Episode 27 - Should Abortion Be Legal Since We Don't Know When the Unborn Becomes A Person?

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Should it be legal to kill the unborn, because we're not sure when it becomes a person? And more broadly, how should Christians think about and approach reasoning from something that is uncertain to something that is certain? 

I was listening to a podcast today, and I was reminded of an argument that is somewhat common for those who are not staunchly pro-life, and here's how it goes. “We're not really sure when the unborn becomes a person, so the law shouldn't take a stance on if you can kill it or not. It should be permissible since we're not sure.”

Now, there are few things of note about this assertion. The first would be that the assertion assumes the unborn is alive, and in fact like I pointed out before that is fairly uncontroversial. It is the product of two living cells that come together, and the organism grows by cell division. It takes in nutrients. It expels waste. It undergoes cellular respiration. All of these things are the common criteria for defining that something is alive. This question steps forward one step and says, “well, is it a person.” Personhood is not a scientific concept at all. It's a philosophical concept, it's a theological concept. I've covered this before on an episode entitled "Can Science Tell Us When Abortion is Okay?"

The person who has this question assumes that the unborn is alive, but is trying to say “well, when do you become something that has value and dignity as a person?” I'm not really going to focus too much on that right now except to say that personhood is a distractor from the main issue. Any conversation on personhood is generally going to go down the route of marginalizing someone who is alive. You might say that someone in a coma who hasn't woken up for two years or has neocortical brain death is no longer a person. Well, that's generally in an attempt to say “we can kill this person”, and that's a very dangerous road to go down.

In the future, I will do an episode on personhood, but what I want to focus on today is the assertion: “if you don't know that it's a person it should be legal to kill it.” What other area of life do we apply that reasoning to? Let me give you an example. You're driving down the road and your friend is in the passenger seat next to you, and he says, "Hey, I think that's a person up there in our lane," and you're like "Nah, I'm not so sure. I'm just going to keep driving." "No. I'm pretty sure that's a person" he says getting a little more worried as you're accelerating toward this thing that you're not sure is a person. You're not swayed by his exclamations.

“This is a person you need to move!” and then suddenly you run over the thing that you're not sure is a person. Well, it turns out it was a person. Now, what should you have done in this situation? This is what we all do driving a car: If we think there's a person in the road, we stop or we go in another lane, but we don't run over it saying, “well, since we're not sure it's a person, it should just be legal to run it over.” BUT, that's exactly the logic being employed here by those on the left when it comes to abortion. “We're not sure if it's a person, so it should be legal to kill it.”

Now, remember they've already [a lot of times] asserted to the fact that it's alive. The main question in their mind is, “is it a person?” Here’s the problem: They’re reasoning from the uncertain to the certain. They're saying, "I don't know if it's alive, so I'm going to take a position of certainty. It needs to be okay for people to kill it.” If we're going to deal with life-and-death matters, shouldn't we be sure before we take a position that leads to something being killed. In any other area of life, we would say “yes”, but for some reason people often toss out general rational principles when it comes to abortion.

There's this parallel assertion which says, "Well, I wouldn't have an abortion, I think it's wrong, but it could be right for other people to do it. It should be legal." So really, they think babies are being killed - It would be murder if you killed your child in utero - but other people should be allowed to kill their children in utero. I think when someone says this that, "Well, I wouldn't do it, but it should be legal." You need to put it in terms of what's actually being talked about, “so you wouldn't kill your unborn child but other people should be allowed to kill their unborn child?” Is that really what you're saying? Is that kind of like saying I wouldn't kill my neighbor, but other people should be allowed to kill my neighbor. It's the same logic.

If it's wrong for you, it's wrong for everyone else. Have some backbone. If you're going to say that abortion should be legal, be consistent. Don't just say, well, I wouldn't do it, I think it's wrong, but other people should be allowed to do this wrong thing. That's totally inconsistent. However, the person does show their innate moral knowledge by saying they wouldn’t do it. But, society has labeled this innate moral knowledge as a hateful position. They've said, for instance, that you're against women, and this couldn't be further from the truth.

If we want to say that women are liberated by having abortions, then why is it that over 50% of the time they're killing other women. So, women are liberated by killing other women? Explain that to me. This whole argument that “I wouldn't do it, but it should be legal.” That just shows a lack of backbone, a lack of consistency, and I honestly think it's kind of shameful. 

We need to err on the side of caution. We're after all talking about human life. Well, here's another example of this uncertain to certain reasoning, and it deals with transgendered individuals. Now, Christians would say that you should not have a sex change operation. God created you the way you are for better or for worse, and you shouldn't mutilate yourself to try and fit something that is not based in reality. If you're a woman, genetically a woman, and you think you're a man, you should not go get surgery to become a “man.” 

You actually can't actually have a sex change operation. You can't change your sex. You can mutilate yourself as sad as that is, but you can't change your sex because every cell in your body is testifying to what your sex is. They're either XX or XY (the vast majority of the time), and mutilating your genitals doesn't change that. 

Now, in response to this, some people would point out intersex people. You may not have heard of these. It's actually a very interesting situation. These are people whose physical characteristics don't match their genes. For instance, they might have ambiguous genitals, or you might have a person who is genetically XX, which is usually expressed with female genitals, but they might have male genitals or they might have a penis and yet have ovaries at the same time, or like I said they might just be ambiguous.

This is often thought of as kind of like the trump card against Christian worldview arguments that deal with transgendered issues. However, this is another example of the left often times saying, "Well, we don't know what to do with intersex people," [which is generally true. How do you think about someone who is genetically one thing but physically and anatomically something else? That's a very difficult situation, one I'm not going to try and offer an answer to today.] What they will often do is say, "You can't know with the intersex people, so you can't know what the transgendered people." That's not the case. That's another example of reasoning from the uncertain to the certain, and we shouldn't do that.

It's okay to say we don't know in “such and such of area”, maybe intersex, but that doesn't mean we can't speak with confidence in the areas we do know about. The only reason you could say you shouldn't do this thing because of this other thing is if there's a direct correlation between the two, or the attributes of one directly flow to the attributes of another, but that's not the case with intersex and transgender. It's not the case with saying “we don't know it's a person, so you should be able to kill it.” What you're doing is, you're taking a certain stance in light of an uncertain reality, and we shouldn't reason that way. We don't live like that in any other area of life that I can think of, and so we shouldn't do it on these very important issues.

Now, there's been so much left on the table today. I haven't talked about women's rights. I haven't talked about the fact that children might create a drain on the economy or the issue of rape or any of these things, and I haven't talked about suicide rates and transgendered surgeries and all of that, but the one thing I want to point out just right now and focus on today is this how we reason. Do we reason from the uncertain to the certain or do we reason from areas of certainty to other areas of certainty? That's how it should be. That's the type of reasoning that puts things on the moon.

You don't say, "I'm not sure if this rocket is going to make it, but let's go ahead and plan the launch, and fuel it up and hit the thrusters. We don't do that. We don't live like that in other areas, and so we shouldn't act like that in areas of moral and ethical and theological concern. 

I hope this more short episode has been helpful and equipped you to kind of think about these two little areas of abortion and the intersex-transgender relationship.

Wikipedia has a page on intersex. If you're interested, that might help explain a little more of the details. I always am hesitant to go into too much detail about some of these things, not totally knowing where someone will be listening to this or who might be listening to it, and you can check that out if you're interested. 

The last thing I want to say is that, on this podcast, we often deal with the facts and stark realities of the situations we talk about. Sometimes that can come across as cold, indifferent, or even harsh, and that's never my intent.

Some people are a little more emotive than I am, and so one of my struggles is conveying how I actually feel about issues when I'm telling you how I think about them, and there's something that should be said any time we talk about issues like abortion or homosexuality or transgender-intersex concerns. That is: the goal is not just a moral life for people. The goal is salvation in Christ. 

When we talk with someone about abortion whether they've had one, whether they're contemplating one, what we need to say is that, no this is wrong. We need to speak with moral clarity in the circumstance with conviction, but we need to do it in such a way that there's kindness. That we express that there is forgiveness at the foot of the cross that I have sinned, you have sinned, we all will continue to, but Christ’s blood, if we are in Christ, ultimately covers that sin. With regards to transgendered issues and people who feel confused about what their gender is or what body they're in, we shouldn't be surprised that this happens in a Genesis 3, a fallen world, but we should have compassion towards them.

These people are not our enemies by any stretch of the imagination. They are people just like us, for whom the gospel should be a breath of fresh air. When we speak with people, we don't just need to tell them the facts of the situation, which I am very prone to do. We also need to include the good news that there is always hope if you come to Christ. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I look forward to spending this time with you next week on Unapologetic.