Debunking Ten Common Pro-Choice Arguments
At 43 million deaths annually,1 more people are killed from abortion than from the top ten other leading causes of death combined.2 Over the last forty years, that amounts to the deaths of nearly two billion individuals—the world population only a century ago. As has been rightly noted, our modern abortion culture has made the mother's womb, nature's incubator for new life, the most dangerous place on earth.
Liberal reaction to this reminds me of Colonel Nathan R. Jessep's famous outburst in A Few Good Men (1992): "You can't handle the truth!" For when confronted with scientific and moral truths, the left responds with suppression, denial, and Orwellian reasoning. Tragically, this has worked, even on pro-lifers.
A while back, I overheard two pastors in a conservative denomination discussing the merits of a certain political organization. One remarked that he couldn't support the organization because of its advocacy of abortion. To which the other intoned, "It doesn't advocate abortion, it advocates the woman's right to choose." Fidgeting, the first pastor paused, then shifted the discussion to another topic. A clever turn in rhetoric was all it took to silence this pro-life pastor.
To help break the silence that too often characterizes our response to pro-choice arguments, I thought I'd provide rebuttals to the ten most common ones.
1. The embryo is a clump of cells, a mass of tissue, not a human being.
While this claim has enjoyed success over the years in swaying popular opinion and legal decisions, it is contrary to what is, and has been, known medically and scientifically.
In 1981, a U.S. Senate subcommittee heard testimony from medical experts about the beginning of life, including statements like this: "By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception" (Dr. Hymie Gordon of Mayo Clinic). And this: "It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive. . . . It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception" (Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard Medical School). And this: "I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception. . . . I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life" (Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni of University of Pennsylvania).3
Tellingly, experts for the pro-choice position declined to define or defend any other stage at which human life begins.
2. The embryo/fetus is not a person.
Once it was no longer tenable to deny that abortion ends a human life, the pro-choice lobby finessed its rhetoric: "The embryo/fetus, while human, is not a 'person'; only persons have an intrinsic right to life." As to when such a human is endowed with personhood, the answer becomes a fuzzy "whenever," as in, "whenever the mother says it is," which is the finest point the lobby is willing put on it.
Of course, once the killing of children is sanctioned, any restriction related to an individual's stage of development or decline becomes strictly arbitrary. Although abortion proponents are quick to pooh-pooh slippery-slope concerns over infanticide and euthanasia, we've already made progress down that moral mudslide.
Since 1991, four states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Vermont) have legalized physician-assisted suicide. As to infanticide, Princeton ethicist Peter Singer has been arguing for it for years. In 2012, two medical researchers advanced a rationale for "after-birth" abortion in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Ethics, and their arguments drew lots of attention, not all of it negative.4
3. "My body, my choice!"
Granted. Except, in this case, what is in your body is not "your body," or a part of it. Rather, the child you carry, as the medical facts make clear, is a unique embodied human being that was produced in your body through the life-generating contribution of another body: your child's father.
4. The pro-life movement is a "War on Women."
This shopworn slogan, advanced by the left to incite fear in women, gets several things wrong. First, women make up one-half of the pro-life movement and have as strong, or stronger, pro-life views than men.
For instance, according to Gallup, 44 percent of women self-identify as pro-life, with 24 percent believing that abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances." That compares to 46 and 19 percent, respectively, for men.5
If the numbing drumbeat of the left is true, then not only are pro-life men waging war on their mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives, but nearly half of the nation's women are waging war against themselves. It is a war on the intelligence of women to think they would fall for such tripe.
Second, girls are preferentially aborted over boys. The United Nations estimates that up to 200 million girls have been the targeted victims of sex-selective abortion.6 Thus, it is pro-abortion, rather than anti-abortion, policies that are "anti-women."
Last, and most important, the real war here is the War on Children who have, worldwide, suffered two billion casualties and counting over the last four decades.
5. To oppose abortion is to impose your morality on others.
When, as governor of New York, Mario Cuomo so piously quipped that he was "personally opposed" to abortion but would not impose his moral views on New Yorkers, it must have escaped his notice that every law is the attempt of someone (especially those who are "personally opposed") to impose his moral vision (and its consequences!) on others. The pious gang of the "personally opposed" had no qualms about the imposition of Affordable Care Act regulations requiring employers to pay for coverage for contraceptives, sterilization procedures, and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees, regardless of the employer's own religious convictions. The same goes for the Obama administration's removal of conscience exemptions for health care workers to protect them from being forced to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.7
6. Abortion must be allowed for rape, incest, and health risk to the mother.
This was the Trojan horse that opened the door to abortion-on-demand. Even staunch pro-lifers have difficulty denying these exceptions because of human empathy and, sad to say, political expediency.
In cases of rape and incest, the argument is that an abortion will limit the emotional and psychological trauma of the victim. However, research compiled by the Elliot Institute shows that the vast majority (up to 85 percent) of victims choose not to abort, and those who do commonly report "guilt, depression, feelings of being 'dirty,' resentment of men, and lowered self-esteem"—feelings identical to those they experienced after rape. Thus, "rather than easing the psychological burdens of the sexual assault victim, abortion adds to them."8
Nonetheless, as traumatic as rape or incest may be for the victim, and as much as we may empathize with her, it never justifies victimizing a third person who, in such cases, happens to be the most innocent person involved: her child.
Concerning maternal health, strangely enough in a book promoting legalized abortion, Dr. Alan Guttmacher admitted, "Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life."9 And he wrote that in 1967.
More recently, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop stated, "In my 36 years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother's life."10
What the issue of maternal health really comes down to is this: if a mother is willing to assume some, if not significant, personal risk for the welfare of her post-partum child, she has no moral basis to deny her enwombed child the same consideration, given that the only difference is her child's stage of development, just as a newborn differs from a toddler, a toddler from a teen, and a teen from an adult.
Pascal once said, "[You] make a rule of exception . . . from this exception you make a rule without exception, so that you do not even want the rule to be exceptional." By slipping a few exceptions under our moral radar, the pro-choice movement has succeeded in making abortion a constitutional right, free from exceptions.
7. Abortion rights are about women's health.
Just how women's health is improved by abortion is left to the imagination, except by reference to the days of back alley rooms and rusty coat hangers. Ignored, or glossed over, are the very real and serious health risks women face from legal abortions, conducted in "sterile" clinics.
For example, an analysis of 22 studies involving over 800,000 participants, which was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that post-abortion women had a "moderate to highly increased risk of mental health problems," including substance abuse and suicidal behavior.11 As for the physical consequences of abortion, the best-documented ones include significantly increased risks of premature birth in future pregnancies, uterine bleeding, and breast cancer.12
And let's not forget Dr. Kermit Gosnell's "house of horrors" that, beyond its gut-wrenching butchery, was an unmitigated health hazard for women, thanks to lenient laws and lax regulatory oversight.
8. A 20-week-old fetus doesn't feel pain.
Every time I hear about a study, usually from some cheerleader for Planned Parenthood, claiming that a (insert number here)-week fetus doesn't feel pain, I remember experiences like that of Dr. Richard Selzer, who recorded what he witnessed during the needle-injection abortion of a 19-week fetus:
I see something! It is unexpected, utterly unexpected. . . . I see a movement—a small one. But I have seen it. And then I see it again. And now I see that it is the hub of the needle in the woman's belly that has jerked. First to one side. Then to the other side. Once more it wobbles, is tugged, like a fishing line nibbled by a sunfish. . . ."
Dr. Selzer went on to say that the vision of the fetus struggling for life would be ever etched in his mind.13
Yet, even if a fetus can't feel pain, that doesn't justify taking its life any more than it would be justifiable to take the life of a person who is intoxicated, anesthetized, paralyzed, or comatose.
9. Jesus never condemned abortion, and, until recently, the Church never said when life begins.
An argument from silence is not dispositive, but if you're going to go there, Jesus also never condemned (by name) slavery, sex trafficking, incest, pedophilia, cannibalism, animal cruelty, arson, and countless other immoral and unethical behaviors.
However, he did (1) reaffirm the command against murder (without regard to developmental status), (2) sternly warn against not caring for the "least of these," and (3) commend the welcoming of a "little child" in his name. Even the Psalmist, writing a millennium earlier, acknowledged his own personhood: "from the time my mother conceived me."14
With regard to the Church, the sentiments of folks like Nancy Pelosi notwithstanding,15 it has consistently held that abortion ismurder. In the second century alone, there were over twenty admonitions against abortion (without allowance for today's popular exceptions) by early church fathers, like this from Tertullian:
In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb. . . . To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.16
10. Abortion is a necessary countermeasure for overpopulation.
Government policies and cultural attitudes have already caused fertility rates in much of the developing world to fall below replacement levels. East Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and Russia are among the regions with fertility rates below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.
Countries with sub-replacement birthrates face an ever-graying population with its attendant problems: labor shortages, decreased productivity, a reduced tax base, pension shortages, and inadequate care of the elderly. Consequently, a number of countries are aggressively working to reverse the downward trend with family-friendly policies—for example, tax credits and exemptions for parents, incentives for child rearing, improved provisions for child care, anti-discrimination laws for working mothers, and so on—in recognition that it is under-, not over-, population which threatens the common weal. •Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and physicist, a Colson Center fellow, and a Christian commentator on faith and culture. He is the author of Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters, available at Amazon.Get Salvo in your inbox! This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #30, Fall 2014 Copyright © 2022 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo30/fatal-errors