Abortion: A Reasoned Dialogue
Often the best way to dialogue with someone on a controversial topic is to respond with a question that helps all parties think about their position. This is the approach taken by this series of issues related to the abortion question. We extend our thanks to David Lee of the Justice for All Foundation for providing this thought-provoking way of respectfully discussing this very serious topic.
- What about rape? Shouldn't a woman who has been raped have the right to an abortion?
Question: Conception during violent rape is fortunately rare, but it does occur. In these instances, do you think an abortion would somehow erase the fact and/or memory of the rape?
Question: If we agree on the violence of rape; do we also agree that abortion is an act of violence against another human being? Do you believe the first act of violence (rape) could justify a second act of violence (abortion)? A woman is not responsible for the violence of rape against her, but if she willingly seeks an abortion, has she not also participated in a violent act against an innocent unborn child?
Question: It is understandable that a woman that has been raped would hate her attacker, but should it then be lawful for her to express that hate by acting hatefully toward another innocent victim (a baby) of the attack?
- I still don't think that a woman who has been raped should be forced to carry the product of the rapist around for nine months.
Question: Would you allow a hypothetical illustration that shows it is not rape by which you are justifying abortion in cases of rape, but rather the condition of "unborness?"
Illustration: Woman A and woman B are both raped; both conceive (unusual to conceive in this circumstance). Woman A never doubts what she will do. She has an abortion at 5 weeks gestation. Woman B is conflicted about whether to have an abortion. Every time she thinks of her rape, she thinks she will have an abortion. However, she also believes that the unborn child conceived in the rape is an innocent victim. Finally, because her pregnancy is so far along, because late term abortions are extremely expensive, and a higher risk to her personal health, she decides to have the child and place the baby for the adoption. Except when she sees the baby, she temporarily forgets about the rape and wants to keep the baby—which she does. A month into parenting this child, she feels that she's made a mistake. Every time she sees the child, she thinks of the rape. Therefore, she takes the one-month-old to a "family planning" clinic to have a doctor kill the baby.
Question: Should it also be legal for a parent to terminate the born product of rape? (Fact: It is currently legal for a parent to terminate the unborn product of rape.)
Conclusion: What is the only difference between these two examples? Not rape—that is common to both women. The child is unwanted in both cases. Both women chose to kill the product of rape. The circumstances of both of the women in this hypothetical situation are identical save one.
Question: Isn't the ONLY difference between the two the fact that one child was unborn and the other was born?
Point of view: In some parts of the Muslim world, when a woman is raped, she is seen as unclean. She is an embarrassment, a burden to her family, as few men in her culture will marry her. She may be sold into slavery (prostitution), or male family members may even try to kill her—the innocent victim—to get rid of their humiliation. We rightly recoil in horror at such barbaric attitudes and practice, but turn around and advocate the very same behavior when we say a woman who has been raped should have the right to kill the innocent victim of rape—the baby, for the very same reasons.
Questions: Do you think a child should be punished for their sins of their father? Do you think there are alternatives to abortion for overcoming the trauma of rape? How does someone heal from a serious violation like rape? Vengeance or forgiveness? How do you feel about adoption?
Point of view: When conception does occur during rape, it is certainly understandable that a woman may not want to raise the child, but there are many couples eagerly waiting to adopt. An abortion punishes the innocent child for the sin of his/her father. Adoption replaces the violent parent with loving parents (the adoptive mother and father). Recent studies show that children raised in adoptive homes are as well adjusted as non-adoptive children in the general population.
Analysis: Many buy into the argument that if an unborn child might have mental or physical handicaps, might grow up with only one parent, or might grow up on welfare, or whose mother is currently addicted to crack cocaine or alcohol, then the baby does not have a life worth living. This is especially so if the baby's birth parents are from a minority group statistically more likely to be habitual criminals (a very racist attitude). Therefore, it (the baby) is better off aborted (dead). Their attitude is, "Better the baby is aborted (killed) so as not to be a burden upon or a threat to society."
Conclusion: If we as a society decide that people with more power have the authority to kill people with less power, we have become a society in which "Might makes right." Showing compassion to those among us who are weak and needy is a virtue, contrary to those who advocate "thinning the herd."
- What about a baby who is horribly deformed? Isn't it better to spare that child a life of suffering before they are born?
Questions: Do you support the concept of "mercy killing?" Do you have the same question and concern about born people? What do you think; do those of us who will suffer later have the right to kill those who will suffer sooner? Do you want to live in a society that kills off its sick or disabled human beings? Don't people with physical or mental limitations have a right to life just like so-called "normal" or healthy people?
Fact/Question: Even if prenatal tests could predict defects to a certainty (and they can't), they cannot always determine the severity of the disability. Why not let these children be born and have a chance to grow and accomplish what they can?
Conclusions/Questions: Even if a child is likely to die soon after birth, should we not let the child live, give the child food, water and comfort measures? Should we not let the family hold the baby and love the baby, rather than violently end the child's life?
- If a baby is not wanted, it may be born into a terrible life!
Question: Should the standard for life be “wantedness?” If so, and if I don’t want pro-abortion people around, should I then have the right to kill them (or anyone else that I do not want around)?
- Abortion is different. Born people have lives and families. A fetus has nothing until it's born.
Fact/Question: Unwanted unborn babies do have families and lives, but their families don't want them. Should younger humans with less experience and fewer family members have a diminished right to life compared to those with more experience and family? Should civil rights be accorded on the basis of how many family members you have, or age, or the number of experiences you've had as a member of the human race?
Question: Just because you can't see another human being does that make them any less human?
Fact/Question: An 18-year-old admitted gang member was arrested in California and faces two counts of first-degree murder for allegedly shooting into a converted garage apartment, killing a pregnant teen and her unborn child. Isn't killing unborn fetuses legal in this county? Is California law enforcement confused about the law? Answer: Killing unwanted unborn fetuses is legal. Killing wanted unborn fetuses will get you at least a manslaughter indictment in 24 states, and before 1973, in all 50 states.
Question: Did the boyfriend (and father) of the victim consider his child less a human than his girlfriend?
Question: What motive could we have for having different laws for unborn human beings, in effect having two sets of laws: one for the wanted unborn child, and another for the unwanted unborn child? Point of view: The motive of wanting to avoid embarrassment, inconvenience, an extra burden, dislike of the father or the father's family, suffering, pain, loss of income—in short selfishness.
- If we make abortion illegal, who is going to adopt all these unwanted babies?
Questions: Would you be willing to adopt an unwanted baby if the alternative to not adopting one would be killing the baby in that manner? Would you suggest the same solution (killing) as an acceptable means for dealing with unwanted children in foster care or adoption agencies? Do you know anyone who has adopted a child? Do you think that violence is the best solution for such children if they are unwanted or not adopted?
Fact: the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse reports over 500,000 women per year want to adopt. Many are willing to adopt mixed race babies or those with disabilities. Some adoption agencies even have waiting lists with parents willing to adopt babies with conditions like Downs Syndrome.
Fact/Questions: At any given time there are about 500,000 children in foster care in the U.S. If our nation's policy is to allow adults and minors with adult consent to kill unwanted children, why should we stop at eliminating only unborn unwanted children? Do you know anyone who was conceived in an unplanned pregnancy and is alive today? Should their mother have had the right to kill them before birth?
- Do you believe all abortions should be illegal?
Question: Under what circumstances do you believe that it should be legal for one human being to kill another human being?
Conclusion: Consistency in federal and state laws would suggest that abortion is justified only when the mother's life is imminently in danger, as in the case of tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. In this case, both mother and baby will die unless the baby is surgically removed from the fallopian tube.
- What about a woman whose life is in danger?
Fact: These conditions are extremely rare, with the exception of an ectopic or tubal pregnancy. In that case, the baby is growing inside the mother's fallopian tube and as it grows, the tube will rupture (or burst) and kill both the mother and the baby. Medical technology cannot yet save the baby's life; only by removing the embryo from the tube can the mother have a chance for survival. Because the child is removed before viability, the child will die. However, the intent of the procedure is not to kill the child—it is to save the mother's life.
Fact: Later in the pregnancy, there are conditions such as toxemia (blood borne infection), which can threaten the mother's life. In these cases, a caesarean section can remove the baby alive or labor can be induced. By using these methods, both baby and mother will likely survive.
- What is the connection between recognized forms of genocide like the Holocaust against Jews and European minorities, or the enslavement and civil rights abuse of African-Americans, and abortion?
Fact: In each case, a defenseless class of people was targeted for killing. In each case, the victim class was dehumanized before acts of genocide were condoned by society. In essence, the victim class was made out to be “non-persons,” e.g., parasites, sub-human, animals, etc.
Question: Have you ever heard the saying, "The only good Indian is a ____ Indian?" How could so many people come to say such a horrible thing about their fellow human beings? These same human beings saved the lives of the settlers in their first winter at Jamestown. What happened?
Answer: They got in the way of westward settlement. Therefore, they were called "savages," fit only to be killed as an animal. Kind of dehumanizing?
Fact/Question: In Germany, the Nazis made it lawful in 1939 to kills Jews, gypsies, black, homosexuals, and other minority groups. How could this happen? Answer: Hitler's power of persuasion that Jews were somehow responsible for the economic woes of post-World War I Germany.
Fact/Question: In the United States, slave owners and racists made it lawful to abuse and even kill slaves. Why? Answer: The U.S. economy had come to depend on slavery, ratified by the Supreme Court in 1857 in the Dred Scott decision (which ruled that black slaves were not persons).
Fact/Question: Even after emancipation, Americans conveniently excluded blacks for a century after slavery, especially in the South, based in part on economic reasons, principally using Jim Crow laws. So when the question was put to the black community during the early civil rights movement, "Do you want your freedom?" (from Jim Crow laws), what do you think they said?
Fact: In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Roe vs. Wade decision, made it lawful to kill unborn children for any reason, even if they are partially born. Prior to this decision, the unwanted unborn child was dehumanized and had become known as "merely a fetus," the "product of conception," as mass of undifferentiated tissue, a tadpole, a worm, something to be terminated if unwanted.
Conclusion: The motive in each historical case of genocide may differ, but the result is the some-huge numbers of innocent people die.
- How can you be so insensitive to Jewish and African Americans by comparing what happened to them to abortion?
Question: Have you ever studied about the Holocaust, or Westward Settlement Period in this county, or about slavery and civil rights? Martin Luther King, in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," compared the brutalization of blacks to the brutalization of Jews during the Holocaust. Was that insensitive of Dr. King?
- Abortion does not fit the traditional definition of genocide.
Fact: Correct. The traditional definition has been in transition for quite some time—at least since the 1970's and the genocide of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. The term "genocide" has its modern origin as a descriptive of war crimes against Jews and other minorities in Western Europe during WWII. A paraphrase of the United Nations in a 1951 resolution is that genocide is the systematic destruction of a people group. The people or national group targeted by abortion genocide is unwanted, unborn American children.
Question: Why are unborn American fetuses being aborted? Answer: They are unwanted.
Note: Pol Pot's Khmer rouge committed what is generally accepted as genocide against other Cambodians based on their level of education.
Conclusion: The United Nations resolutions on genocide in 1948 and 1951 actually apply to aborted unwanted unborn children quite aptly. Both describe the act of limiting births as an act of genocide. What does abortion do if it does not limit births?
Note: No form of genocide exactly mirrors another, but in the Holocaust against the Jews, it was the "choice" of the Nazis to kill Jews—because it was legal. It was also the "choice" of slave owners and racists to kill blacks, and for settlers and the U.S. Army to kill Native Americans—because it was legal. Now it is a legal "choice" to kill innocent unborn babies.
Question: What do you call killing 4,000 human beings every day, seven days a week?
- Fetuses are not human until they are born.
Question: Prove that you are human.
- Fetuses can't feel pain. Therefore, they are not fully human.
Question: Assuming you are correct in saying that the fetus can't feel pain (which is not the case), do you believe that anyone who cannot feel pain is not human? Should born people who lose the ability to feel pain also lose their civil rights?
Fact: Embryos just nine weeks after conception (first trimester) begin to respond to noxious (painful) stimuli. By 13 weeks gestation, the fetus responds to noxious stimulus in all areas of their body much as a born child except for the top of their head and the middle of their back.
- Embryos and fetuses are not sentient (that is, able to experience physical and possibly emotional feelings or sensations). Therefore, they are not fully human.
Question: Prove that you are sentient.
Example: Are you sentient when you are asleep? Are you sentient if someone or something renders you unconscious?
Question: Would you say that as long as a born person was not sentient, someone should have the right to kill them?
- It's not a baby in the first trimester, is it? It is just a fetus.
Question: Is a baby a human? Where did you learn an embryo or fetus is not human? If the fetus or embryo is not human, what are they?
Fact: Fetus is a medical term, which in Latin means "little one" or "offspring." Older medical usage applied the term to the last 6 months of pregnancy. Modern medical usage uses the word "fetus" to designate the baby from the 9th week of gestation until birth. One of the reasons for the change is recent medical knowledge has discovered that by eight weeks, the baby has all of his or her major body systems developed and they are functional. Thus, the period before nine weeks has come to be called the embryonic period. The developing embryo has a heartbeat by 22 days and brain waves by 6 weeks. Pre-natal films show this exquisite embryonic period through fiber optics in real time, revealing an embryo's anatomical and physiological development as never before seen.
- It's my body. What right do you have to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body?
Answer: None whatsoever, unless you propose to hurt another human being with your body.
Questions: Do you think that anyone should tell a man what he can or cannot do with his body? Does a man have the right to rape as an expression of his own body? Should a father have the obligation to help care for at least the physical needs such as maternity and pre-natal health needs of mom and the unborn child he helped conceive? If so, he is being forced to use his body to earn money for child support. Does a mother of an unborn child likewise have any responsibility whatsoever to care for her unborn child's needs?
Question: Should selfishness that harms another human being be lawful?
Question: Can you think of one other act of selfishness besides abortion that physically harms another person but is legal?
Point of view: The baby is not the mother’s body, which is evidenced by the facts that the baby has its own unique set of genes, probably has a different blood type, and may even be a different sex. Once a woman conceives a child, she has participated in beginning another human life and she needs to take responsibility for her actions whether anyone else does or not. Even if a woman may control her own body, that right is limited. She does not have the right to house her own body in my garage, to let it scream in her neighbors' windows in the night, to march into a men's public restroom, to use her body for prostitution, to practice drunken driving, etc.
Question: More than a few men bail when they learn they have been involved in conceiving a child. However, does their cowardice justify killing an innocent child?
Conclusion: A woman certainly has the right to control her body before she conceives a child. However, with the conception of a new human, there is another body in the picture - the child's. That child, whether male or female, is a member of the human race, AND until 1973, was historically granted rights of personhood in the U.S.
Question: Do you still think that anyone should have complete autonomy to use his or her body to harm another human being?
- Don't you care about women who have had abortions? You pro-lifers showing photos of abortions are cruel and conversations about abortions cause other people pain?
Question: Yes. Why do you think this causes pain?
Question: Do you think that if some of the people had seen graphic images of abortion before having their abortion, they might have made a different choice?
Question: Would you agree that if we saved one life it would be worth causing pain to some?
Point of view: Our goal is to save human lives, not cause women or men pain.
Question: If you had information that could save lives and spare suffering, would you sit on it because it could potentially cause pain to those who have already been hurt by it?
Question: Why are photos of the Holocaust shown repeatedly to our generation? Answer: So it won't happen again.
- Who gives you the right to speak authoritatively on abortion?
Answer/Question: Free speech guarantees us both the right to speak freely. Do you believe in the right to free speech, the First Amendment?
Point of View: The Founding Fathers set forth the First Amendment, otherwise known as free speech. Speech that is only permitted if it does not offend anyone is not free speech. Our point of view is held by millions of Americans, and was the law of the land until 1973, but this is not being taught in the classroom. We hope to reopen the dialogue about abortion and related bio-ethics.
Question: Have you ever seen abortion images in the classroom or in the media? (Probably not) Why is that?
Question: Does it sound so unreasonable what we would want to spare unborn children from violent death, as well as spare men and women from participating in that violence?
- What right do you have to judge anyone?
Questions: What do you think—was killing Jews right? Was killing blacks right?
Answer: (Assuming either a "yes" or “no” response), are you not making judgments?
Question: Is killing any innocent human being ever right? Answer: (If no), you are being judgmental. You are being judgmental about some forms of genocide, but not about others.
- I am pro-choice. I wouldn't have an abortion, but I don't think I have the right to tell others what to do.
Question: If I said in 1847, "I wouldn't own a slave but I don't think I have the right to tell you not to own one," what would you call me? A racist? Conclusion: Such a statement would condone slavery just as much as a similar statement about abortion condones abortion.
Question: How do you feel about this statement—“I would never rape anyone myself, but I would not want to prevent anyone else from doing so.”?
Question: What do we call the right to kill born human beings because they get in our way or are not healthy enough, or will no do what we want them to? Answer: Anarchy.
Question: Can you think of the perfect example of a relativist (someone that determines truth for himself)? Answer: A sociopath.
Question: Do you believe in the principle of law?
Fact: Our laws "tell people what to do" all the time. We have laws against rape, murder, child abuse, stealing, slavery, etc. Are those laws valuable to order and safety in society?
Question: Does the U.S. Constitution guarantee all humans the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
Question: Do you believe that taking the life of any innocent human being should be unlawful?
Question: Is an unborn child an innocent human being?
Point of view: If yes, then we should have laws in the U.S. that protect the lives of unborn children, because unborn children are human beings—they certainly are not some other species.
- The majority say they want “choice.” It is law. The majority position should rule in a democracy.
Question: Was slavery right just because it was legal? Was persecuting Jews in Germany right just because it was accepted? Are practices such as forced female circumcision in Africa right just because it happens? Point of view: Polls in 2002 show that 70% of Americans want restrictions on abortion. But even if everyone was in favor of abortion rights, we never have the right to do wrong.
Questions: Why do you think many people, especially university students, are "pro-choice?" Do you think they are pro-choice because they have come to that conclusion through well-reasoned and challenged arguments or because of peer pressure, or because abortion has always been legal during their lifetime? Do you think this discussion could change their minds? Point of view: We find that some people, especially students, who are intellectually honest enough to examine the issue, may change their minds.
- Isn't abortion illegal after the first trimester?
Answer: No. It is legal through all nine months of pregnancy, technically up to and including even a partially born baby.
Fact: The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1973 companion case to Roe vs. Wade, Doe vs. Bolton, gave women the right to an abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Some abortion clinics will only perform abortions up through 12 weeks, or 21 weeks, but there are actually abortionists who specialize in late third trimester abortions. The recent Supreme Court decision, Sternberg (Nebraska) vs. Carhart, effectively permits even the abortion of a baby substantially delivered through the birth can, (thus called "partial birth abortion").
- What’s the difference between capital punishment and abortion?
Answer: In one case the person is guilty. In the other he is innocent.
Here are links to articles about what the Bible says about abortion: