This week I want to talk about abortion, and specifically some bad arguments that are often used to argue against abortion. Yes, you heard me right. You may be wondering, why are we critiquing arguments against abortion if we’re against abortion? Why should we not use any argument we can to contend for the life and value of the unborn? On one hand, I can understand that. We should want to use any argument available to us to contend for the intrinsic worth and dignity that the unborn person possesses. But, for followers of Jesus Christ, we actually can’t use any possible argument. We can’t use any possible tool because we are constrained by what is good and moral and holy.
I would also point out, we should also be constrained by what is logically and intellectually honest. We could argue and prey on people’s emotions. Maybe it’s for a good end but it’s an illicit type of appeal. What I want to talk about today is actually a few different ways that people of good intention, of good conscious, argue in such a way that actually concedes a little too much. It actually argues on the playing field that has been set for us by those who are in favor of abortion.
Anytime we argue against abortion by saying we shouldn’t kill the unborn because… and the “because” has something to do with the child’s quality of life after they’re born or with what they may go on to do one day, what we have done is, unknowingly perhaps, bought the lie that a person’s worth—whether they should be allowed to be born or not—depends on something that might happen in the future.
We actually see this when people argue against abortion for children who have Down syndrome. What might be said, and I’ve seen this in news stories recently, is that we shouldn’t kill them because many of them grow up to live happy, long, productive lives. What if they didn’t? Would it be okay kill people who don’t live happy, long, productive lives? Or what about if they just don’t live long lives but they’re happy and productive? I think what you’re starting to see, hopefully, is that this argument, unknowingly perhaps, bases the decision to abort on the quality of life of the person that would be born. That’s a bad argument.
Because a person’s worth, their moral right, their God-given right to not be murdered, depends not on their quality of life or if it will be an enjoyable life. It actually depends on what type of creature they are. Since the unborn is a human being and humans are created in the image of God, that unborn person is worthy of being treated like any other person, born or otherwise, when it comes to end of life matters. Your location, whether you’re in the womb or not, doesn’t change the type of thing you are. That’s important for us to understand.
If living a long, happy, productive life is a reason not to kill someone, then if we’re consistent, would we say that we can kill people who are born who don’t live a happy, long, or productive life? I think the answer is going to be no regardless of who you ask. If that’s not a reason to make it justifiable to kill somebody who is on the outside of the womb, it’s not a reason to not kill them if they’re on the inside of the womb.
Now it might persuade someone who previously may have been in favor of aborting children with Down syndrome for us to say, “Well you know what, today they’re actually able to live long, happy, and productive lives.” That might convince this person, but I don’t think we should argue that way, because we have conceded that what should matter is the quality of life of a person, not the type of life that’s being discussed. That should not be an argument that’s available to us as Christians. We don’t want to argue inconsistently. We want to argue for biblical conclusions and a biblical worldview that does support the intrinsic worth of a life from conception until natural death. We shouldn’t argue based on quality of life afterwards.
But there’s another parallel argument that comes into play sometimes. Sometimes people will say, “Abortion is wrong because … well just consider what if one of the children who’s been aborted would have grown up to cure cancer?” Well what if they wouldn’t have? Is it okay to kill people who don’t grow up to cure cancer? Well no, and if it’s not okay then, then what does it matter if the person may have been the next Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, or a person who bags groceries at Publix? What does it matter? It doesn’t, actually. If we’re arguing based on something that doesn’t matter, then we shouldn’t argue that way. We shouldn’t just find words and statements and trains of thought that are compelling to someone if ultimately the ground they rest on is not solid.
And any argument, any reasoning, based on the ability of the unborn to do something later in life is not based on their intrinsic dignity, so it should be discarded. We should not argue based on what may occur later in life. We should argue based on the fact that the unborn is created in the image of God.
The last example we’ll talk about is actually the gestational age at which abortion is said that it should be illegal. Some people will say, “Well if the unborn can survive outside of the womb at 20 weeks, 19 weeks, 24 weeks, whatever, well then abortion after that point should be prohibited.” But why? Once again, this seems to be based on the idea that your life isn’t valuable if you’re dependent on another person. (And really, if you can survive outside of the womb at 24 weeks, you’re still dependent on someone else. We don’t escape that sort of objection.)
My point here is if the unborn can survive outside of the womb, so what? It was perfectly in a safe place before. It was exactly where it was supposed to be at its age. We shouldn’t treat the unborn like it should somehow be living in a different place when that’s exactly where it should be at its current age and stage of development. So once again, it doesn’t make sense to say, “Well you can kill it if it couldn’t have survived outside of its mother.” Why? It’s supposed to stay in its mother. That’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.
While I’m favor of as many restrictions as we can put on abortion, I’m not in favor of arguing that it should be wrong because of this other thing that is not grounded into the innate worth and dignity of the unborn person. Let’s restrict it. That’s great. Let’s keep narrowing the window where abortion can happen until ultimately we declare it to be illegal. I think that would be wonderful. But nonetheless, let’s not argue based on the viability of the baby outside of its mother. That’s not an argument based on the intrinsic dignity of the unborn.
Sometimes people, myself included, have argued against abortion because of the effect on the mother who kills her child. I think that’s a valid consideration. But what if it didn’t bother her? What if it could be shown that there were no side effects from aborting your child? Would it be okay then? No. I think it’s a helpful pointer to something that’s true that something’s really wrong here, but nonetheless, I’m not going to base my argument on the subjective result on another person. Because all of this is not grounded in the intrinsic worth and dignity of the unborn person.
So, all of these different types of arguments could be done away with. They could be shown to not hold water, or, at the very least, they’re inconsistent. If I’m not going to say to someone, “You can’t abort a child because you don’t think that they’ll be valuable enough,” I’m not going to turn around and then argue, in the case of children with Down syndrome, that you shouldn’t abort them because they will have value. That’s inconsistent.
But, you may be thinking, is there really no place for talking about children with Down syndrome, and the fact that they do lead happy, full lives? Should that not come into the equation at all? I do think there’s a place for it. At the very least, it will often show the inconsistency of the pro-choice, pro-abortion advocate. If they’re saying, “Well we should kill the children with Down syndrome because they don’t have full lives,” we can show that that’s actually false. Their reason is invalid. They do live happy lives. Now that’s not the reason we shouldn’t kill them, but you can’t hold onto that justification because it’s patently false. You can just look at them. You can see that Gerber has chosen a child with Down syndrome to be its Gerber Baby. You can see that these children do have happy, full lives. (Maybe in part because they’re not aware that everyone else wants to kill them.)
Now, I think that’s important for us to be able to show. We can show that the person is inconsistent in arguing for abortion based on the perceived lack of quality of life while at the same time not admitting or even agreeing that that’s a valid reason to kill someone. We can just point out that they’re inconsistent. Then what are they going to be left with? They’re going to be left with saying, “I guess we should kill them because … Well, it’s not because they don’t grow up to live happy, full lives. I guess just because of choice. It’s a woman’s choice.” We’re back to dealing with the fundamental issue now of what is the unborn. We’ve gotten rid of the smokescreen that is its ability to survive or its value later in life, or its current abilities that it possesses at that point, and we’re dealing with the fundamental question which every conversation on abortion should come back to: What is the unborn?
It is extremely clear. It’s alive. It takes in nutrients, it expels waste, it uses oxygen through a process of respiration, it adds cells to itself through cell division. It’s alive, and it’s also human. It is uniquely human. It has a DNA fingerprint that is all its own. It’s not a replica of its mother or its father. It’s actually something new, and it is human. It’s not a cat, it’s not a dog, it’s not an alligator. It’s a human that’s alive. That should be all that is required to qualify it for being treated like any other human who is alive. It should be treated with intrinsic worth and dignity, not based on its skills, not based on its environment, not based on its size or anything else. It should be treated like any other human that is alive. Any other standard that we try to apply to the unborn actually creates a secondary class of persons that are deemed less than just so we can kill them.
If you say, “Well it’s not born,” well why does that matter? It’s a human that’s alive. Why does it matter if it’s on one side or the other side of its mother’s womb? It doesn’t matter. That doesn’t change how valuable it is. If going through a few layers of muscle and skin is all that means that we can’t kill you, that’s an extremely flimsy definition of worth. No, the value of the unborn is grounded in the fact that it is a human that is alive, because humans are created in the image of God. That is the grounding, not a grounding based on happiness later in life, not a grounding based on the fact that statistically maybe one of these children would have cured cancer or world hunger or something. No, that doesn’t work either. Any argument not based in who the unborn is, the type of creation that it is, and also the fact that there’s a creator, will ultimately fall flat. We will ultimately be adopting some standard that we cannot consistently hold, like the fact that happiness or fulfillment in life matters when it comes to your worth and if we can kill you or not.
I hope this has been helpful. As Christians, let’s endeavor not to use just any argument available to us but to reason consistently in an intellectually honest way, from scriptural and biblical worldview points. That will sometimes mean we can’t use every line of argument, but we can at least be consistent in what we do use.
I’ll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.