Abortion: What if You Were Wrong?
Wonderful, you are reading this. I hope you disagree with me. If you have had an abortion, encouraged someone to do so, or in general, firmly hold a pro-choice view, this article will not be fun to read. That said, it represents strong character and purposeful open mindedness to consider the opposite view fairly and patiently. This is exactly what I believe both sides need to do.
Step back from the emotions and rhetoric for a moment, regardless of what side of the issue you are on, and ask the question honestly, “Would I want to know if I was wrong?” For me, the answer is a resounding “yes”. There is no possible way an article on this topic will avoid hurting people’s feelings; that is not at all the intention, but it will be a by-product, just like an article from the pro-choice position would offend and enrage my side of the issue. But the solution cannot be to hunker down in our respective bubbles to avoid offense. Instead, please read the following with the same charity and goodwill you would wish for myself and others to approach your arguments. If you have a reply to this article, I will do just that; I will read it and consider it with a charitable disposition and an open mind.
The Principle of Caution
I would wager you don’t want to ever take an innocent life on purpose. For instance, if you saw a person absentmindedly walk into the middle of the road while you were driving, what would you do? Obviously you would swerve, slam on your brakes, and honk your horn. Any reasonable person would rightly panic at the thought of hitting that person and possibly killing them.
What if you were driving on a long trip in the dark and suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see what looks like a person in the road? Although more likely it’s a shadow or a mailbox, maybe you think there is a 1 out of 10 chance it is a person. What do you do? Obviously you still stop, your adrenaline still surges, and even at this small possibility you are jolted into high alert.
Bear with me now as I extend our thought experiment. If immediate and decisive action to avoid taking an innocent life is well justified to save one person with 1:10 odds, what would this principle of caution tell us if we thought 1 million possible people were crossing the road?
In this case, with 1 million people who could die if we misjudge, the principle of caution jumps from an albeit slightly reckless 1:10 to 1:10,000,000. In other words, if a 1 in 10 chance of killing an innocent person is too much for you, as evidenced by the way you currently do ordinary things like drive a car, then to be consistent you would have to be 99.9999% sure the nearly 1 million unborn lives which are ended each year (in the US alone) are not really people, but just shadows and mailboxes.
Tell me, is there a 0.00001% chance that the unborn are people and the pro-choice position is wrong? If you grant me even that tiny possibility, then we all, with adrenaline surging, must crank the wheel of our politics and culture and slam the brakes on the abortion industry immediately! Anything less is irrational, reckless, and contrary to the way we all actually live our lives.
In this article, I will give a word about rational argumentation and repentance, then briefly lay out a few arguments stating why abortion is wrong and why unborn lives are worth protecting. Finally, a lengthy questions and objection section will conclude. Again, if you disagree with me coming into this argument, good; you are the one to which I am writing. It will take some effort, but please be open minded, lay your emotions on the topic aside, and give this a fair reading. After all, if there was even a small chance that you were on the wrong side of this debate, wouldn’t you want to know?
Reason and Repentance
There is a place between tolerance and violence; it is called rational discussion. Tolerance by itself opens up a space for injustice and evil to flourish unopposed. Violence determines right and wrong based on who can be more vicious and powerful.
However, Reason’s casualties are falsehoods and lies, not neighbors and friends. Reasonable discussion allows us to find and share truth in common, as opposed to enjoying our private deceptions by ourselves.
I am sure you have strong feelings about this issue; you ought to. However, our feelings do not determine what is right and wrong. Using our emotions as our guide to truth is foolishness. Emotions must be trained and directed by reason, not allowed to run wild and cause us to act on purely animal instincts.
With this in mind, when I attack abortion as wrong, does that mean I am attacking the pro-choice person, or the woman who had an abortion? No, I am attacking the ideas they hold and the actions they have taken. Lies are like cancer in our minds. When allowed to flourish and feed, they grow and metastasize, ultimately destroying us. A surgeon removing a tumor is caring for the patient while brutally assaulting their disease.
What the doctor would like best is for the patient’s own body to reject the disease and maintain its health independently. This is what those in the pro-life movement wish for others. We want to destroy the lies that both kill unborn children and imperil your soul. Most of all, we want to see recognition of the evil of abortion leading to repentance, not retribution for those who support it.
Repentance is neither denial of the truth nor destruction of the person. Denial fails to understand the wrong that one has done, and instead leads to a life avoiding consequences and condemnation. Destruction is the opposite; it recognizes wrongs but doesn't recognize mercy. Therefore the weight of the wrongs crush the person who has committed them. The right way is to recognize wrongs but be shielded from destruction by mercy through repentance.
Pro-choice people living in denial of the evil of abortion think the only alternative is destruction. The pro-life side, to them, represents these forces of shame, destruction, and condemnation. Why would someone possibly want to join them? But I think they have it wrong; the pro-life cause is pro- your life, too. We want your life to never be caught between these extremes. Instead take the middle way. Choose repentance.
Maybe you think my mind, and the minds of other pro-life people, are the ones riddled with lies. Go ahead and state your own case, or give answers and arguments as to why we are incorrect. Do so openly and honestly, laying any emotions and vitriol to the side, and take a seat at the table of reason. Here I will seek to do just that.
Innocent. Human. Life.
Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human life.
Premise 2: An unborn child is an innocent human life.
Conclusion: It is wrong to intentionally kill an unborn child.
Those of you who remember philosophy 101 class know this is a valid deductive argument, where if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily must be true. So, are the premises true?
I really hope no one takes issue with the first premise. If you do, I don’t really know what to say to you. Maybe one could come up with a scenario to find a loop hole? For instance, what if a villain forces you to kill either Bob, or Linda and Harry. You choose to kill only Bob in order to spare 2 lives instead of just one.
One might say you didn’t intend to kill Bob with your action, instead you intended to spare the other two, and killing Bob was the means to do this. Therefore, your act lacked intention. Or else one could point out you are not doing anything; you are being forced to act in this circumstance. The villain is doing the killing and you are just another victim. Finally, one might say that yes, killing Bob or killing both Linda and Harry are both wrong, and one ought to choose the one which is less wrong.
Any way you slice it, it seems hard to imagine how we could reject the premise “It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human life” without condoning murder, which we all should oppose.
What about the Second Premise: “An unborn child is an innocent human life”. To affirm this one as true, we must investigate the three claims: innocent, human, and a life.
Innocent: The unborn child has not the power nor the opportunity to do anything wrong, much less something so wrong it warrants death. In our society, in the most grave circumstances, we can put criminals to death by law. What possible standard would a unborn child meet that would warrant death? What could they possibly be guilty of? The answer is nothing and therefore they are innocent.
Human: The unborn have human parents, human DNA, and are part of a normal human life cycle. How could they be anything other than human? After all, you, the reader, were once at this stage of development. Therefore, if you deny that they are human, you are also denying that you are human. Maybe they become human at a certain time? The burden of proof now rests on you to disprove that the thing all of us humans were at one point, which has distinct human DNA and human parents, is not human but something else. And then you need to explain how these things become humans.
You could come up with an ad hoc set of standards to try and justify this very strange conclusion. Maybe it is not human until there are brain waves? But that is both completely arbitrary and rooted in nothing more than an attempt to avoid the obvious conclusion of the argument. Furthermore, if this was the standard, then people in a coma are not humans and rats are humans! Go ahead and substitute a heartbeat or any other criteria and it will yield similar nonsensical results.
A Life: If it wasn’t alive then there would be no need to abort the unborn child in the first place...so it is obviously a life we are talking about. Maybe one could say it is not a separate life from the mother? Here are some of the many problems with that. The child has separate DNA, a separate body, different cells, different parents, and is completing a separate human life cycle. If the point is that it is dependent and therefore not a separate life, then this precludes you from being a life, since you are dependent on grocery stores, water utilities, and houses to survive. More obviously than that, a newborn child is dependent on the body of her mother for life, and yet the child is obviously a separate living thing. An unborn child meets every scientific and philosophical standard I have ever heard of to qualify them as alive.
In summary, an unborn child is innocent, without even the ability to do wrong, much less a wrong that warrants death. She is human because she has human parents and human DNA. She is a life. If that were not true, abortion would not be possible because there would be no life to end. We all agree it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human life. Therefore, having affirmed that the deductive argument is valid and the premises are sound, we conclude it is wrong to kill the unborn. If you have followed this argument, then why would you not now oppose abortion?
Are you awake? After that argument, do you think those shadowy figures crossing the road might be more likely to be real people? Are you going to hit your brakes, or change direction? The default position ought to be extreme caution. If you are on the fence about abortion, then I would contend you should be firmly on the pro-life side.
Let me make another analogy. If you were in the old south and didn’t know whether or not slavery was wrong, what should you do? Obviously if there is even a minuscule chance that slavery is wrong, and your nation has a whole race enslaved, this cannot be tolerated. It is obvious today that just because black people look different than white people, this doesn't mean they don’t have basic rights. In the pro-life movement, it is equally obvious that just because the unborn look different than we are used to, this doesn’t mean we can violate their most basic right to life.
At this point, the reader may be thinking, “hold up; other things could outweigh the concerns about abortion, even if abortion is wrong. What if, for example, the mother can’t care for the child, the child is disabled, or it was conceived through incestuous rape?”
All of these miss the core point: what is an unborn child? If I asked you if a mother could kill their 2 year old child because, “the mother can’t care for the child, the child is disabled, and it was conceived through incestuous rape”, what would you say? Obviously the answer is no. Why?
I imagine you would suddenly sound a lot like me from a few paragraphs prior. The 2 year old is an innocent human life and therefore these circumstances, although horrible, don’t in any way justify intentionally ending that life.
Either we must be consistent in our standard and apply the same standards to unborn children as we do to born children, or there has to be an unbelievably ironclad reason that erases all uncertainty as to how the unborn are not innocent, human, or living things, which as shown above is not the case.
This is a Secular Argument
Read above; are my arguments against abortion religious in nature? Did I quote the Bible? If you simply read the arguments, could you have figured out if I was a theist or an atheist, a man or a woman? Often, pro-life advocates are accused of being theocratic by forcing religious opinions on others. Where is the religion in my defense? Even my call for repentance could be read as secular advice.
Nothing at all would stop a blue haired, atheistic, communist, gay, feminist, transgender person, who in the past had 12 abortions, from adopting all of what has been argued. For all you know at this point, the author has just described themselves.
(If you are a Christian and you don’t think that abortion is wrong, then I am shocked at your Biblical and theological illiteracy. Email me; I will try to nicely show you the basics of the faith you so tenuously grasp. )
Racial and Gender Injustice
Many who are pro-choice are on the left. Such people often are quite aware of injustice regarding race and gender. Why aren’t you upset that today, more black babies are killed in New York City than are born? Minority babies and female babies are disproportionately aborted. In fact, abortion facilities are often intentionally located in poor or minority neighborhoods.
Questions and Objections:
Objection: You pro-life people don’t care about anything other than the fetus. You don’t care about the mother, the child when it’s older, the poor, or about healthcare for those who don’t have access. You just have your narrow pet issue and ignore everyone else’s needs. If you are going to be “pro-life”, why don’t you go all the way?
Answer: People nicer than I often answer this question by citing the numerous ways that pro-life organizations actually do all of these things, and in much greater numbers than pro-choice groups do. However, I am calling this one as I see it. This argument is dumb and completely misses the point of the debate.
The whole abortion issue revolves around the question, “What are the unborn?” If, as I have defended, they are Innocent Human Lives, that means they are just like you and me, your neighbors and friends. I assume you support the laws prohibiting people from killing your next door neighbor. Oh, but wait! This means by your logic you should go “All the way” with your ‘pro-neighbor’s life’ position and feed him, pay his bills, get him health care and, strangely, even take care of his mother. This is obviously absurd. Even if pro-life people don’t lift a finger to help anyone, they are still just as justified in supporting laws protecting an unborn baby as you would be for supporting laws that criminalize infanticide of the same child a few short months later.
If that wasn’t clear enough, let me ask you this: do people who support laws prohibiting grand theft auto need to go “all the way” and start paying for other people’s auto loans? Would supporting a law against vandalism mean that someone now is obligated to start cleaning the streets? Of course not; likewise those wanting laws that stop mothers and abortionists from killing unborn babies have no obligation whatsoever to care for that child. If they choose to do so (which they do all of the time), this is an act of generosity. The obligation to care for the child rests on the mother and father, not unrelated people who simply want their fellow citizens to refrain from killing their young, out of concern for justice.
Because there can never be enough examples, imagine people thought that Kenyans weren't really people, and because they have a poor standard of living compared to us, we should kill them all with nuclear warheads. The death toll, which would be less than that of abortion since 1973, is over 50 million! But you object and protest; you are pro-life with respect to the Kenyans. Those who support killing them respond that you have no right to object to their vaporization, because you don’t feed and support anyone in Kenya, nor do your alleviate their poverty and work to raise their standard of living. Therefore you aren’t really pro-Kenyan, you just have a narrow view where you think they ought not be killed. How dare you.
Question: If God or mother nature is so anti-abortion, why do half of embryos fail to implant? Seems like abortion can’t be wrong if God, or whoever, designed abortion to happen this often.
Answer: (I promise I will get to more sophisticated arguments later. These happen to be the popular ones so they will be at the top of the pile.)
Child mortality in many areas of sub Saharan Africa is about 50%. Using this logic, it is fine to kill African kids because there is a good chance they will die anyway. Alternatively, if you find an old or sick person, maybe it is fine to just kill them. This is making the insane insinuation that the value of one’s life is determined by the probability of their death, which taken over the long term is 100%.
The right view is that the value of one’s life comes from their nature as human persons. We all share the same nature, therefore all human life has the same intrinsic value. As for why God would have this happen? That’s another whole topic; check out my article on evil. Suffice to say, none of us could have earned the great privilege of getting to exist. Any life span we have is an unmerited privilege given by a Creator who has the right to determine our life span- and would have good reasons for doing so.
Objection: You are just moralizing and mansplaining in order to obscure how you actually want laws that control women’s bodies.
Answer: If I told you that I walked into a department store and they “controlled my body”, what would you picture? What if I then explained what I really meant was that there was a “No Shoplifting” sign posted? You would think I was being ridiculous. They didn’t control my body; they just issued a law that protected the property of the store against theft.
Let’s test and see if an abortion law is really about “controlling women’s bodies”. Imagine that a group of male scientists created an embryo and implanted it in an artificial womb. They allowed this tiny human to grow, then killed it. Look, no women were in the scenario at all, and yet a law against abortion would have prohibited this. Why? Because the point of the law is about protecting a person’s right to life; it has nothing to do with “controlling a woman’s body”. That phrase is pure propaganda.
Objection: You have this whole thing wrong. The fetus isn’t a person, it’s just a part of a woman’s body. An early abortion is no worse than having a tumor removed.
Answer: Separate DNA, a distinct body, a separate life cycle, and different parents. How on earth does that count as part of a woman’s body? A tumor is not innocent, it’s malicious, it isn’t a human because it’s a tumor, nor is it a life; it’s a parasitic and deformed part of someone who is alive. As repeated before, an unborn baby is in fact an innocent human life.
If we follow your logic, this would mean that one conjoined twin could murder the other twin. Why not? They are just part of their body after all.
If the argument is that if the baby depends on the mother’s body, then the mother can end its life, this mean that born babies could be aborted. They, too, are fully dependent on their mother for food, protection, and everything else.
Most of the time people who make this objection think that by saying the word “fetus” they have won. The problem is, a fetus is a word for a stage in a normal human life cycle. It would be like saying, “That is not a person, it’s an adolescent”. Both “fetus” and “adolescent” describe humans, just at different points in development. If you think that humans get their worth from being human, then it should not matter whether the human is young or old.
Objection: But you haven’t truly considered the difficult situations these ladies are experiencing. It seems like your side doesn’t actually care about her experiences and traumas. How can you expect her to be okay with raising a child who symbolizes so much pain? And by that I mean even those 9 months is difficult- she has to look in a mirror and see her body physically altered (in some ways never to return), her state of mind transformed with hormones, and know she is trapped for at least 9 months. How can you, in any compassion, relegate a traumatized victim to this state of returning to the trauma every time she glances in the mirror, or forgets her keys due to hormonal changes?
Answer: If this is a call to compassion, then yes, I agree with all of it. If it is a call to care for women in difficult circumstances, then we can all agree on that, too. But if this is somehow an argument that is meant to justify killing an innocent human life, then it doesn’t make any sense. Basically it amounts to this: women can be in terrible situations because of an unwanted pregnancy, therefore they can kill a person who bears no moral responsibility for this situation. Not only is that a complete non-sequitur, but even if it did work, it would prove too much. For example:
Let’s say a Jew survived the Holocaust and tells you about the torments, the humiliations, the work camps, and how their family was killed in front of them, and all of the other horrors they went through. They go on to say the Nazis offered them a choice: stay as a prisoner for 9 more months or kill your own 3 year old girl. The man chose to kill his daughter. Would you think that was okay? No; of course you could have sympathy for what he went through, but it is clear this is the wrong choice.
Objection: How could you be so cruel to force a woman to carry a rape baby!
Answer: How dare you call that person a “rape-baby”? That baby is perfectly innocent and had nothing to do with the crime; they didn’t even exist at the point of the crime. Since when does someone get a free pass to kill a totally unrelated person after a rape?
Among the 3 people involved (the woman, the child, and the rapist), who should be killed? Obviously the rapist. Why would you choose the child out of those three?
An abortion is traumatic; living with the consequences of having killed your own child is traumatic. How could piling this guilt and shame on a woman after such a terrible act be the solution?
Objection: Sure, whatever, maybe abortion is not great but I am not going to tell a woman what to do with her body. That is her decision, between her and her doctor.
Answer: Again, what are the unborn? If they are valuable human lives, then this view is ridiculous. Justice is not a private issue. The government has pretty much one job: to uphold the rights of its citizens. No right is more fundamental than the right to life.
Unborn children are as much innocent human lives as a 2 year old is. What if there was a place that women could take their two year old to have them put down? Maybe the mother was too poor to care for the 2 year old, or the 2 year old was conceived through rape or incest. The mother wanted to go to school again, but was trapped in a cycle of poverty because she had to take care of her 2 year old. Would you still think this was a private matter? Of course not; we as citizens ought to demand that our government defend the rights of its people.
As explained in other answers, laws against abortion are about the protection of the right to life, not control over a woman’s body. And the talk about it being between her and her doctor- aren't you forgetting someone? Maybe the child that is going to be killed; who will be their voice except us?
Objection: It’s not really a person before a heartbeat.
Answer: Why? Seriously, I have yet to hear why a heartbeat confers personhood. With this “logic”, if someone has an artificial heart, why can’t we kill them? What if someone is on an artificial circulation pump and is expected to recover in, let’s say… 9 months? Using this logic, it’s totally cool to kill that person. All this objection amounts to is a statement of preference with zero reasoning.
Objection: Look, you are on one extreme and the pro-choice people are on another extreme. I think the truth is probably in the moderate middle.
Answer: Would that reasoning work in the old south during slavery? “Look, you abolitionists are pretty extreme and the plantation owners are extreme, too. Maybe the truth about slavery is in the middle.” What about in Nazi Germany when Jews were killed? Was the truth somewhere in the middle?
Name one time or place in the history of the world where one group claimed another group that didn’t look or act like them were not really people and could be killed, and the truth of the matter turned out to be in the middle. Your unreasoned approach to the issue would never have worked in any other similar dispute in the history of mankind; why do you think it is the right approach now?
Objection: If we are really people from the moment of conception, then why don’t men have to pay child support starting then?
Answer: Yeah, good idea.
Objection: Look, intuitively I see a picture of a fetus, or more so an embryo, and it just doesn’t strike me as being a person like you or I. Maybe you have these arguments on your side, but doesn’t common sense tell us these early stages of development aren’t really as valuable as us?
Answer: We all agree that killing a newborn baby is absolutely wrong. However, what if you had never seen a newborn before? It, too, would look strange and different. The test you propose, which allows us to deny someone’s humanity or personhood based on how they look, has never turned out well. Disabled people, very old people, or different races like the pygmies, may all look different from what we happen to be used to. If someone presented you a feelings based argument about how pygmies aren’t people, because they don’t look like the people they are accustomed to seeing, how would you respond? Would their feelings matter, or would the pygmies’ clear and unequivocal sharing in a human nature be what ought to determine their recognition as people like you and I?
Objection: What about the famous violinist scenario? (basically you wake up and find that a stranger has been hooked up to your body to prevent them from death. The idea is that you have a right to disconnect from that person and let them die. Therefore, you have a right to disconnect from your own baby and let that person die.)
Answer: The violinist was headed towards death and unnatural actions of extraordinary care halted the advance towards death. No one is obligated to provide extraordinary care to one who is in the process of dying. In contrast, the fetus is not dying, but rather it is growing and developing. Intervention to stop its growth and development, by taking it out of the mother’s body and discarding it, is not the removal of extraordinary care for one who is dying. It is the direct and intentional killing of a human person. There is nothing more ordinary than the care one can expect to have from one’s own mother.
To illustrate the difference, imagine someone hacks your bank account and sends money to feed a starving child in a third world nation. You find out about the hack and cancel payments. Are you a murderer? Are you guilty of starving that child to death? No.
In case number two, you have a child of your own and upon looking at your bank account, you realize you could stop paying for the child’s food and it would save you money. You stop paying for your child’s food and the child starves to death. Are you guilty in this case? Of course you are.
But what is the difference? In both cases you stopped payment for food for a hungry child, just like in the violinist example. Both actions stopped giving life support with your body. I think the hungry child example makes the relevant differences more clear:
1- In one case, you are the child’s parent, therefore you have a built in responsibility that a stranger does not.
2- In one case, the child is in a state of starvation, and stopping payments represents no longer intervening to save them. In the second case, the child is currently in a state of health and your action is to starve them.
If all of this wasn’t enough, we need to look at what is entailed with an abortion. There are many types, but all of them involve more than a simple disconnection from the mother. Instead, crushing the skull, cutting off the limbs, poisoning, vacuuming, and other methods are the means of abortion. Would any of these be moral to use in the violinist example? If you wake up and find the violinist attached to your body for life support, would it be moral to disconnect them by crushing their head, poisoning them, or ripping their limbs off? Obviously not. If anything, this argument cuts against the pro-choice position.
Objection: A woman’s body is her property. If someone does not consent to have someone occupying their property, they have a right to evict or remove them. Abortion is not about killing the unborn, it is about the right to one’s own body.
Answer: A house is a woman’s property. Could she evict her 2 year old and let them die in the elements? Of course not. In most states, a landlord can’t even evict non-paying tenants in winter months. Why would we hold a harsher standard for babies than found in these examples?
Answer: What about the unborn girl in the womb? Does her right to her body not matter? Since when does right to property trump the right to life? That would be like saying a landlord should have the right to kill tenants who don’t pay rent.
Objection: Abortion is the better of competing evils. Without abortion, millions of women would be trapped in poverty, and millions of kids would grow up without a family that wanted them.
Answer: Despite the tens of thousands of dollars and insane paperwork and legal hassle, there is a waiting list a mile long for newborn babies to be adopted. There are 36 families who want to adopt for every 1 baby who needs to be adopted.
Answer: As usual, this sidesteps the question of what the unborn are. No one would accept this reasoning for the killing of nearly 1 million newborn babies or 2 year olds per year.
Objection: What about the health of the mother?
Answer: How about this for a principle: If the choice is between a person’s health and a person’s life, we ought to protect a person’s life. Simple enough, right? How about this next one: It is always wrong to directly and intentionally kill someone; instead all reasonable efforts ought to be taken to save as many people as possible. That’s it. Unborn lives are lives and deserve fair treatment just like the mother’s life.
Objection: If a person is found to be brain dead, we say they are no longer alive. Therefore, we could expect that a fetus which doesn’t yet have brain waves, or even a brain for that matter, is not yet alive. For this reason, destruction of a fetus or an embryo prior to this development is not taking a life.
Answer: Being brain dead is the point where the body can no longer run its own systems. In an adult, those systems include higher order function like memory and reason, along with lower order ones like gag reflex and flinching. Brain death leads quickly to the non functioning of most basic systems like heartbeat and respiration.
If the argument is that an embryo or a fetus does not control adult body systems and therefore is not alive, then this is just smuggling the conclusion into its premises. It amounts to saying a fetus or an embryo is not an adult, therefore they are not alive. The argument restates its conclusion while proving nothing.
Maybe the point of the argument could be that something is alive when it can run its own body systems. By this standard, an embryo would not be considered dead because it doesn’t run adult body systems, any more than an adult would be considered dead because it does not run embryo systems. Instead, the organism must run its own systems. An embryo or fetus does just that and a brain dead adult does not.
Objection: You act as if this is such an open and shut case, but thinkers like St Thomas Aquinas promoted the view that during fetal development a human got a succession of souls from nutritive to animal and finally to rational for each stage of development. Therefore if we take his view, abortion at an early stage is no more morally hazardous than killing a plant, later would be similar to the death of an animal, and only in the later stages would an actual human person with a real human soul die.
Answer: The soul is the form of a living thing. A form points towards a final cause. If Aquinas had the scientific knowledge of today, he would recognize that from the moment of conception the embryo is directed towards its end through internal causal processes which extend past mere nutrition or motion to self assembly of rational faculties. Therefore, he would conclude that the final cause of the embryo is the same as the final cause of the same creature at a later date. Thus the form is the same for both beings; since the form of a living thing is called a soul, he would conclude that the soul is the same.
Since he wrote at a time before scientific advancements made such knowledge possible, he wrongly concluded that the fetus was directed towards successive lower ends at early stages before then being directed towards higher ones. Like all Christians from the earliest times, he believed abortion was wrong. He wrote that if someone strikes a woman and kills the fetus, that person is guilty of murder.
Answer: This argument confuses me. Either the objector believes we ought to listen to Aquinas as an authority, in which case Aquinas would tell you abortion is wrong and to listen to the Catholic Church, who in turn says that life is sacred from the moment of conception, OR they don’t believe he is an authority.
In the latter case, there are two options. First, the objector undercuts their own argument because it is the words of one we don’t accept as an authority, and the objection falls flat. The second option is to appeal to the strength of the argument on its own. The problem with the second tactic is that the argument is based on primitive medieval science. Is the one using this objection really a supporter of medieval medical theory over current knowledge?
Current Catholic thinkers with the benefit of modern science and hundreds of years of theological development all conclude that abortion is wrong.
Warning- Religious Stuff Ahead
All of us have lies that we believe. All of those lies are harmful to ourselves and our community, since they prevent us from living in accord with reality. The deeper the lie takes hold and the more intertwined it becomes with our souls, the more painful it is to confront the truth.
The Bible records just this type of event. If you are not religious, I suggest you continue reading, since the following story can be correctly read on several levels other than a strictly theological one. In fact, below I will be primarily offering the moral sense of the text.
26 Then they (Jesus and the disciples) arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus[h] sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:26-39
Demons are messenger of lies. This man had accepted these lies into himself to the point the lies had control over him. These lies he believed drove him out of his community, shamed him by stripping him of his clothes, and made him feel more at home among the dead than the living. Was this man thriving? Clearly he didn’t lack freedom; no one in the town could bind him or restrain him. But his freedom wasn’t directed towards the truth, so it carried him deeper into death.
Yet he is the first one in town to meet Jesus, who is the Truth incarnate. This is the turning point for the man: he uses his freedom to choose to meet Jesus. The interaction that ensues occurs in all of our lives when we hold tightly to a lie and are met with the truth. The demoniac screams “I beg you, do not torment me”. In a prior chapter with another demoniac, it asks, “Have you come to destroy us?” (Luke 4:34)
Soon we learn the answer is no. Instead, the man is tormenting himself under the oppression of the demonic. And yet Jesus was there to return him to his right mind, cover his shame by re-clothing him, and return him to his community with a mission. He saw the truth as that which torments or destroys, but the opposite proves to be the case after his encounter.
Some historical background is important here. Jews saw pigs as unclean and refused to raise them. The reason these Jews were doing so was to supply food for the local Roman garrison that was oppressing and ruling over them and their neighbors. Members of this community were traitors to their own people, and violators of the purity laws in their Scriptures.
One might remember the Romans were organized as legions. This is the name the demons give to themselves. The power and the oppression of the Romans drove the community into subjugation and forced them to live and work in filth and sin. Likewise, the demons identified as “Legion” do the same to this man. When Jesus meets the demoniac, the lies feeding his oppression and sin are drowned by the cleansing power of truth. This parallels the swine herd’s destruction in the sea. Now the unclean food fueling Roman oppression and the unclean lies the demoniac has consumed, fueling his own oppression, are both destroyed.
Towards the end of the story, the demoniac takes on the role that Jesus played for him. In fact, by being first rejected by his community, bound, tormented, and returning to them in peace from the tomb, he images Christ and His upcoming resurrection.
Every one of us are in the role of the demoniac, because all of us consume lies and are driven away from reality and community into self destruction and shame. The Truth looks dangerous and painful, but the Truth is what sets us free.
If you hold on to the lie that abortion is not immoral, then you are standing among the graves of the unborn. If you think you can fight injustice in your community without first drowning the lies in yourself, you are wrong. There is a community that is being oppressed, more than any other, by a legion of lies and liars- these are the unborn who are killed by the millions. If you choose to look to the Truth, the lies will be drowned, and you will be able to freely represent the truth to your community and halt the oppression of your neighbors.