For my entire life abortion has been legal in all 50 states. Not only has it been legal, but the states have been prohibited from outlawing by a 1973 Supreme Court case called Roe v. Wade. Now, in what is likely, without hyperbole, the biggest move towards justice since the founding of the country, Roe is dead.
That’s a big claim, but we as a country have legalized the killing of innocent humans in the millions. 63 million legal abortions since 1973. This should be championed as a giant leap forward for human rights.
But the Country is divided on the decision. In fact, a large segment of the population says this is actually a giant step back for human rights. They would say that Roe gave a woman the choice to control her own body, her own decisions, and her own life-and the Supreme Court has just taken that away.
Now, the overturning of Roe doesn’t make abortion illegal, it just leaves it to the States to decide whether or not it should be legal. Because of this, it is more important than ever that we are able to articulate why abortion is wrong.
The most important question
Before even talking about abortion, you need to settle one question. That question is “what is the unborn?” That’s the lynchpin of the whole debate. If the unborn is a human being, that human should protected. The unborn has human rights by virtue of being, well, human. And the first and most important human right is the protection from being killed.
If the unborn is not a human being, then no moral issue at all. I’m not sad when I get my wisdom teeth pulled, because my teeth are part of me. They have no human rights, because they are not humans. If the unborn are not human, abortion should be as morally permissible as a tooth extraction.
Why the unborn is a human
So, what’s the argument for the humanity of the unborn? Here’s a 30-second soundbite to keep in your pocket.
First, the unborn is growing, so it must be alive. Second, the unborn has two human parents, so it must be human. Therefore, since it is a living human, like you and me, it should be protected.
That’s the soundbite. There’s objections that need to be answered. Hold on to them. But for the majority of conversations, this will suffice.
On topic objections
Remember how we said that the main question is whether the unborn is a human being. On-topic objections will deal with this question.
Part/Whole- For example, remember my cute little 30-second apologetic? Well my appendix is growing and human, do I have a moral duty to protect it? This is a good objection because it addresses the topic. It attacks the unborn’s status as a human. But it’s a bad objection because it does not distinguish between a part and a whole. My appendix is not a human being, it is part of a human. Not so with the unborn, on a common sense level, we don’t say a pregnant woman has 4 arms and two noses. But even if we were to say it, modern science would shut us down, a fetus has a unique genetic code, it is a different organism that the mother.
Stage of development- The other on-topic objections deals with stages of development. Basically these arguments say that what makes a person valuable, or even a “person” at all is when they hit a certain level of development. Whether that is viability, sentience, or having a heartbeat, all of these distinctions are somewhat arbitrary. And even more disturbing, tend to exclude “born” members of society. So, the best way to answer these objections is to ask why that particular developmental trait transfers human rights and ask them what they do with the “born” humans that get excluded.
Off topic objections/Trotting out the toddler
The next set of objections are called “off topic,” not because they are unimportant or not serious, but because they don’t deal with the question of what the unborn is. In this category we have things like poverty, overpopulation, the mother not being able to care for the child, and even rape.
The way to address these arguments quickly is what has been called “trotting out the toddler.” Basically, take the off topic objection and ask if the same rationale would apply to a 2 year old. Example:
Pro choice: But what if the mom is in high school and can’t care for the baby. Both the mother and the child would be better off if the mother had an abortion now and waited until she was ready.
Pro life: I agree that would be excruciatingly difficult. I can’t imagine it. But let me ask you a question. What if the teenage mom had a two year old. The child is living in poverty, the mother is considering dropping out. This may sound silly, but can the mother kill the child?
Pro choice: Of course not! But that’s not the same thing
Pro life: I agree, but why not?
Pro choice: Because the fetus is not yet…
You see what happened? You grabbed the conversation by the ankles and dragged it back to the first question, “what is the unborn.” But a note of caution here. These “off topic” objections are emotionally powerful. And never forget that you might be talking to someone who has gone through these circumstances. We need soft hearts and hard arguments, not the other way around.
Repentance for all
I appreciate all our pro life friends who are secular or who hail from other faiths. Their work is valuable. But Christianity is the only faith with hope for those who have been complicit in abortion. A particular striking metaphor in the Bible is the blood of the innocent crying out from the ground. It is hard to calculate the real guilt, the real shame, and the real judgment that surrounds abortion. But as an answer to those things, we have a real savior.
Jesus the innocent came to be killed so that those who kill the innocent can be innocent again. And we as Christians carry that good news. So in a post-Roe world, let’s not be quiet about it.
*There’s no way to quantify all the streams I borrowed all these arguments from (and who they borrowed them from). But I’ve been influenced heavily by Scott Klusendorf’s book “Making the Case for Life” (link) and the organization Justice for All. (link)