Here are 15 common arguments for abortion, with short responses to each, taken from the solid (but quite academic) book, “Defending Life”, by Francis Beckwith. Abortion is a subject we need to think clearly about as Christians
If you’re reading this and have had an abortion, the Bible teaches that forgiveness is available: “if we walk in the light… the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sins” (1 John 1:7), but it requires turning from the darkness to the light.
1. “if abortion is illegal, women will be harmed by using coat-hangers in back-alleys”. If there was a law forbidding operations to take out your appendix, and people were needlessly dying of appendicitis and illegal operations, it would be good to remove the law. But if the unborn are fully human, this argument is saying that because people die or are harmed while killing other people (i.e. the unborn), we should make it safe for them.
2. “if abortion is illegal, the rich will still be able to get abortions abroad, while the poor won’t”. How is this different to arguing that we should legalize hiring hit men to kill your enemies, because at the moment only the wealthy have access to hitmen?
3. “abortion is an important means of population control and stopping poor families being financially burdened”. Why stop with killing the unborn? Why not kill any humans we find financially burdensome or emotionally hard-work? We could easily eliminate the problem of poverty by executing all poor people; but, it’s not exactly “solving” the problem.
4. “abortion will mean there aren’t unwanted children, who get abused”. Would killing 3 year-olds be morally acceptable if it stopped the abuse of 5 year-olds? And is someone’s value tied to whether they’re wanted or not? Most of us realise that the more vulnerable and unwanted someone is, the more they need our protection.
5. “how can you force someone to bring a disabled child into the world?”. But the baby is already in the world; nobody is forcing a woman to bring a disabled child into the world. We just want disabled children who are already in the world, both born and unborn, to be protected from unjust killing.
6. “a woman’s career threatens to be disrupted if she can’t dispose of an unwanted pregnancy”. What would we think of a parent who killed their 2-year old because the child interfered with the parent’s ability to advance in his occupation?
7. “women who have become pregnant due to rape or incest need access to abortion; it’s cruel to force a woman to carry her baby against her will”. Despite these tragic circumstances, killing another human is never justified to relieve emotional distress. Does the unborn child have a duty to die for the happiness of another? Remember, it is the rapist who has already forced the woman to carry her child; we simply want to prevent another innocent human being from being a victim of another violent act. Sometimes the moral thing to do is not the pleasant thing to do, because the alternative is a moral evil; that is the case here.
8. “abortion is necessary to guarantee woman’s right to participate in society as equals”. This implies that women are naturally inferior to men, and equality for women can only be achieved by access to special surgery (abortion). How can women ever lose second-class status as long as they are seen as requiring surgery to avoid it?
9. “Don’t like an abortion, don’t have one”. That’s like saying: “Don’t like murder, don’t commit one” or “Don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave”.
10. “it’s simply wrong to force your own view of what’s morally right on others”. That can’t be right, because laws against drunk driving, smoking crack, robbery and child molestation are all intended to impose moral perspective on the free acts of others.
11. “enforcing abortion law is impossible; abortions will happen anyway, so it’s best to make sure it’s done safely and legally”. This is tantamount to saying: Because people will unjustly kill other people anyway, we ought to make it safe and legal for them to do so. Changes to the law can significantly affect public opinion.
12. “making abortion illegal is basically advocating compulsory pregnancy”. That’s like an angry father referring to laws that forbid murder as advocating compulsory marriage and compulsory fatherhood.
13. “an abortion decision is a very private one, best kept between a woman, her doctor, and her family, as they know what’s best for the pregnant woman”. The appeal to intimacy and privacy should drive us away from abortion rather than towards it. Men cannot beat their wives in the name of “privacy” and parents cannot molest their children because the family circle is a private and intimate sanctuary. Abortion violates the intimate sanctuary of a woman’s pregnancy, where a small, innocent, defenceless child is nestled and protected.
14. “why don’t you adopt the babies who aren’t aborted?” Say we were approached by a parent, who said to us: “Unless you adopt my three children by noon tomorrow, I will put them to death”. If we refused to adopt those children it would not mean their parent was justified in killing them. If this was a moral principle, it would mean: unless I am willing to adopt my neighbour’s daughter, I cannot prevent her mother from abusing her; unless I am willing to hire ex-slaves for my business, I cannot say that the slave-owner should not own slaves.
15. “men don’t get pregnant”. But arguments don’t have penises! Because plenty of women use these same arguments it’s necessary to answer the arguments, which stand or fall irrespective of genitalia. What’s more, a man is necessary for getting pregnant; men pay for abortions, and for child support, and help with child-rearing.