Poverty, rape, disability or “unwantedness” do not morally justify abortion.
There are all sorts of circumstances that people point to as justification for their support of abortion. Since none of these circumstances are sufficient to justify the killing of human beings after birth, they're not sufficient to justify the killing of human beings before birth.
When it comes to abortion, there is no shortage of "What if...?'s." Just when it seems the injustice of abortion has been firmly established, you'll hear things like: What if the woman was raped?, What if she can't afford a child?, or What if the baby is deformed? These questions don't address the fundamental ethics of abortion, but they do introduce a host of difficult variables. Some people appeal to them earnestly. Many do not. These "hard cases" are often used as a last defense by those who actually believe abortion should be legal no matter what the circumstances. They appeal to these more emotionally-charged circumstances in an attempt to move the focus away from the heart of the issue – which is the humanity of unborn children and the violence of abortion. The best way to expose the fallacy of such claims is to simply broaden the context and apply them to children outside the womb. No matter how you frame it, the difficulty that these circumstances present do not justify the death of an innocent human being.
WHAT IF THE CHILD IS UNWANTED?
One of the historic mantras of the abortion industry goes like this: "Every Child a Wanted Child." It sounds noble enough, until you realize what their solution to unwantedness is. If a child isn't wanted, they argue, then it shouldn't be born. The problem, of course, is that if the child is already conceived, the only way to keep said child from being born is to kill it. How do they justify such violence? Often by arguing that it is better for the child to be dead than for the child to be unwanted.
This is a bogus argument. It doesn't work for the simple fact that no one makes such an argument about children after birth. Is certain death really the answer to potential neglect or abuse? If someone's right to life truly were established or removed based simply on their "wantedness," what would that mean for the homeless, the aged or the infirm? In the broadest sense, the whole discussion of "wantedness" ignores a substantial reality. Even if the biological parents want nothing to do with their offspring, there are families all over the nation waiting desperately to adopt a baby, families who are willing to adopt diseased babies of any race or ethnicity.
Former United States Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, observed that the easy availability of abortion can unduly influence a woman's feelings about being pregnant. He writes:
Obviously, many more babies are unwanted early in pregnancy than is the case later in pregnancy or after birth. It is the ready availability of abortion-on-demand, when a pregnant woman first has that natural question about how well she can handle a pregnancy, that leads to the tremendous number of abortions.1
Something as subjective as "wantedness" can never be the basis for granting someone the right to life, and abortion advocates know this. They don't argue that mothers should be free to kill their "unwanted" children after birth because they know these children are living, human beings with full rights of personhood. The only reason they argue that mothers should be free to kill their unwanted children before birth is because they're ignoring the scientific reality that these children, too, are living, human beings. The question is humanity, not wantedness.
Abortion advocates often argue that it is acceptable for a woman to abort her pregnancy if she cannot afford to raise a child. While they are careful to use noble and compassionate language, they are essentially arguing that if a baby is going to be too expensive, the mother has a right to kill it. Such rationale falls apart on many levels, but we'll start with the most fundamental. Like so many abortion arguments, this one assumes something about the unborn embryo or fetus that it hasn't proved. It assumes, in fact, the very thing that it must prove before the argument can hold any water.
Isn't it true, that there are born-children, today, who are growing up in poverty? Has anyone ever heard someone argue that the mothers of these born-children should have the right to kill them, since they can't afford to raise them? No one makes such an absurd and heartless argument because we all know that no amount of financial hardship is sufficient rationale for killing another human being, particularly an innocent child. On a practical level, there are more crisis pregnancy care centers in America today than there are abortion providers. They all function to help bring women through their pregnancies by providing them the emotional and financial assistance they need to carry to term and, if need be, place for adoption (which would relieve all future financial obligation). When help is needed, help can be found.
The only reason anyone uses the financial hardship argument to try and justify abortion is because they are assuming that human beings in the womb are qualitatively different from human beings out of the womb. But until abortion advocates can prove this to be so, financial distress can never justify abortion. Poverty is not the issue. The humanity of the unborn child is.
Generally speaking, abortion advocates would have you believe that putting an unborn child to death is an acceptable way to treat physical or mental disability. In much the same way that they argue for aborting children who might grow up in poverty, abortion advocates also argue for the right to abort children who might grow up with a disability—as if disease or handicap somehow strips a person of their right to live and relegates them to a life of misery. Such a suggestion is barbaric and inhumane and has no place in a just society. There are children of all ages, and adults too, who are alive today and are living through all manner of disease and disability. Do these physical limitations make them less human? Is killing those who are sick really an acceptable way to treat sickness?
C. Everett Koop, who pioneered the field of pediatric surgery, points out that "some of the most unhappy children have all of their physical and mental faculties, while some of the happiest youngsters have borne burdens which most of us would find very difficult to endure."2 He continues:
The most challenging aspect of children's surgery is the treatment of those congenital defects that are incompatible with life, but nevertheless can be corrected by the proper surgical procedure carried out shortly after birth… Of course there are problems in raising some of these children, and they may on occasion constitute a burden for the rest of the family. [I have performed] thousands of just such operations. No family has ever asked, "Why did you work so hard to save the life of my child?" No grown child or young adult has ever asked, "Why did you struggle so hard when you knew the outcome would not be perfect?3
The only reason anyone suggests for children before birth what they would never suggest after birth is that they are again assuming what they have not proven. Anyone who argues that abortion is a necessary safeguard against a life of suffering and disability is assuming that the unborn child is not yet a living human being. But this is exactly the point that they must prove before they can even begin to make such claims. Disability isn't the issue, it's humanity. We do not kill people for their disabilities, period. Therefore, unless we're not human beings before we're born, our disabilities should no more disqualify us from life before birth than they do after birth.
Furthermore, this pressure to abort handicapped babies is built largely on conjecture, on the mere "likelihood" that a child has some kind of disability. Often, the tests prove wrong, and more often still, these children, if allowed to live, end up with lives of joy and happiness that far exceeds those of their "more healthy" peers. Suffering and hardship are not bad things. They are means to a greater end, a crucial part of the human journey. Anyone who tries to eliminate suffering by killing the "sufferers" is establishing a horrific trend. It is not for us to decide who has a life worth living and who doesn't, and we certainly wouldn't want someone else making that decision for us!
In the end, this whole question of disability is a mere disguise to divert attention from abortion's true agenda. The fact is, abortion advocates support killing babies whether they have disabilities or not. They're not arguing that abortion should be limited to fetuses with severe handicaps. They're arguing that the mother, alone, should have the right to kill her baby for any reason under the sun, and that is the most shocking reality of all.
WHAT IF THE MOTHER IS ADDICTED TO DRUGS?
It is not uncommon to hear an abortion advocate incredulously ask something like this, "Do you really think a coke-addict should be forced to have a baby that will grow up being addicted to crack and living on the street?" This, of course, is a loaded question, with poverty and disability concerns mixed in as well. It is essentially implying that a baby is better off dead than being born with a drug addiction. As with so many of the arguments that have come before it, it is assuming what it should be proving. There are children alive today who were born with drug addictions, and who are living with mothers who continue to use cocaine, and yet these children have every bit as much of a right to life as all of their more fortunate contemporaries. Drug addiction isn't the issue, humanity is the issue.
Do we deal with drug addiction by killing everyone who is addicted to drugs? No we don't. And we certainly wouldn't suggest such treatment for those whose addiction is no fault of their own. The only reason abortion is offered as a legitimate solution for a child who may grow up addicted to narcotics is because those making the suggestion are ignorant (or worse) concerning the status of unborn children.
The tragic irony in America today is that, in most states, women can be prosecuted for "fetal abuse" if they take harmful drugs during their pregnancy, but these same women are perfectly free to hire someone to kill their baby if they so choose. Mothers are free to kill, but not free to harm?! The hypocrisy of such schizophrenic laws makes a mockery of justice. Embryos and fetuses should be protected from harm and death.
You can't get very far in any discussion about abortion without considering the question of rape. Whereas the vast majority of pregnancies are the result of consensual sex, rape-based pregnancies present a unique dilemma. If a woman didn't choose to engage in sex in the first place, should she have to carry to term a child that was the result of her forced union? The question should become much clearer if we add in some hypothetical details. Let's say the woman does carry her child to term and decides to raise her son herself. After five years, however, she decides that the little boy's presence in her life is too much of a burden. He looks too much like his biological father. Should that mother have the right to kill her five year-old son who was born to her as a result of sexual assault?
Obviously not. No matter what the circumstances are regarding the little boy's conception, he is a human being with a right to life that cannot be taken away from him. But what about before the child is born, does this change anything? No, it doesn't. Abortion is an act of violence that kills a living human being. The circumstances surrounding the conception do not change this simple reality. Rape and abortion share this in common. They are both acts of violent assault against an innocent victim. Aborting a child conceived through rape simply extends this pattern of violence and victimhood. It does not "unrape" the woman, but it will almost certainly increase her regret and misery. Whereas rape is an act of violence for which she bears no responsibility, abortion is an act of violence for which she would be morally culpable. Consider the following email, which came, unsolicited, to Abort73:
I just wanted to say that I am so pleased to read your stance on abortion in the case of rape. My mother was a 14-year-old girl who was raped, and she tried to have an abortion. The only reason I am alive today is because the doctor miscalculated her due date and thought she was too far in the pregnancy to have the abortion, when in reality he was a month off (this actually happened twice). It pains me every time I hear even die hard pro-lifers say "except in the case of rape." I know it is traumatizing for a girl or woman that is raped to have to carry a child, but it is no more traumatizing than someone who gets shot during a violent attack and has to deal with those wounds. Counseling and therapy can help heal the trauma, but the trauma will be there whether she has the abortion or not, and the abortion could even make it worse. It has caused me so much anxiety over the years to think that many pro-lifers would have approved of my mother's abortion. By the way, she gave me up for adoption, and my adoptive parents were never able to have children. Thank you so much for this wonderful view against abortion even in the case of rape.
That's the perspective of someone conceived through rape, but what about a mother who was the victim of rape? Here is a portion of another email we received:
I am the single mother of a beautiful, fun-loving, bright young woman of 16 years of age. This Easter we celebrated the 17th anniversary of her conception. Raped by an acquaintance, my first consideration was abortion even though I had spoken out against it all my life... I considered abortion until I [determined it wasn't] the right thing. I perused adoption and chose parents to give my baby to. I changed my mind and chose motherhood. I have provided, educated, clothed, fed, nursed, counseled, encouraged, and loved with all my heart the daughter of a man who violated the last virtue I was cherishing, my virginity... When interviewed about my experience several years ago, I was asked what I would a tell a young woman contemplating an abortion. After some careful consideration and a determination never to water down the truth I replied, "It is the hardest thing in the world to choose what you know is right. Being a single parent is no more easy than living with the haunting memory of aborting your child. No matter how hard you wish, either way your life will never be the same. Both have their pains and their struggles, however, only one choice afforded me a profound peace... Never have we been in want. Never have I regretted my choice. The scars of my experience have been healed... we show no signs of lack nor neglect...
She is not alone in her experience:
When I was raped back in spring of 2006, I was devastated. I didn't know where to turn so I hid the memory in the back of my mnind, until I found out I was pregnant, then I couldn't hide it any more. When I went to some friends, some told me to have an abortion, seeing as how the child is from rape it would be better that way. But one true friend told me to check out Abort73. I am so thankful that I did, because when my son Ezekiel was born (pictured at left), and I held him in my arms I couldn't imagine loving him more, even through the struggle, he brings me so much joy. I am overwhelmed knowing that he is alive today. Thanks." - Winnie Sherwood
Whenever abortion advocates bring up this question of rape, they do so disingenuously. The fact is, they think mothers should have the right to kill their unborn children no matter what the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy might be. They only ask about the "12 year-old girl forced to carry her father's baby" because they know they can't win the abortion debate on the merits. They appeal to the emotion of these extremely hard and rare cases because it helps mask their true agenda, which is abortion on demand. If it is not legitimate to kill a person conceived in rape after they're born, then it is no more legitimate to kill that same person before they're born. The question is humanity, not rape.
WHERE ARE WE GOING TO PUT ALL THESE PEOPLE?
From time to time, abortion advocates will argue that abortion is a necessary mechanism for ensuring that the world's population does not surge out of control. "Without abortion," they ask, "where would we put all of these extra kids?"
Assuming that the world is facing a population crisis, the most basic question we must answer is this. Is killing innocent human beings a legitimate way to drive population numbers down? Those who suggest that abortion is a good way to control the population will quickly assert that embryos and fetuses aren't really human beings yet. This, of course, is the very point that they must prove before they can even begin to make such an argument. Since this is a point they can't prove, they simply assume it to be true and move on.
Beyond the fact that overpopulation is not a sufficient moral rationale for killing off a portion of the population, the fact remains that the birth rate in the U.S. is only one of the factors influencing population growth. The Washington Post reports that 2006 marked the first time in 35 years that the U.S. fertility rate was high enough to sustain a stable population.4 From 1972-2005 the U.S. birth rate was below replacement (the rate necessary for a given generation to exactly replace itself). Why is that significant? The Post article comments further:
While the rising fertility rate was unwelcome news to some environmentalists, the "replacement rate" is generally considered desirable by demographers and sociologists because it means a country is producing enough young people to replace and support aging workers without population growth being so high it taxes national resources.
"This is a noteworthy event," said John Bongaarts of the Population Council, a New York-based think tank. "This is a sign of demographic health. Many countries would like to be at this level."
Europe, Japan and other industrialized countries have long had fertility rates far below the replacement level, creating the prospect of labor shortages and loss of cultural identity as the proportion of native-born residents shrinks in relation to immigrant populations.5
Reporting on the 2009 birth rate, the Centers for Disease Control notes that the U.S. birth rate is again in decline. Replacement levels were achieved in 2006 and 2007, but not in 20086 or 20097. There was a 3-4% decrease in 2009, after a 1% decrease in 2008. Nevertheless, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the U.S. population continues to grow by about one person every 12 seconds.8 Where is this growth coming from? USA Today tells us that between 2000-2005, roughly 7.9 million immigrants entered the United States.9 That is more than in any other five-year span in the nation's history. Add to that the continued decline in the age-adjusted death rate, as reported in the Centers for Disease Control's 2010 Health Report,10 and it becomes apparent that people in the United States are living much longer than they used to.
While birth rates have decreased, immigration and life expectancy has increased. Of the three factors that influence population growth, the number of babies being born is by far the least significant. And yet, does anyone suggest that killing immigrants or killing those over 65 is a reasonable way to limit population growth? No. So why would anyone suggest that killing unborn humans is a reasonable way to limit population growth?
This final, last-ditch plea is essentially a concession that, yes, abortion is an act of violence. Yes, it kills a living human being. Yes, it is wrong, BUT... "women will do it anyway" (so it should be legal). Obviously, this is a very dangerous way to argue public policy, and it doesn't work for two reasons.
First, every form of lawless behavior could be rationalized with this same, "people are going to do it anyway" argument. Banks are robbed every day. Does that mean we should make bank robbery legal? How about rape? Should we do away with all anti-rape legislation because women will be raped whether it's lawful or not? Does anyone suggest doing away with red lights since people run them all the time? The list could go on and on. Laws against anti-social behavior do not eliminate such behavior altogether, but they drive the numbers way down.
Ostensibly, this argument is made in the name of safety. If women can't abort legally, they'll do so illegally, and it will be much more dangerous for them. While this claim is not true, even if it were, nothing would change. Abortion would still be unjustified. Wouldn't it be absurd to try and legalize armed robbery by arguing that granting such measures would make it much safer for the burglars to obtain what they're trying to steal? Laws must protect the potential victim, not the potential assailant.
The second problem with this "women will do it anyway" argument is that it only holds true for a small percentage of the population. One need only look at the frequency of abortion since it was first legalized to see that the legality of abortion plays a huge role in establishing a woman's willingness to choose abortion. The Centers for Disease Control, which has tracked U.S. abortion data since 1969, reports that "[after the] nationwide legalization of abortion in 1973, the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions increased rapidly, reaching their highest levels in the 1980s."11 In 1970, there were 193,491 legal abortions. In 1973, the first year in which abortion was legal in all 50 states, there were 615,831. By 1981, that number had more than doubled.12
If the legality of abortion didn't influence a woman's willingness to choose abortion, then we wouldn't have seen such a massive increase in abortion frequency during the years following its legalization. And should abortion again be outlawed at a future date, it would cease to be a viable option for most American women. The evidence is clear, both as it relates to abortion and as it relates to all other anti-social behavior. Legislation cannot eliminate such behavior altogether, but it can drive the frequency way down, sparing countless innocent victims from the injustice that would otherwise be theirs.
Abortion is ethically unjust because it kills an innocent human being, and none of the scenarios listed on this page can change this simple fact.
This page was last updated on April 05, 2013. To cite this page in a research paper, visit: "Citing Abort73 as a Source."
- C. Everett Koop, M.D., and Francis A. Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1979), 49.
- Ibid, 56.
- Ibid, 69.
- Rob Stein. “U.S. Fertility Rate Hits 35-Year High, Stabilizing Population.” The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/20/AR2007122002725.html (Dec 21, 2007)
- Joyce A. Martin, et al. “Births: Final Data for 2008” National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 59, Number 1, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_01.pdf (Dec 8, 2010), 1.
- Brady E Hamilton, et al. “Births: Preliminary Data for 2009” National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 59, Number 3, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_03.pdf (Dec 8, 2010), 1.
- U.S. POPClock Projection, http://www.census.gov/population/www/popclockus.html (Sep 1, 2011)
- Haya El Nasser and Kathy Kiely. “Study: Immigration grows, reaching record numbers” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-12-12-immigration_x.htm (Dec 12, 2005)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Health, United States, 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus10.pdf (February 2011), 135.
- Karen Pazol, Ph.D. et al. “Abortion Surveillance—United States, 2007” MMWR, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6001a1.htm?s_cid=ss6001a1_w (Feb 25, 2003), Table 2.
- Laurie D. Elam-Evans, Ph.D. et al. “Abortion Surveillance—United States, 2000” MMWR, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5212a1.htm (Nov 28, 2003), Table 2.
The fact that none of these arguments in defense of abortion can be reasonably applied to born children doesn't matter. There are huge differences between a fetus inside the womb and a child outside the womb.
To learn our response, continue to the next page: Inconsequential Differences
For Further Study:
- The Actual Future Principle (Abort73 Blog)
- Battle of Ideas: Furedi and Wyatt on Abortion (Abort73 Blog)
- Nobis, Beckwith & Abortion (Abort73 Blog)
- Killing is not a Cure: Abortion’s Continued Assault on Down Syndrome Children (Abort73 Blog)