Tag Archives: Pro-Life

Abortion debate: a secular case against legalized abortion

Unborn baby scheming about being only two months old
Unborn baby scheming about being only two months old

Note: this post has a twin! Its companion post on a secular case against gay marriage is here.

Now, you may think that the view that the unborn deserve protection during pregnancy is something that you either take on faith or not. But I want to explain how you can make a case for the right to life of the unborn, just by using reason and evidence.

To defend the pro-life position, I think you need to sustain 3 arguments:

  1. The unborn is a living being with human DNA, and is therefore human.
  2. There is no morally-relevant difference between an unborn baby, and one already born.
  3. None of the justifications given for terminating an unborn baby are morally adequate.

Now, the pro-abortion debater may object to point 1, perhaps by claiming that the unborn baby is either not living, or not human, or not distinct from the mother.

Defending point 1: Well, it is pretty obvious that the unborn child is not inanimate matter. It is definitely living and growing through all 9 months of pregnancy. (Click here for a video that shows what a baby looks like through all 9 months of pregnancy). Since it has human DNA, that makes it a human. And its DNA is different from either its mother or father, so it clearly not just a tissue growth of the father or the mother. More on this point at Christian Cadre, here. An unborn child cannot be the woman’s own body, because then the woman would have four arms, four legs, two heads, four eyes and two different DNA signatures. When you have two different human DNA signatures, you have two different humans.

Secondly, the pro-abortion debater may try to identify a characteristic of the unborn that is not yet present or developed while it is still in the womb, and then argue that because the unborn does not have that characteristic, it does not deserve the protection of the law.

Defending point 2: You need to show that the unborn are not different from the already-born in any meaningful way. The main differences between them are: size, level of development, environment and degree of dependence. Once these characteristics are identified, you can explain that none of these differences provide moral justification for terminating a life. For example, babies inside and outside the womb have the same value, because location does not change a human’s intrinsic value.

Additionally, the pro-abortion debater may try to identify a characteristic of the already-born that is not yet present or developed in the unborn, and then argue that because the unborn does not have that characteristic, that it does not deserve protection, (e.g. – sentience). Most of the these objections that you may encounter are refuted in this essay by Francis Beckwith. Usually these objections fall apart because they assume the thing they are trying to prove, namely, that the unborn deserves less protection than the already born.

Finally, the pro-abortion debater may conceded your points 1 and 2, and admit that the unborn is fully human. But they may then try to provide a moral justification for terminating the life of the unborn, regardless.

Defending point 3: I fully grant that it is sometimes justifiable to terminate an innocent human life, if there is a moral justification. Is there such a justification for abortion? One of the best known attempts to justify abortion is Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “violinist” argument. This argument is summarized by Paul Manata, one of the experts over at Triablogue:

Briefly, this argument goes like this: Say a world-famous violinist developed a fatal kidney ailment and the Society of Music Lovers found that only you had the right blood-type to help. So, they therefore have you kidnapped and then attach you to the violinist’s circulatory system so that your kidneys can be used to extract the poison from his. To unplug yourself from the violinist would be to kill him; therefore, pro-lifers would say a person has to stay attached against her will to the violinist for 9 months. Thompson says that it would be morally virtuous to stay plugged-in. But she asks, “Do you have to?” She appeals to our intuitions and answers, “No.”

Manata then goes on to defeat Thomson’s proposal here, with a short, memorable illustration, which I highly recommend that you check out. More info on how to respond to similar arguments is here.

Here is the best book for beginners on the pro-life view.

For those looking for advanced resources, Francis Beckwith, a professor at Baylor University, published the book Defending Life, with Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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“, which was published by 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?

Excerpt:

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“.

Prominent Never-Trumper explains why he is voting for Trump/Pence in November

Donald Trump to speak at March for Life 2020
Donald Trump to speak at March for Life 2020

Around this time, the media loves to trumpet stories about prominent “Republicans” who have become disenchanted with the Republican nominee for president. But I think that Trump has done more than enough to ensure that exactly the opposite happens. Not only will he be seeing a lot of votes from former Never-Trumpers, he’ll be seeing a lot more votes from American-born blacks.

Let’s start with this column written by prominent pro-life debater Marc Newman.

He writes:

In 2016 I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump. I wrote about it. When people asked me about Trump vs. Clinton I responded, “You can’t trust either one of them.” When Trump claimed a pro-life platform, I didn’t believe he’d follow through.

[…]Forced now to reconsider, my conclusion is that Trump has been the most pro-life president in my lifetime – including Ronald Reagan, who said many of the right things but accomplished relatively little. In virtually every area – both in word and deed – Trump has delivered for his pro-life constituents and, by extension, to innumerable innocent human beings in the womb who otherwise would have died. Trump’s policy position has been to oppose legislation that attempts to advance abortion. Vice-President Mike Pence recently visited a pregnancy help clinic and, in 2019, addressed the March for Life. In 2020, Trump became the first president in U.S. history to address the March for Life – not via video, but in person. Trump’s administration stood against the United Nation’s move to promote abortion.

Though Trump did not completely defund Planned Parenthood, he allowed states to remove $60 million in Title X funding and Planned Parenthood’s access to Medicaid money. While this figure represents only about 10% of the annual federal funding for the world’s most notorious member of the abortion industry, given the chance, I believe Trump would entirely defund Planned Parenthood. He simply needs a Republican House and enough brave Republican senators to forward the bill to his desk.

Previously, I blogged about how Susan B. Anthony List – a powerful pro-life advocacy group – had made a list of Trump’s pro-life actions. I can’t quote it here, it’s too long!

This one was my favorite, though:

In May 2019, the Trump administration finalized new regulations to strengthen enforcement of federal laws protecting the conscience rights of health care workers who do not want to participate in abortion. The regulations clarify what recourse is available to victims of discrimination under the law and what penalties the HHS Office of Civil Rights may enforce for violations. Additionally, in January 2018, the Department of Health & Human Services announced the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Office for Civil Rights. This new office works to protect health care professionals who do not want to participate in abortion. In May, 2019, HHS issued a proposed rule amending Obama-era regulations, clarifying that Section 1557 shall not force a recipient of federal funding to provide or pay for an abortion. It shall also be consistent with the First Amendment and with pro-life provisions, conscience provisions and religious liberty protections in current law.

I can’t stand secular leftist fascists coercing people of conscience.

That’s not the only reason to vote for Trump/Pence in November, though. My favorite theologian Dr. Wayne Grudem had an article at Townhall, where he was explaining how he was going to vote for Trump/Pence in November, strictly on policy achievements.

He writes:

A few months ago, while the impeachment trial was going on, a younger faculty colleague asked me at lunch, “What would Trump have to do to make you stop supporting him?” My response was something like this: “I would stop supporting him if he began to favor higher taxes, more government regulation, a weaker military, open borders, judges who believed in a “living Constitution,” extended abortion rights, restrictions on freedom of religion, hostility toward Israel…” I didn’t finish the list because he said, “Okay, the question for you is policies. I get it.”

[…]The question now facing the nation is not, “Does Donald Trump have an exemplary moral character?” or,  “Does Donald Trump have flaws?” or even, “Do I like Donald Trump?” The question is, “Which of two package deals is better for the nation?”

(a) Donald Trump and Republican policies or

(b) Joe Biden and Democratic policies?

There are no other choices. The nation will either have the option (a) or option (b) as a whole package for at least the next four years, and probably longer. If I withhold support from Trump, that makes it easier for Biden to win, and thereby for Democratic policies to bring (in my opinion) great destructiveness to the nation (more specifics below.)

Yeah, and the issue for any thinking human being is the policies – specifically, the policies of the only two live options for President fo the United States. Are Trump/Pence policies good for Christians and conservatives to achieve their goals? And do they promote the public good, and protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority?

Americans are being distracted by the mainstream news media to focus on whether they like Trump/Pence more than Biden/Harris. Many Americans rely on TV for their news, and they aren’t looking at policies or achievements or demonstrated abilities. This is especially true of voters who rely more on impressions, appearances, spritual mysticism and emotions – low-information voters. But elections are not popularity contests. America is the guardian of freedom for the whole world – we can’t afford to elect someone who pushes bad policies that don’t achieve results.

I don’t see how anyone could deny that the policies of Trump/Pence have been good, and that the policies of Biden/Harris would be disastrous for conservatives, Christians and America.