Why Is Abortion Wrong?

Many of us become confused over the abortion arguments that have persisted in our country since 1973.  The pro-abortion side employs a number of arguments that seem quite strong:

  1. The government should not come between a mother and her body.
  2. If abortion was illegal, there would be back-alley abortions.
  3. Women have a fundamental right to do with their bodies as they please.
  4. Only a woman and a doctor should determine what she should do to protect her health.
  5. Who are we to determine the incredibly painful decisions a mother has to make after a rape that conceives a fetus?
  6. A mother who cannot financially afford a child should not be forced to bring it into a world of poverty.
  7. A mother should not be forced to bear a child with known, serious birth defects.

I am sure there are other arguments, but you get the picture.  These seem like powerful arguments, so how do the pro-life folks counter them?

The pro-life position is quite simple, actually.  Here it is stated in a syllogism:

  1. The taking of innocent human life is morally wrong.
  2. The human embryo (or fetus) is an innocent human life.
  3. Therefore the taking of the life of a human embryo or fetus is morally wrong.

Nobody would argue with proposition 1 above.  So the argument comes down to proposition 2.  Is the embryo or fetus an innocent human life?  Well, medical science has answered this question.  At conception, when the sperm and egg meet, all of the DNA – all of the genetic information – is present that will ever be present in the life of the embryo.  All that is needed is food, water, and air for the embryo to develop into a full-grown human.

If you understand this argument, then you understand that the pro-abortion arguments above all fail.  None of them trump the taking of innocent human life.  At rock bottom, we all recognize that taking innocent life is fundamentally wrong.  After all, if we don’t have a right to live after we are conceived, then all arguments over other rights are pointless.  I’m sure the fetus about to be aborted would not find the pro-abortion arguments above very convincing…

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  • Esther

    I hate abortion……………

  • The Arbourist

    Proposition 2.

    The human embryo (or fetus) is an innocent human life.

    Is an acorn an oak tree?

    Conflating a fetus with a complete human life makes this statement flawed. Teleological arguments are not particularly useful because of their bi-directional nature. If a fetus is a potential human being, then sperm and and egg are also potential human beings and should be protected under the law… which of course is absurd.

    A more detailed examination can be found here –

    http://deadwildroses.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/debunking-the-…s-perspectives/

  • Bill Pratt

    Arbourist,
    The link doesn’t work. In any case, the argument is simple. The fetus is a full human being because all of the genetic information is present at conception. The entire scientific community agrees on this point. If the fetus is not a full human being, then what is?

  • The Arbourist

    Sorry about the borked link. My copy/paste-fu was severely lacking.

    This one should work.

    http://deadwildroses.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/debunking-the-anti-choice-arguments-but-it-is-a-human-being/

    To be clear, the scientific community states when gestation starts. It is not particularly relevant to the issue at hand. Life is a continuum that started some 3 to 4 million years ago.

    Can we assign the value of a full human being to not even implanted blastocyst? That seems somewhat like saying, as previously mentioned, that the acorn I just planted IS an oak tree and should be treated as such. The acorn has the potential to be a tree, just as a blastocyst has the potential to be a human being. The key being that an acorn is not an oak tree and that a fetus is not a human being.

    To answer your question, I think a reasonable definition would be that a human being would have to be able to survive independently outside of the womb to be considered a full human being.

  • Bill Pratt

    The life of a new and unique human being begins at conception, and that is completely relevant to the issue at hand. There is just no debate about this in the scientific community. Yes, life is a continuum, but that makes the problem even worse for pro-choice folks, not better. At conception, all of the genetic information that will ever be needed for the human is there. Nothing new is added during the growth of the fetus. All that is needed for growth is food, air, and water.

    With regard to your definition of when human life begins, I don’t understand what surviving outside the womb has to do with being a human being? That definition seems completely arbitrary to me. In addition, every year medical science advances and fetuses survive sooner and sooner outside of the womb. Are you willing to keep moving the date of “full humanity” back earlier and earlier?

    And what do you mean by the term “full human being”? I was not aware that there were partial human beings. How can someone be partially human?

  • The Arbourist

    “The life of a new and unique human being begins at conception, and that is completely relevant to the issue at hand”

    A conceptus, a blastocyst, a fetus is not a human being. It deserves the adjective ‘human’ as it is human tissue, but certainly not ‘human being’ in the sense of a noun.

    If you want to pursue this avenue further, where this leads to is valuing every sperm and every egg as a potential human being. Ah, you say, but a sperm and a egg are clearly not human beings. BUT, following the argument from potential, they are so therefore it is wrong remove eggs or sperm, therefore male masturbation is out, as well as menses for women. This argument is absurd.

    “Nothing new is added during the growth of the fetus. All that is needed for growth is food, air, and water.”

    And the uterus and blood of the mother, and the kidneys of the mother to clean the wastes, her lungs to get the oxygen, her heart to pump their blood. The relationship between fetus and mother is parasitical.

    “I don’t understand what surviving outside the womb has to do with being a human being? That definition seems completely arbitrary to me.”

    Conversely defining a conceptus/blastocyst/zygote etc as ‘human being is just as completly arbitrary.

    “In addition, every year medical science advances and fetuses survive sooner and sooner outside of the womb. Are you willing to keep moving the date of “full humanity” back earlier and earlier?”

    With respect to the mother’s autonomy if she can have the fetus removed when she desires and have the fetus able to survive that is a win/win situation as it respects both the autonomy of the fetus as it can then survive on its own, and the autonomy of the woman over herself.

    And what do you mean by the term “full human being”? I was not aware that there were partial human beings.

    I was referring to the moral status of a human being. A blastocyst/fetus/conceptus cannot have the same moral status as an adult human being.

  • dan

    “1. The taking of innocent human life is morally wrong.”

    You leave out a number of exceptions, such as self-defense (or defense of others). I think there’s pretty much unanimous agreement that the passengers on United Flight 93 who ended up forcing the plane to the ground (and thus taking dozens of innocent lives) were morally right.

    This, then, falls afoul of “4. Only a woman and a doctor should determine what she should do to protect her health.”

    Since the debate is primarily about law (making abortion illegal, if it is immoral) then I would like to hear your proposal for a law that provides for the self-defense exception. Who makes the determination on whether a woman’s life is in danger? If someone other than her doctor, then what is your justification for that additional person?

    Separately, you say that the taking of innocent human “life” is wrong, but how is it that you define that life? Is it morally wrong to disconnect life-sustaining machinery from an individual who is “brain-dead”?

    “2. The human embryo (or fetus) is an innocent human life.”

    Some embryos split to become twins. Prior to that splitting, is it one innocent human life, or two?

    If two: What is it that distinguishes the two lives from each other when they are still only “potential” lives residing in the same cell which is physically indistinguishable from another cell which will not twin?

    If one: When the twins form, where did the new “life” come from? Or is it two new lives that come into existence and the previous human life ceases to be?

    Separately, what is it that makes a unique, individual human “life”? Through the wonders of modern medicine, we can transplant almost every organ in the human body. If I have someone else’s heart, lungs, artificial limbs, etc., I am still a unique individual. Only if you take my mind, my thoughts, my memories, do I cease to be ‘me’. Death comes in many forms, but in the end, death always occurs when the body cannot pump oxygenated blood to the brain, and it ceases to function.

    Given the importance of the brain to our awareness of our existence, our ability to have reason or faith, and our longstanding understanding of the ending of unique human life, would it not be more reasonable to define the commencement of unique human life as the moment when one’s brain begins to function? A brain not present in a blastocyst that may or may not twin.

  • Bill Pratt

    “BUT, following the argument from potential, they are so therefore it is wrong remove eggs or sperm, therefore male masturbation is out, as well as menses for women. This argument is absurd.”

    I am not making the argument from potential. You keep bringing that argument up, not me. I am saying that the blastocyst is a full human being, not a potential human being. Again, it contains all of the genetic information to grow into an adult human being. Therefore it is a complete human.

    “The relationship between fetus and mother is parasitical.”

    Parasitical? Wow! If you believe that babies inside a mother are “parasites,” you have truly been drinking the “pro-choice” koolaid. But, let’s say you are right. By this line of argument, the mother should be able to kill the baby after it is born as well. Why? Because the baby continues to depend on the mother after it is born (nursing, changing, holding, etc.). In fact, the mother has to spend a significant amount of time taking care of a newborn. I know, because I’ve had two children and my wife was extremely busy with them. This is clearly a parasitical relationship, so she should have the option to kill them by your logic. Do you agree?

    “Conversely defining a conceptus/blastocyst/zygote etc as ‘human being is just as completly arbitrary.”

    It is not arbitrary. It is the scientifically observable moment when a new human life begins.

    “A blastocyst/fetus/conceptus cannot have the same moral status as an adult human being.”

    So you say, but you have given no argument for why a blastocyst is not a human being. You just keep saying it is not, but that is the very question we’re debating. Please explain why a blastocyst/fetus/conceptus is not a human being who deserves the right to not be killed.

  • I received a track back from here and would hate to leave an argument hanging.

    Again, it contains all of the genetic information to grow into an adult human being.

    Every cell has DNA that can be grown into a human being. Shall we cry genocide when we scratch our noses or wipe our brow as these discarded skin cells contain all the information necessary to make a human being.

    Please explain why a blastocyst/fetus/conceptus is not a human being who deserves the right to not be killed.

    When they act like, oh say, human beings? When blastocyst/fetus/conceptus starting writing letters the editor, protesting in the streets, and voting then perhaps then we can talk.

    So, please stop the black and white identification because much of it is subjective and will not be shoehorned into your particular ‘moral’ view of the world.

  • Darrell

    Every cell has DNA that can be grown into a human being. Shall we cry genocide when we scratch our noses or wipe our brow as these discarded skin cells contain all the information necessary to make a human being.

    Yet not every cell is designed to grow into a human being. A fetus is.

    Murdering an unborn child should create guilt; however, until my skin starts morphing into a human being, I don’t think I have need to feel guilty when I scratch.

    When they act like, oh say, human beings? When blastocyst/fetus/conceptus starting writing letters the editor, protesting in the streets, and voting then perhaps then we can talk.

    Two year olds can’t write letters to the editor, protest in the streets, vote, or talk. Using your standards I guess they can be murdered as well.

    So, please stop the black and white identification because much of it is subjective and will not be shoehorned into your particular ‘moral’ view of the world.

    That request sounds like an appeal to a “moral view” of the world to the effect that one should not push their “moral views” of the world on others. As such, it appears rather hypocritical (and self-defeating) I might say.

    Darrell

  • Bill Pratt

    Arbourist,
    You said, “When they act like, oh say, human beings? When blastocyst/fetus/conceptus starting writing letters the editor, protesting in the streets, and voting then perhaps then we can talk.”

    Do you really want to say that a thing is not a human being until it can write letters or protest or vote? Seriously?

  • Tat Wadjet

    Usually when I see this argument presented in this manner:
    “The pro-life position is quite simple, actually. Here it is stated in a syllogism: 1. The taking of innocent human life is morally wrong. 2. The human embryo (or fetus) is an innocent human life. 3. Therefore the taking of the life of a human embryo or fetus is morally wrong.” Usually the person giving this type of stance is 100% against abortion, especially as it is laid out here.

    What is your response to someone with an ectopic pregnancy? See here for info: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ectopic-pregnancy/DS00622

    20 in every 1,000 pregnancies (or 2 in 100 pregnancies) are ectopic. I, myself, hit that lottery…. and was rewarded with an emergency removal (abortion).

    SO what do you tell me? Do you tell me that I committed a crime? That I killed an innocent human life? Do you tell me that I am wrong for saving my life, instead of saving that clump of cells that was going to kill me?

    I have been (many times before) called a baby killer because of that medical condition that I had, and the treatment that was required…

    You might also familiarize yourself with these articles before you answer me:

    http://www.salon.com/2011/05/26/abortion_saved_my_life/
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/14/ireland-abortion-law-woman-death
    http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/05/30/salvadoran-court-denies-abortion-to-woman-with-life-threatening-pregnancy
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/07/953664/-NE-Woman-denied-abortion-forced-to-watch-baby-die

  • I do not consider an abortion to save the life of the mother to be immoral. In fact, I can’t think of any prominent pro-life advocates who would disagree with me.

  • sean

    Isn’t the base premise of Christianity that we’re all sinners, which invalidates your second step, of innocent?

  • The word “innocent” in the second premise is referring to “innocence” with respect to a crime that deserves capital punishment. In other words, a person that is innocent of any crime that deserves capital punishment should not have her life taken from her by another human being. Obviously, a baby in the womb of a mother has not committed any crime deserving the death penalty.

  • Andrew Ryan

    That’s not much help to the family of Savita Halappanavar.

  • sean

    Wow. Thank you. I understand. This is why I ask questions. What you just told me you actually believe is so much more intelligent than the belief I inferred you to have. Thank you for explaining this, an indeed all of your conversation and presentation on this blog for that matter. I love open discussion for this reason, and it’s so hard sometimes for me to articulate this to others. I will definitely use the above discourse to help my explanations in the future by giving an example as opposed to abstracts, which can be hard for people to follow sometimes.

  • Tat Wadjet

    Bill, that may be so. Fact is most catholic hospitals will not perform an abortion to save the mother’s life if the “innocent” child would die from it. Don’t believe me? Read the links I gave you to read!

  • Many blog commenters don’t want to know what I really think. They are content to make assumptions instead of asking for clarification, so I appreciate your willingness to ask for clarification!

  • The articles you linked to said very little to back up your claim that most Catholic hospitals refuse to abort to save a mother’s life. Do you have evidence that this happens in the US?

    In addition, one of the articles had nothing to do with the mother’s life being in jeopardy, so I have no idea why you linked to that article.

    Finally, I would be absolutely thrilled if abortion was banned in all circumstances except for when the life of the mother is at risk. The number of abortions would plummet to practically zero.

    As I’m sure you know, the vast majority of abortions are simply done for birth control. A woman has sex, accidentally gets pregnant, doesn’t want to have the baby for financial or social reasons, and so aborts. If we could eliminate these kinds of abortions, this whole political issue would dissolve.

  • Tat Wadjet

    I most certainly did provide ample evidence. Tons of articles. Lots of research done on my part. It was posted…. but now looks like the owner of this page may have removed it since I don’t see it here anymore!

  • Tat Wadjet

    I definitely had it posted. It is definitely not here now. I will NOT be doing all the research again… I’ll pull up a few links from my history. The rest will be up to you. I will not waste anymore time here. I do not appreciate my incredible efforts being thwarted.

    here is a few links relevant, and what you are asking for. Posted again without any commentary this time. The onus is now on you to read each one.
    http://www.msmagazine.com/spring2011/treatmentdenied.asp

    http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/ectopic-pregnancies-exploding-gifts-from-god-at-some-catholic-hospitals/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/health/policy/growth-of-catholic-hospitals-may-limit-access-to-reproductive-care.html?pagewanted=all

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/08/world/europe/ireland-abortion-controversy
    http://jezebel.com/5960385/woman-denied-abortion-dies-in-hospital

    http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/01/27/catholic-hospitals-practices-fall-below-radar/

    http://go.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=29113&news_iv_ctrl=0&abbr=daily2_

  • Andrew Ryan

    I would also be delighted if the number of abortions dropped to simply the life-saving ones. I believe better access to birth control and better education on birth control is an important part in getting closer to this goal.

    Certainly, countries with the above have lower rates of abortion that the US, and in some cases substantially lower rates, with the rates showing strong negative correlation with availability/education. In other words, the better the availability and the more comprehensive the education, the lower the rates of abortion, particularly among teens.