Tag Archives: Unborn Child

If unborn babies don’t have consciousness or don’t feel pain, may we kill them?

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics
Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Was having a conversation by e-mail yesterday with a pro-abortion atheist, and he gave two reasons why he supported abortion in the first and second trimester. First, he said that unborn babies can’t feel pain, so it’s OK to kill them. Second, he said that unborn babies don’t have consciousness, so it’s OK to kill them. I thought it might be useful to link to something that answers both of these objections.

Frank Beckwith is the author of “Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice“. He wrote that book for Cambridge University Press, a top academic press. But before Cambridge University Press, Beckwith wrote four easy-to-understand essays for the Christian Research Journal. Part IV is the one that has the response to the two questions raised by my atheist friend.

Part I. The Appeal to Pity

Part II. Arguments from Pity, Tolerance, and Ad Hominem

Part III. Is The Unborn Human Less Than Human?

Part IV. When Does a Human Become a Person?


Some ethicists argue that the unborn becomes fully human sometime after brain development has begun, when it becomes sentient: capable of experiencing sensations such as pain. The reason for choosing sentience as the criterion is that a being that cannot experience anything (i.e., a presentient unborn entity) cannot be harmed. Of course, if this position is correct, then the unborn becomes fully human probably during the second trimester and at least by the third trimester. Therefore, one does not violate anyone’s rights when one aborts a nonsentient unborn entity. [13]

There are several problems with this argument. First, it confuses harm with hurt and the experience of harm with the reality of harm. [14] One can be harmed without experiencing the hurt that sometimes follows from that harm, and which we often mistake for the harm itself. For example, a temporarily comatose person who is suffocated to death “experiences no harm,” but he is nevertheless harmed. Hence, one does not have to experience harm, which is sometimes manifested in hurt, in order to be truly harmed.

Second, if sentience is the criterion of full humanness, then the reversibly comatose, the momentarily unconscious, and the sleeping would all have to be declared nonpersons. Like the presentient unborn, these individuals are all at the moment nonsentient though they have the natural inherent capacity to be sentient. Yet to countenance their executions would be morally reprehensible. Therefore, one cannot countenance the execution of some unborn entities simply because they are not currently sentient.

Someone may reply that while these objections make important points, there is a problem of false analogy in the second objection: the reversibly comatose, the momentarily unconscious, and the sleeping once functioned as sentient beings, though they are now in a temporary state of nonsentience. The presentient unborn, on the other hand, were never sentient. Hence, one is fully human if one was sentient “in the past” and will probably become sentient again in the future, but this cannot be said of the presentient unborn.

There are at least three problems with this response. First, to claim that a person can be sentient, become nonsentient, and then return to sentience is to assume there is some underlying personal unity to this individual that enables us to say that the person who has returned to sentience is the same person who was sentient prior to becoming nonsentient. But this would mean that sentience is not a necessary condition for personhood. (Neither is it a sufficient condition, for that matter, since nonhuman animals are sentient.) Consequently, it does not make sense to say that a person comes into existence when sentience arises, but it does make sense to say that a fully human entity is a person who has the natural inherent capacity to give rise to sentience. A presentient unborn human entity does have this capacity. Therefore, an ordinary unborn human entity is a person, and hence, fully human.

Second, Ray points out that this attempt to exclude many of the unborn from the class of the fully human is “ad hoc and counterintuitive.” He asks us to “consider the treatment of comatose patients. We would not discriminate against one merely for rarely or never having been sentient in the past while another otherwise comparable patient had been sentient….In such cases, potential counts for everything.” [15]

Third, why should sentience “in the past” be the decisive factor in deciding whether an entity is fully human when the presentient human being “is one with a natural, inherent capacity for performing personal acts?” [16] Since we have already seen that one does not have to experience harm in order to be harmed, it seems more consistent with our moral sensibilities to assert that what makes it wrong to kill the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, the momentarily unconscious, and the presentient unborn is that they all possess the natural inherent capacity to perform personal acts. And what makes it morally right to kill plants and to pull the plug on the respirator-dependent brain dead, who were sentient “in the past,” is that their deaths cannot deprive them of their natural inherent capacity to function as persons, since they do not possess such a capacity.

These four essays are a very good introduction to common responses to pro-abortion arguments. I recommend that people get familiar with this, as once you look into it, you will see that the abortion issue can be debated with as much confidence as William Lane Craig defends Christian theism. You will have the same access to scientific evidence and rational arguments on this topic, and so you will have the upper hand. And that’s fun.

The best introductory book on the abortion / right to life issue is “The Case for Life” by pro-life debater Scott Klusendorf. The best comprehensive book is a tie between “The Ethics of Abortion” by Christopher Kaczor, and Frank Beckwith’s “Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice“.

Scott Klusendorf defends the pro-life view on the Unbelievable radio show

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve of incrementalism
I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve of this debate

Here are the details:

The abortion debate reared its head again this summer after controversial tweets by Richard Dawkins made the news.

Justin hosts a discussion between Mara Clarke of the Abortion Support Network and Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Instititute. Mara believes women need to be decide whether to terminate a pregnancy, but Scott says that all depends on whether we are dealing with a human life in the womb.

MP3 of this show: http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/p/618072/sp/61807200/playManifest/entryId/1_ggc953xi/flavorId/1_vto2eisb/protocol/http/format/url/a.mp3?clientTag=feed:1_jlj47tkv

My snarky paraphrase of the debate (not exact):

  • Speaker introductions
  • Klusendorf: no justification for abortion is necessary if the unborn are not human
  • Klusendorf: we need to address the issue “what is the unborn?” Are the unborn human?
  • Klusendorf: SLED: size, level of development, environment, degree of dependency
  • Klusendorf: None of these things affect the value of a human being
  • Klusendorf: Even if we don’t KNOW whether the unborn is human
  • Mara: I’m not going to debate when life begins
  • Mara: Women know when life begins by feelings
  • Mara: The moral decision is “whether I can take care of this child?”
  • Brierley: When is an unborn being human?
  • Mara: I refuse to debate that – the real question is whether women want their babies or not
  • Mara: Forced pregnancy is not OK
  • Brierley: Could your justification for abortion (not wanting to care for a child) work through all 9 months?
  • Mara: Late term abortions are rare, so I don’t have to answer that question
  • Mara: Abortion should be OK through all 9 months of pregnancy because women cannot be restricted
  • Mara: Some women are poor, they need to be able to kill expensive babies at any time
  • Klusendorf: although she says she won’t debate the unborn, she does take a position
  • Klusendorf: she assumes the unborn is not human, because she says that insufficient funds is justification for abortion
  • Klusendorf: no one argues that you can kill a two year old because they cost money, because she thinks they are human
  • Klusendorf: she is begging the question by assuming the unborn are not human, but that is the issue we must resolve
  • Klusendorf: I am pro-choice on many other things, e.g. women choosing their own husbands, religion, etc.
  • Klusendorf: Some choices are wrong – Mara might be right, but she needs to make the case for the unborn not being human
  • Brierley: What is your reason for thinking that an unborn child is different from a 2-year old?
  • Mara: An unborn child is not the same as a 2-year old, in my personal opinion
  • Mara: I am not a debater, so I don’t have to provide reasoning for my assertion, I just feel it
  • Mara: Not everybody agrees with Scott, they don’t have to have a rational argument, they just need to feel differently
  • Mara: From my experience, when a woman doesn’t want to be pregnant, then she should be able to not be pregnant
  • Mara: Women shouldn’t be punished with a baby that she doesn’t want, even if she chooses to have recreational sex
  • Brierley: What do you think of women who think the unborn is human and do it anyway?
  • Klusendorf: It’s interesting that they never kill their toddlers for those reasons
  • Klusendorf: I layed out scientific and philosophical reasons for the humanity of the unborn
  • Klusendorf: Her response was “but some people disagree with you”
  • Klusendorf: People disagreed about whether slavery was wrong, or whether women should be able to vote
  • Klusendorf: that doesn’t mean there is no right answer – the right answer depends on the arguments
  • Klusendorf: if absence of agreement makes a view false, then it makes HER pro-choice view false as well
  • Klusendorf: she did make an argument for the unborn child having no rights because of the location
  • Klusendorf: she needs to explain to us why location matters – what about location confers value
  • Mara: I’m not going to let Scott frame my debate for me!!!
  • Mara: women get pregnant and they don’t want their babies! should we put them in jail!!!!
  • Klusendorf: I didn’t just give my opinion, I had science and philosophy, the issue is “what is the unborn?”
  • Mara: philosophical and scientific debates are unimportant, I am an expert in real women’s lives
  • Klusendorf: Which women? Women in the womb or only those outside the womb?
  • Mara: Only those outside the womb
  • Klusendorf: Only those outside the womb?
  • Mara: Women living outside the womb have a right to kill women inside the womb – women have bodily autonomy
  • Klusendorf: then does a pregnant woman with nausea have a right to take a drug for it that will harm her unborn child?
  • Mara: Unborn children are only valuable if they are wanted, unborn children only deserve protection if they are wanted
  • Mara: There are restrictions on abortion – you can’t get an abortion through all nine months in the US
  • Mara: There is a 24-week limit in the UK as well
  • Klusendorf: There are no restrictions on abortion that conflict with “a woman’s health” because Supreme Court said
  • Mara: where are these late term abortion clinics?
  • Klusendorf: (he names two)
  • Mara: that’s not enough!!! we need more! where is there one in Pennsylvania?
  • Klusendorf: well, there used to be Gosnell’s clinic in Pennsylvania, and you could even get an infanticide there….
  • Brierley: What about Dawkins’ view that it is moral to abort Down’s Syndrome babies?
  • Klusendorf: he is ignoring the scientific case and philosophical case for the pro-life
  • Klusendorf: the pro-life view is a true basis for human equality

What I wanted Scott to ask was whether sex-selection abortions were OK with her. Since her reasoning is “if it’s unwanted, it has no rights”, then that would mean sex-selection abortions are just fine. That’s what a UK abortion expert recently argued. And I also posted recently about how sex-selection abortions are not prosecuted in the UK. If you’re looking for a war on women, there it is.

Planned Parenthood executive admits abortion victim is a baby in fourth video

Planned Parenthood's Dr. Savita Yeshawant Ginde says:
Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Savita Yeshawant Ginde says: “it’s a baby”

WARNING: The following video contains mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.

The fourth Planned Parenthood sting video is out, and it’s the most serious one yet.

Anika Smith writes about it at The Stream:

For the second time in a week, the Center for Medical Progress has a new video up featuring undercover footage inside Planned Parenthood.

[…]The setup is a meeting with Dr. Ginde, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains’ Vice President and Medical Director. Her Planned Parenthood affiliate does over 10,000 abortions a year and has a contract to supply fetal body parts to Colorado State University.

[…]The smoking gun in this video is this statement by Ginde:

Sometimes, if we get, if someone delivers before we get to see them for a procedure, then we are intact.

“Delivers before” means these children are potentially born-alive infants. According to the Center for Medical Progress:

Since PPRM does not use digoxin or other feticide in its 2nd trimester procedures, any intact deliveries before an abortion are potentially born-alive infants under federal law (1 USC 8).

So that would be infanticide then, not mere abortion.

Don’t “get caught” doing this:

[…]Ginde also suggests ways for Planned Parenthood to cover up its sale of aborted body parts. “Putting it under ‘research’ gives us a little bit of an overhang over the whole thing,” Ginde remarks. “If you have someone in a really anti state who’s going to be doing this for you, they’re probably going to get caught.”

With a good lawyer, you won’t get caught:

At one point Ginde seems to suggest that PPRM’s lawyer, Kevin Paul, is helping the affiliate skirt the fetal tissue law: “He’s got it figured out that he knows that even if, because we talked to him in the beginning, you know, we were like, ‘We don’t want to get called on,’ you know, ‘selling fetal parts across states.’” The buyers ask, “And you feel confident that they’re building those layers?” to which Ginde replies, “I’m confident that our Legal will make sure we’re not put in that situation.”

It’s a baby?

The video also features footage inside the lab. It is hard to watch, and many readers will find it disturbing. At one point, there’s a cracking sound of an aborted fetus’s skull, and Dr. Ginde says, “It’s a baby,” as she points out the heart and kidneys and explains that a per-item pricing system is best for them.

It’s a baby boy:

Dr. Ginde and her medical assistants pull out tiny eyeballs, heart, kidneys, stomach and identify the child at the end as “another boy!”

Hmmm. I thought that the Planned Parenthood story we were being told was that this was just “medical tissue”. It’s just a clump of cells, that’s what the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media tell me. But that’s not what I see in this video. I see people saying “it’s a baby” and “another boy”.

It was a baby boy, and he had a life ahead of him. Maybe he would have gone to school and studied computer science, like me. Maybe he would have cared for his siblings. Maybe he would have met a girl and got married and provided for her. Maybe he would have become a father himself. Maybe, maybe, maybe. It’s never going to happen now, because he’s dead. They killed him. They took away his whole future so that they could have more money for themselves in their present. No one was there to protect him. Not even his own mother wanted to protect him.

Rachel Alexander has a list of “admissions of guilt” in the video in an article up at The Stream. If you are trying to make sense of what this video means, you should read this post.

She concludes:

This fourth video alone provides more than enough evidence that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal body parts not merely to cover costs but for profit, a violation of 42 U.S. Code 289g. It also reveals that when Planned Parenthood  calls their organ harvesting work “research,” this is at least sometimes mere pretense.

Its defenders and friends in the media dutifully repeat those words whenever anyone objects to funding Planned Parenthood. This video will make this ruse much harder to pull off.

If you want to read a good article that summarizes everything that happened this week with these videos, then check out this article from The Federalist by Mollie Hemingway.

Her list:

  1. Injunction On Release Of Potential Upcoming Video
  2. Crisis Communications Firm Helping Planned Parenthood
  3. Planned Parenthood Claims Web Site Attacked, But Was It?
  4. Media Very Interested In Cecil The Lion, But Not Cecile The President Of Planned Parenthood
  5. Hillary Clinton Says Videos Are ‘Disturbing’
  6. Planned Parenthood Poll Mocked
  7. Planned Parenthood Fails To Show Up To Texas Hearing
  8. Trouble for Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood
  9. #UnplannedParenthood hashtag
  10. Planned Parenthood Mammogram Falsehood Resurrected

One last thing. You’ll recall that our glorious President Barack Obama voted multiple times against a bill that would require doctors to care for babies who were born alive during abortions. So where do you think he stands on “intact” fetuses? And this is the man who so many “pro-life” voters voted for twice in a row. When you meet someone who votes Democrat, you are look at someone who supports everything you see Planned Parenthood doing in these videos. I have been talking to some Democrats about this, and they cannot even look me in the eyes. Make sure you know what you are doing when you cast your vote in elections. You will have to answer for it on that day.

Governor Scott Walker signs ban on pain-capable abortions

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve of incrementalism
I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve of incrementalism

Good news from Life News.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, signed a bill today barring abortions on unborn babies capable of feeling pain.

“For people, regardless of where they might stand, when an unborn child can feel pain I think most people feel it’s appropriate to protect that child,” the governor said.

A child’s ability to feel pain constitutes a “reasonable standard” for the state to offer protection.

“At five months, that’s the time when that unborn child can feel pain,” he added. “When an unborn child can feel pain, we should be protecting that child.”

The measure would disallow abortions after 20 weeks except to save the mother’s life or if she would suffer major, irreparable physical harm within the next 24 hours.

Abortions outside that criteria would be classified as felonies carrying a maximum sentence of three-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The parents of children aborted after that point can also sue abortionists for damages under the terms of the law.

It contains no exceptions for rape or incest — something that caused Democratic Party spokeswoman Kaylie Hanson to brand it “radical, dangerous, and lacks respect for half the population of Wisconsin.”

Oh well, too bad for the Democrats in Wisconsin.

I thought I would tell a bit about what a baby is like at 20 weeks, so we can put Democrat opposition to a ban on pain-capable abortion in perspective:

You are 20 weeks pregnant. (fetal age 18 weeks)

  • Baby now weighs about 11 ounces and is roughly 7 inches long.
  • Baby is 17 cm long crown to rump, and weighs about 310 grams.
  • The baby can hear and recognize the mother’s voice.
  • The mother will probably start feeling the first fetal movements.
  • The toenails and fingernails are growing.
  • The growth of hair on the rest of the body has started.
  • The skin is getting thicker.
  • The heart can now be heard with a stethoscope.

Your baby may react to loud sounds. Baby can actually hear noises outside of the womb. Familiar voices, music, and sounds that baby becomes accustomed to during their development stages often are calming after birth. This is an important time for sensory development since nerve cells serving each of the senses; taste, smell, hearing, sight, and touch are now developing into their specialized area of the brain.

Your baby now weighs about 11 ounces and at roughly 7 inches long they are filling up more and more of the womb. Though still small and fragile, the baby is growing rapidly and could possibly survive if born at this stage.

The Life News article noted that about a dozen states also banned abortions when the unborn child can feel pain. Makes you wonder about the states that don’t.

Clinton-appointed judge rules that pro-life license plates are “patently offensive”

New York pro-life license plate
New York pro-life license plate

Here’s an interesting story from The Daily Caller. (H/T Mary from Marin)

It says:

A new decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals holds that New York’s state government has the right to ban “Choose Life” license plates on the grounds that such a statement is “patently offensive.”

The dispute stems from a now-suspended program offered by New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) which allowed private organizations to create custom license plates. If drivers purchased the plates, the purchasing price was split between the DMV and the non-profit.

The Children First Foundation (CFF), an organization promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion, submitted a design for a “Choose Life” license plate, which featured a drawing of two children’s faces in front of a yellow sun.

The proposed plate was rejected, with the DMV citing a policy that allows it to ban “patently offensive” plates in order to prevent incidents of road rage. The “patently offensive” category in U.S. speech is typically related to public obscenity laws, and allows for limitations on things like the public display of pornography or other materials that blatantly violate community standards.

Judge Rosemary Pooler, a Clinton appointee, agreed with New York’s position in her majority opinion. She took this view even though she also ruled that license plates are private speech subject to First Amendment protections. Despite these protections, however, she said that so many New Yorkers could find a plate advocating an anti-abortion position “patently offensive” that the DMV was justified in suppressing the speech.

I want to focus in on the life of the judge who made the decision.

I found her biography on Wikipedia. Look at how successful she was:

Rosemary Pooler was born in New York City. She earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1959, an M.A. from the University of Connecticut, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

Following graduation from law school, Pooler entered private law practice in Syracuse, New York. In 1972, she was appointed as Director of the Consumer Affairs Unit in the Syracuse Corporation Counsel’s Office, serving in that post for a year. From 1974 to 1975, she served on the Syracuse City Council. In 1975, she was appointed as Chairman of the New York State Consumer Protection Board, serving until 1980. The following year, she was appointed to the state Public Service Commission. In 1987, she served as a committee staff member for the New York State Assembly. Following a stint on the law faculty at Syracuse University College of Law, she served for a year as Vice President of Legal Affairs at the Atlantic States Legal Foundation.

In 1986, Rosemary Pooler decided to run for the United States House of Representatives. She challenged conservative Republican incumbent George C. Wortley, who was seeking a fourth term. She campaigned aggressively and came within less than 1,000 votes of winning.

In 1990, she was elected as a Justice for the Fifth Judicial District of the Supreme Court of New York. Four years later, she was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton, serving from 1994 to 1998, as federal district judge in the Northern District of New York. She received her current appointment as a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998.

So, this license plate case, along with many of the other issues that I blog about, is the problem. What is the solution to all these problems? The solution is for us as Christians to get serious about our education, our work experience, our earning and saving, and our marriages and parenting in order to have an influence. We need to be the judges who make these decisions about whether pro-life license plates are legal or illegal. Failing that, our children need to be the judges. And that means that when it comes to education and career, instead of doing what makes us feel happy we have to work hard at having an influence. And when it comes to marriage, we should look at it less as something that is feelings-directed and happiness-focused, and more about making it serve God by raising influential, effective children.