Why many are pro-choice
If we ask whether abortion is OK, our first response is usually “Of course!” When we think of pregnant women and the challenging situations they find themselves in, surely it is reasonable to expect abortions?
I think about the mother who found out from her 20-week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life-sustaining organs.
I consider the mother who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realisation that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test.
I sympathise with the mother who had a haemorrhage due to a placental abruption, causing her parents, spouse, and children to have to make the impossible decision on whether to save her or her unborn child.
I ache for the teenage girl who had her innocence torn away from her by someone she should have been able to trust, while her body isn’t mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.
I wonder what it must be like for a woman who is working two jobs just to make ends meet and have to choose between bringing another child into poverty or feeding the children she already has because her spouse walked out on them.
Take a moment to think about those women who are in no way financially, emotionally, or physically able to raise a child, or who are not yet mature enough to raise a child. Think about those who lost their virginity in high school with a broken condom and now have to choose whether to be a teenage mom or just a teenager. Consider the women who are finally getting the strength to get away from their abusive spouse only to find out that they are carrying the monster’s child.
When we ponder the countless difficult and highly stressful situations women can find themselves in when pregnant, then perhaps it is pro-choice and even pro-life to support abortion. Pro their lives. Women’s lives. In fact, surely it would be moral to fight for the women in these stories and the choice that was made by them.
I get it. I get why many would argue for abortion. It’s easy to appeal to compassion immediately, and perhaps even thoughtlessly. Still, within me grows a persisting voice that the most innocent in these scenarios – the child, is being completely ignored. I am not denying that being pregnant can be incredibly stressful and even traumatic for a lot of women, but my intuition tells me that the stress of pregnancy and the changes it poses does not eradicate the voice and right to life, does it?
It’s a matter of perspective, whose side do you stand on – the child or the mother? The “pro-choice” movement claims that taking away abortion is a violation of women’s rights. The “pro-life” movement claims that abortion itself violates the child’s right to life, and is an injustice against the child. Who’s right? Both sides can muster up persuasive arguments. Now of course, in the right circumstance the child is conceived in a loving supportive environment and both the father and mother take responsibility to love and put their child first. There is no clash between mother and child. But this is not always the case, life is complicated, as we all know.
I want us to dig deeper. The rest of this essay is going to be a rational dig for the answer to the question “is abortion really moral?” We are going to dive into two critical questions that help answer this, pulling from philosophy, theology and science.
We need the right answer. According to World Health Organization, roughly 25% of pregnancies end in abortion. And the stats are climbing. Roughly 70 million babies are aborted each year. That’s huge. If we have considered abortion as ‘OK’ and it really isn’t, then we all have a lot to give an account for.
I am going to propose that to answer the question – “is abortion moral?”, we must address two critical questions:
- When does life start
- How does life derive its value?
Should freedom ever be limited?
Before we dive into these two questions, let’s set the theme and address the underlying cultural shift. Recently, a friend of mine had a conversation and the topic turned to conscience. His friend insisted that they’d never done wrong. “Not even a white lie?” he asked. “Well,” they explained, “I have lied of course, but it wasn’t really wrong because I did it to protect my feelings.”
This mindset runs deep in the Western world today. We’ve made our feelings and desires the ultimate good. Any action is justified if it makes us feel better. Freedom is held up as the ultimate virtue and even trumps tolerance as society requires us to tolerate everyone and everything unless they impinge on our freedom to do as we please.
There’s a lot of talk about rights, but not a lot of talk about responsibilities. Have we got it the right way round? Should our freedom ever have limits?
Where does human freedom and responsibility come together? Must human freedom, to be truly life-affirming, be bound by any moral restraint? Who defines what moral standards should be, and why would I desire to subject my freedom to these standards, for isn’t freedom a virtue in and of itself?
In the atheistic worldview devoid of justifiable objective moral standards, human freedom is unbound from any objective restraint. We each get to define freedom according to our own desires, and there’s no ultimate authority to adjudicate. This is a significant reason why the Bible is viewed with increasing hostility in the West. The Christian worldview teaches that freedom is not just the ability to do what we want, but what we should. It claims that there are objective moral truths that don’t depend on the opinion or preferences we so highly exalt today, that objective moral duties as God defines them are critical to freedom as a whole.
The chances are, we’re all more Christian than we realise. Most of us in the West today believe that in a healthy society there’s a place for limiting people’s freedoms in certain cases. For example, when someone wishes to kill or maim large groups of people they forfeit certain rights to freedom. We value human flourishing above individual freedom. Freedom is part of human flourishing, but one person’s personal desires can interfere with another person’s flourishing. So the question then changes from “how can I be most free to do what I want” and becomes “what leads to the greatest human flourishing in each case?” Our moral compass is still more shaped by Christian morality than we expect, but the key is whether we’re consistent with our standards.
This is contrary to a secular world that gravitates to the idea that any restraint placed on our desires is immoral, as freedom is equated with goodness. We want to be the measure of all things, to remove objective moral standards as taught by the Christian faith, and set up our own subjective standards in its place. We become gods, the judges of all things. But mere freedom from restraint, to obey only the self and the fulfilment of our private desires, does not encourage us to engage in the great quests to fulfil our purpose or better the world.
Contrary to atheism, the Christian view holds that there is an actual purpose to our lives – something we were intended to pursue beyond ourselves which ultimately fulfils us. This purpose calls us into a life of difficulty and is reached despite or even through suffering and self-giving love, not self-serving “freedom.” Without this we are purposeless. Justice and goodness are unbelievable categories within the framework of naturalism. If we are just the random collocation of atoms, a blip on the radar screen of time happening to be here, then we have no absolute duties beyond fulfilling our personal desire. I see no way around this.
In a world where our preferences become the ultimate guide of our lives, practically anything is permissible except the idea that some things shouldn’t be. Take abortion; it is viewed as an outrage to tell a woman that she has broken a moral boundary when denying the life she and her sexual partner happened to create (whether intentionally or not), as almost 99% of aborted children are the result of consensual sex. But is abortion really moral? Lets find out.
When does life start?
This is perhaps the most critical question on the subject. If we hold the view that the unborn child is not a child at all, then the abortion debate swings in favour of the pro-choice movement. If the “foetus” isn’t a life; isn’t the formation of a new person, then aborting the “foetus” does not impinge on the life of a separate entity, since the potential life hasn’t begun yet. From this conviction, pro-abortionists often argue, “don’t tell a woman what to do with her body. Her body, her choice!”
But is it just her body? If we hold the assumption that it’s just her body, that the new human doesn’t exist yet, then sure. But if there is a separate life then it’s not just her body and ‘rights’ we’re talking about, and in that case, the choice is whether to decapitate, dismember, or poison the unborn child. Should we be able to choose that?
It all depends on one question – when does life start?
Scientifically speaking, at the moment of conception, the process of your life has begun with only the difference of degree, size, level of development, environment and level of dependency. When I hear someone say well it’s not a human being because the life is not fully developed, then do you humanely put to death the young child who hasn’t fully developed or the disabled adult who hasn’t developed properly? If not, by what standard do you draw your line? When I hear someone say it’s not a human being because the life is dependent on the mother, then do you prevent justice for the elderly, the brain dead, or the one in a coma who is dependent on the support of others for their lives? How do you justify this standard? Much the opposite – the most vulnerable amongst us deserve more care and protection as our instinct tells us as soon as we hold a newborn baby.
Let’s say we play a game of dictating when life starts:
- What about week 24 in the womb? You are long and lean and developing;
- What about week 20? You are swallowing more, sucking your thumb. You can hear your mother;
- What about week 12? Your brain is rapidly growing, your toes are curling;
- Week 10 your organs and structure are in place;
- Week 8 your eyes, arms, legs and ears are forming. Before this you have a pumping heart and developing nerves.
At what point is it okay to ‘terminate’ that child as if it’s not life? Does the birth canal or the mother’s wishes magically turn a lump of disposable cells into a fully-fledged human with rights and value?
Those who fight for the right to abortion often dehumanize the child in the womb by referring to them as “just a foetus/clump of cells.” Now saying the baby in the womb is only a clump of cells doesn’t mean much, given that all of us are made up of clumps of cells.
The term “foetus” is simply a Latin word meaning “little one”, referring to the relatively small size of a preborn baby. This argument highlights a key aspect of a larger issue: the war for the dictionary. While clever, and often successful, changing the perception of a word doesn’t change reality: a foetus is the same being as a born baby, just less developed. “Terminating a pregnancy” is, therefore, the same as “killing a baby”.
To be honest, I don’t think there are many who in their right mind really believe that in the womb the child is not a life, for example, if a woman can choose to abort then can a man choose to abandon?
If a mother is pregnant and she has the freedom to ‘end’ her child, then by that same token, does the father have the freedom to abandon and leave his child likewise? You can’t have it both ways, demanding that the father take responsibility for the child while the mother can neglect it. It would be inconsistent to support abortion but not support fathers who wish to leave their pregnant partner. We know that if a man abandons his pregnant partner, he has left more than just her, he has neglected his responsibility to remain for his child’s sake. We know that there is another life involved, that there is more at stake here.
Now if you’re still unsure on the subject of when life starts, perhaps this analogy would help conclude your thoughts: say I’m in construction and I go to blow up an old building. I’m not sure if anyone’s in there but I’m assuming no one is, so I go ahead and demolish it. Would you be okay with that or would you insist that I be certain first? The answer is obvious, you would want me to be sure. So if there is any ambiguity over if and when a foetus is a human life endowed with rights, would you also argue a mother can “terminate” a baby without being sure first? I do not deny that these are difficult questions to answer, but if someone is seriously considering abortion, surely they must be answered.
What is a human worth?
This leaves us to the next pivotal question – if the unborn child is living, then what is its value? In other words, how does life derive its value?
Now I’m quite content living a minimalist life. In just a couple of months I will be leaving England and moving permanently to Australia with my wife. After all the years living in the UK, it doesn’t bother me that I won’t be taking any of the belongings I grew up with or have accumulated over the years. I will leave most stuff behind because I no longer value it. It’s just stuff, and there is always too much stuff in my opinion.
But when it comes to the value of a human – me or you, where do we get it from? Is it based on what we are worth to our partners, our parents, our friends or society at large? But what gives them the authority to determine our worth if they are also like us – human? Instead, we like to think we have a fixed value, undetermined from the opinion of those around us – we can call this an “intrinsic” or “inherent” worth. If everyone around us disappeared, we would like to think that our lives are still valuable. But do we all really have a shared inherent worth? And if we don’t, can we really justify the equality of human value, and therefore human rights?
It makes sense to believe that the only way we can have inalienable worth is if we were created by an entity of unchanging worth. For example, everything that goes on in the natural world can only have meaning or value in reference to something else. Take a £100 note; it’s certainly not valuable in its material and if all the humans were gone, it would have no value. Its value is only based on the value that we collectively place on it. In the same way, there can be no objective value to reality unless there is an ultimate meaning-giver himself – whom we call God.
So, for life to have absolute value, it must find its purpose, or intention, in reference to something that exists necessarily (that which is without reference to anything else, i.e. transcendent), and as intentions can only be the product of conscious minds, that reference must be what we call God.
If there is no God, it would seem that human life is simply an ‘accident’ of nature, the result of the blind interaction of chance and necessity. There is no transcending context to justify the inherent value of life or the existence of objective morals, we are essentially just purposeless electro-biochemical machines controlled by our mindless genes, blindly programmed to ensure survival. There is no real purpose we exist for, no ultimate destiny we ought to pursue.
So the concept that humans hold an inherent value and intrinsic worth is mainly based on the Judeo-Christian idea that we are made in the image of God. Reject God and suddenly you have to start again, explaining why one particular creature, thrown up by the blind forces of time, chance and natural selection mixing and chopping atoms and chemicals for several billion years possesses inalienable value, whereas amoeba and eggplants do not. If what we call “life” is merely atoms mindlessly pinging around then no human life has any more value than any other collection of atoms in this universe. So what has to be the case for all people to have equal value, to justify the equality of human value? There has to be something about each human person that is equally true and that cannot change. What is that?
I really can’t think of any naturalistic answer for this, because our natural endowments are distributed along a spectrum. In this view, we are left to resort to our value being extrinsic, using external factors to measure our worth. Factors such as intelligence, health, usefulness to society, physical appearance, wealth, the capability for passing on genes… There is no equality here. Even if you currently measure up to one of these standards, one day you won’t. You will age, you will weaken, and your financial worth will fluctuate. Morally we lack consistency, physically our bodies are changing, more so decaying. So who are we if everything about us is only temporary and changeable? By any naturalistic standard, human value is fleeting and graduated, with some coming out less valuable than others.
Consider it this way, if we hold an evolutionary framework for human value, then it’s consistent to say that each person’s value is in accordance with their genetic “strength” and intelligence. Those with better quality genes and higher intelligence should be valued, and those with genetic defects and lower intelligence sit at the bottom. I’m sure the Nazis would agree heartily. Don’t forget that natural selection includes natural rejection.
But even if we take that evolutionary standpoint – in a universe of finite resources where the inevitable end is caught up in entropy and death, what real value does being genetically superior have in the long-term view of things? If the whole human civilisation will end someday, whether that be a thousand or million years, it makes no difference whether we survive and thrive, it’s all for no ending purpose.
My conclusion is this – according to naturalism (and therefore atheism), human value is relative.
Secular humanism flees the solid absolute in favour of the quicksand of relative values – a swamp of conflicting opinions about human worth. Throughout history, sick and wicked things have been done in the name of humanistic development. Such possibilities exist because there is no overarching point of reference for good and no unified definition of what it means to be human.
Now here is the troubling bit – if life bears no inherent value, anyone can then say “this life is valuable, this other life not so much.” We are free to evaluate another life’s sacredness as different to our own due to a worth we can give, measured on subjective external factors. This allows us to excuse our actions against those lives or separate them from us. For example, in the era of the black slave trade, a law was placed in 1662 Virginia “that all children born in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of their mother.” In other words, if your mum was a slave, you were born a slave, if your mum was free, you were born free. This law states that an external factor, such as an organisation, entity or individual, can determine your worth before you are even born. How do you feel about that?
In a similar sense, abortion determines the rights and value of another life before it is born, in accordance with the mother. If the value of life is a purely subjective matter none of us can then say this is objectively wrong – it’s our word against theirs with no objective standard to arbitrate.
Do you see the issue? If we are truly the measure of all things, even in defining life’s value, well then, this measure is relative to which human or group of people? Which of us, individually or as a group, relatively decide what is right and what is wrong? All value is reduced in value according to the preferences and biases of this or that person. If a woman’s value and dignity means a male shouldn’t have the right to control her body, does an unborn child have the same value and dignity?
By denying any inherent value that an unborn life holds, we can erase any rights that an unborn child may have and so can excuse aborting that life. So it really comes down to whether that life is ultimately desired or suitable for us or not. If the mother doesn’t feel suitable, if the child wasn’t intended or if it’s not the right circumstance, then one can excuse denying/ending that life. Today the preference of the one bearing the baby has now eradicated the love needed to give and raise life.
We have decided that the child’s worth is purely dependent on its mother’s choice rather than having any worth itself. We ‘eliminate’ babies we conclude may not be proper for our lifestyle and keep the ones we want. Imagine two rooms at the hospital, in one room is a high-risk pregnancy (ectopic or otherwise) where physicians are treating two patients: the mother and the baby. They are seeking to preserve both patients’ lives to the best of their ability. If complications were to arise and only one life can be saved, then that life is saved. I unashamedly believe that motherhood is a self-sacrificial calling and not a self-serving one. The greatest act of love is to lay down our lives for others (John 15:13). Now in the other room is a different story, a woman steps in, the doctor speaks to her calmly, and the unborn baby is killed.
Both scenarios are tragic as they involve the death of one person. But the difference between the two is the woman’s preference, and the consequence is the child’s life.
The idea that someone should be killed off as soon as they stop being useful to society seems dystopian, but that’s exactly what we’ve become desensitised to. As Ronald Reagan said, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”
Is abortion moral? The answer
I am convinced of the Judeo-Christian view that life has an inherent value. I also think it would be irrational to assume that the unborn child isn’t a living being. Therefore, in the end, I must logically conclude that abortion is morally wrong. Founder of ‘Word on Fire‘, Robert Emmet Barron, put it this way:
“Opposition to abortion is not a matter of doctrine in the strict sense of the term, but rather a conclusion drawn from moral reasoning and from the findings of objective science. It is an indisputable fact that human life—which is to say, a living human being with a distinctive genetic structure and identity—comes into existence at the moment of conception. It is furthermore a fundamental axiom of ethics that innocent human life ought never to be attacked.”
Now there are two major objections to this conclusion, one involving the circumstance of rape and the other on whether the unborn baby is really a person, and we shall address these soon.
We have become unaccountable. If a baby were killed inside by abuse and violence against a pregnant woman, then the attacker would rightly be sentenced to prison for infanticide. Yet, the same law permits a doctor to kill a child in the womb as an act of “healthcare” and an expression of the mother’s human rights.
The Christian view is that life has intrinsic value and is therefore sacred, and therefore abortion does break a moral boundary. To deny the life of an unborn child implies denying a value that you have no authority to determine.
Now if you are still convinced that abortion is a moral right, consider this analogy: let’s say a violent storm suddenly hits a ship out at sea. Out of the 100 people on the ship, five live but the rest drown and die. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a direct act of God. What would be your response- outrage? “Why not let them all live? God is immoral!” Now if this is indeed a deliberate act of God that 95 die and five live you’re calling his decision immoral because He allowed death to occur over life. So what about when you have the choice whether someone lives or dies within you, explain to me how that’s your moral right? When God plays God you consider him to be immoral, when you want to play god you consider it your moral right. There is a violent contradiction in the abortion position.
To put the question clearly – if you have the opportunity to see life or death, which is moral?
We are playing a dangerous game. When you break a moral boundary, breaking the next becomes easier. For example, there is a growing voice from bioethicists who claim that because there is no clear biological distinction between a late-term foetus and a born baby, we should be able to allow “after-birth abortions.” In other words, the killing of newborns. Taking the logic of abortion to its natural conclusion, that makes total sense, and it’s messed up.
In the case of considering abortion, even if the parent doesn’t wish to or is unable to bring up their child, then as a final option one should consider the child for adoption, that at the cost of nine months of one life another may have a full life. If we thought about the value of the child’s life as equal to our own, then it changes the whole outcome.
Objection: “The unborn baby may be alive, but it’s not a person yet”
This is the argument that, although the baby in the womb is human, it do not deserve the same rights as the mother because unborn babies have not become persons yet. In this worldview, a person is not a person because they are human; you become a person through experience and thought. Being a human is not enough to be worthy of protection. Therefore, since unborn babies are not persons, the woman has more rights than the unborn baby and she does not have to offer the child protection. The moment we begin reasoning this way, consistency demands that anyone, from infants to the elderly, if dependent upon others for their survival, can be killed because they are an inconvenience. So do those who have mental damage as a result of past accidents or live in a coma, and therefore unable to think and experience life as we do, have less value than the rest of us? We should be consistent.
This faulty thinking often leads to pregnancy being portrayed as a condition to which the mother has not consented. Of course, pregnancy is a natural consequence of sexual relations. The majority of these relations are consensual acts, in which no one is forcing women to get pregnant. Therefore the analogy is largely inaccurate from the beginning. The mother and her child are not enemies. What is at stake in this scenario is the lifestyle of the mother over and against the baby’s actual life. The argument is based on the idea that if the woman doesn’t want the baby that came about as a result of her actions, she can conveniently dispose of the inconvenience if it gives her relief.
We live in a culture that wants freedom without responsibility. We proclaim it’s pro-choice to have an abortion but are we not just escaping the consequence of our choice by taking all choices away from another human being? In elevating ourselves as gods without the benefit of divine wisdom, we have decided that another life’s value depends on our own autonomy. In doing so, we have become devils.
Objection: “What about rape?”
“What about the circumstance of rape?” a friend asked me while we respectfully discussed our differences on abortion. This argument in favour of abortion pulls at the heartstrings. Think about a woman who has been raped and is now left pregnant with the child of the one who violated her. She was wronged and now the rest of her life is changed. I can’t even imagine how difficult that situation would be. Even though it only represents less than 1% of abortions, I still find this the most challenging to address. And for obvious reasons, it’s an emotionally charged question.
Now we all know rape is wrong, disgusting and a moral outrage. It is a gross violation of someone’s body. In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, rapists were instructed to be punished even by death in certain cases (Deu 22:25). It’s a severe crime because it’s a violation of another person’s body.
But how can we justify this contempt of rape? If human value is derived from God and His plans and purposes for us, all human life is equally sacred. We have inherent intrinsic value. But atheism has no objective basis to account for anything being ultimately wrong or immoral. Human worth is fickle. If we are just apes on ego trips, rape may be what “is” taking place, and we may not like it, but we cannot derive a “moral ought” from what “is” the case. The fact that we believe rape is wrong regardless of the circumstance or culture is because we assume a Christian worldview in which human beings have inherent worth.
So for those of us who oppose abortion, we apply the same standard to the child by stating that abortion is also a violation of another person’s body.
Now, this is not diminishing the crime of rape and the justice which should be demanded as the rapist should rightly be judged and held accountable. Nor does this ignore the pain a woman may feel after being violated in such an unjust manner. But here is the crux – should the child who committed no crime suffer being aborted for the rape/crime of the father? It is the perpetrator alone who should be held accountable so that justice is done and mothers should be supported as much as possible by family, friends and society. We should all step in to help the victims.
The circumstance of one’s conception should not diminish the value of that innocent life to pay the penalty for a crime that life did not commit. I am reminded of an old biblical passage in the book of Ezekiel: “A child should not suffer for the sins of the father.” I think most would agree with this statement.
If I think about people who are unfortunately a product of rape, are their lives of equal value to my own? My natural response is to say “of course”, because I believe we have a shared inherent worth from God. Now surely no one would be justified in saying it would be excusable for them not to exist because of the circumstance of their birth? Whether that be rape, incest or being born into the “wrong” ethnicity or culture. Surely the circumstance of your birth does not define the value of your life?
Justifying abortion because of rape assumes that because the child was conceived through criminal means, he or she now possesses less value or is dispensable if the mother does not want the child. Any child conceived, whether that be through rape, incest or in marriage, has the same worth as every other child.
A while back I listened to a woman who opened up about her experience. She was raped, became pregnant, struggled with the idea of abortion, and in the end gave birth to her child. “A beautiful boy,” she proclaimed, that despite the awful circumstance of his birth, “he is first and foremost my son.” What an incredible response to such an awful situation.
What if I have had an abortion?
I understand some of the language I have used throughout this essay has been direct and blunt. My intention is not to condemn those who have had an abortion, since I’m no better off, but to convince those considering abortion not to, and to encourage a culture which will stand against it.
The fact is that no one can revert the past, and no one has had a perfect past. We are all guilty of breaking moral boundaries – I am, you are – so it would be hypocritical to reject those who have previously carried out an abortion. The blame for abortion also lies at the feet of all of us who are part of a society that separates sex from commitment, creates an ecosystem of unplanned pregnancy, and fails to support women who find themselves in that situation. I have never seen rejection, hatred or condemnation change anyone’s mind. Never.
The reality is, it’s common for the men in the situation to pressurise their partner to abort, or to cowardly leave their partner once they discover they are pregnant. It’s not just women – men are also responsible. For a woman who is pregnant at a time not planned for, she can often feel incredibly vulnerable, anxious and even scared about what the future may hold. These feelings can be incredibly powerful and convincing in tempting a woman to choose abortion, so we must assist with gentleness, care and compassion if we are to help someone in this matter.
I long for a more radical feminism that supports women to be mothers and spurns men for their oppressive irresponsibility to think they can just leave women abandoned to make this ‘choice’ alone.
If you have committed abortion or encouraged someone to do so, then be sorrowful about it. It was wrong. Abortion is murder. Be remorseful and seek God. The omnipotent, all-wise, all-holy, all-just, all-good, all-governing God is the Father of all who come to Jesus. He is a God of deep mercy who forgives all who come to him with a sincere and regretful heart. God has the grace to wipe your slate clean and detach you from your past immorality. Jesus did that for me. If you trust in Him then he has also done it for you.
“Only women can talk about abortion!”
It’s time to speak out against abortion. It isn’t right. Children in the womb today are innocent of any crime deserving death. Their blood is being poured out at the altar of convenience in the most gruesome procedures of dismemberment.
Now I can already hear the counterclaim – “only women can talk about abortion.” Really? If that’s true then do you also agree with the decision to do away with Roe V. Wade – since that was established by seven men.
It is an injustice even if the person speaking against it cannot carry a child. You don’t have to experience rape to argue that rape is wrong. You don’t have to be a husband to know that husbands should not harm their wives. Someone does not have to bear a child to know that killing children is wrong. When people make the statement that only women have the right to talk about this, they are targeting the argument at the individual rather than at the content of what they are saying. Yes, this is a personal subject, and it’s also a moral one.
Abortion is violent
It’s time to call abortion out for what it is. We too often justify the crime by pointing to another crime, all the while ignoring the victim. Violence is being committed in the name of ‘healthcare’.
Now I recently read that violence is on the decline, but the more I think about abortion the less I’m sure that’s true. The dictionary definition of violence as “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill”, doesn’t cover all bases since attitudes, institutions, laws and judgements may all be violent. Physical force is not a necessary condition for defining violence, for example, the threat of violence is often just as effective in compelling behaviour as its administration. Violence is not expressed by any obvious criteria. An act may be violent in degrees, or it may be violent in effect; violence may be obvious or disguised; it may be overt or subtle; it may be confined, regulated, sealed off or explicit; it may be irrational, careless; verbal or hidden. There is nothing obvious that clearly defines violence.
It is difficult to look at the twentieth century with ease; it was bloody. Very bloody. Two hundred and thirty-one million died violent deaths in the twentieth century: shot, gassed, worked to death, experimented on, deliberately abandoned to famines, bombed, invaded by foreign armies, sent over violent borders… Taken across history, the murder of the twentieth century is an unmissable spike in the violence of mankind, the Holocaust and the Gulag being quick examples.
Violence is not on the decline, quite the opposite, and it’s not hard to see why. No matter how remote or distant, great crimes still have the power to influence the future and no punishment has ever been able to prevent the committing of crimes. History reveals that regardless of the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could ever have been.
Violence is on the rise.
In the middle ages, people fought with swords and acts of violence were gruesome. Reaching into the twentieth century, nation rose against nation and violence was displayed with guns and gas ovens. Genocide was the new homicide, mass murder the new murder. Today life is killed where it should be safest – its mother’s womb. Freedom to kill for personal convenience is the new ‘moral right’. The moral madness we live in is this – the killing of millions in the name of individual rights is ‘okay’, so long as humanity declares it so.
In the early 20th century Nazis justified the extermination of Jews according to the circumstances of their birth by diminishing their humanity. We have declared ourselves gods who can decide human worth, and with it, we are more violent though more subtle than ever before. Abortion speaks for itself: over 1.5 billion aborted and unwanted children. Society is truly more savage than the middle ages.
Abortion is violent. The worst part is that we are numb to it; we poorly discern the difference between right and wrong. A law forbidding abortion does not create problems, rather, it seeks to avoid false “solutions” to problems. I once heard someone argue that abortion is OK because the world is overpopulated. Well, first of all, it’s not so clear to me that the world is overpopulated, given that our societies are facing the problem of underpopulation. But even if it is, social problems should not be solved by shrinking the size of the society through extermination, that’s called genocide.
The philosophy that attempts to justify abortion stems from an atheistic framework. Without a transcendent context (God) we have no ultimate meaning or purpose from which to derive any intrinsic value. If life has no inherent value then we, as humanity, imperfect and finite, can without any objective stance decide what is and isn’t worthy or regarded as life. With the denial of God on the rise, the sacredness of life is dismissed, and the logical consequence means the ultimate denunciation of what it means to be human. So what will stop the degeneration into further moral relativism? Interestingly, I cannot have my own law of gravity, but it seems a person can have their own law of morality. In the end, the law of gravity will hold as we see humanity in a free fall, and the laws of morality will be proven in the process.
If, however, it is true that irrespective of the circumstances of our conception every one of us was created by God then God’s purpose and love for us confer equal value on every human life. Thus life has inherent value and if life has inherent value then human rights are justified, equality is a must and discrimination is unlawful. Within the Christian worldview, I ought to acknowledge the inherent worth given to every other human being. Money and things are economic and social quantities; a person is a spiritual entity. From this intrinsic worth we see a reflective splendour. The inherent value we have as humans gives us both general and particular worth.
Let me leave you with a final thought, referring back to the underlying question we asked earlier: What is it about a human person that is equally true of every other human person and can never be lost, and therefore can justify the equal value of every person and universality and inalienability of human rights?
The love of God and the fact that we’re made in His image.
God’s love is the one thing that is equal for every single person. God created us in order to love us. He created us with a purpose – to be His image-bearers in the world, expressing this same love to others. This is what makes human life undeniably precious and worthy of protection. The measure of human value is personal – measured by the value-conferring love of a personal God. As the biblical writer John put it – “for God so loved the world, he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In the Christian worldview, the measure of human value is not biological, intellectual, financial, aesthetic, or even someone else’s desire, circumstance or view. Life’s worth does not come from the limited perspective of a changing world but from an eternal God who so loved the world that he gave his own likeness, Jesus Christ, to pay the judgement for our moral imperfection so that we have the right to become children of God. And He will never abort one of His own.