Untangling popular “pro-choice” claims and arguments concerning abortion

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Hendrik van der Breggen is a close friend of mine, an incredible thinker and a wonderful Spirit-filled Christian. He writes extensively on philosophical and cultural issues at his blog Apologia.

This particular article was published by Political Animal Magazine on August 23, 2019 and is exceptionally helpful in bringing clarity to the challenging topic of abortion. I trust you will find it helpful as well.

There are a number of resources and links at the end of this article. If you are a parent, you may want to take a look at my blog, Three Keys to Talking to Your Kids About Abortion.

This article is part of a debate on abortion. For an introduction see: Arguing Dialectically about Abortion. For an opposing view see: Philosophical Arguments for Abortion.

I favor the pro-life position on the abortion issue, all the while realizing that many good and decent people disagree with me. Why do they disagree? It seems they are influenced by popular claims and arguments favoring the pro-choice view.

I intend no disrespect to anyone in saying this, but I think that many popular claims and arguments favoring the choice for abortion consist of knots of illogic that should be untangled.

Consider the following sixteen knots.

1. Pro-lifers/anti-abortionists are anti-choice.

Reply: In one sense, yes. That is, on the pro-life/anti-abortion view, choice for abortion gets limited (though pro-lifers might disagree to what extent this should be: no abortions allowed at all, or no late-term abortions only, or abortions allowed only for special cases such as rape, incest, threat to life of the mother).

But in another very important sense, no, pro-lifers/anti-abortionists are not anti-choice. They favor women having the usual choices everyone else has (e.g., career, education, marriage, voting, etc.) but they also realize that each abortion wipes out a whole life-time of choices—so anti-abortionists increase the total of choices.

2. The human fetus is merely a potential human being.

Reply: No, the fetus is a human being with potential, not a potential human being.

Contemporary science—embryology, fetology, and biology—tells us that the human fetus is in fact a human being. It’s a genetically distinct, self-governing dynamic organism/ entity that belongs to the human species. It’s not feline or canine; it’s human. It’s not a cat or a dog; it’s a human being. It’s not a kitten or a puppy; it’s a child, albeit an unborn child. (The word “fetus” is Latin for unborn offspring or little one.)

Significantly, 95% of academic biologists in a recent global survey hold that individual human life begins at fertilization. For additional scientific evidence, see “The origin of human life at fertilization: Quotes from medical textbooks and peer-reviewed scientific literature.”

The fetus, then, is a developmental stage of human being, i.e., it’s a human being that becomes the subsequent stages (if no interference or malfunction occurs). Again, the fetus is not a potential human being, rather it’s a human being with potential. A potential human being is the sperm and egg before union.

3. Abortion is just another means of contraception.

Reply: No. A contraceptive prevents the union of sperm and egg. Abortion destroys the human being created by the union of sperm with egg.

4. Abortion is simply the termination of pregnancy.

Reply: The words “termination of pregnancy” are a euphemism (nice words to cover up something not nice). Birth is also the termination of pregnancy. Abortion, however, destroys the pre-natal human being, often by ripping off limbs and crushing skulls.

5. A brick is not a house, so getting rid of a brick or even a few bricks is no big deal, so abortion is no big deal. (This pro-choice argument is from Canada’s famous abortionist Dr. Henry Morgentaler.)

Reply: Yes, but if you had a brick that grows into a house complete with furnace, air conditioning, blue curtains, a super-computer, plus plumbing (plumbing that, unfortunately, leaks for the first couple years), you probably wouldn’t destroy that brick. (For further argument, see here.)

The rest of this blog can be found at Political Animal Magazine. Below are the rest of the questions Hendrik addresses as well as many helpful links and resources.

6. An acorn isn’t an oak tree, so the fetus isn’t a human being, so abortion is no big deal.

7. The unborn human being/fetus isn’t a “person,” so abortion is morally permissible.

8. Every child should be a wanted child. (This is from Canada’s famous abortionist Dr. Henry Morgentaler, again.)

9. Pro-lifers aren’t helping people after they’re born.

10. Not allowing abortion is to impose your morality onto others.

11. Rape, incest, and protection of life or health of mother justify the general abortion practice.

12. Rape justifies abortion.

14. Every woman has the right to control her body, so every woman has the right to abortion.

15. Difficulty in policing and enforcing abortion law would render it useless.

16. You are a man, therefore your arguments about abortion don’t count.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, recently retired as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Providence University College, Manitoba, Canada.

For further thinking about abortion, here is a list of some of Hendrik’s relevant work

Hendrik’s previous articles for Political Animal Magazine:

Hendrik’s articles from his newspaper column (and blog) Apologia:

Hendrik’s academic articles:

Some books on abortion (written by others) recommended by Hendrik

Introductory level:

  • Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life (College Press, 2000).
  • Gregory Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons (Stand To Reason Press, 1999).

Advanced level:

  • Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Charles C. Camosy, Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation (Eerdmans, 2015).
  • Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, 2nd edition (Witherspoon Institute, 2011).
  • Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life, 2nd ed. (Catholic University of America Press, 2010).

Also, especially for Christians:

  • Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway Books, 2009). (Christians who see themselves as pro-choice should read the chapter, “Dead Silence: Does the Bible justify abortion?”)

For support for a crisis pregnancy, see your nearest Crisis Pregnancy Center.

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