Arguing Abortion, Murder and Choice
I recently received an email from a concerned individual who obviously disagrees with our conclusions about abortion. His message read in part:
Abortion is not murder in my eyes because I see a very distinct difference between a fetus and a grown human being. Killing someone who has had real life experiences and a sentient mind is far worse than one who has neither (I'm not talking about when brain waves occur in pregnancy, I'm talking about awareness of and understanding of the world). This is why I support legislation against murder but not abortion. No matter how inefficient, allowing what constitutes traditional murder is simply destructive to society, much in the same way that outlawing abortion would be destructive (or at the very least, nonconstructive) to society.
The main reason I'm pro-choice is because I don't think banning abortion is the best way to stop it (just like gun control, just like the war on drugs, two miserable failures in my opinion) and because abortion is compassionate in the sense that right now the world sucks and so do the people in it.
The best way to stop something is to remove the incentive for it. With abortion: Women get abortions because they don't feel ready to raise a child or don't wan't it.
If we made the world a better place, that'd discourage abortion because a woman would be more likely to think she could handle the rigors of motherhood if she lived in a world where it was easier. I don't think that just saying "ban this, ban that" is a solution that will work for the better of man kind. We need to attack the things we are against by ruining the incentive to engage in them rather than threatening with punishment.
In short, if we lived in a world where nobody had to worry about food, shelter, clothing, communication, transportation or information/education, what incentive for malice would there be? What fear of raising a child would there be?... If we were able to feed and shelter everyone and provide them the tools they needed to become the best they could, what incentive is there for abortion or murder or rape or theft?
I'm pro-choice because the world isn't like that. I consider it cruel to force the child into this world. Until the world is better, I won't speak out against abortion. I'd appreciate any critiques on my thought process, though. I consider the vision I have for the world to be entirely worth striving for, so I put my passions there.
My response is below:
Thanks for taking the time to write us with your concerns. Here's a quick response.
You defend your support of abortion by arguing that you see a "very distinct difference between a fetus and a grown human being." I don't disagree with this assertion that there are distinct differences. There are many. The real question is not whether there are differences, but whether these differences are sufficient to make the destruction of human adults unlawful but the destruction of human fetuses lawful. For our purposes, I think we would do better to compare fetuses with newborn children rather than with grown adults. The differences between the two are much less distinct, and almost nobody suggests giving mothers the legal right to kill their children after birth. Therefore, the moral line of acceptability lies somewhere between conception and birth, and this is what we must define. Legally, a mother can abort through all nine months of pregnancy in all fifty states. So long as the fetus' head remains in the womb, it is legal to abort. Here's the problem with such a standard. There is only one difference between a newborn child and a fetus destroyed through a Dilation and Extraction abortion, the location of the head. If the head is in the womb, the "fetus" can be killed. If the head is out of the womb, the "child" has protection as a legal person. The newborn has no more "real life experience" or "sentience" the moment after birth than it did before birth. Therefore, if it is wrong to kill children immediately after they are born, it must also be wrong to kill children the moment before they are born. There is no qualitative difference between the two.
Many abortion supporters dodge this dilemma by arguing that they don't think late-term abortions should be legal, just first-trimester abortions. If this matches your own conviction, there are still some issues to deal with. "Real life experience" and "sentience" are subjective and unmeasurable standards. These are "spiritual" distinctions. They cannot be scientifically known or objectively measured. Trying to anchor someone's right to life on such an arbitrary standard is demonstrably reckless. It could just as easily be used to exclude infants after birth or full-grown adults with developmental disabilities. How many "real-life experiences" does a human being have to have before they are recognized as a person? How much self-awareness must a child possess before we make it unlawful to tear their limbs off? Do you see the impossibility of establishing and maintaining such a haphazard standard? This is why paramedics don't check for sentience when they arrive at the seen of an accident and see someone lying on the ground motionless. They look for that which can be measured, namely a pulse.
Furthermore, sentience is generally defined as "having sense perception". By nine weeks from conception, fetuses can suck their thumb, swallow amniotic fluid, grasp objects presented to them and respond to light touch. These all reflect the beginning of sensory awareness. What must this fetus do before it will be sentient enough for you to grant it rights of personhood?
At the close of your first paragraph, you state that "murder is simply destructive to society, much in the same way that outlawing abortion would be destructive to society). My question is this. How would outlawing abortion be destructive to society? Abortion was generally illegal for the first 200 years of U.S. history. Since it was legalized three decades ago, the quality of life for born children has not improved. It has decreased dramatically. Obviously murder is destructive to society because it kills innocent people. If abortion also kills innocent people, which I'm arguing it does, then abortion is also a destructive influence on society.
Next, I want to quickly comment on your assertion that banning something is an ineffective means of stopping it from happening. You've already established that you believe laws against murder are legitimate and necessary. The fact that the law "bans" murder (and rape and theft and assault) is not, in your mind, a bad thing. Why not apply your standard to rape and argue that some men are going to rape weather the law allows it or not? Why not just look for a way to remove the incentive of the rapist without trying to enact laws against rape? Do you see my point? Laws can't completely prevent a certain behavior, but they can go a long way towards preventing it, and educating against it. History bears this point out. In 1973, the first year for which abortion was federally legal, less than 800,000 abortions occurred. That number doubled in less than seven years. There are a whole lot of women who are willing to abort because it is legal but wouldn't dream of breaking the law if it were not.
Finally, I do not share your generous assessment of human nature. You say, "if we lived in a world where nobody had to worry about food, shelter, clothing, communication, transportation or information/education, what incentive for malice would there be? What fear of raising a child would there be?" I assure you that some of the worst crimes and atrocities that history has ever known were committed by men who were well-fed, well-housed, well-clothed, well-spoken, and well-educated. Even if everyone in the world had these things in abundance, there would still be problems. When left to itself, the human heart is bent on evil no matter how well-provided for it is. Government exists to constrain by law men and women who can't constrain themselves.
The Bible calls this bent towards evil, "sin nature", and it gives us the historic account for how we all ended up with it. The Bible also offers us the solution to this universal problem which I'm happy to share with you if you're interested.
I hope my remarks we're helpful, and I do thank you in all sincerity for your honest inquiry.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.