With the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe Vs. Wade decision not too long ago, the question of Abortion has popped back into the public consciousness (as if it ever left).
I have found that there are a lot of people who are for or against the supposed right to abort, but really don’t have much of an argument one way or another, minus regurgitating the media talking points. I’m going to attempt to present a cogent argument for the pro-life position, using Wayne Grudem’s book “Politics” fairly heavily.
I remember R.C. Sproul saying that he figured once they defined what a life was, that the abortion argument would be over, but they did define it and it isn’t. I remember thinking that was a strange thing to say because even if people in the pro-life camp decided what life was, that definition probably wouldn’t mean much if the pro-choice camp wouldn’t also accept it. However, recent developments have proven there’s a lot of truth to that statement, but perhaps not in the way he originally meant it.
In a brutal display of honesty, a member of the pro-choice camp, writing at salon.com, said that it has been detrimental to their side to keep switching the definition on what is and isn’t life around and she suggests that they actually agree that life begins at conception and that it actually is a human being. Then we have the kicker, that even though the unborn baby is a human, it is a “life worth sacrificing.” What is her reasoning behind this?
“Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.”
Let that sink in for a moment. Because the woman is the “boss” , she therefore has the right to kill the unborn within her, not only because of her health, but because of “her circumstances . . . always”. This has always been the unspoken truth, but to hear it put in such stark terms aught to shock you. Naturally, she doesn’t go on to put forth a long argument defending that position, internet articles really don’t lend themselves to that, but the title of the article says it all: “So What if Abortion Ends Life”. The goal has always been abortion on demand, for any reason. You can read Al Mohler’s analysis of that article, and a link to it, here.
On the flipside, we had fairly recently, a proposed amendment known as the personhood amendment brought up in what was believed to be the most pro-life state in the nation, Mississippi. This amendment would’ve stated clearly that unborn people do in fact have full personhood from the moment of conception, and therefore granted the rights that pertain to it. It was decisively voted down. It would appear that the pro-life movement in general doesn’t like the arbitrary nature of the “abortion is ok until the 3rd trimester” argument of the Roe decision, but is unwilling to say that personhood should be granted from conception on. So there is disagreement about when the arbitrary starting point should be, but it is equally arbitrary. As Mohler says here “we’re all Harry Blackmun Now”. Some further relevant articles from Mohler on abortion can be found here, here, and here.
What are we to think about this? It should cause great worry among those of us who value the sanctity of every human life from conception until natural death. There are grave consequences for the view of abortion on demand, and without limitations. A while ago there was an article from a pair of ethicists in the Journal of Medical Ethics argue for what they term “after birth abortion.” You read that correctly, after birth abortion. This article from Slate lays out the issue. Remember the ultimate goal, abortion at any time and for any reason. It is not hard to say, though hard to read/hear, the steps of the reasoning. If you can argue it’s ok to abort up to point A, then why not at point B? Assuming A-C are pre-birth, then is D acceptable? At what point is it not acceptable? What if the baby is going to be born with some sort of genetic abnormality? Would it then be ok to kill the child at any stage of life? Or what about at stages X-Z in the human life? Certainly the elderly are vulnerable to this sort of argumentation as well. I hear the objection of that being a slippery slope argument, and it is, but the issue is that so far it’s been proved right.
Let us be clear, the only coherent place for a pro-choice person to argue is that a human is a human from the moment of conception and therefore they have a right to live. The reason we should do this is because God values human life. We are the unique bearers of His image, regardless of how society views us. The child of Elizabeth is referred to as a baby in Luke 1:41-44. David identifies himself as a me in Psalm 51:5, and again in Psalm 139:13 as well as acknowledging the role of God in the creation of everything and every person. There are several places where this is common, and for unborn children to be referred to as the beginning of nations, like in Genesis 25:22-23. The Old Testament also highly values unborn life, as evidenced in Exodus 21:22-25.
We are also to look out for the most vulnerable among us in several places. Surely the unborn are the most vulnerable, and we who can should be fighting to save them.
Some things to keep in mind when discussing this issue: Genetically speaking, the baby is different from both the mother and the father at the point of conception, so to assume that it’s just a part of the mother’s body is wrong. Always make sure to press people for reasons to support their assertions. This is one area where it’s so emotionally charged that people are likely to just say things without backing them up.
Possible objections/answers: (taken from Grudem with my own thoughts added)
The unborn are unable to interact and survive on their own. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t a person. This sort of utilitarian argumentation is both dangerous and unpersuasive. You can point to the examples above of other people who are unable to survive on their own (newborns, elderly, multiple limb amputees etc.) and apply that argument to them. Personhood should mean more than simply usefulness to society at large. Make them argue for this position.
Birth Defects. This is related to the above objection, but most would think it monstrous to put this child to death after they have been born, so why would it be acceptable before they are born? Again, an argument must be made as to why this would be acceptable. Not just some sort of vague notion that people with birth defects are somehow lesser than the rest of us (think about how society treats such statements in general).
Rape/Incest. Now we get to the big ones. These next two are generally given sway even among the pro-life camp (I think I actually argued that way years ago). The first thing we have to realize is that this is tragic. Appearing cold and heartless is not only unhelpful, but patently un-Christian. So while we must sympathize and grieve with those who grieve (Romans 12:15), it must also be pointed out that this is not a good reason for an abortion. We would never kill a child after they have been born, even if they had be conceived in rape or incest. We are not to punish the child for the sins of the father (Deuteronomy 24:16).
To Save the Life of the Mother. This is undoubtedly the hardest. According to the Centers for Disease Control, abortion carried out to save the life of the mother is extremely rare (less than 0.118% of all abortions). I think it is important to make some clear distinctions here. It is hard because you are choosing between one life and another. If the pro-choice party is unwilling to admit the life of the unborn child, they cannot use this argument to any effect. I think we need to make sure that we are not lumping together the concepts of “health” and “life” because there is a difference. The infamous Roe and Doe cases defined health as “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient.” and we must patently reject that as being a definition for life. This is referring to whether or not the mother of the child will die or not. I think it is permissible to take the life of the child for the life of the mother, if and only if the operation is done with the intention to save the mother and not done with the intention to terminate the life of the child.
This does not settle all issues, and does not make the conversation any easier. We must not shy away from difficult and controversial moral topics. The sanctity of human life is valued by God, and so it should be valued by we who claim to follow Him. Be courageous and fight on.