We are excited to introduce you to a new post series! Every first Friday we will be hearing from Noah who will be writing our “Conservative Apologist” column! This column is meant to not only help those who may not agree with a conservative stance on an issue to see it in a different light, but also to help us as conservatives know how to give an answer for what we believe. We trust you’ll be blessed by these posts, so without further delay, here’s our first “Conservative Apologist” post!
The Conservative Apologist: On the Abortion of Abortion
It has been commonly remarked that Christian conservatives are only against abortion for religious reasons, and that they should not be allowed to let their obtrusive religious opinions infringe upon the rights of others. However, is the Pro-Life, Abolitionist position merely religious? Or are there arguments outside of religion that pro-life conservatives can make?
One of the most important questions in the abortion debate is this: Is a fetus a human being, or is it not? If a fetus is not human, then the abortion debate is of no real consequence. But if the fetus is human, then the stakes could not be higher. Murder is defined as the premeditated killing of a human being. If a fetus is human, then is stands to reason that killing a fetus is murder. Furthermore, if a fetus is human, then he or she would have the right to life, like every other person is society.
I will argue below that an unborn baby is indeed human. Afterward, in the appendices, I will discuss the distinction between personhood and humanity, the Law, and a how a Pro-Life philosophy can be applied to real situations.
Are there differences between a fetus and a human?
Admittedly, there are differences between a developing child in the womb and a fully developed adult. What matters, however, is whether these differences are important enough to make abortion morally insignificant. These differences are not within the DNA of the fetus, because a fetus has the same genetic information at conception as a full grown adult. In reality, there are only four primary differences between a fetus and an adult. So the question is, are these differences enough to deem a fetus sub-human?
Difference number one: the fetus is smaller than an adult.
This is likely the most irrelevant aspect to the discussion of abortion and human rights. The size of a thing does not define its worth. If that were the case, one would also have to argue that a person four feet tall is less human than a person six feet tall. This is obviously ludicrous, and no thinking person would argue otherwise—personhood is not defined by size. In the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Difference number two: the fetus is less developed than an adult.
A fetus is obviously less developed than an adult. However, the problem with the pro-abortion perspective is that there is no concrete way to know when a fetus has developed enough to be deemed human with certain unalienable rights. Just about two months ago, my niece was born prematurely. What is odd is that the pro-abortion view is that she deserved Constitutional rights only after she was born. So if two women became pregnant at the same time and one child is born a month early, only the child born would have the right to life, but the other child—still in the mother’s womb and at an identical stage of development—would not have the right to life. This is a major flaw in the pro-choice rationale. An adult is not more human than a newborn child because he or she is more developed. A fetus is not less human than a newborn child because he or she is less developed.
A common argument made along these lines is that a fetus is not human until the first heartbeat. This argument seems to be an attempt at riding the fence or taking the middle road. But there is no scientific reason for this line of thinking. Any middle school biology textbook will tell you that life is not defined by a heartbeat, but by a few factors including growth, heredity of traits, the ability to respond to stimuli, the ability to metabolize energy, and the ability to pass on its genes—all of which are true of a fetus, even at the earliest stages.
Difference number three: the fetus is in a different environment.
The idea of the fetus being in a different environment or location is a notable distinction, but the question is whether or not the distinction is significant enough to classify the fetus as sub-human. People live in many different kinds of environments. A person in the blistering cold is no less human than a person in the Sahara desert. Even a drastically different environmental situation, perhaps like a child with some sort of immunity issue who lives in an isolated and purified bubble, would still obviously be classified as a human with full Constitutional rights. Environmental or locational differences should not be a factor in the discussion of what defines human life.
Difference number four: the fetus is dependent upon the mother for survival.
This distinction, though it may seem like the most important of the four, stands in favor of the Pro-life view. Certainly, the fetus is dependent upon the mother for survival, but so is a newborn. A toddler is dependent upon the mother, but the mother does not have the legal right to kill her toddler if she does not want him or her. In the same way, a fetus is no less human because of his or her dependence on the mother, just as a man on oxygen is no less human because he cannot breathe without help. The fact that the fetus is dependent upon the mother for survival should not be an argument for abortion, but for the fetus’s protection. We should seek to protect those that are dependent on others, not exploit their weakness.
It should be clear that the fetus is, in fact, a human being. The differences between a fetus and one recognized as having a right to life is not significant enough to justify the killing of a fetus. The protection of the life of the fetus should be paramount in the eyes of the law. Protecting the fetus and his or her right to life should supersede all other important issues, such as women’s reproductive rights, the right to privacy, health care, and economics.
Appendix A: Humanity vs. Personhood.
A common response I have heard in the face of this argument is that there is a difference between humanity and personhood. The idea is that, at some point during the development of a human, that human child becomes a person. A fetus is human, they will admit, but that fetus is not a person until a much later stage of development. There are many things wrong with this argument, but I will only mention a couple.
First, allowing for a moment the possibility that a distinction can be made (which I do not believe there is), why would it be morally justifiable to kill a human? Is it because he or she is not yet deemed to be a person? The difference seems to be an arbitrary distinction—a matter of semantics. It is troubling that over fifty-six million children may have been killed in the womb because of semantics.
Second, personhood is not a scientifically defined term. When I have heard this argument used, it is usually in reference to consciousness or self-awareness as the state in which a fetus becomes a person. But the problem with this argument is that a child does not become truly self-aware until around the age of two. Surely no one is arguing that a one-year-old is not a person.
Appendix B: What about States’ Rights?
Another important issue is the role of the Federal Government. If abortion is a highly divisive moral issue, should the Federal Government impose its will on everyone? Should the decision be left to the states? Or should the Federal Government step in and protect the life of the unborn?
One of the writers at YPL recently discussed this question. Her response was very eloquent and precise. She writes,
It seems like it should be so obvious (especially for strong adherers to our founding documents) that, if you think about it, abortion is already banned at the federal level. Especially as a Christian, we ought to believe that life begins at conception and if we know the words of the Declaration of Independence…”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”
Granted, government should not dictate our life, liberty, or happiness, but the federal government is designed to protect those rights when in jeopardy and I believe this applies even to the smallest members of society—such as in the case of abortion! (emphasis added).
What she argues is that according to our country’s founding documents, if a fetus is human, then it is should be illegal to have an abortion. The Federal and State Governments are currently acting out of line with beliefs of our founders. What must be changed is that the Government, represented in our laws and in our courts, needs to acknowledge the value of the life of the “smallest members of society.”
Appendix C: A real-world application.
It is easy and tempting to dwell in a world of Ideals. It is tempting to simply remain on the cloud-tops, and to avoid the difficult realities of life. But we do not live in a purely Ideal world. We live in a world of flesh, of difficulties, of harsh realities, where raising children is hard, where we can scrape our intellectual knees and bump our heads. We live in a world that is often unfair. It is especially easy for conservatives to hide in the stratosphere of Ideals when discussing the messy and painful issue of abortion without noting the trials that come with the Pro-Life conclusion. That is why a real-world scenario is needed in order truly look at this issue.
Imagine a single-mom. She lives in the ghettos of Chicago. Three kids. A six-year-old, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old. She can barely pay rent. She is in true poverty. Her husband has left her, and she can barely survive on one income.
Then it gets worse. She gets raped. She gets pregnant. She barely has the financial means to raise her three children, much less to have another.
(Note: It is my incredibly strong belief that it is the job of the local government and the Church to help women in these kinds of situations. The Church, once upon a time, was the provider of welfare for society, but they have often failed to continue this tradition. It is the biblical responsibility of the Church to help widows and orphans in their distress).
Back to the story. According to the Liberal, Pro-Choice worldview, what is she to do?
If I were a liberal, I know exactly what I would tell her, and I would not hesitate in my response.
“The conclusion is obvious,” I would say, “You should kill your six-year-old child.”
She would look at me horrified, as she well should. “That is not an option, that’s a sick joke,” she would likely think. But I would not be joking. If I were a liberal, that is exactly what I would argue, for the sake of the mother. The oldest child would be more costly to her livelihood than the fetus or the other children. The six-year-old is older, will eat more, will be going to college sooner, and will ultimately cost her more money.
“But no,” she would reply, “I can’t kill him.”
Then she would turn (possibly after slapping me, which would be well-deserved) and give me several reasons why her precious six-year-old deserves to live. “Because he is small and helpless. Because I’m all he has—he’s dependent on me. Because he is a human being. Because he doesn’t deserve to die.” And in saying so, she would be exactly right. Each and every reason why it would be morally wrong for this mother to kill her six-year-old child, can equally be applied to the life of the fetus. The logic cannot be applied to the one, without equally applying to the other.
If you have read this article and yet you are unconvinced, at least try to understand the other side of the argument. Conservatives do not hold to the Pro-Life view because they hate women, or because they do not believe in women’s rights, or because they are bigots. It is because we are convinced by reason that the fetus is a human being, and that it deserves to be protected, not exploited for the sake of personal convenience. Keep questioning your own beliefs. Keep doubting. But please, do not simply shut your ears to the issue. The fetuses are either of no moral significance, or they are of infinite significance. But one thing is certain, they cannot be of moderate significance.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (Proverbs 31:8-9).