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The Issue at the Heart of the Abortion Debate

I’m going to make what may initially seem to be contentious statements, so read the post to contextualize:

If the unborn is not a person, then abortion is morally permissible, and it doesn’t matter what you do with the unborn.

If the unborn is a person, then abortion is morally impermissible, and the unborn must be protected.

Note that these statements are conditional, marked by the word, “If.”

Why would I make these statements? Simply because I want to clarify the issue that is at the heart of the abortion debate. Namely, the status of the unborn.

Consider the following arguments in favor of the pro-choice position:

We shouldn’t bring unwanted fetuses into the world. It’s better to abort fetuses than force a woman to have an unwanted child.

If a mother can’t afford to have a child, she shouldn’t be forced to continue her pregnancy.

Women’s rights are at stake: it is a woman’s body we’re talking about!

Now, let’s contextualize them. Rather than debating the viability of these arguments, suppose we plug in the case in which we all agree there is a “person” involved. Suppose in place of the “unborn” or “fetus” we put “toddler” into the argument. In that case, the arguments would be:

We should kill unwanted toddlers. It’s better to kill them than to have them live in homes where they are unwanted.

If a woman can’t afford to feed her toddler, we should kill it.

Women’s rights are at stake! Think of the drain toddlers place upon their mothers!

These arguments are clearly absurd. Why? Because we all know that we can’t just go around killing children because their families don’t want them. We can’t kill toddlers because their families can’t afford to feed them. But that’s exactly the question these types of arguments beg: what is the unborn?

And so we return to the statements at the beginning of this post. Suppose the unborn is, in fact, just a cluster of cells, no different from a wart or growth. In that case, I would agree it is perfectly permissible to discard of the unborn whenever a woman desires.

But then, what if the unborn is, in fact, a “person”? What if the unborn is a baby after all? Well, in that case, it is certainly not permissible to discard of the baby.

The fact is, many arguments raised in favor of the pro-choice position are made from a position where one simply assumes that the fetus is no more than a clump of cells. But that’s exactly what the debate is supposed to be about! If the fetus is no more then a clump of cells, the debate is over. But if the fetus is indeed a person, then the arguments raised in favor of the pro-choice position are just as shoddy as those arguments with “toddler” substituted in for “unborn” or “fetus.”

Thus, arguments like this must always be contextualized. The heart of the abortion debate is the status of the unborn. Once that question is answered, the answer to the question: “Is abortion permissible?” becomes crystal clear.

For arguments against abortion, check out my Pro-Life Page. Specifically, one can find my arguments for the personhood of the fetus here.

Scott Klusendorf does a simply phenomenal job of centralizing this issue and pointing out how most of the issues which cloud the debate can simply be dropped in favor of debating the status of the unborn. The arguments presented here are based upon his tactic “trot out the toddler” which one can find in his book, The Case for Life or in his lectures in Ethics at the Edge of Life (found in the links here).



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Abortion Advocate Quotes

Rather than offer commentary, I’ll let the quotes speak for themselves. Read these quotes, they will challenge you to decide for yourself if this is the logic you’d like to use.

“The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” – Margaret Sanger.

“We are failing to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying . . . a dead weight of human waste . . .an ever-increasing spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all.” -Margaret Sanger

“”We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children.”- Jocelyn Elders

“…A pro-choice advocate sees abortion as a decision to be made in accordance with the best scientific opinion as to when the beginning of life, as we know it, occurs.”

…followed by “I should have known better. Pro-life arguments are now based on scientific evidence and the pro-choice arguments are not. That is a cultural, historical fact.” -Stanley Fish

“When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him.” -Peter Singer (emphasis mine)

“The status of her fetus and any moral value accorded to it is entirely her call. A fetus becomes a human being when the woman carrying it decides it does. Joyce Arthur (her emphasis)

“…what he says really doesn’t matter because he’s a man…  In short, when men start choosing to be fathers, that’s when they will have the right to pipe in on whether women can choose to be mothers. Until then men, your opinion just doesn’t matter.” -Stella Ramsaroop (emphasis mine, here, an article entitled “Why Men Should Have No Say On The Abortion Issue”)

“I do think abortion is murder–of a very special and necessary sort”- Magda Denes

“Not everybody is meant to be born. I believe, for a baby, life begins when his mother wants him.” -Jim Newhall

“As a woman who is staunchly pro-choice I have never denied ‘personhood’ to the fetus… One might then make the leap of logic that I would agree that abortion is murder. I do not. The killing of another human being, murder if you will, is judged by degrees based on intent. There is first degree murder, which is considered the most heinous and premeditated. There is second degree murder which is less heinous than first degree but will still get you life. There is manslaughter which is a heat of passion defense and, in this society, punished to a lesser extent than first or second degree murder. Then there are those catagories [sic] of killing that are not considered ‘crimes’ at all. These include killing during times of war or killing in self defense. I contend that abortion is always a killing done in self defense, and, therefore, morally justified.” – A customer review of a pro-life book here.

“Abortion liberates women from the life of a whore/slave and allows her to control her own life and decide for herself when and with whom she will have children. ” Here

Abortion: What logical arguments are there?

I’ve written about abortion before a few times. In fact, in my last post on the topic, I issued a challenge:

“I challenge anyone who is pro-choice to attempt to justify their position while maintaining some kind of civility. I challenge them to think about their position, and the ramifications that the arguments they make carry.”

No one accepted that challenge, despite over 200 views of that post since I wrote it.

What arguments are there for abortion that actually can logically justify it? I don’t think there are any. The key is the realization that we are indeed talking about human beings. There is no way to deny scientifically or philosophically that the unborn “fetus” (baby) is human. It is an established, empirical fact. What else could it be? A fish? No, it is a human fetus, and it is a human being, complete with a completely unique set of DNA, a 50% chance of being a different gender, and (often) a different blood type.

The question then is, according to those who are pro-choice, whether this “human being” is a person? While some may balk at such a strange question, that is indeed the question those within the pro-choice camp must put forth, for once it is acknowledged that a fetus is a human being, one must look to other means by which to justify killing this human being.

The argument is often made that while it is inside the mother, it is part of her. This is, in fact, completely false. Something that is part of the mother will have the same DNA as the mother, it will have the same blood type. An arm is not the same as a fetus.

To finally make this point as clear as possible, I cite none other than the “Pro-Choice Action Network”, which states “..even though a fetus is biologically human, it’s definitely not a person (legally and socially), and it’s questionable whether it’s a human being (physically)” (Arthur, cited below). Even the “Pro-Choice Action network freely acknowledges that the fetus is biologically human. The question they try to press is whether its a person. Further, they try to question “whether it’s a human being (physically)”. I don’t even know what this means. What is the difference between being biologically human and physically human? I see no difference whatsoever. It’s telling that these are the hairs the pro-choice network must try to split to make their case.

How is it that being transported outside the mother magically turns a baby into a “person”? Take an example of a baby premature by three months. What makes the 6-month old baby inside the mother less of a person than that baby outside of the mother?

Let’s turn again to Joyce Arthur’s article for the Pro-Choice Action network. “Another key difference is that a fetus doesn’t just depend on a woman’s body for survival, it actually resides inside her body. Persons, by definition, must be separate individuals who operate independently of others. They do not gain the status of persons by virtue of living inside the body of another person – the very thought is inherently ridiculous, even offensive” (Arthur, cited below).

I’m curious as to who made this definition of persons. Not only that, but I’m curious as to how this means that babies are persons? Babies cannot operate independently of others. They will die if left alone. Are babies no longer “persons”? Further, we see a wonderful example of the “straw man” fallacy here. The argument pro-life individuals make is not that babies gain the status of persons “by virtue of living inside the body of another person”. No, the argument is that babies gain the status of persons by being human beings. No other reason is needed. Personhood is not something to be bought and sold, defined and taken away. It’s not something to be arbitrarily defined as we see fit. That is exactly how such people as Hitler managed to murder millions of people. When we redefine personhood to fit our desires, we kill persons.

The chilling response is often that we can somehow justify killing this baby, for it is a “choice.” As Magda Denes wrote, “I do think abortion is murder–of a very special and necessary sort” (quoted in Alcorn, 99 [cited below]). How is it that murder is ever “necessary”? What other cases of murder can be “necessary” if there is such a thing as a “necessary” murder?

I’m confused as to what arguments remain. The inconsistencies in the pro-choice camp abound. They acknowledge that a baby outside the mother at 8 months is indeed a person and should not be killed, but that same baby, most would say, could be killed just hours before its birth! What kind of “logic” is this? Where will it lead? Where has it lead already?

I reissue my challenge to any pro-choice individual. Make your case. Make it without using ad hominems. Make it, acknowledging that science has shown that the fetus is human. Make your case for “necessary” murder of human beings.


Alcorn, Randy. Pro Life Answers to Pro Choice Arguments. Multnomah Books. 2000.

Arthur, Joyce. “The Fetus Focus Fallacy.” The Pro-Choice Action Network. Accessed March 24, 2010.


The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from cited material which is the property of its respective owner[s]) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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