Whether you’re a pro-life activist, a committed pro-choicer trying better to understand pro-life arguments, one of the millions of people in the uncertain ‘middle’, or a woman or man facing an unplanned pregnancy and unsure what to do, this 12-part course laying out the case for the pro-life position is for you.
Penned by renowned pro-life author Randy Alcorn, this series of articles covers a huge amount of ground, including detailed but highly readable pro-life responses to many of the most common pro-choice arguments.
Before starting Eternal Perspective Ministries (EPM) in 1990, Randy served as a pastor for fourteen years. He has a Bachelor of Theology and Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Multnomah University and an Honorary Doctorate from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He has taught on the adjunct faculties of both.
A New York Times bestselling author, Randy has written over fifty books, including Happiness, Heaven, The Treasure Principle, and the Gold Medallion winner Safely Home. His books have been translated into over sixty languages and have sold over nine million copies. Randy has written for many magazines including EPM’s issues-oriented magazine Eternal Perspectives. He blogs, is active daily on Facebook and Twitter, and has been a guest on more than 700 radio, television and online programs including Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Revive Our Hearts, and The Bible Answer Man.
If abortion really does kill children and harm women, then there’s too much at stake to remain silent and do nothing.
Abortion is America’s most frequently performed surgery on women. The Guttmacher Institute, a polling agency for the abortion industry, reports that four out of every ten pregnancies are ended by abortion. [i] In 2011 there were 1.06 million reported abortions in the United States, down 13 percent from 1.21 million in 2008. [ii] The Guttmacher Institute also reports that “Globally, 25% of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2010–2014.”[iii]
Virtually every family, at some level, has been touched by abortion.
The stakes in this issue are extraordinarily high. If the pro-choice position is correct, the freedom to choose abortion is a basic civil right. If the pro-life position is correct, human casualties from the 2,904 surgical abortions occurring every day in America (not even counting chemical abortions) total more than all lives lost in the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.
A 2011 Gallup poll indicated 27 percent of Americans say they are very strongly pro-choice, while 22 percent say they are very strongly pro-life. Taken together, that means 49 percent of Americans hold a strong view on abortion, either for or against.[iv] The other 51 percent are not as firm in their opinions. However, even these “uncertain” people mostly believe that “abortion is morally wrong,” and 39 percent of them favor restrictions in all but a select few circumstances. Worldwide, a majority of people in 26 nations of 40 surveyed said that abortion was “morally objectionable.”[v]
Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers Can Find Common Ground
Many of us have seen what happens when those who have strong opinions one way or the other try to discuss the abortion issue. Sometimes the discussions are rational and productive. Sometimes they rapidly become heated and accusatory. This issue divides people not only on the streets and in workplaces, but also in homes and churches. So, while abortion is difficult to talk about, it’s important to provide accurate information and a context in which that information can be discussed.
Are the interactions between pro-choicers and pro-lifers destined to be dialogues of the deaf? Or can they actually meet on common ground? I believe there’s at least a threefold common ground.
First, there’s the common ground of empirical data—of scientific and psychological evidence that we need not and should not deny. Second, we share the ability (if we’re able to let go of prejudices) to be logical and rational in applying this truth. Third, though it’s not as large or solid as it was even two decades ago, most people still share a common ground of morality and some sense of justice, fairness, and compassion.
A Challenge to My Pro-Choice (and Pro-Life) Readers
If you’re pro-choice and reading this article series, then good for you. I hope this means you have an open mind. If the pro-life side proves to be as senseless and irrational as you may have been led to believe, fine, you can give it the firsthand rejection it deserves. But if it proves to be sensible, then I encourage you to rethink your position.
I don’t ask anyone to accept the pro-life position without thinking. On the contrary, I ask readers to look at the evidence and weigh it on its own merit. Set aside stereotypes of the pro-life position. Be intellectually honest and resist the temptation to be politically correct by holding to the pro-choice position even if it turns out that the evidence contradicts it.
If you’re one of the 50 percent who are on the fence, with mixed feelings, I ask you to make these articles part of your quest for truth. You can hear the pro-choice position anywhere—just turn on the TV or read the news. But unless you read or listen to other viewpoints more widely than most people, these articles may be your only opportunity to examine the pro-life position.
If you are pro-life, I also ask you to think through your position. It isn’t good enough to say, “I know I’m right, but I’m not sure why.” We should base our beliefs on the evidence. If we’re wrong on any point, by all means let’s revise our position. If we’re right, we need to learn how to intelligently and graciously inform others.
If abortion does not kill children, the pro-life mentality is worse than a nuisance—it’s a serious threat to women’s rights and personal liberty, and it’s responsible for imposing a baseless guilt on those who’ve had abortions.
On the other hand, if abortion does kill children, the pro-choice mentality is responsible for the deaths of over a million innocent people each year, nearly as many as the combined total of Americans who have died in all wars in our history. [vi]] It would mean that since Roe v. Wade in 1973, over 58 million children have lost their lives through abortion. [vii] It’s also largely to blame for the feelings of guilt, depression, despair, and even suicidal tendencies that many women have experienced despite being assured that abortion is in their best interests. Clearly, this isn’t a case where “it doesn’t make a difference who’s right and who’s wrong.”
One thing is certain: If abortion really does kill children and harm women, then there’s too much at stake to remain silent and do nothing.[i] Guttmacher Institute, “Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States,” March 2016, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states. [ii] Ibid. [iii] Guttmacher Institute, “Induced Abortion Worldwide,” May 2016, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/facts-induced-abortion-worldwide. [iv] Lydia Saad, “Americans Still Split along ‘Pro-Choice,’ ‘Pro-Life’ Lines,” Gallup Politics, May 23, 2011, http://www.gallup.com/poll/147734/Americans-Split-Along-Pro-Choice-Pro-Life-Lines.aspx. [v] Pew Center Research, “Global Views on Morality: Abortion,” April 15, 2014, http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/04/15/global-morality/table/abortion/. [vi] Megan Crigger and Laura Santhanam, “How many Americans have died in U.S. wars?,” PBS Newshour, May 24, 2015, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/many-americans-died-u-s-wars/. [vii] National Right to Life, “The State of Abortion in the United States, 2016,” January 2016, http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/communications/stateofabortion2016.pdf.
Abortion advocates often claim that the human fetus is a ‘clump of cells’. But is this really true?
A woman getting an abortion at three months relayed her conversation with an abortion clinic counselor:
“What does a three-month-old fetus look like?”
“Just a clump of cells,” she answered matter-of-factly. [i]
Later this same woman saw some pictures of fetal development. She said, “When I saw that a three-month-old ‘clump of cells’ had fingers and toes and was a tiny perfectly formed baby, I became really hysterical. I’d been lied to and misled, and I’m sure thousands of other women are being just as poorly informed and badly served.” [ii]
The Fetus: A Functioning Organism, Not Just a Clump of Cells
From a scientific standpoint, the assertion that a human embryo is merely “a clump of cells” is wholly inaccurate.
Dr. Maureen L. Condic, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah, challenges readers to consider the fundamental difference between a clump of living cells and an organism like an adult or an unborn child.
Dr. Condic explains that even dead bodies, for a time, contain clumps of living cells that continue to function: “Cellular life may continue for some time following the loss of integrated bodily function, but once the ability to act in a coordinated manner has been lost, ‘life’ cannot be restored to a corpse—no matter how ‘alive’ the cells composing the body may yet be.” [iii]
A human embryo, on the other hand, is vastly different than a corpse composed of clumps of cells. Dr. Condic writes:
Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances. [iv]
Dr. Condic continues:
Early human embryos are often described as “merely a ball of cells,” and for many, it is difficult to imagine that something that looks more like a bag of marbles than a baby could possibly be a human being. Fundamentally, this argument asserts that human life is worthy of respect depending on appearance. When plainly stated, this conclusion is quite disturbing and also quite problematic. What level of malformation are we willing to accept before we revoke the right to continued existence? [v]
Ultrasound technology has given us a window into the womb, helping people see the obvious humanity of the unborn, especially in the later months of development. In the earliest stages after conception, the unborn child doesn’t appear human to us who are used to judging humanity by everyday appearances. Nevertheless, in the objective scientific sense she is every bit as human as any older child or adult. In fact, she looks just like a human being ought to look at her stage of development, and as we’ll see, she’ll begin to appear like a human child very early on, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
What’s Happening Early in Pregnancy
The newly fertilized egg, a distinct and living organism, contains a staggering amount of genetic information, sufficient to control the individual’s growth and development for his or her entire lifetime. A single thread of DNA from a human cell contains information equivalent to a library of one thousand volumes. [vi] Today we know the human genome has up to three billion base pairs of DNA that influence the expression of traits in an individual cell. [vii]
The cells of the new individual divide and multiply rapidly, resulting in phenomenal growth. There’s growth because there’s life.
Between five and nine days after conception the new person burrows into the womb’s wall for safety and nourishment. Already his or her gender can be determined by scientific means. It will be two more weeks before clearly human features are discernible and three more before they’re obvious.
At just eighteen days after conception the heart is forming and eyes start to develop. By twenty-one days the heart pumps blood throughout the body. By twenty-eight days the unborn baby has budding arms and legs. By thirty days she has a brain and has multiplied in size ten thousand times!
By thirty-five days her mouth, ears, and nose are taking shape. At forty days the preborn child’s brain waves can be recorded, and her heartbeat, which began three weeks earlier, can be detected by an ultrasonic stethoscope. By forty-two days her skeleton is formed and her brain is controlling the movement of muscles and organs.
By eight weeks hands and feet are almost perfectly formed. The nine-week baby has “already perfected a somersault, backflip and scissor kick.” [viii] The unborn child responds to stimulus and may already be capable of feeling pain. [ix]
By ten weeks the child squints, swallows, and frowns. By eleven weeks he urinates, makes a wide variety of facial expressions, and even smiles.[x] By twelve weeks the child is kicking, turning his feet, curling and fanning his toes, making a fist, moving thumbs, bending wrists, and opening his mouth. [xi]
All this happens in the first trimester, the first three months of life. This is no mere clump of cells—this is a living, growing human being.
“I’m Expecting a Clump of Cells?”
Abortion advocates and counselors often use dehumanizing language, especially when referring to very early pregnancies, to convince women that abortion doesn’t kill a living human being. But the language we use when it comes to talking about wanted pregnancies reveals we know better.
When have you ever heard a newly pregnant woman announce, “I’m pregnant with a clump of cells”? It’s always, “I’m expecting a baby!” No one would respond by saying, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant with an embryo, a clump of cells that’s not yet a human!” Instead they ask, “When is your baby due?”
Whenever we discuss abortion, we are always discussing the death of a preborn person, usually with a discernible heartbeat. In no way is it, nor in many cases does it even appear to be, just “a blob of tissue” or a “clump of cells.”[i] David Reardon, Aborted Women: Silent No More (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1987), 250. [ii] Ibid. [iii] Maureen L. Condic, “Life: Defining the Beginning by the End,” First Things, May 2003, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/05/life-defining-the-beginning-by-the-end. [iv] Ibid. [v] Ibid. [vi] R. Houwink, Data: Mirrors of Science (New York: American Elsevier, 1970), 104–90. [vii] Chemicals designated A, C, T & G form the basis for all DNA with variations in the order of the chemicals resulting in cell specialization and tissue differentiation. http://web.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/project/index.shtml. [viii] “The Facts of Life” (Norcross, GA: Human Development Resource Council), 2. [ix] Annie Murphy Paul, “The First Ache,” The New York Times Magazine, February 10, 2008, http://nyti.ms/1T0rf7z. [x] See “The War over Fetal Rights,” Newsweek, June 9, 2003, 40–47. [xi] These are well-established scientific facts. See, e.g., Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983), 41–66.
Just what, exactly, is personhood anyway?
In 2012 two ethicists wrote an article for the Journal of Medical Ethics arguing that doctors should be allowed to abort newborn babies because they’re “not persons.” They wrote that when “circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.” The authors admitted that “both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons,” but argued that “neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life.’” [i]
Most people are naturally horrified at the idea of killing newborn babies, and the article in the Journal of Medical Ethics provoked a fierce public backlash. But what many people failed to realize is that the authors’ argument is precisely the same argument used by abortion advocates to justify aborting babies before they are born. It is also the same argument that was used historically to justify terrible evils like slavery and the Holocaust.
The argument goes like this: while the unborn child (or slave, or Jew) is indeed a living human being (science clearly shows that to be the case), he or she isn’t a “person,” and therefore doesn’t have the right to life.
But what if personhood isn’t something to be bestowed on human beings by Ivy League professors and ethicists intent on ridding society of “undesirables”? What if personhood has an inherent value that comes simply from being a member of the human race? This is what pro-lifers—and most ethicists up until very recently—have always believed.
What Makes Someone a Person
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that the state shall not deprive any person of life without due process of law. When that was written, the word human meant the same thing as person and could just as easily have been used.
But in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, the Court was faced with a conundrum. “If the suggestion of personhood [of the unborn] is established,” they admitted, “the appellant’s [pro-abortion] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [fourteenth] amendment.” [ii]
To solve this problem, the justices chose to abandon the historic meaning of personhood, and instead suggested that “personhood” is something different from being human. “Personhood” became something that a human being develops at some point, based upon some set of criteria. In the Supreme Court’s case, they argued that a human fetus develops personhood at the point of “viability”—i.e. the point when a baby can live outside a woman.
In the years that have followed, pro-choice advocates have made a long series of subjective and artificial distinctions based upon a wide variety of criteria to differentiate between humans and persons. The reason they’ve been forced to do this is because the scientific fact that life begins at conception paints the pro-choice movement into a corner. The development of ultrasound and modern embryology has made it very difficult for pro-choicers to deny that the fetus is human without looking anti-scientific. Therefore, the newer strategy is to say, “Okay, this is human life, but it isn’t really a person.”
But changing the meaning of words doesn’t change reality. The concept of “personhood” is now virtually worthless as an ethical guide in the matter of abortion. The only objective questions we can ask are:
“Is it human; that is, did it come from human beings?”
“Is it a genetically unique individual?”
“Is it alive and growing?”
If the answers are yes, then “it” is in fact a “he” or “she,” a living person, possessing rights and deserving of legal protection.
Dictionaries still define person as a “human being,” “human individual,” or “member of the human race.” What makes a dog a dog is that he came from dogs. His father was a dog and his mother was a dog, and therefore he is a dog. What makes a human a human is that he came from humans. His father was a human person and his mother was a human person, so he can be nothing other than a human person.
Viability: An Arbitrary Measure of Personhood
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court defined viability—and therefore personhood—as the point when the unborn is “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.” [iii] The critical issue as to when this point is reached is the development of the child’s lungs.
But why make personhood dependent upon viability? Why not say he becomes human in the fourth week because that’s when his heart beats? Or the sixth week because that’s when she has brain waves? (Both are also arbitrary, yet both would eliminate all abortions currently performed.)
Couldn’t someone also argue that personhood begins when the unborn child first sucks his thumb or responds to light and noise? Or why not say that personhood begins when the child takes his first step or is potty trained or fully capable of taking care of himself so he’s no longer a burden to his parents?
Once we decide that some human beings don’t possess the right to life because of a set of subjective criteria, there’s no stopping what injustices we can rationalize against those in most need of our protection.
Furthermore, viability depends not only on the child but on the ability of our technology to save his life. What will happen when we are able to save lives at fifteen weeks or less? Will those children suddenly become human and worthy to live? Can we honestly believe that two decades ago children at twenty-one weeks were not people, but are people now simply because of improved technology?
Humanity, Not Ability, Imparts Personhood
Pro-choice advocates often point out that a child aborted in the first trimester may be less than an inch or two in size, or less than an ounce or two in weight. But is size really a good measure of personhood? Is a professional basketball player more of a person than someone half his size? If a two-hundred-pound man loses fifty pounds, does he lose one fourth of his personhood? Scales and rulers are no measurement of human nature or worth. Intuitively, we all understand the truth put so simply by Dr. Seuss in Horton Hears a Who: “Because, after all, a person is a person, no matter how small.” [iv]
Joseph Fletcher, then-professor at the University of Virginia, argued that an “individual” is not a “person” unless he has an IQ of at least 40, is self-aware, has self-control, with a sense of time (past, present, and future) and an ability to relate to others. [v]
But if personhood is determined by one’s current capacities, then a child or adult with a mental handicap isn’t a person. By the same standard, someone who is unconscious or sick or even asleep could be killed because he’s not demonstrating superior intellect and skills. “But give the man time and he’ll be able to function as a person.” Give the baby time and so will she.
Dr. Maureen L. Condic writes:
Unless we are willing to assign “personhood” proportionate to ability (young children, for example, might be only 20 percent human, while people with myopia 95 percent), the limited abilities of prenatal humans are irrelevant to their status as human beings. [vi]
Age, size, IQ, or stage of development are simply differences in degree, not in kind. Our kind is humanity. We are people—human beings. We possess certain skills to differing degrees at different stages of development. When we reach maturation, there are many different degrees of skills and levels of IQ. But none of these make some people better or more human than others.
Jonathan Leeman and Matthew Arbo ask readers to consider the further implications of defining personhood by ability:
All that’s required to be a person is to be a member of the species. A human quite simply is a person, irrevocably and unqualifiedly. And thus it matters not at all whether someone is impaired, unconscious, or “viable.”
Consider the flip side. If membership in the species is not the standard, then it falls to whoever has the most power to establish criteria for which people “are people” and which “are not people.” If you possess all the guns, or all the clubs, or all the land, or a majority on the Supreme Court, you get to set the standards for who is and who is not a person. Sound frightening? [vii]
Conception: The Only Objective Point of Personhood
There is only one objective point of origin for any human being, only one point at which there was not a person a moment ago, and there is now. That point is conception—the point that science clearly shows is the moment when a new, utterly unique human being (a person) comes into existence.[i] Cited in Liz Klimas, “Ethicists Argue in Favor of ‘After-birth Abortions,’ as Newborns Are ‘Not Persons,’ The Blaze, February 27, 2012, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/ethicists-argue-in-favor-of-after-birth-abortions-as-newborns-are-not-persons/ . [ii] Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. (1973).
iii] Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), 38.[iv] Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who (New York: Random House, 1954). [v] Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality, cited by Mark O’Keefe,
“Personhood: When Does It Begin…or End?” Oregonian, 12 February 1995, B1.[vi] Maureen L. Condic, “Life: Defining the Beginning by the End,” First Things, May 2003, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/05/life-defining-the-beginning-by-the-end. [vii] Jonathan Leeman and Matthew Arbo, “Why Abortion Makes Sense,” The Gospel Coalition, June 1, 2016, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-abortion-makes-sense.
What if the fetus isn’t part of the woman’s body, but a distinct, autonomous person?
In the previous articles in this series, I’ve addressed the claims that a human embryo is just a “clump of cells,” and that a human fetus isn’t a person. Some pro-choice advocates still say, “Even if the unborn are human beings, they have fewer rights than the woman. No one should be expected to donate her body as a life-support system for someone else. A woman has the right to control her own body.”
One pro-choice advocate, in the face of overwhelming evidence, admitted to me that the unborn are human beings. He then added, “But that’s irrelevant to the issue of a woman’s right to have an abortion.”
But how can someone’s humanity be irrelevant to the question of whether someone else has the right to kill him? Wasn’t the black person’s humanity relevant to the issue of slavery or the Jew’s personhood relevant to the ethics of the Holocaust? The unborn child’s humanity and personhood is the single most relevant issue in the whole abortion debate.
The “Right to Choose”
While presenting the pro-life position on public school campuses, I sometimes began by saying, “I’m pro-choice.”
Immediately students looked relieved, and sometimes they even applauded. I then said, “And because I’m pro-choice, I believe every man has the right to rape a woman if that’s his choice. After all, it’s his body, and we don’t have the right to tell him what he can and can’t do with it.”
After the shock settled in, I asked them to tell me the fallacy of my argument. They pointed out that in asserting the man’s right to choose I ignored the harm done to the innocent woman whose rights have been violated.
I asked, “So are you telling me you’re anti-choice?”
After they argued that some choices are wrong and should be illegal, I asked, “So actually you’re pro-choice about some choices and anti-choice about other choices. And it all depends on what the choice is and whether it harms the innocent?”
Yes, they agreed.
I responded, “So you’re saying that if I can demonstrate to you that a woman’s choice to have an abortion harms or kills another human being, then you’ll no longer be pro-choice about abortion?”
I hoped they would heed their own common sense, which was perfectly sound—but which they failed to apply to the unborn and to the issue of abortion.
It’s absurd to defend a specific choice simply on the basis that it’s a choice. Every single good or evil thing that has ever been done by one person to another was part of a choice. The fact that something is a choice tells us absolutely nothing about whether or not it’s right or should be legal.
Laws That Necessarily Limit Choice
Despite the fact that he’s choosing to do what he wants with his own body, a man isn’t legally permitted to expose himself. There are laws against public urination, drug use, prostitution, trespassing, and even loitering, even though every one of them involves a choice to do something with one’s own body. Most of us agree with these laws, even though they restrict personal freedoms, because they protect the rights and interests of others whose personal freedoms they directly or indirectly violate.
My hand is part of my body, but I’m not free to use it to hit you or steal from you or hurt your child—or mine. Aren’t you glad the law prevents me from doing whatever I might want with my own body?
All of us are in favor of free choice, without the restriction of laws, when it comes to issues like where people choose to live, what kind of car they drive, and a thousand matters of personal preference that harm no one else. We’re also pro-choice in matters of religion, politics, and lifestyle, even when people choose beliefs and behavior we don’t agree with.
But most of us are decidedly not pro-choice when it comes to murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, and child abuse. We should all recognize that any law that prohibits the victimization of another person is by nature a just law.
But What About a Woman’s Rights and Choices?
Of course, any two people are equal and have equal rights. Hence, a mother has the right to live every bit as much as a child. But in nearly all abortions, the woman’s right to live is not an issue, because her life is not in danger. (I’ll take a closer look at abortion when the mother’s life truly is endangered in a later article.)
Except in the rare case of pregnancy by rape (I’ll also address abortion in cases of rape or incest in a subsequent article), a woman carrying a child has made choices of control over her body that resulted in pregnancy. Women are free to choose to abstain from sex or use birth control or do neither. But when a woman is pregnant, the choices she has made have produced a new human being. As one woman points out, “After a woman is pregnant, she cannot choose whether or not she wishes to become a mother. She already is, and since the child is already present in her womb, all that is left to her to decide is whether she will deliver her baby dead or alive.”
Once the baby is born, the woman is again free to choose: she can raise the child or choose to place him in a loving adoptive home with one of the million couples waiting to adopt.
The first two areas where a woman made a choice—whether to have sex or use birth control—were personal and private. The issue of abortion is not personal and private. It directly involves the life of another person and therefore becomes the concern of a decent society. Just as society would protect the life of the mother if someone tried to kill her, so it must protect the life of the child if someone tries to kill her.
Yes, carrying a child is a natural condition that comes with some inconvenience. But few women are bedridden during their pregnancies. Most are socially active, capable of working, traveling, and exercising almost to the day the child is delivered. It’s reasonable for society to expect an adult to live temporarily with an inconvenience if the only alternative is killing a child. Regardless of the challenges, one person’s right to a lifestyle is not greater than another person’s right to a life.
Even when pregnancy is unwanted or difficult, it’s temporary. Since the great majority of abortions take place from seven weeks to six months of development, the actual difference between the woman who aborts her child and the woman who doesn’t is not nine months but three to seven months. While pregnancy is a temporary condition, abortion produces a permanent condition—the death of a person.
More Than One Body Involved
Pro-choice advocates argue, “Every woman has the right to choose what she does with her own body.” Ironically, the choice of abortion assures that something like 530,000 females in the United States each year don’t have the right to choose what they do with their bodies. (That’s roughly the number of girls aborted every year—approximately half of all aborted children.)
Philosopher Mortimer Adler claimed, as have many others, that the unborn is “a part of the mother’s body, in the same sense that an individual’s arm or leg is a part of a living organism. An individual’s decision to have an arm or leg amputated falls within the sphere of privacy—the freedom to do as one pleases in all matters that do not injure others or the public welfare.” [i]
However, a body part is defined by the common genetic code it shares with the rest of its body. The unborn child’s genetic code differs from his mother’s. Every cell of the mother’s tonsils, appendix, heart, and lungs shares the same genetic code. The unborn child has a different genetic code, and every cell of his body is uniquely his, each different than every cell of his mother’s body.
A Chinese zygote (a new human in the earliest stage of development) implanted in a Swedish woman will always be Chinese, not Swedish, because his biological identity is based on his genetic code, not that of the body in which he resides. If the woman’s body is the only one involved in a pregnancy, then she must have two noses, four legs, two sets of fingerprints, two brains, two circulatory systems, and two skeletal systems. Half the time she must also have testicles and a penis. (Can anyone seriously argue that a male child’s reproductive organs are part of his mother’s body, just because he resides there?) It’s a clear scientific fact that the mother is one distinctive and self-contained person, and the child is another.
Human Rights for All
Writing in the New York Times, pro-choice Barbara Ehrenreich says, “A woman may think of her fetus as a person or as just cells depending on whether the pregnancy is wanted or not. This does not reflect moral confusion, but choice in action.” [ii]
In this Alice-in-Wonderland approach, a woman’s choice is not made in light of scientific and moral realities. Instead, her choice is the only important reality, overshadowing all matters of fact. But if society operated this way, every killing of every person would be justifiable. The real issue would not be the worth of the person killed, but the free choice of the one doing the killing. If a man doesn’t want his wife, he can think of her as a nonperson. If he chooses to kill her, it would not be “moral confusion,” but “choice in action.”
Ms. Ehrenreich goes on to say, “Moreover, a woman may think of the fetus as a person and still find it necessary and morally responsible to have an abortion.” [iii]
We must not miss the implications of this viewpoint. It says that one may acknowledge the personhood of a fellow human being, yet feel that for one’s personal benefit or exercise of choice it is legitimate—even “morally responsible”—to kill that other person.
Though this is a logical conclusion of abortion-rights thinking, if carried out in our society it would ultimately mean the end of all human rights and social justice.[i] Mortimer J. Adler, Haves Without Have-Nots: Essays for the 21st Century on Democracy and Socialism (New York: Macmillan, 1991), 210. [ii] Cited by John Leo in “The Moral Complexity of Choice,” U.S. News & World Report, 11 December 1989, 64. [iii] Ibid.
As tragic as these cases are, they do not erase the humanity of the unborn child.
What About Abortion in the Case of Rape or Incest?
Pro-choice advocates often focus on rape because of its well-deserved sympathy factor. Their frequent references to this heartbreaking situation leave the false impression that pregnancy due to rape is common, rather than rare. Yet the Guttmacher Institute conducted a write-in survey of 1,160 women in 2004 and found 1.5 percent of abortions were reported as due to rape or incest. [i] Another of their studies cited one percent. [ii] Other studies have shown that pregnancies due to rape are much rarer, as few as one in a thousand cases. [iii]
Rape is so horrible that when a pregnancy results, we easily transfer our horror to the wrong object. Yet we must not impose the ugliness of rape or incest upon either the innocent woman or the innocent child (who is not a cancer to be removed, but a living human being). Certainly, let’s punish the rapist. But let’s not punish the wrong person by inflicting upon the innocent child our rage against the rapist.
Punish the Guilty, Not the Innocent
Rape is never the fault of the child. Why should Person A be killed because Person B raped Person A’s mother? If your father committed a crime, should you go to jail for it? If you found out today that your biological father had raped your mother, would you feel you no longer had a right to live?
A Parallel of Violence
There’s a close parallel between the violent attack on an innocent woman that happens in a rape and the violent attack on an innocent child that happens in an abortion. Both are done at the expense of an innocent person. The violence of abortion is no solution to the violence of rape.
Imposing capital punishment on the innocent child of a sex offender does nothing bad to the rapist and nothing good for the woman. Creating a second victim doesn’t undo the damage to the first.
One feminist group says, “Some women have reported suffering from the trauma of abortion long after the rape trauma has faded.” [iv] It is hard to imagine a worse therapy for a woman who has been raped than to add the guilt and turmoil of having her child killed.
A Child Is a Child
A child conceived by rape is as precious as a child conceived by love, because a child is a child. The point is not how he was conceived but that he was conceived. What if you found that your spouse or adopted child or close friend was fathered by a rapist? Would it change your view of their worth? Would you love them any less? If not, why should we view the innocent unborn child any differently?
Children Conceived in Incest
Incest is a horrible crime. Offenders should be punished, and victims should be carefully protected from further abuse. The abuser—not the girl or her child—is the problem. Intervention, protection, and ongoing personal help for the girl—not the death of an innocent child—is the solution.
Despite popular beliefs, fetal deformity is rare in such cases, and even so, a handicapped child still deserves to live. All that is true of children conceived in rape is true of those conceived in incest.
After I shared these thoughts in a lecture, a woman came up to me in tears. I’ll never forget what she said:
Thank you. I’ve never heard anyone say that a child conceived by rape deserved to live. My mother was raped when she was twelve. She gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption to a wonderful family. I’ll probably never meet her, but every day I thank God for her and her parents. If they hadn’t let me live, I wouldn’t be here to have my own husband and children and my own life.
Her story echoes that of others who found out they were conceived by rape or incest. [v]
Women often think that a child conceived by such a vile act as rape or incest will be a constant reminder of their pain. On the contrary, the innocence of the child often has a healing effect. The woman can also give another family an incredible gift by allowing them to adopt her child.
What About Abortion When a Woman’s Life Is at Risk?
While he was U. S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop stated that in his thirty-eight years as a pediatric surgeon, he was never aware of a single situation in which an unborn child’s life had to be taken in order to save the life of the mother.
Dr. John Crown, an oncologist who has treated pregnant cancer patients, told his Twitter followers he’s never had a case where abortion was necessary to save the mother’s life. [vi] He writes,
What I say to most patients is, “I know this sounds like the worst thing that could happen but there is a high chance you are going to get two happy outcomes here: you will be cured and the baby will be born normal. That is the most likely outcome. . . .” [vii]
A Woman’s Life, or Health?
The mother’s life and health are usually two distinct considerations. A pregnant woman with toxemia will have adverse health reactions and considerable inconvenience. Though difficult, this isn’t normally a threat to her life, since her life isn’t in jeopardy in the first place.
Sometimes pregnancy itself—because of routine medical appointments and tests—can actually serve as a catalyst for discovering an otherwise undetected illness. But serious illnesses that may rarely occur during a pregnancy can still be treated to protect the mother and her baby. Breast cancer is identified in about one out of every three thousand pregnancies and is usually entirely treatable. [viii]
When two lives are threatened and only one can be saved, doctors must always save that life. More often than not, that life is the mother’s. There are rare cases in later stages of pregnancy when the mother can’t be saved, but the baby can. Again, one life saved is better than two lives lost.
Friends of ours were faced with a heartbreaking situation in which removing the mother’s life-threatening and rapidly spreading cancer would result in the unborn child’s death. The pregnancy was still so early there wasn’t time for the child to become viable before both would die. But it’s critical to understand that this was in no sense an abortion. The death of the child was a tragic and unintended secondary effect of lifesaving surgery. This was a consistently pro-life act, since to be pro-life doesn’t mean it’s just about babies. It also means being pro-life about women, who are just as valuable.
Abortion to save the mother’s life was legal before convenience abortion was legalized and would continue to be if abortion were made illegal again. There’s no danger whatsoever that women whose lives are in jeopardy would be unable to get treatment, even if such treatment tragically results in the death of an unborn child.[i] Lawrence B. Finer, et. Al., Guttmacher Institute, “Reasons U.S. women Have Abortions; Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives,” Vol. 37, No 3, Sept 2005, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.pdf. [ii] Jane Orient, MD, “The Truth of Forcible Rape, or Public Hysteria,” Association of American Physicians and Surgeons; http://www.wnd.com/2012/ 08/akin-not-far-off-base-in-rape-comment; also referenced, http://www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/2255/26/. [v] See “Conceived in Rape & Other Exceptions,” December 8, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrYOj3iwskk. [vi] Hilary White, “No Case Where Abortion Was ‘Necessary to Save Mom’: Eminent Irish Oncologist,” LifeSiteNews, February 22, 2012, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/no-case-where-abortion-was-necessary-to-save-mom-eminent-irish-oncologist. [vii] “There Is a High Chance of Two Happy Outcomes,” Irish Independent, December 16, 2011, http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/parenting/there-is-a-high-chance-of-two-happy-outcomes-2965911.html. [viii] “Pregnancy and Cancer” American Society of Clinical Oncology, May 2011, http://www.cancer.net/patient/coping/emotional+and+physical+matters/sexual+and+reproductive+health/pregnancy+and+cancer.
Everyone agrees that children should be wanted. It’s a question of how we go about it.
Planned Parenthood argues that unwanted children “get lower grades, particularly in language skills.” It says unwanted adolescents “perform increasingly poorly in school,” And “they are less than half as likely as wanted children to pursue higher education.” [i] Many also express concern that having more unwanted children results in more child abuse.
I don’t question the accuracy of these findings, or the concerns presented about at-risk children in society. They tell us what we should already know—the importance of wanting and caring for our children. Instead, however, pro-choice advocates use such research to justify simply getting rid of the “unwanted” by aborting them!
Furthermore, how would we know if many of those abused children were actually “wanted” children at birth but later became “unwanted” because of the selfishness of the parents? We can’t automatically connect an abused child with an “unwanted” pregnancy.
Let’s be clear: everyone, including pro-lifers, agrees that children should be wanted. But unwanted shouldn’t be used to describe a child but rather, an attitude of some adults toward the child. The real problem isn’t unwanted children, but unwanting adults.
No Unwanted Child
There are “unwanted” pregnancies, but in reality there is no such thing as an unwanted child. While certain people may not want them, other people do, desperately.
Nearly 1.3 million American families want to adopt. There’s such a demand for babies that private U.S. adoptions can cost up to thirty thousand dollars even without “expensive surprises.” [ii] Adoptions from outside the United States more than doubled during the 1990s as fewer couples were able to find children to adopt. [iii] A black market [iv] has developed where babies are stolen [v] and sold for as much as fifty thousand dollars. Not just “normal” babies are wanted; many people request special-needs babies, including those with Down syndrome and spina bifida. [vi]
It’s important to clarify that this has no direct bearing on the moral issue of abortion. Even if no one wanted to adopt a baby, it would still not be right to kill her. The point is simply that if someone doesn’t want a baby, there are others who do.
Many children who are at first unwanted by their mothers are very much wanted later in the pregnancy and even more at birth. (Unfortunately, many women who would have wanted the child by their sixth month of pregnancy get an abortion in their third month.)
Furthermore, many children wanted at birth are not wanted when they are crying at 2 a.m. six weeks later. Shall whether or not the parents want the baby still determine whether she deserves to live? If that’s a legitimate standard before birth, why not after?
Addressing the issue of wantedness, Abort73 says:
[Abortion advocates] don’t argue that mothers should be free to kill their “unwanted” children after birth because they know these children are living, human beings with full rights of personhood. The only reason they argue that mothers should be free to kill their unwanted children before birth is because they’re ignoring the scientific reality that these children, too, are living, human beings. The question is humanity, not wantedness. [vii]
“Wanting” is simply one person’s subjective and changeable feeling toward another. The “unwanted” child is a real person regardless of anyone else’s feelings toward her.
Whose Best Interests?
One day my wife was calmly sharing with a pro-choice woman why she is pro-life. The woman looked at Nanci and said, “Haven’t you seen the homeless kids on the streets of our city? It’s cruel for them to have to live in a world like this!” My wife said, “Okay, why don’t you and I get some guns and go kill those children right now? Let’s put them out of their misery.” The woman was shocked (I was a little stunned myself), but Nanci made her point. It isn’t an act of love and fairness to kill people just because they’re unwanted.
One of the most misleading aspects of the pro-choice argument is making it appear that abortion is in the best interests of the baby. This is so absurd as to be laughable were it not so tragic. A little person is torn limb from limb, for her benefit? Similarly, slave owners argued that slavery was in the best interest of blacks. (Whom are we kidding?)
Today people say, “I can’t have this child because I can’t give it a good life.” And what is their solution to not being able to give him a good life? To take from him the only life he has.
One of the Strangest Pro-Choice Arguments
In 1973, when abortion was legalized, child abuse cases in the United States were estimated at 167,000 annually. [viii] In 2010 there were 701,158 substantiated cases of abuse and 1,262 fatalities, well over four times the rate of abuse before abortion was legalized. [ix]
The pervasive notion that aborting a child prevents child abuse is one of the strangest arguments ever made. It is true in exactly the same sense that this statement is true: killing one’s wife prevents wife abuse. True, dead people are no longer here to be abused. In that sense, future abuses can be prevented by killing them now. But arguing that we have saved them from abuse by killing them is surely convoluted logic.
The solution to battering children outside the womb is not battering children inside the womb.
The solution to child abuse isn’t doing the abuse earlier. It’s not doing the abuse at all. For those who are unable or unwilling to raise a child in a healthy environment, there’s always the option of adoption (and as we’ve seen, there is a great demand for adoptable newborns).
A More Honest Slogan
Planned Parenthood’s famous slogan used in past decades, “Every child a wanted child,” is something we should all agree with. Where we disagree is in the proper way to finish the sentence. How do you think the sentence should be finished?
- Every child a wanted child, so . . . let’s place children in homes where they’re wanted, and let’s learn to want children more.
- Every child a wanted child, so . . . let’s identify unwanted children before they’re born and kill them by abortion.
Everyone agrees that children should be wanted. The only question is this: Should we get rid of the unwanting or get rid of the children? When it comes to the unborn, the abortion rights position is more accurately reflected in a different slogan, one that doesn’t look so good on a bumper sticker: “Every unwanted child a dead child.”[i] “Born Unwanted: Developmental Consequences for Children of Unwanted Pregnancies” (Planned Parenthood Federation of America, n.d.). [ii] The Adoption Foundation, “Some Numbers in a Nutshell,” accessed December 29, 2011, http://infant.adoption.com/newborn/some-numbers-in-the-nutshell.html. [iii] Allison Tarmann, “International Adoption Rate in U.S. Doubled in the 1990s,” Population Reference Bureau, January 2003, http://www.prb.org/Articles/2003/InternationalAdoptionRateinUSDoubledinthe1990s.aspx . [iv] “Known Black Market Operations,” accessed December 30, 2011, http://www.adopting.org/adoptions/black-market-adoption-search-sites- adoption-2.html. [v] Jessica Hopper, “Black Market Babies Seeking Answers through Face book” (http://www.facebook.com/SeymourFenichelAdoptees), ABC News, February 15, 2011, http://abcnews.go.com/US/adoptees-illegal-baby-selling-ring-led-seymour-fenichel/story?id=12886993. [vi] Christian Homes and Special Kids, http://chask.org/. [vii] Abort73, “Comon Abortion Fallacies,” accessed September 1, 2017, http://www.abort73.com/abortion/common_objections/. [viii] Report of the National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect, US Department of Health and Human Services, 1973–1982. [ix] US Department of Health and Human Services, “Child Maltreatment 2010,” chap. 3, 30, Table 3-1, and chap. 4 , 58, accessed December 30, 2011, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm10/cm10.pdf#page=31.
A fallacy built upon bad statistics and outright lies
Because abortion has been legal in the U.S. for over forty years, many wonder what would happen if it were outlawed nationwide. Would there continue to be many abortions, and would large numbers of women die in “back-alley” abortions performed with barbaric tools like clothes hangers, as pro-choice advocates claim?
First, that harmful acts against the innocent will take place regardless of the law is a poor argument for having no law. There are laws against burglary, rape, and armed robbery, yet every one of these crimes continues to happen in our society. Laws should discourage bad things from happening, not conform to them simply because they happen.
So if, as we’ve seen in previous articles in this series, the unborn child is in fact a person, just in an earlier stage of development, then he or she is a human being fully deserving of the protection of the law.
It’s true that hearts and minds—not just laws—need to change in relation to abortion. Yet, we often underestimate the power of law to mold thought as well as action. When slavery was abolished, people gradually began to think differently. The civil rights movement brought about further changes in law, and in people’s thinking. The law is a moral guide, a tutor that helps shape the conscience of society. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” [i]
The Law Led the Way
There were abortions in this country before abortion was legal, but the number skyrocketed once it was legalized. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “from 1970 through 1982, the reported number of legal abortions in the United States increased every year.” [ii] Though the number of abortions in the United States peaked in 1990 at 1.6 million [iii], there were still approximately 1.06 million abortions in the United States in 2011. [iv] The laws that once restrained abortion now encourage it.
Former abortion-rights activist Bernard Nathanson admits that he and his cofounders of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) fabricated the figure that a million women were getting illegal abortions in America each year before Roe v. Wade. The average, he says, was actually one-tenth that number, about ninety-eight thousand per year. Nonetheless, the media eagerly disseminated the false information.
The Truth About Maternal Deaths from Illegal Abortion
Nathanson also says that he and his associates likewise invented the “nice, round shocking figure” of five thousand to ten thousand deaths a year from illegal abortions. [v]
Research confirms that in 1966, before the first state legalized abortion, a total of 120 mothers died from abortion. [vi] The actual number of abortion deaths of women in the twenty-five years prior to 1973 averaged 250 a year, with a high of 388 in 1948. [vii] By 1972 abortion was still illegal in 80 percent of the country, but the use of antibiotics had greatly reduced the risk. Hence, the number dropped to thirty-nine maternal deaths from abortion that year. [viii]
However, suppose that only one out of five deaths from illegal abortion was properly identified. This would still mean that the number of women dying the year before abortion was legalized would be fewer than two hundred, only 2–4 percent of the five thousand to ten thousand per year claimed by pro-choice advocates.
This was not mere exaggeration. It was fabrication.
Maternal Deaths from Legal Abortion
Today, abortion is normally not life threatening to the mother. However, despite abortion’s legality, the fatality rate is much higher than many pro-choice advocates admit. A widely disseminated pro-choice video produced in the late 1980s states, “By 1979 the Federal government could not identify a single woman anywhere in this country who died of abortion.” [ix]
This is an amazing statement, since many sources document a number of deaths from legal abortion. According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “the New York City Department of Health reported seven legal abortion-related deaths that occurred between 1980 and 1985. The cause of death in all cases was attributed directly to general anesthesia.” [x] (These were seven deaths in a single city.) In 1986, four doctors and researchers presented a study of no less than 193 deaths by legal abortion between 1972 and 1985. [xi]
Since public health officials stopped looking for abortion-caused deaths after abortion became legal, the opportunity to overlook or cover up abortion-caused deaths is now much greater. What makes abortion-related deaths hard to trace is that the majority of the deaths do not occur during the surgery but afterward. Hence, any number of secondary reasons are routinely identified as the cause of death.
Medical Equipment, Not Clothes Hangers
Since 90 percent of pre-1973 illegal abortions were done by doctors, it’s safe to assume that even if abortion were outlawed, many physicians would continue to perform abortions (using modern medical equipment, not clothes hangers). Sadly, many women would continue to have abortions. But the “many” might be a quarter of a million rather than over one million. The result would be over 750,000 mothers and babies annually saved from abortion.
Clothes hangers make effective propaganda pieces at pro-choice rallies, but they do not accurately reflect what would happen if abortion were made illegal again. Clothes hangers would be used for baby clothes, not abortions.
The Central Horror of Illegal and Legal Abortion
We do not try to make kidnapping or child abuse safe and legal. If abortion kills children, our goal should not be to make it as safe and legal as possible, but to provide alternatives and legal restrictions that help avoid it in the first place.
Unfortunately, every horror that was true of illegal abortion is also true of legal abortion. Abortion is horrible primarily because it’s a process in which instruments of death invade a woman’s body and kill her innocent child.
Neither laws nor slogans nor attractive waiting rooms nor advanced medical equipment can change the nature of abortion. It will always be what it is—the killing of children.[i] Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love (New York: William Collins and World Publishing, 1963), 33. [ii] Joy Herndon, M.S., et al, “Abortion Surveillance—-United States, 1998,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 7, 2002). [iii] “Abortion Statistics: United States Data & Trends,” National Right to Life, http://www.nrlc.org/uploads/factsheets/FS01AbortionintheUS.pdf. [iv] “Induced Abortion in the United States,” The Guttmacher Institute, September 2016, https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states. [v] Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (New York: Doubleday, 1979), 193. [vi] Rethinking Education About Life [REAL], UC San Diego, “Abortion Statistics,” http://realweb.ifastnet.com/stats.html. [vii] Bernard Nathanson, MD, Aborting America, 42. [viii] Ibid. REAL, “Abortions Annually and Trends,” Table 1, http://real web.ifastnet.com/stats.html#deaths; also http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/releases/ 00facts/trends.htm [ix] “Abortion: For Survival,” a video produced by the Fund for the Feminist Majority. [x] Hani K. Atrash, M.D., Theodore Cheek, M.D., and Carol Hogue, Ph.D., “Legal Abortion Mortality and General Anesthesia,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (February 1988): 420. [xi] “Jury Orders Abortionist to Pay $25 Million Judgment,” Life Advocate, June 1991, 25.
Killing people is not the solution to our world’s future.
In the 1960s, there was a widespread fear that the world was swarming with people and that we were quickly running out of space. Many people are very concerned about this today. Yet it’s been calculated that the entire world population of 7 billion people could be placed in one gigantic city within the borders of the state of Texas, with a smaller population density than many cities around the world. [i] The rest of the globe would be completely empty of people. (Of course, this doesn’t account for the land that would be needed in addition to produce food and resources. It simply demonstrates that the living space occupied by seven billion people is considerably less than is imagined.)
Does this mean there is no overcrowding and that our resources are infinite? Of course not. The world is full of problems, including poverty and starvation. But studies consistently show that enough food is presently produced to feed every person on the planet, including the projected worldwide population of 10 billion by 2050. [ii]
The problem of starvation is caused by a combination of many factors, including natural disasters, wars, lack of technology, misuse of resources, waste, greed, government inefficiency, and failure to distribute food properly. None of these has a direct cause and effect link to overpopulation. It is simplistic and inaccurate to attribute most of our global problems to overpopulation.
U.S. Birthrate Below Replacement Level
Consider the current birthrate in America, which is less than what is needed to maintain our population level. In 1957 the average American woman in her reproductive years bore 3.7 children. Taking into account all causes of death and the increases in average life span, zero population growth requires that the average woman bear 2.1 children.
The fertility rate first fell below replacement levels in 1972. Since then, there have only been two years where the fertility rate has reached at least 2.1 children. [iii] That means for several decades, we’ve been below zero population growth. The sociological perils we face are not those of population explosion, but population reduction.
Any increases in population since 1972 have been due to immigration, which we can see from statistics (immigration is largely good, so this isn’t meant as a statement against it; just clarifying the facts). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, every 17 seconds, the U.S. population grows by about one person. [iv] USA Today reports that approximately 7.9 million people immigrated to the United States between 2000 and 2005. [v] The age expectancy is also rising, and people are living longer than ever before.
In their article on the issue of abortion and overpopulation, Abort73 says:
While birth rates have decreased, immigration and life expectancy has increased. Of the three factors that influence population growth, the number of babies being born is by far the least significant. And yet, does anyone suggest that killing immigrants or killing those over 65 is a reasonable way to limit population growth? No. So why would anyone suggest that killing unborn humans is a reasonable way to limit population growth? [vi]
The Threat of a Declining Population
Population decrease isn’t only an issue for the United States. It is a serious threat to the social and economic prosperity of many countries. Most western European countries are now experiencing economic problems that their governments attribute to population reduction. Several countries around the world, including Germany, Singapore, Japan, and Russia, even offer prospective parents incentives for having a baby. [vii] Why would a government pay its people to have children? Because it recognizes that all societies need a continuous influx of the young in order to remain healthy.
Steven W. Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute (PRI), says:
Contrary to what you might hear, the most pressing problem in country after country today is not overpopulation, but underpopulation. In a time of fiscal austerity, the last thing that we need to be doing is spending more tax dollars to drive down the birth rate, reducing the amount of human capital available, and making us all poorer in the long run. [viii]
The problem of a shrinking population propagates itself. Because today’s women have fewer children, there will be fewer parents tomorrow, resulting in still fewer children. Fewer and fewer people having fewer and fewer children adds up to dying societies.
Legalized abortion has resulted in over 50 million fewer taxpayers in America to support the elderly. An article for the National Public Radio explains that “In many countries, including the U.S., workers pay for retirees’ pensions. Fewer kids means fewer workers funding those pensions.'” [ix]”
The future of Social Security is in peril because there are less workers to support it: “Currently, fewer than three workers support each retiree, down from 50 years ago, when it was four to one. This ratio is projected to drop to two to one within the next 20 years.” [x]
Of course, abortion would be morally wrong even if it were financially profitable for the country. But the point is, it is not only morally wrong, but ultimately, also financially unprofitable. By eliminating a large percentage of entire generations through legalized abortion, we’ve only compounded our societal problems, not solved them.
The Wrong “Solution”
It’s true that among pro-lifers there is honest debate about contraceptive use and the degree to which people should strive to control the size of their families. But on the matter of controlling family size by killing a family member, we all ought to agree. Solutions based on killing people are not acceptable.
Having endorsed abortion as a means of decreasing the number of young, will society be compelled to use euthanasia as a means of reducing the old? If back in the 1980s the governor of Colorado could tell old people they have a duty to “step aside” (die), what will happen twenty years from now? If the elderly don’t step aside, will society begin setting them aside? (That’s an honest concern about today’s so-called “death with dignity” laws, pushing physician-assisted suicide in several U.S. states.)
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop publicly stated his fear that mandatory euthanasia would eventually result from the unwillingness of the younger generation to support the elderly. He said, “My fear is that one day for every Baby Doe in America, there will be ten thousand Grandma Does.”
We should recognize that human beings are responsible for stewarding the earth and the natural resources we have available to us. So by all means, let’s pursue smarter, better ways for people to wisely manage their resources, produce food, and reduce poverty. But let’s not buy into the lie that killing unborn children is the solution for our world’s future.[i] “Episode 1: Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth,” OverPopulation is a Myth, https://overpopulationisamyth.com/overpopulation-the-making-of-a-myth. [ii] Eric Holt Gimenez, “We Already Grow Enough Food For 10 Billion People — and Still Can’t End Hunger,” The Huffington Post, May 2, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-holt-gimenez/world-hunger_b_1463429.html. [iii] “Fertility rate, total (births per woman)”, The World Bank, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN?locations=US&name_desc=true. [iv] U.S. POPClock Projection, http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html (Sep 1, 2011) [v] Haya El Nasser and Kathy Kiely, “Study: Immigration grows, reaching record numbers” USA Today, December 12, 2005, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-12-12-immigration_x.htm. [vi] “Common Abortion Fallacies,” Abort73.com, http://abort73.com/abortion/common_objections. [vii] Justin Worland, “How 4 Other Countries Are Trying to Get People to Make Babies,” Time, October 29, 2015, http://time.com/4092915/one-child-china-aging/. [viii] “Celebrate 7 Billion People With Us,” Christian News Wire, October 19, 2011, http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/2632818048.html. [ix] Robert Smith, “When Governments Pay People To Have Babies,” National Public Radio, November 3, 2011, http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2011/11/03/141943008/when-governments-pay-people-to-have-babies. [x] “The future of Social Security and you,” Fidelity Investments, May 20, 2016, https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/social-security-future.
Nonsense. In this fight there is no middle ground.
Some people say things like, “I would never choose to have an abortion myself. But everyone’s free to believe what they want, and I think women have the right to make their own choices. I won’t impose my views on others.”
Such statements reflect the illusion that being personally opposed to abortion while believing others should be free to choose it is some kind of compromise between the pro-abortion and pro-life positions. But it’s not.
The biggest reason why this compromise doesn’t work is spelled out in the phrase itself: “personally opposed.” Is an innocent person being killed by a woman’s choice to have an abortion? If not, no problem. If so, it’s a major problem that society—and all of us—cannot afford to ignore or try to be neutral concerning.
To the baby who dies, it makes no difference whether those who refused to protect her were pro-abortion or “merely” pro-choice about others having abortions.
An Honest Confession
A radio talk show host told me she was offended that some people called her “pro-abortion” instead of “pro-choice.” I asked her, on the air, “Why don’t you want to be called pro-abortion? Is there something wrong with abortion?”
She responded, “Abortion is tough. It’s not like anybody really wants one.”
I said, “I don’t get it. What makes it tough? Why wouldn’t someone want an abortion?”
Frustrated, she said in an impassioned voice, “Well, you know, it’s a tough thing to kill your baby!”
The second she said it, she caught herself, but it was too late. In an unguarded moment she’d revealed what she knew, and what everyone knows if they’ll only admit it: Abortion is difficult for exactly the same reason it’s wrong—because it’s killing a child.
And there is no justification for child-killing.
The only good reason to oppose abortion is a reason that compels us to say it should not be legal for others. Because it takes away a child’s most basic right—his or her right to live.
“Don’t Like Slavery? Don’t Own a Slave.”
Francis Beckwith writes:
If you believed that a class of persons were being murdered by methods that included dismemberment, suffocation, and burning, resulting in excruciating pain in many cases, wouldn’t you be perplexed if someone tried to ease your outrage by telling you that you didn’t have to participate in the murders if you didn’t want to? That’s exactly what prolifers hear when abortion-rights supporters tell them, “Don’t like abortion, don’t have one” or “I’m prochoice, but personally opposed.” In the mind of the prolifer, this is like telling an abolitionist, “Don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave,” or telling Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Don’t like the Holocaust, don’t kill a Jew.” [i]
Suppose Class A drug-dealing were legalized, as some have advocated. Then suppose you heard someone argue this way for selling cocaine:
I’m personally not in favor of drug dealing, but this is a matter for a drug dealer to decide between himself and his attorney. Lots of religious people are against drug dealing, but they have no right to force the anti-cocaine morality on others. We don’t want to go back to the days when drug dealing was done in back alleys and people died from poorly mixed cocaine, and when only rich people could get drugs and poor people couldn’t. It’s better now that qualified drug dealers can safely give cocaine to our children. I personally wouldn’t buy drugs, so I’m not pro-drugs, you understand, I’m just pro-choice about drug dealing.
In terms of moral impact, there is no significant difference between people who are in favor of drug dealing and people who don’t like it personally but believe it should be legal. Someone who is pro-choice about rape might argue that this is not the same as being pro-rape. But what is the real difference? Wouldn’t being pro-choice about rape allow and effectively promote the legitimacy of rape?
Being personally against abortion but favoring another’s right to abortion is self-contradictory. It’s exactly like saying, “I’m personally against child abuse, but I defend my neighbor’s right to abuse his child if that is his choice.” Or “I’m personally against slave-owning, but if others want to own slaves, that’s none of my business.” Or, “I’m not personally in favor of wife-beating, but I don’t want to impose my morality on others, so I’m pro-choice about wife-beating.”
Have you seen the bumper sticker with the slogan “Against Abortion? Don’t Have One”? At first glance, it makes sense. The logic applies perfectly to flying planes, playing football, or eating pizza . . . but not to rape, torture, kidnapping, or murder.
No Middle Ground
The “I personally oppose abortion, but… ” position is popular among politicians who want to make pro-lifers like them because they don’t feel good about abortion and pro-choicers like them because they won’t do anything to restrict abortion. My point is not simply that this position is cowardly, though certainly it is. My point is that it is utterly illogical.
The only good reason for being personally against abortion is that it kills an innocent child. If it doesn’t, there’s no need to be against it. But if it does, then you should not just refrain from it yourself—you should oppose others doing it also. You should favor laws to restrict it, for exactly the same reason you favor laws to restrict rape, child molesting, and murder.
Abort73.com puts it this way:
[i] Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993), 87. [ii] Abort73.com. “Making a Person Property.” Loxafamosity Ministries, http://www.abort73.com/index.php?/abortion/medical_testimony.
I’m personally opposed to abortion, but people should be free to make their own choices. If this is your attitude about abortion, if you think you’ve carved out some morally-neutral middle ground, ask yourself that same question in regard to slavery or lynching. Would you ever dare make the statement that, while you’re personally opposed to lynching, you still support the rights of other men to lynch? If there was no middle ground in regard to slavery, there is no middle ground in regard to abortion. The reasons that the Supreme Court reversed itself about Dred Scott are the same reasons it should reverse itself about Roe v. Wade. Until they do, we continue to live in a society in which certain living persons are considered property. [ii]
On the contrary: it has everything to do with reason and science.
It’s often stated or assumed that the pro-life position is only based on religious convictions. Like many other pro-lifers, yes, my faith in God and in His Word, which claims He created humans in His image, certainly informs my pro-life beliefs. But you don’t need to be a Christian, nor even subscribe to any religion, to believe that the unborn are children and it shouldn’t be legal to kill them.
That’s because the abortion issue is really a human life issue, a civil rights issue for the preborn. It’s not simply a religious issue, any more than the rights of Jews and African Americans are simply religious issues.
One of my favorite pro-lifers of all time is Nat Hentoff (1925-2017), the creator and editor of New York’s ultraliberal Village Voice. He was a self-described “atheist, a lifelong leftist, and a card-carrying member of the ACLU.” [i] He detested most of the policies of conservative administrations, and certainly no one could write him off as a Sunday School teacher. But he was also an outspoken pro-life advocate who took constant heat from his liberal colleagues for publicly calling abortion the killing of children. [ii] Hentoff wrote, “Being without theology isn’t the slightest hindrance to being pro-life.” [iii]
Though they’re certainly outnumbered by religiously-afflicted pro-life organizations, secular pro-life groups do exist, including Secular Pro-Life, Atheists for Life, and Pro-Life Humanists. I used to go to pro-life rallies and stand beside those holding “Atheists for Life” signs.
Pro-Life Humanists describes their stance this way: “We oppose discrimination against biological humans on the grounds of what they look like and how they function, and we believe that abortion should be rejected on the same ground as racism, sexism and ableism—which place greater importance on what the human entity does and looks like, than on what the entity in question actually is.” [iv]
Kristine Kruszelnicki, the president of Pro-Life Humanists, writes, “I’m an atheist and I’m pro-life because some choices are wrong, violent, and unjust—and I want to do whatever I can to make abortion both unthinkable and unnecessary.” [v]
It’s noteworthy that though most governments are secular, there is hardly a nation in the world where abortion was legal prior to World War II.
What the Polls Say
Many nonreligious people believe that abortion kills children and that it is wrong. Numerous polls show that an anti-abortion position, at least to a certain extent, is held by a majority of citizens (even though when asked to label their position, they may say they are “pro-choice”). Many of these citizens are not religious, and those that are belong to a wide variety of religious groups that transcend political parties.
A 2015 survey found that regardless of whether they thought abortion should be legal or not, six in ten Americans agreed that abortion is morally wrong. [vi] The surveyors noted that “Most Americans, 84%, agree there should be significant restrictions and safe guards associated with the procedure including limits to within the first three months of pregnancy, allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother, or never permitted.” Only 9% of those surveyed felt that abortion should be available to a woman during all nine months of pregnancy.
Pro-Life Because of the Evidence
Dr. Landrum Shettles was for twenty-seven years attending obstetrician-gynecologist at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Shettles was a pioneer in sperm biology, fertility, and sterility. He is internationally famous for being the discoverer of male- and female-producing sperm. His intrauterine photographs of preborn children appear in many medical textbooks. Dr. Shettles states:
I oppose abortion. I do so, first, because I accept what is biologically manifest—that human life commences at the time of conception—and, second, because I believe it is wrong to take innocent human life under any circumstances. My position is scientific, pragmatic, and humanitarian. [vii]
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, internationally known obstetrician and gynecologist, was a cofounder of what is now the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). He owned and operated what was at the time the largest abortion clinic in the western hemisphere, and was directly involved in over sixty thousand abortions.
Dr. Nathanson’s study of developments in the science of fetology and his use of ultrasound to observe the unborn child in the womb led him to the conclusion that he had made a horrible mistake. Resigning from his lucrative position, Nathanson wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that he was deeply troubled by his “increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.” [viii]
In his film The Silent Scream, Nathanson later stated, “Modern technologies have convinced us that beyond question the unborn child is simply another human being, another member of the human community, indistinguishable in every way from any of us.” Dr. Nathanson wrote Aborting America to inform the public of the realities behind the abortion rights movement of which he had been a primary leader. At the time Dr. Nathanson was an atheist. His conclusions were not even remotely religious, but squarely based on the biological facts.
I think that abortion policy ought not be beholden to a sectarian creed, but that obviously the law can and does encompass moral convictions shared by a variety of religious interests. In the case of abortion, however, we can and must decide on the biological evidence and on fundamental humanitarian grounds without resorting to scriptures, revelations, creeds, hierarchical decrees, or belief in God. Even if God does not exist, the fetus does. [ix]
Rights for the Unborn
The claim that abortion is a civil rights issue for women is one of the greatest ironies of the abortion movement. That’s because it takes away the most basic right that any person, young or old, big or small, can have: the right to live. Just because a child is in an earlier stage of development doesn’t mean we have the right to dispose of him or her.
Regardless of our personal religious beliefs, we should all publicly oppose abortion for the same reason we oppose slavery—it is a fundamental violation of human rights.[i] Marvin Olasky, “The Village’s Prolife Voice,” Christianity Today, 24 June 1991, 24. [ii] Ibid., 24–6. [iii] Nat Hentoff, “Pro-choice bigots: a view from the pro-life left,” November 30, 1992, http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/nvp/consistent/hentoff_pro-life_left.html. [iv] “About Pro-Life Humanists,” Pro-Life Humanists, www.prolifehumanists.org. [v] Kristine Kruszelnicki, “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them,” Friendly Atheist, March 11, 2014, www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/03/11/yes-there-are-pro-life-atheists-out-there-heres-why-im-one-of-them. [vi] “Abortion in America,” Marist Poll, January 2015, www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/communications/Abortion_in_America_January2015_For_Release_150121.pdf. [vii] Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 103. [viii] Bernard N. Nathanson, “Deeper into Abortion,” New England Journal of Medicine 291 (1974): 1189–90. [ix] Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979): 227.
The Bible is clear that every child in the womb has been created by God.
In recent decades it has become popular for certain theologians and ministers to be pro-abortion, with the claim that conscientious Christians can actually be pro-choice. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, for instance, has adopted the motto, “Pro Faith. Pro Family. Pro Choice.” It was formerly called the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, and their previous motto was, “Prayerfully Pro-Choice.”
The arguments offered by these advocates are shallow, inconsistent, and violate the most basic principles of biblical interpretation. [i] The “Christian” pro-choice position is nothing more than an accommodation to modern secular beliefs, and it flies in the face of the Bible and the historical position of the church.
Some maintain that “nowhere does the Bible prohibit abortion.” [ii] Yet the Bible clearly prohibits the killing of innocent people (Exodus 20:13). All that is necessary to prove a biblical prohibition of abortion is to demonstrate that the Bible considers the unborn to be human beings.
Personhood in the Bible
A number of ancient societies opposed abortion, [iii] but ancient Hebrew society had the clearest reasons for doing so because of its foundations in Scriptures. The Bible gives theological certainty to the biological evidence. It teaches that men and women are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Throughout the Scriptures, personhood is never measured by age, stage of development, or mental, physical, or social skills. Personhood is endowed by God at the moment of creation. That moment of creation can be nothing other than the moment of conception.
The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to refer to the unborn (Exodus 21:22–25) is yeled, a word that “generally indicates young children, but may refer to teens or even young adults.”[iv] The Hebrews did not have or need a separate word for unborn children. They were just like any other children, only younger. In the Bible there are references to born children and unborn children, but there is no such thing as potential, incipient, or “almost” children.
Job graphically described the way God created him before he was born (Job 10:8–12). The person in the womb was not something that might become Job, but someone who was Job, just younger and smaller. God identifies Himself to Isaiah as, “he who made you, who formed you in the womb” (Isaiah 44:2). What each person is, not merely what he might become, was present in his mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13–16 paints a graphic picture of the intimate involvement of God with a preborn person. David says to his Creator, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Each person has been personally knitted together by God. All the days of his life have been planned out by God before any have come to be (Psalm 139:16).
As a member of the human race that has rejected God, each person sinned “in Adam,” and is therefore a sinner from his very beginning (Romans 5:12–19). David says, “Surely I was sinful at birth.” Then he goes back even before birth to the actual beginning of his life, saying he was “sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Each person has a sinful nature from the point of conception. Who but an actual person can have a moral nature? Rocks and trees and animals and human organs do not have moral natures, good or bad.
Rebekah was pregnant with Jacob and Esau, Scripture says, “The babies jostled each other within her” (Genesis 25:22). The unborn are regarded as “babies” in the full sense of the term. God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). He could not know Jeremiah in his mother’s womb unless Jeremiah, the person, was present there.
In Luke 1:41 and 44 there are references to the unborn John the Baptist. The Greek word translated as “baby” in these verses is the word brephos. It is the same word used for the already born baby Jesus (Luke 2:12, 16) and for the babies brought to Jesus to receive His blessing (Luke 18:15–17). It is also the same word used in Acts 7:19 for the newborn babies killed by Pharaoh. To the writers of the New Testament, like the Old, a baby is simply a baby, whether born or unborn.
The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be “with child and give birth to a son” (Luke 1:31). In the first century, and in every century, to be pregnant is to be with child, not with that which might become a child.
The Status of the Unborn
One scholar states: “Looking at Old Testament law from a proper cultural and historical context, it is evident that the life of the unborn is put on the same par as a person outside the womb.” [v] Exodus 21:22–25 is sometimes used as evidence that the unborn is subhuman. But a proper understanding of the passage shows the reference is not to a miscarriage, but to a premature birth, and that the “injury” referred to, which is to be compensated for, applies to the child as well as to his mother. This means that, “far from justifying permissive abortion, it in fact grants the unborn child a status in the eyes of the law equal to the mother’s.” [vi]
Meredith Kline observes, “The most significant thing about abortion legislation in Biblical law is that there is none. It was so unthinkable that an Israelite woman should desire an abortion that there was no need to mention this offense in the criminal code.”[vii] All that was necessary to prohibit an abortion was the command, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Every Israelite knew that the preborn child was indeed a child. Hence, miscarriage was viewed as the loss of a child, and abortion as the killing of a child.
Numbers 5:11–31 is an unusual passage used to make a central argument in a pro-choice Bible study book. [viii] They cite the New English Bible’s peculiar translation which makes it sound as if God brings a miscarriage on a woman if she is unfaithful to her husband. Other translations refer to a wasting of the thigh and a swelling of her abdomen, but do not take it to mean pregnancy, which would presumably be called what it is.
It appears that God was expected to do some kind of miracle related to the bitter water, creating a dramatic physical reaction if adultery had been committed. The text gives no indication of either pregnancy or abortion.
The Bible study cited suggested that if God indeed causes a miscarriage, it would be an endorsement of people causing abortions. This is a huge stretch, since neither the wife, the husband, nor the priest made the decision to induce an abortion. The passage does not seem to refer to a miscarriage at all; but even if it did, there is certainly nothing to support any endorsement of human beings initiating an abortion.
Child sacrifice is condemned throughout Scripture. Only the most degraded societies tolerated such evil. Ancient dumping grounds have been found filled with the bones of hundreds of dismembered infants. This is strikingly similar to discoveries of thousands of dead babies discarded by modern abortion clinics. One scholar of the ancient Near East refers to infant sacrifice as “the Canaanite counterpart to abortion.” [ix]
Scripture condemns the shedding of innocent blood (Deuteronomy 19:10; Proverbs 6:17; Isaiah 1:15; Jeremiah 22:17). While the killing of all innocent human beings is detestable, the Bible regards the killing of children as particularly heinous (Leviticus 18:21; 20:1–5; Deuteronomy 12:31).
Abortion and Church History
Christians throughout church history have affirmed with a united voice the humanity of the preborn child. [x] The second-century Epistle of Barnabas speaks of “killers of the child, who abort the mold of God.” It treats the unborn child as any other human “neighbor” by saying, “You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay a child by abortion. You shall not kill that which has already been generated” (Epistle of Barnabas 19.5).
The Didache, a second-century catechism for young converts, states, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant” (Didache 2.2). Clement of Alexandria maintained that “those who use abortifacient medicines to hide their fornication cause not only the outright murder of the fetus, but of the whole human race as well” (Paedagogus 220.127.116.11).
Defending Christians before Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 177, Athenagoras argued, “What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? . . . The fetus in the womb is a living being and therefore the object of God’s care” (A Plea for the Christians 35.137–138).
Tertullian said, “It does not matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. In both instances, destruction is murder” (Apology 9.4). Basil the Great affirmed, “Those who give abortifacients for the destruction of a child conceived in the womb are murderers themselves, along with those receiving the poisons” (Canons 188.2). Jerome called abortion “the murder of an unborn child” (Letter to Eustochium 22.13).
Augustine warned against the terrible crime of “the murder of an unborn child” (On Marriage 1.17.15). Origen, Cyprian, and Chrysostom were among the many other prominent theologians and church leaders who condemned abortion as the killing of children. New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger comments, “It is really remarkable how uniform and how pronounced was the early Christian opposition to abortion.” [xi]
Throughout the centuries, Roman Catholic leaders have consistently upheld the sanctity of human life. Likewise, Protestant reformer John Calvin followed both the Scriptures and the historical position of the church when he affirmed:
The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being and it is a most monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light. [xii]
Modern theologians with a strong biblical orientation have normally agreed that abortion is the killing of a child. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lost his life standing against the murder of the innocent in Germany, argued that abortion is “nothing but murder.” [xiii]
Karl Barth stated, “The unborn child is from the very first a child . . . it is a man and not a thing, not a mere part of the mother’s body. . . . Those who live by mercy will always be disposed to practice mercy, especially to a human being which is so dependent on the mercy of others as the unborn child.” [xiv]
The Bible and Children
The Bible is clear that every child in the womb has been created by God. Furthermore, Christ loves that child and proved it by becoming like him—He spent nine months in His mother’s womb. Finally, Christ died for that child, showing how precious He considers him to be.
The biblical view of children is that they are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3–5). Society is treating children more and more as liabilities. We must learn to see them as God does, and to act toward them as God commands us to act: “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:3–4).[i] For an excellent refutation of the various “Christian” pro-choice arguments, see philosophy professor Francis Beckwith’s “A Critical Appraisal of Theological Arguments for Abortion Rights,” Bibliotheca Sacra (July–September 1991): 337–55. [ii] Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, “Reproductive Choice: Basic to Justice for Women,” Christian Scholar’s Review (March 1988): 291. [iii] James Hoffmeier, Abortion: A Christian Understanding and Response (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 46, 50; Eugene Quay, “Abortion: Medical and Legal Foundations,” Georgetown Law Review (1967): 395, 420; Meredith G. Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (September 1977): 200–201. [iv] Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 156–57. [v] Hoffmeier, Abortion, 62. [vi] John Jefferson Davis, Abortion and the Christian (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1984), 52. [vii] Kline, “Lex Talionis,” 193. [viii] A Pro-choice Bible Study (Seattle, WA: Episcopalians for Religious Freedom, 1989). [ix] Hoffmeier, Abortion, 53. [x] See George Grant, Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1988), 190–91. [xi] Quoted in Michael Gorman, Abortion and the Early Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1982), 9. [xii] John Calvin, Commentary on Pentateuch, cited in Crisis Pregnancy Center Volunteer Training Manual (Washington, DC: Christian Action Council, 1984), 7. [xiii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 131. [xiv] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, ed. Geoffrey Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961), 3:415, 3:418.
You can make a difference when it comes to abortion—one life at a time.
Years ago, a relief organization had a poster that asked the question, “How do you feed a billion hungry people?” The very thought of such immense needs is defeating, and could cause us to think, It’s impossible, so we shouldn’t even try. But the bottom of the poster showed a picture of a mother and child, along with three words: “One at a time.”
That’s how we can make a difference when it comes to abortion—one life at a time. Here are five ways you can get involved.
Become thoroughly informed. Know the facts so you can rehearse in advance the best responses to pro-choice arguments. Begin by reading all 12 sections of this Pro-Life 101 series. (Another great place to start is with the educational website Abort73.)
Make yourself aware of the need that unplanned pregnancy and abortion creates. When you give your time to learn about abortion, abstinence, adoption, and caring for needy women, you can pray for divine appointments where God can use you to make a difference in people’s lives.
Perhaps you and your family might have the opportunity to open your home to a pregnant woman who needs support and a place to live. Or perhaps you might be called to foster or adopt a child. Those are pro-life actions, and they do cumulatively make a difference, one person at a time.
Bring a Pro-Life Perspective
Give regular visibility to the issue of abortion in conversations and in places such as blogs and social media. Graciously challenge others to rethink their assumptions. Scripture says to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves (Proverbs 31:8–9).
One thing I encourage pro-lifers to realize are the vested interests, denial, and rationalization surrounding this issue. Many of the people you speak with have had abortions, recommended them, paid for them, or driven their girlfriend, wife, or daughter to get one. They have personal reasons for not wanting to believe abortion kills children. It’s vitally important that we approach subjects such as abortion in a Christlike manner, full of grace and truth (see John 1:14).
You can also talk to your children and grandchildren about the sanctity of life and the humanity of the unborn. By teaching and modeling a love for people and children of all ages, we can pass on a pro-life worldview to generations to come.
Support Pro-Life Ministries
You might consider spearheading a pro-life ministry in your church, or finding one in your area. You can donate time, money, equipment, clothes, and professional skills to pregnancy centers, adoption ministries, women’s homes, abstinence agencies, and right-to-life educational and political organizations and other pro-life groups. Perhaps you could mow their lawn, do their cleaning or plumbing, design a website for them, or fix their computers.
We can all offer our God-given resources to the Lord. Ask God to show you the unique ways He has for you to contribute to helping. He will use your skills and funds to make a difference. Ask yourself: “What has God given me? How can I use that to help touch lives?”
Years ago a friend of mine used his carpentry skills to remodel the house that became the pregnancy resource center in my hometown. This man, who’s as big as an NFL lineman, might not be the first choice to counsel a pregnant woman! But the work of his hands has had eternal impact on literally thousands of women and unborn children.
Intervene Outside an Abortion Clinic
Consider peacefully praying, holding signs, and sharing pro-life information, as well as the gospel, outside an abortion clinic. Jennifer Mason, communications director for Personhood USA, writes,
I know this can sound intimidating, but it is the single most effective way to stop an abortion right before it is scheduled to happen. …Many [women] don’t realize that they have any other options, and just your presence can make a huge difference, and can even save a life! [i]
When people see you standing up for the rights of the unborn, those with hard hearts resent you. But those whose hearts are being softened by God’s Spirit are interested and may genuinely listen. They may be open not just when you talk about the unborn, but also when you talk about Christ.
Denny Hartford, director of Vital Signs Ministries, writes: “Does prayer at the abortion centers and sidewalk counseling matter? You better believe it! From testimonies received over the years (including from former abortionists), we are convinced that God is accomplishing great things by our peaceful, prayerful presence at the abortion clinics.”
Of course, it’s not that pro-lifers only pray and intervene, and don’t provide further follow-up or help for mothers who decide to keep their babies. The law of love will also motivate us to provide money, housing, baby clothes, adoption services, legal help, counseling, and a myriad of other forms of support to pregnant women.
Finally, pray regularly for pro-life ministries, churches, mothers, and babies. If the darkness of child-killing is to be overcome, it will require spiritual warfare, fought with humble and persistent prayer (Ephesians 6:10–20). Perhaps you might organize a prayer group of likeminded people in your community or at your church.
There have been some encouraging advancements on the pro-life front, including that the number of abortions in the United States has been steadily declining since the 1990s. [ii] I believe the pro-life movement, made up cumulatively of individuals giving of their time, resources, money, and efforts, are in a large part responsible for this decline.
Still, every day, on average, there are over 2,000 abortions performed in the U.S. There’s much work to be done—and the good news is that every one of us can do something. May we, in our hearts and actions, have mercy on the smallest and weakest of God’s precious children, and reach out in love and compassion to their mothers.[i] Jennifer Mason, “How you can make a difference today,” April 30, 2016, http://myemail.constantcontact.com/WHAT-YOU-CAN-DO.html?soid=1123998407992&aid=Ed_0OQ1sd4Y. [ii] “U.S. Abortion Statistics,” Abort73, January 20, 2017, http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics.