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?

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“.

Mississippi Republican governor signs ban on dismemberment abortions

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this study
I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this law

Great news from Life News about another pro-life measure signed into law by a Republican governor.

Excerpt:

Mississippi is the latest state to approve legislation that would ban dismemberment abortions tearing unborn babies limb from limb. Today, pro-life Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law.

House Bill 519 authored by Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb had overwhelming support in the legislature passing the House on a vote of 85-32 and in the Senate 40-6.

Dismemberment abortion, performed on a fully-formed, living unborn baby, is a barbaric and dangerous procedure in which the unborn child is literally ripped apart in the womb and pulled out in pieces. The law embodies model legislation from the National Right to Life Committee that would ban “dismemberment abortion,” using forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a living unborn baby to remove him or her from the womb in pieces. Such instruments are used in dilation and evacuation procedures.

[…]“Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb,” said National Right to Life Director of State Legislation Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D. “Before the first trimester ends, the unborn child has a beating heart, brain waves, and every organ system in place. Dismemberment abortions occur after the baby has reached these milestones.”

[…]“When abortion textbooks describe in cold, explicit detail exactly how to kill a human being by ripping off arms and legs piece by piece, civilized members of society have no choice but to stand up and demand a change,” added Spaulding Balch. “When you think it can’t be uglier, the abortion industry continues to shock with violent methods of abortion.”

I read a couple of mainstream news articles (e.g. – ABC News) about this story, and they basically read like they were written by Planned Parenthood. Everything about the woman, and nothing about the unborn baby. So, I always end up linking to Life News instead of the mainstream media, at least there, they talk about the issue considering the unborn child and the mother.

I don’t think that it’s normal or natural to be tearing unborn humans up with instruments because we don’t want responsibility for our actions. If you consent the the actions that result in conception, you have to take responsibility for what you’ve done. You can’t commit murder in order to get out of it. You have to think of that unborn person above yourself. Our laws should protect that unborn person, and Mississippi did the right thing.

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.

Republican governors signing pro-life legislation in several states

I'm Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve this study
I’m Scheming Unborn Baby, and I approve of red state legislatures and governors

For the rest of Easter weekend, I have scheduled 5 posts on the resurrection. But this post is all about the wonderful pro-life legislation that our Republican governors and legislatures are enacting into law in red states.

Let’s start with something from last month, with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.

Life Site News reports:

Kentucky governor Matt Bevin promised to make pro-life issues a top priority, and Tuesday he made good on his promise.

Matt Bevin signed an informed consent bill requiring that biological facts and medical information be given to mothers in person or by real-time video at least 24 hours before an abortion.

“The overwhelming support for Senate Bill 4 in the Kentucky legislature is a positive step toward protecting the emotional and physical health and safety of women,” Bevin said in a statement before signing the bill.

Bill supporters say the reason the bill was necessary is because many abortionists circumvent the law by having mothers listen to a prerecorded message over the phone.

[…]Gov. Bevin chose this as the very first bill he signed into law. He put his signature to it as soon as legislators delivered it to him. The bill informing mothers of the medical and biological facts related to gestation and abortion becomes the Bluegrass State’s first new pro-life law in twelve years.

Pro-life legislation was previously roadblocked by the Democrat-controlled state House.

Here’s one from earlier this month, from South Dakota Governor Dennis Gaugaard.

Life News reports:

South Dakota just became the next state to protect unborn babies from painful, late-term abortions.

On Thursday, Gov. Dennis Gaugaard signed into law a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks and penalize doctors who do late-term abortions in non-emergency situations, the Argus Leader reports. Penalties for violations of the law include up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, according to the report. The only exceptions would be in certain medical emergency cases, the report states.

[…]The state House passed the pro-life measure last week, LifeNews reported.

South Dakota has one abortion clinic left, a Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls that does abortions up to 14 weeks; however, the new bill would ensure that later abortions will not be done in the future in the state. More than 18,000 very late-term abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America.

[…]The bill is modeled after the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has become law in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The next one is from Indiana, where pro-life Governor Mike Pence signed a pro-life bill into law this week. This bill will prevent abortions of babies who are the “wrong sex”, the “wrong race”, or who have disabilities such as Down syndrome.

Life News reports:

Indiana has become the second state in the nation, following North Dakota, to ban abortions on babies who are diagnosed in the womb as having Down syndrome. Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill today to protect unborn babies from being aborted simply because of a disability, race or sex.

Pence signed House Bill 1337, which would ban abortion doctors from knowingly aborting an unborn baby solely because of a genetic disability such as Down syndrome, the unborn baby’s race or sex. The bill also has several other abortion-related measures, including a requirement that aborted or miscarried babies’ bodies be cremated or buried and another requirement that abortionists who have hospital admitting privileges renew them annually. The burial/cremation requirement backs up a law passed in 2015 by Gov. Pence requiring that aborted babies’ bodies be disposed of in a humane way.

“Throughout my public career, I have stood for the sanctity of life. HEA 1337 is a comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life, which is why I signed it into law today,” Governor Pence said in a statement.

Pence continued: “I believe that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled and the unborn. HEA 1337 will ensure the dignified final treatment of the unborn and prohibits abortions that are based only on the unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin, ancestry, or disability, including Down syndrome.”

The next one concerns Arizona, where pro-life Governor Doug Ducey is set to sign three pro-life bills into law.

Life News reports:

Three pro-life bills are on their way through the Arizona legislature and soon could be on Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House gave preliminary approval to the bills, and a final vote is expected on Thursday, according to the Arizona Daily Star. The bills, already passed in the state Senate, would regulate the use of dangerous chemical abortion drugs, ban the trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts and remove abortion groups from the state employee charitable giving program.

Specifically, state Senate Bill 1324 would ban dangerous chemical abortions after the seventh week of pregnancy, as the drug label recommends. Abortion clinics often use the chemical abortion drug regimen RU-486 later in pregnancy and give smaller doses than recommended, likely in an effort to save money.

[…]The second bill, state Senate Bill 1474, would end the inhumane treatment of aborted babies’ bodies by abortion clinics and research facilities. Arizona state Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, introduced the bill earlier this year, saying she was “shocked” by the undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress showing top Planned Parenthood officials selling aborted babies’ body parts.

[…]The final bill, Arizona Senate Bill 1485, would ban abortion groups from the state employee charitable giving program. The ban is a continuation of a move last year by Gov. Ducey to kick out Planned Parenthood from the program.

[…]State legislators in the Senate also are considering a separate bill that would make it easier to defund the Planned Parenthood abortion business.

The fourth story is about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who recently endorsed Ted Cruz for President.

The Daily Wire reports:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is openly pro-life, will sign a bill into law that would ban killing babies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill, titled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was already passed by the South Dakota legislature on March 9; it has already been made law in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Nebraska was the first state to pass the law, in 2010.

Last September, Senate Democrats blocked the Senate’s version of the bill, as the vote was in favor, 54-42, but fell short of a 60-vote sum that would have prevented a filibuster. Ted Cruz voted for the bill while Bernie Sanders opposed the bill; Hillary Clinton has opposed the measure.

[…]In 2012, Haley signed the Opt Out of Abortion Act and the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act would protect unborn children who are born alive after a failed abortion but would be left to die afterward.

And finally, for those who like some religious liberty along with their defending the lives of unborn children, Campus Reform reports that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed into law a bill to protect the religious liberty of student groups on public university campuses.

It was a great week!

Scott Klusendorf debates an abortion advocate on the Unbelievable radio show

Scott Klusendorf, Life Training Institute
Scott Klusendorf, Life Training Institute

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.

The MP3 file is here.

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. It’s always a great idea to show your opponent where their positions really lead. Most of the people you talk about abortion with will not have been exposed to a pro-life case. You can help them to work through the issue.