The (il)logical case for abortion

tree of life

flickr photo by Christos Tsoumplekas (Back again!) http://flickr.com/photos/tsoumplekas/8536811002 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

A logical case for the morality of abortion has yet to be found.

Now that I’ve lost a bunch of you, I’ll speak freely to those few who have open enough minds to at least hear the other side. Likely you said “there’s another pro-life crazy, she’ll probably be burning down clinics next week”.

But regardless of my actions or beliefs around the issue, YOU still have something to prove. If you are on the pro-abortion side of the issue, I charge YOU with logically defending your view because honestly, I have yet to meet a single soul who has been able to do this.

That being said, this was not written for those women who have had abortions and now feel a burden of guilt over it. I don’t want to add to your burden or cause more suffering. Nor am I downplaying the emotional struggle you may have had. Rather, this is for those who argue for abortion on moral grounds or otherwise. It is for those who are ready to listen to the other side and make sure their beliefs are sound.

So often these discussions are based on arguments like “women should have choice” or “what about cases of rape?” Yes, choice matters and rape is horrible but those don’t even start to answer the question, “is abortion morally permissible?” Why is abortion any different than the murder of a 1 year old? When does the fetus “become” a human being? At which point in the pregnancy should abortion be permitted and why?

If you are still with me, I encourage you to read the rest of this article logically. That is, ignore your emotive response to the issue, realize your biases and try to follow the logic I propose. If you disagree, then try to construct an argument that makes logical sense to support your position. You owe it to all of us for are begging for a moral explanation. Maybe then we will drop the issue!

I want to propose a series of questions (and responses) which I think outline the absurdity of the pro-abortion stance, in terms of logic. Here we go.

1. Abortion is ok as long as it’s before the 2nd trimester. We don’t know when “life” begins anyways. It’s like scrapping away a collection of cells, like clipping your nails or trimming your hair.

Logically, if we don’t know when life actually begins, and given that it is human life we are dealing with, shouldn’t we err on the side of caution and protect potential life at all costs? Ok, ok, so you might say “we know life begins at x point in time”. Let’s examine that a little. When does life begin? Not too many people would argue that life begins at birth. But for those who do, think about preterm babies who come before their expected birth date and that should answer that question. More people say that life begins before birth… but it’s all a bit foggy.

If you are going to argue that life begins at any point except conception (the moment where egg and sperm meet) then you will logically have to justify why it begins at that point and not earlier. I’m gonna guess you can’t..here’s why:

If life begins as soon as the “fetus” is viable outside the womb (it can live outside the woman on its own), then what about preterm babies who would die hours after birth without life support? Does this mean they are not alive?

Maybe you claim that life begins once the main organs are formed and present. Does this mean that people without a kidney are not alive? What about those with artificial lungs? How about those with artificial hearts? So then, logically, the absence or formation of vital organs does not mean necessarily that life is not present.

Maybe you claim that life begins once the heart starts beating. Interestingly there are thousands of people walking around today without a pulse! These people have had heart complications which necessitate the use of an LVAD or device which circulates their blood. But their heart in some cases has stopped pumping altogether. Likewise, those undergoing heart surgery have their heart stopped temporarily to have it repaired while they are on a bypass machine. So, the absence of a heart beat does not necessarily mean the absence of life.

Maybe you claim that life must begin once the baby is visually identifiable as a human (ie has fingers, legs etc). If the visual form of being a human determines life, what about those who have been so badly disfigured by fires or accidents that they no longer look like typical people? What about people who have lost all their limbs? What about those born without limbs? Having all your fingers and toes does not determine whether you are alive or not. Likewise, life in utero is not determined or begun at 9 weeks when the fingers develop.

Maybe you claim that life begins once the baby has consciousness. That is, the baby can feel pain, senses their surroundings, hears, etc. If this is the case (that consciousness determines life), we must agree that those undergoing general anesthetic, people in comas or even us while we sleep, are not living.

Maybe life begins when the mother feels a bond with her unborn child. Some mothers don’t feel a bond with their children until the child is months old. Sometimes this is due to post partum depression, sometimes not. Other mothers feel a bond right away. How does the mother’s feelings have any bearing on the existence of life? Is the toddler not alive because the mother doesn’t feel attached? Clearly this logic doesn’t work. The mothers feelings have no bearing on the existence of life.

Maybe life begins once implantation takes place (that’s the step after conception when the child is stuck firmly into the wall of the uterus). If you claim this, what you are really claiming is that the location of the baby determines life which seems a bit strange given that location doesn’t change the makeup of the embryo.

So you are left with life starting at conception. If you cannot explain how life begins at any other point than conception, then you must admit that aborting a pregnancy is ending life…technically speaking.

Once you establish that a human embryo is alive, it’s difficult to logically explain how ending its life is any different than ending the life of a 1 year old. I know the physical, mental, and emotional differences between an embryo and 1 year old. What I am asking you to think about is the moral difference between ending the lives of each of these. In the end, abortion kills a human being. There is no moral difference.

2.Women should have reproductive choice to do what they want with their bodies.

Yes, choice matters. We have all heard stories of women around the world who are oppressed and have no choice over how many kids they have, what types of birth control to use, when to have sex and in what way. Even pro-lifers agree that women should be treated with respect, given basic human rights and be allowed to make choices as equals to men. But what does this have to do with ending life? As previously established, if abortion ends a life, are we justified in doing this at the whim of the woman? Should it really be her choice of whether she wants to kill this person? Would you be ok with her killing a 1 year old? Woman should have choice but not at the expense of another’s life. We do not offer men this choice, why women?

3. What about rape?

When the act of rape produces a pregnancy, it’s easy to say “it’s not fair to the woman”, “it’s not fair to the child”, “she shouldn’t have to live with this forever”, “it’s not her fault”…all of which would be true. It is absolutely not her fault, it’s not fair for the mom or child and it’s a horrific reality of living in a world with sinful people who commit selfish and sinful crimes. I want to ask you…how does any of that affect ending a human life? How does the way in which conception takes place have any bearing on the opportunity for a child to live or not?

The truth is, the mode of conception (rape or otherwise) doesn’t justify killing a person. Since its been established that aborting an unborn child at any stage is morally equivalent to killing a 1 year old, no justification, even rape, is good enough to logically end this child’s life.

But the woman shouldn’t have to live with the daily reminder of this rape you say. Ok, would abortion change that? Would abortion erase the memory of being raped? Doesn’t the woman have to live with this regardless? Have you ever considered that aborting a child may add to the burden of trauma and guilt the woman may feel for the rest of her life?

4. What about teen pregnancy?

Again I ask, what justification could exist that would morally allow us to end a person’s life this way? How does the age of the mother change the rightness or wrongness of murder? We like to say “we don’t want to bring another child into a world like this”…guess what..they are already in this world! Ideally the community would rally around this teen and her child giving them help, support and love. Why aren’t we picketing for this? Why aren’t we making laws to enact this instead of making laws to end lives?

“But having this child will ruin this girls life!” It is true that this girls life is changed now forever. Is that a good enough reason to end a life? Why should an innocent life end for the sake of another’s? Does this mean that when life gets to be too much for a teen mom, she is justified in killing her toddler? It sounds gruesome but an answer needs to be given for how this is morally different than aborting a life in utero.

5. Why bring another child into this world of suffering?

The answer is simple; the child is already in the world. Aborting it seems to be an injustice rather than a merciful act. Morally, if this reason is sufficient, the child of an alcoholic father who is abused should be killed so as to protect it from suffering further.

6. What about the woman who gets pregnant, is happily married, on birth control with 2 disabled children and can’t financially care for another child?

I’ve heard something similar to this a few times, as if to say that because the mothers intentions for abortion are not motivated by hate or simple convenience it’s ok. Still I wonder, wouldn’t it be more cost effective to end the life of one of the disabled children? If financial burden determines whether a life should be ended or not, this seems to make more sense. Clearly I am highlighting the obvious fact that the situation of the family can’t possibly determine moral justification for ending a life.

7. What about babies with disabilities?

Genetic and other testing can be used to help families cope with the future needs of their kids, adjust to the mental and emotional realization of having a family with disabilities and deciding whether or not to continue the pregnancy (ie. have an abortion). It is said that a country or community should be judged not by how it treats its rich and privileged people, but how it treats its poor and disadvantaged. I can’t help but realize that while we say we want peace, what we really mean is that we want our lives to remain untouched and not inconvenienced by anything. Needless to say, neither convenience for the parents nor potential suffering of the child can be used to morally justify murder. If it could, there would be a lot more murder going on…and by pro-abortion logic, that would be just fine.

8. Women should have control over their bodies!

Up to the point where it is the woman’s (and only the woman’s) body, this holds. The reality is that as soon as pregnancy begins, we no longer deal with only one body, but two. An entirely different body is affected by the choice to abort and it is one that cannot advocate for itself and is given no choice in the decision. Why should woman have the decision to end a life that is not their own? Would we agree with this is the other life was that of a 2 day old? This has been highlighted perfectly in the recent discovery that Planned Parenthood (an organization which performs abortions) is potentially selling the fetal body parts and organs which come from aborted babies. I haven’t heard anyone refer to this as selling the woman’s body parts. No, the atrocity is that PP is selling fetal body parts (which is illegal and morally revolting). The point is there are two bodies involved in pregnancy, not one.

9. I’m a guy…I don’t have to think about these issues. Or…you’re a man, you can’t say anything about abortion.

Wait…wasn’t it established logically already that after conception, a life exists? And given this fact, doesn’t it hold that ending that life would be morally equivalent to ending the life of a 1 year old? And given this fact, doesn’t it seem strange that while millions of lives are being electively ended, men are told or simply believe that they should stay out of the matter? Folks, if you concede to the arguments I’ve given (and I think they are sound) you will see that men, who happen to be humans too, have every right (and are morally obligated) to stand up for the lives of other unborn people. If you saw someone trying to kill a baby, and a man just watching, wouldn’t you believe this man to be either unable or unwilling to help? If he was unable you might step in. If he was unwilling…you would wait for him to be charged with negligence.

I’m not saying that the many reasons people give for abortion don’t pull at my heart strings. I’m not unsympathetic to the child who is born to a drug addicted mother. In fact, I have nursed some of them myself and it is heartbreaking to see babies born into a withdrawal state. I am not blind to the fact that many parents should not be parents at all. And I’m not forgetting that many people who choose abortion feel that this is their only option and the best one for the child and their family. What I am saying is that behind all of this emotion and rationalization exists a small but life changing fact: elective abortion cannot be morally justified for the reasons I have given above. If it can then please tell me!

I don’t want to come off as heartless. Quite the contrary, I once told myself that life begins at birth and that whatever the reason, abortion was ok before that time. I can’t find good reasons for that anymore. Again, for the woman/couple who has chosen abortion, there is healing and forgiveness. This was written to show the illogical nature of abortion, not to down play the reasons you have made the choices you did. Likely you have gone through suffering and doubt. This was not written for those who recognize the value of life in utero, or those who have made choices they now regret because of it.

But there are those left unconvinced. I truly believe that we have rationalized away an act that, if done to any other group of people, would be called murder. That guilt that some feel for having done this can be used as motivation to educate and empower others to think through the issues logically instead of emotively. After all, the question of life is at hand.