Category Archives: Abortion
Several Days ago I hopped on to social media and posted the following to Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”:
This prompted a discussion with a gentleman I will refer to as “Nye Defender.” What resulted is what I believe is a helpful example of pro-life apologetics in action. My statements will appear in bold, when ND will appear in italics.
Nye Defender: Your point?
JT: I will not assume,, that you necessarily know of the recent video Mr. Nye posted claiming that those who claim that human life begins at conception “literally” have no idea what they are scientifically claiming. Placed in that context, the point above is clear. That human life begins at conception is an indisputable scientific and embryological fact. I have many such statements from a number of embryology textbooks to supplement this one if you are interested.
ND: Yes. I am quite aware of the video. He never said that am embryo was not the start of a human being. However, differentiating between the different stages of development is important. An embryo is a potential human being, but it is not yet one. These statements from these doctors do not refute anything Nye said in the video.
JT: An embryo is not a thing, it is a stage of development in the life of a thing, just as a toddler or teenager is not a thing but a stage of development. What is the thing? It is a human being. An embryo never “becomes” a human being. It is a human being at every level of development. It looks and acts just as any and every human being does at that stage. Also, please note that the quote I provided does address Nye’s claim in that fertilization begins a “human life,” not a potential human life.
ND: I never said it was a thing. An embryo is not a human being. It could not survive outside of the womb. This is why this is such a debate. There is much debate within the medical community and society as to what constitutes a human being. I support the idea that a human being does not exist until the stage of development where it could survive outside of the womb, generally the 3rd trimester. Until then, it is in various stages of development but is not fully a human being yet.
JT: Thank you for engaging in healthy discussion. It’s much more genuine, and less full of strawmen, than the words of Mr. Nye himself. You don’t strike me as an advocate of the “all pro-lifers are idiots” approach.
You touched upon a really important point when you write, “much debate within the medical community and society as to what constitutes a human being.” And your words highlight an important truth: the anthropological question of “What is a human?” is not a scientific question. It is in fact a philosophical/theological questions that presupposes a number of interrelated worldview questions. But that’s not to avoid the harder biological and scientific facts, but it is to acknowledge that other issues are at play.
And this is one of the things that I believe raises difficulties for your position. You stated, “I support the idea that a human being does not exist until the stage of development where it could survive outside of the womb, generally the 3rd trimester.” First, thank you for putting your cards on the table and making a concrete claim. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially compared to many abortion advocates who deny than human life begins at conception but refuse to say when it *does* start. Here is where I think the problem lies: defining human life in terms of viability 1) confuses biology with technology, and 2) proves too much.
I say that because viability, the ability for the fetus to survive outside of the mother’s body, is completely relative to technological advances in medicine. So the age of viability by that standard today would be different than the age of viability 30 years ago, and that would be different than 100 years before that, and therefore the answer to the question What is a human? Would keep changing. To make this point clear, it’s now strongly being argued that “Premature Babies May Survive at 22 Weeks if Treated” (see article attached).
[Incidently, this would also have the implication that you should considering opposing not only third trimester abortions, but also those in the second trimester (which lasts from week 13 to week 27).]
Another difficulty I would suggest you consider is that the viability of definition of human life proves too much. Why is that? Because newborn infants also cannot survive outside of the womb apart from outside sustenance. Would we be willing to deny their personhood based on that as well? If unborn babies inside the womb have no moral or legal standing based its ability to “survive” on their own outside of the womb, then neither should newborns babies outside of the womb.
My assumption is that you are *not* an advocate for infanticide.
ND: I don’t oppose anything when it is medically prudent for either the mother or the potential child. I support the right to choose. I do not believe the government, nor anyone else, has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body. It should be up to her, the potential father (in some cases), and the doctor(s). I do not have the right to make a woman carry to term and give birth. The government does not have that right either. I do not advocate for people to undergo these procedures, but to have the right to make the decision that is best for them once presented with all necessary information.
JT: Just wanting to make sure I’m understanding you: Are you saying that you do not oppose infanticide?
ND: I did not say that. I did not even address that point because it is not relevant to the conversation. You are talking about killing a child who has been born already. That is a different argument from the discussion on abortion.
JT: Please help me understand the relevant moral distinction.
ND: We are not talking about the morals, because that is an entirely different debate. You asked about infanticide. It cannot be infanticide until the child is born. So, obviously I do not support the killing for a baby who has already been born. Once born, we should do everything we can to ensure its survival and health.
Again, I do not advocate for abortion. I support a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. I support her right to make an informed decision for her own physical and mental health and that of her potential child. That is all I advocate for. It is not my place, your place, or anyone else’s, to make those decisions for someone else.
JT: Mr. _____ I’m not sure I understand what you mean to say when you say that the moral question of abortion is “an entirely different debate.” Civil laws are always a legislation of a moral perspective. Theft is illegal because it is deemed morally wrong, as is perjury, arson, and a host of illegal activities. And this is why, at the heart of the abortion debate is a moral issue. The true question is not one of “what a woman can or cannot do with her body.” That’s important, but handling that question is entirely dependent on another question, the primary question: What is the unborn? If the unborn is a human being, there is no moral justification for taking its life. If the unborn is not a human being, then no moral justification is necessary for abortion– just as there is no moral debate over the status of having one’s tooth pulled.
Much of what you have written already assumes your own position without defending it, thus begging the question. A woman is only free to do with her own body what she pleases if it is not used to bring harm to others. We must agree on this point. This is why it is illegal to strap a bomb on to our own bodies and walk into a crowded movie theater. Why? Because we would be using our bodies to harm others. I have provided you with biological evidence that what is growing in a mother’s womb is not her own body.
Abortion takes place within a woman’s body, not to a woman’s body, per se. The abortion happens to the body of the unborn as it is either burned with a saline solution, or ripped apart piece by piece out of the mother’s body. Unless we accept the absurd conclusion that each mother possesses 2 unique sets of DNA and generic make-up, we must acknowledge that the unborn is a unique, living, and distinct human person from the mother. If this is true, than the logic of the pro-life argument is valid. Again, a woman should have the (ethical) right to determine what is right for her own body in conjunction with her own doctor if and only if her body is not used to harm another person. If it is used in that way, she does not have the moral “right” to use it in that way.
Again, when you say “I support a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body,” the burden of proof falls on you to disprove the biological distinction between the mother and the unborn. Simply saying that it’s her body does not establish the claim.
Please reconsider the following argument. If the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily must be true. 1) Murder is morally wrong, 2) abortion is murder), 3) Therefore abortion is morally wrong.
The first premise is just about universally agreed upon by religious and non-religious people (here we must make the moral distinction between murder and killing). The second premise is true if the abortion is the intentional destruction of a living and biologically distinct human being (which is supported by the evidence provided in the link attached). If that is the case, premise 3 must follow, “Therefore abortion is morally wrong.”
ND: None of your initial points connected to the morality. If you want to discuss that, then that should be the focus. Everything until now has been about the definitions and the development process. I do not consider abortion to be murder, especially in the first trimester when the embryo or fetus would never be able to survive on its own anyways. You are using the concept of post hoc, ergo propter hoc to make a connection between things that are not definitively connected. Abortion is not defined as murder, therefore you cannot say it is morally wrong. I am no longer participating in this discussion because you will never see my view and I will never agree with your view either. Suffice it to say, as I have said repeatedly now, neither you nor the government gets to force a woman to carry an unwanted child (especially in the case of a rape or incest) to term and then to give birth to that child.
JT: The moral and medical are bound together. As I’ve tried to communicate (whether successfully or unsuccessfully), if premise 2 is established (that abortion is the destruction of a biologically distinct human person), and premise 1 is accepted (a nearly universal moral axiom that I didn’t bother to defend), the conclusion follows.
You have emphasized that you do not believe that abortion is murder “when the embryo or fetus would never be able to survive on its own.” This is the “viability” argument that I addressed earlier in our discussion. Would you please consider responding to what I said there? Likewise, I fail to see how I committed the “post hoc” fallacy. You failed to even explain how this was committed (perhaps believing that it is self-evident?) Whether it is self-evident I will leave to others to decide.
Rape and incest are horrible, abominable crimes (though, in statistically proven data they make up approx. 1% of abortion cases), and violators should be prosecuted harshly. Nevertheless those horrible actions wherein the mother is violated should not be used to justify further violence to another innocent party. What is needed is love for the victim, love that is concretely shown in support, encouragement, and finances. Pro-lifers must “put their money where their mouth is.” But there is no widespread lack of this considering there are far more crisis pregnancy centers and advocacy groups than there are abortion clinics.
In the name of intellectual honesty, I hope you will acknowledge to yourself that you have not defended, supported, or argued in favor of your position. You have merely asserted it and assumed it. I do pray that perhaps you will at least reread what I’ve written and consider the arguments, even if you are not inclined to agree.
Thank you for engaging in a civil discussion.
ND: I will reread what you have written. However, under no circumstance do I believe that a woman should be forced to carry a child . That would be cruel to the woman, especially in the case of rape or incest. It is irrelevant that those cases only make up a small portion of abortions. The fact is that they cases do exist.
I do not understand how someone who was not a willing participant in the act of conception should be forced to spend the next 9 months of her life with the constant reminder of that event and putting her body through the pregnancy. How is that right? I just do not understand that stance. I suppose I never will because I cannot put myself in the place of a woman and understand what she is going through at that point. I will also never understand how anyone can believe that the government should have a right to tell a woman that she should have to carry a child that is not wanted. I just don’t get it. Whether you believe abortion is right or wrong, the fact is that no one should be making that decision for another person.
JT: And yet, laws in fact do, all the time and always, “tell people what to do.” But you haven’t responded to this. As I said, a woman’s rape is a horrible, demonic act of violation. But that act does not change the medical fact that her “desire” for the child (or lack thereof) does not make the unborn less human. If a mother of a newborn that resulted from rape decides to kill the baby because it reminds her of her violation, would that be permissible? No, it wouldn’t, and I’m confident most people would say because the baby is a human being. And I would agree- We shouldn’t kill humans. And so, as I noted earlier, the one essential question is this: Is the unborn a human?
All the other questions are important in various ways, but they can only be addressed and answered rightly if we get to the heart of that one central question.
In light of the media explosion over the released Planned Parent videos by the Center for Medical Progress, I thought it would be helpful to provide a brief list of responses to some of the most common claims of in favor of elective abortion (abortion on demand), especially of those defending PP in light of this shocking footage.
People that are pro-life are merely irrational religious people.
It unfair to dismiss those who support the unborn’s right to life as irrational and or even influenced by fundamentalist Christian ideas. It also does not help to categorized arguments as religious or non-religious. Arguments in favor of any position are either true or false, valid or invalid. Those who appeal to supposed “secular” values are neither neutral nor do they stand on rational higher ground. Both sides are trying to present scientific and moral cases for their position.
When life begins is a decision each person (mother) must make for themselves.
This is sheer biological relativism. The science of embryology is clear on this matter, and has been for a long, long time. And it’s precisely this clarity that is the reason why so many abortion advocates will not engage the debate on the scientific issues. Here is a very helpful list of quotes from a multitude of embryology textbooks that clearly define human life as starting at conception.
It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus.
As noted above, the science is straightforward: a fetus is not a thing. Calling a human being a “fetus” is like calling another human being a “teenager.” A teenager isn’t a thing, it’s a stage of development. The word ‘fetus’ applies to a stage of development in the life of a thing, and that “thing” is a human person.
A fetus is not a human being, just a clump of cells.
Again, this way of speaking of the unborn is unfair and biases the discussion. We simply cannot dismiss the unborn as a “bundle of cells.” We are all– whether at 7 weeks of development or 70 years of life — a “bundles of cells.” The number of cells we are made up of is irrelevant to the issue of human dignity. Adults may be a larger “bundle of cells” than their smaller siblings or relatives, but they do not thereby have a greater right to protection under the law than those who are smaller and therefore made up of fewer cells.
A woman has the right to do whatever she wants to her own body.
Abortion takes place within a woman’s body, not to a woman’s body, per se. The abortion happens to the body of the unborn as it is either burned with a saline solution, or ripped apart piece by piece out of the mother’s body. Unless we accept the absurd conclusion that each mother possesses 2 unique sets of DNA and generic make-up, we must agree with the link posted above that the unborn is a unique, living, and distinct human person from the mother.
Abortion on demand should be available to all, because it’s the only option for woman that are the victims of rape.
Statistically speaking, less than 1% of abortions take place because of rape/incest, and therefore it is a red-herring thrown it in the mix to justify unfettered abortion for all. In the few cases where a woman is pregnant as a result of rape, we must be supportive, compassion, and willing to help her get through both the initial pregnancy, but also help into the child’s early development. We care about unborn babies, mothers, and developing children. Nevertheless, there is no reason why an innocent child conceived by a violent act should be killed because of the sins of his or her father.
The real challenge is ultimately between the conflicting “rights” of two distinct people. On the one hand, there are the rights of the unborn human being who cannot protect, defend, or speak for themselves, and on the other hand pro-abortion advocates posit the rights of the mother to kill their undesired child.
Remember, if the unborn is not a human being, there is not moral justification needed for abortion (any more than we need a moral justification for a tooth removal). But, if the unborn is a human being, there is no moral justification for killing it.
In light of this being the 37th year since Roe v. Wade, here are some more top-notch pro-life resources from Scott Klusendoff.
Scott is also the author of The Case for Life:Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture.
In light of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade here are some helpful pro-life resources:
- John Piper, Lincoln’s Logic on Slavery Applied to Abortion
- R.C. Spoul, Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue (free on Kindle for the month of January)
- Robert P. George, Our Struggle for the Soul of Our Nation
- Ed Whelan, Senate Testimony on Roe v. Wade (2005)
- Michael New, The Case for Pro-Life Optimism
- Star Parker and Gary Bauer, A Dream Unfulfilled: Roe v. Wade has Played a Big Role in the Devastation of the African-American Community.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
Also from Juston Taylor’s blog:
This past Sanctity of Life Sunday I had the privilege of preaching in my church on the truth of God vs. the tragedy of abortion.
You can download the MP3 (53:18min, 36.6MB).
At the end of my message I quoted James 1:27, where we are commanded to visit orphans. I made the brief comment that if God commands us to help to those who parents are dead, how much more should we seek to rescue those whose parents want them dead.
I neglected to mention that I got this idea from a sermon by Piper on this passage. Here’s the relevant section:
James’ command to have compassion on the helpless who have lost mother and father applies to them if their mother and father turn on them and become worse than dead parents; namely, killing parents. If orphans should be cared for by God’s people, how much more children whose parents reject them.And when it says, visit them “in their distress” we may ask, Is there any place of greater distress than in the womb of a woman who gives herself over to abortion? This is the greatest distress any child will ever experience. To be torn limb from limb in the very place that should be the safest place in the world is “distress” if there ever is anything called “distress.” “Visit orphans in their distress.”
Piper closes the sermon in this way, and I call you to pray this prayer with him:Amen.
O how I pray that the religion of our church will be “pure and undefiled religion”–pure and undefiled faith in our Lord Jesus Christ! May God grant us to speak both languages of compassion: the language of the orphan and the language of the widow. The language of the helpless child and the language of the desperate woman. There are many other languages we must speak (to the fathers and to the lawmakers and to the doctors, etc.). But whatever we do, let us not be silent. For if we are, our religion is empty, and our faith is dead (James 1:27; 2:14,17).
Several weeks ago, Wendy Doniger, Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago’s Divinity School, wrote an article titled, “All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others.” In this article (which can be found here in its entirety) Doniger makes statements such as these about Gov. Sarah Palin:
Belief in god, like getting pregnant, is a private matter between consenting adults (or one consenting adult and one or more deities) and is no one else’s business. …But I object strongly when anyone (and especially anyone with political power) tries to take their theology out in public, to inflict those private religious (or sexual) views on other people. In both sex and religion (which combine in the debates about abortion), Sarah Palin’s views make me fear that the Republican party has finally lost its mind…Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party’s cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women. (Emphasis mine)
And the article goes on in much the same tone for its length (though it’s not terribly long, so read it if you can).
When I read it, I feel compelled to offer what I take to be a reasoned response to some of Dr. Donigers claims. Most of what I say below in more on the faith and reason, and abortion issue than on her attacks against Gov. Palin’s character. Here is my response in full:
This is a very interesting piece, and for a number of reasons. First, I find it is ironic (and a bit amusing) that Dr. Doniger chastises Mrs. Palin for supposedly attempting to speak on behalf of all women (not to mention that Doniger appears to be able to read the intentions of Palin’s heart, “she has no sympathy for the problems of other women”), yet herself “speaks for all women” when she expounds her views on ethics of the life-abortion debate.
Does she not see the inherent contradiction of her position? She would refuse others the ability to do the very things she herself does in this article!
Also, contra Biden (and those that follow suit), the issue of when life begins is not a matter of faith. And it has essentially been a platform for pro-abortion advocates to state the conflict in terms that say that pro-lifers believe what they do became of religious convinctions. This simply is not the case, the pro-life position is firmly rooted in the scientific claim that human life begins at conception, or as Dr. Jerome LeJeune, (“the Father of Modern Genetics,” University of Descartes, Paris) says, “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”
Likewise, Dr. Hymie Gordon (Mayo Clinic) states, “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” Palin’s position is not whether or not the abortion issue boils down to the ‘right to choose”, but on whether or not the fetus is a human being. If it is (and it is, according to Dr. Alfred Bongioanni [University of Pennsylvania] who said, “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”) then we do not have the legal right to choose to kill it any more than we have the legal right to kill our teenage children if their lifestyle becomes an emotional, cultural, or financial burden to us.And if the fetus is a human being there likewise should be a law protecting that life, outlawing the ability to take it’s life in the same way that there are laws forbidding parents from taking the lives of their teenage children, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. It is simply being consistent in our “anti-murder” laws. And lest the issues of rape, incest, etc. are presented, I note that the pro-life position is and always has been primarily on the topic of abortion on demand, not the 1%-2% of abortions that fall under the “hard cases” (we should also recall the truism, “Hard cases make for bad laws”). This is not about “forcing” or “inflicting” privately held, but scientifically unverified, beliefs upon others. To state the case this way either a) demonstrates ignorance of the issues involved, or b) is an intentional attempt to erect a smokescreen and obscure the true pro-life position. The pro-life case is built upon the facts regarding the status of the fetus, and until those facts are refuted, the case stands.
And, to make this a religion v. science issue is to misrepresent the nature of the debate.
Though it’s common to hear that we don’t really know when life begins, the medical answer seems pretty clear.
Dr. Hymie Gordon (Mayo Clinic): “By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”
Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth (Harvard University Medical School): “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”
Dr. Alfred Bongioanni (University of Pennsylvania): “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”
Dr. Jerome LeJeune, “the Father of Modern Genetics” (University of Descartes, Paris): “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”
Contrary to popular belief on the Christians take abortion, the case for the pro-life position is largely a scientific case. The theological dimension is the ethic premise, ‘You should not take an innocent human life.” But whether the fetus is a human being, one whose life should be protected as any other innocent human life (by law), is determined by a scientific analysis of the nature of the fetus itself. Rhetoric, whether ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice,’ muddles the issue and generates more heat than light.
For more on this issue, on both the scientific issues involved as well as the moral/theological issues, see:
(HT: Justin Taylor )
See also my Abortion and Personhood
Recently, a reader of this blog left a comment. It was in reply to an entry I made on the anniversary of the Roe V Wade abortion case. The comment was short and to the point. Actually, it was an argument. Here it is:
1) It is morally wrong to murder an innocent person.
2) A fetus isn’t necessarily a person.
3) Therefore, abortion isn’t murder nor necessarily morally wrong.
I began to write a reply directly to the author, but because I’ve lately been swamped because of several life-changes (having relocated) I haven’t had much free time to blog. So I thought I’d use my reply as an entry. Here it is:
Thank you very much for your reply. I also appreciate that you stated your disagreement in the form of an argument. My point of departure from your argument is on your second premise, “A fetus isn’t necessarily a person.” Here is why I respectfully disagree with your position.
First, you said a fetus isn’t necessarily a person. This I understand as some hesitation on your part. The fetus isn’t necessarily a person…but it might be. If I’m understanding you correctly, then a lack of certainty should warrant a pro-life stance. Here is an example I learned on the issue. Imagine a demolition crew has properly wired a building in order to tear it down. The foreman asks if the building is clear for the blast about to tear it down. One of the workers says, “I’m not sure.” What would a responsible foreman do? Uncertainty, when it may very well put the life of a human being at risk, calls for caution. So, if we’re not sure if the unborn is a “person” then there’s a serious chance it just might be, and if we kill it, we’ve killed an innocent person with all the rights of any other person.
Secondly, I have difficulty with any position that admits that the unborn may be a human being, but not a human person. Though this is a common distinction that’s heard on many fronts, I don’t believe that it’s a valid one. The value of our life is based on our nature, not our function, i.e. it’s who and what we are that gives us value, not what we can do. The common criteria for distinguishing between a human being and a human person I find arbitrary and self-serving for most pro-abortion advocates. Before I mention these criteria, I want to defend why I made the above statement. All of the common markers for “personhood,”, if consistently applied, would just as much rule out newborn infants, as it would rule out unborn babies.
Here are the common traits people employ to distinguish human beings from human persons;1) Size, 2) Level of dependency, 3) Environment, 4) Development. This is commonly referred to as the SLED test for human personhood. Rather than reinvent the wheel, allow me to point you in the direction of some helpful material that aids in thinking through why these criteria aren’t sufficient.
Here are some additional resources:
- The Sled Test: The Top Four Arguments– Steve Wagner
- Four Difference Between Preborn and Postborn Persons-Stephen Schwarz
Normally I avoid writing pieces here that speak to political issues (at least in the sense in which we normally use the word “political”). But, as of late, an interesting and alarming discussion has been taking place on the blogsophere on Barack Obama’s opposition to the Infant Born Alive Act. This act would prohibit doctors from killing babies who survive abortion attempts. Of course, there’s a lot more to this issue than I can write on this short entry. Instead I’d like to provide some sources where the reader can track this vital discussion.
Today is the 35th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade decision to legalize abortion-on-demand (otherwise known as elective abortion). I recently taught an adult Sunday school class on the subject of abortion because I firmly believe that Christians are largely ignorant of the reasons why we believe that abortion is wrong. Sure, Scripture condemns murder. But how do we defend these beliefs with those that aren’t interested in hearing scriptural reasoning? The logic of the pro-life position is quite simple, it’s two premises and a conclusion. If the first 2 premises are true, then the conclusion is undeniable. Here’s the argument in a nutshell:
1) It is morally wrong to murder an innocent human being
2) Abortion kills an innocent human being
3) Therefore, abortion is morally wrong
Here are a couple of helper resources for learning how to defend the right to life of the unborn.