life is determined by the person who harms him or her. The child is infinitely valuable if a father harms the child through a non-abortive act, but the child is worth nothing if the mother kills the unborn baby through an abortion. It’s lunacy. No other class of person is given value by the person who harms them. Our federal laws simultaneously provide for both the protection of and the killing of unborn children. It just depends on who harms the child.
So the next time someone tells you to stop complaining about abortion because it’s the law, ask them to explain why both Roe v. Wade and Laci and Conner’s Law are federal mandates. And then ask them if they want to bring back slavery.