Abortion is immoral in the first trimester or it’s not immoral at all.
It’s evident that among those who identify as ‘pro-life’ there exists a great variety of positions. At one end of the spectrum are those who defend life from the moment of conception, while also condemning contraception, and at the other end, there are those who agree with abortion in certain circumstances such as rape or severe foetal abnormality. But every concession weakens the pro-life position; any position that is less than 100% anti-abortion in all circumstances has serious consequences for the community as a whole.
Lately, the world has expressed outrage at New York state’s new Reproductive Health law, which removes all restrictions on abortion, simultaneously removing all protections for the unborn. A similar bill is being touted for Virginia and is eliciting the same outrage.
It’s no wonder: the thought of late-term abortion tends to prompt a visceral response. Most people imagine their own child being killed, or their nephew or niece, or their friend’s new baby. The innate human desire to protect tiny children kicks in and they quickly join the mobs waving pitchforks and calling for excommunications.
People have been asking via social media whether New York’s law is any worse than that which already exists in my state of Victoria – to which the answer is NO. (Additionally, Queensland and Tasmania also allow abortion to full term; QLD even had a bridge lit up to celebrate the passing of its law last year, just as New York lit up its landmarks.)
The idea that abortion could extend from conception through to the first 24 months outside the womb, as suggested by Peter Singer (see below) is quite enticing to some in this egocentric world. But the natural abhorrence felt by many toward it only makes a ban on early abortions unthinkable. Without a strong pro-life principle to counter the argument, no politician is going to criminalise early abortions if their availability means that fewer women will go on to have late-term ones.
Consequences for Politics
In his article, On infanticide, Republicans are wasting a chance to drive a stake through the heart of abortionism, Calvin Freiberger claims that by focusing on late-term abortion, pro-life politicians are missing a golden opportunity to defeat abortion completely
Freiberger points out that it suits the more conservative side of politics to display outrage at progressives who want to remove all protections for babies at any gestation – even after birth. By deflecting thus, the real issues never have to be addressed: the legality of abortion in the early stages and what the consequences of re-criminalising it would be.
All of this rhetoric suggests that the problem here isn’t that killing any baby is inherently monstrous, but that Democrats are simply taking it to a new extreme. Between this and the GOP’s past two years of inaction, one gets the distinct impression that the country wouldn’t even be talking about abortion right now if Democrats agreed to leave newborns alone and “just” support abortion up to 20 weeks.
Where are the senators pointing out that Northam’s reasoning for infanticide was no different than every other Democrat’s reasoning for every other abortion?
He goes on to say that this dynamic means ‘no new pro-life measure will become law’. It sounds harsh and negative, but it is the truth. Admittedly, some peripheral laws could come into effect, but cooling-off periods and enhanced scrutiny of abortion providers can do more to bolster the image of the abortion industry than to tarnish it.
Abortion isn’t going to spontaneously become illegal without a fight. And there exists little will to fight for it. The public, including politicians – or perhaps, especially politicians? – simply have too much too lose.
Exit chastity, stage left
John Smirak echoed a similar refrain at The Stream, when he compared the abolition of slavery to a potential tightening of abortion laws in the US. Smirak noted that, while abolition was a huge step forward for black slaves, their lives remained very difficult, and they certainly didn’t enjoy equal status with members of that country’s white population. Similarly, the introduction of heartbeat bills and the like, which in practise will greatly reduce the number of abortions, won’t end demand for abortion but could instead drive a market for sophisticated new technologies aimed at killing babies before those first heartbeats or brainwaves can be detected. The reason, claims Smirak, is that our society is diametrically opposed to chastity.
Cheap sex has become as central to us as cheap labor was to cotton customers. And our disconnect of sex from reproduction has sunk roots at least as deep as Antebellum racism. Neither one will vanish overnight. Neither one is challenged by our revulsion at infanticide. So if the conflict of forces on abortion plays out as the struggle over slavery did, we’ll end with some sort of compromise.
Legislation can’t enforce morality, or even make it appealing; if the law changes, then the way men and women dispose of their unwanted babies must also change. It is ironic that one of the slogans of the abortion industry is ‘every child a wanted child.’ This platitude contains a lot of truth, since God does will every child into existence and so they are very much wanted by Him. With a return to chastity in thought and deed, couples would be more in tune with God’s Will and quickly learn to embrace each new life, even those which weren’t necessarily planned.
The diagram below is taken from the website of IVF service, La Jolla IVF, and shows the progress of a newly conceived human being to implantation at about day 9. If embryos and blastocysts were just worthless blobs of tissue or disposable clumps of cells, then why would desperate parents spend tens of thousands on fertility procedures, some of which have only a 50% chance of success?
An antidote to the rhetoric
Any long-term reader will know that my writers and I are not afraid to reference, in our articles, our faith in God. And we aren’t afraid to appeal to God’s law in order to justify the pro-life position. We take Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 very seriously and have no intention of relying solely on secular arguments to get our points across. However, there are occasions that call for non-religious arguments to be used, and this method of engagement can be successfully even by Christians.
Josh Brahm, of the Equal Rights Institute, is masterful at negotiating non-religious pro-life dialogue. He proves that abortion is wrong at any gestation by asking people if they think that all human adults have an equal right to life. If they say ‘yes’, he then asks if they believe that means there is something the same about every adult. If they agree to that, he asks them to explain exactly what that point of similarity is. From Josh Brahm:
“Our answer is that we all have humanness in common. That’s something that doesn’t come in degrees. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of thing….
And if being human is what gives us intrinsic value, then that explains a lot of data. It explains why all the adult humans have an equal right to life, even though we have so many differences. It also explains why things like racism and sexism are wrong. Those things focus on a surface difference that doesn’t morally matter, and ignores the thing we have in common, which IS what morally matters!”
In other words, if it’s our humanness that makes us the same, then this humanness – which is present from the moment of conception – means that abortion is wrong at any stage. Humanness is what can be seen through the outer layers of disfigurement or poverty or sin and makes us acknowledge someone’s intrinsic worth, our common dignity.
Her baby’s humanness tells an a mother that abortion is wrong, even if no-one else around her agrees that it is wrong.
She has to deny that humanness – to dehumanise her child – in order to go through with an abortion.
When we use language and have conversations that re-humanise children in the womb, we support that idea that life must be protected from conception. The opposite happens when we thoughtlessly use language that takes away the dignity of children:
‘Boy or girl?’
‘I don’t mind as long as it’s healthy.’
Remember Peter Singer?
Unless we reject the idea that early abortion is acceptable, then we risk finding ourselves on the trajectory that leads ethicist Peter Singer to justify infanticide. In his book, Practical Ethics, Singer famously wrote:
“Similarly, the preference utilitarian reason for respecting the life of a person cannot apply to a newborn baby. Newborn babies cannot see themselves as beings that might or might not have a future, and so they cannot have a desire to continue living. For the same reason, if a right to life must be based on the capacity to want to go on living, or on the ability to see oneself as a continuing mental subject, a new born baby cannot have a right to life. Finally, a newborn baby is not an autonomous being, capable of making choices, and so to kill a newborn baby cannot violate the principle of respect for autonomy. In all this, the newborn baby is on the same footing as the fetus, and hence fewer reasons exist against killing both babies and foetuses against killing those who are capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time.”
Singer’s ideas have gradually gained traction over the last few years, and it’s not difficult to see why. Advances in ultrasound technology and foetal medicine leave the public in no doubt as to the humanity of pre-born children. Thus it lies to philosophers to develop new ways of justifying child-killing.
What once would have been roundly condemned, and could never have crossed the threshold of a medical journal’s publishing department, has gradually gained acceptance. A coven of white-clad women on the floor of the Capitol is a testament to this hardening of hearts.
The defence of all life
The pro-life communities of each new jurisdiction that allows unregulated abortion claim that their law is more extreme than the rest – and it often is, being set apart from its antecedents with embellishments like exclusion-zones, or attacks on doctors’ rights, or infanticide for babies born alive. But the point is, that of course abortion laws will become more and more extreme. Of course pro-abortion politicians will continue to push for expansions to their bloodthirsty laws. Of course. Of course. Of course. Because abortion is legal in the first place.
We must never forget that isn’t the viability of an unborn baby that makes abortion wrong, because that would make early abortions acceptable. It isn’t how closely a foetus resembles our daughter, or nephew, or neighbour’s child, because that would make it okay to abort babies who look somehow ‘different’.
It isn’t wrong at 5 weeks because a heartbeat can be detected then, or because a baby’s tiny fingers have prints on them: some babies don’t have healthy hearts or intact limbs, but they still deserve the right to a life, however short. And abortion late-term isn’t wrong just because some extremely premature babies have lived: only the day before their birth they may have died, but it’s not up to humans to facilitate that death. We must never agree on any kind of arbitrary or even scientific cutoff time.
Abortion is always wrong because it is the intentional killing of another human being, even if that human being looks for all the world like a blob when it’s killed, even if it’s sick or weak or unwanted or has bad parents or is a product of rape. There’s no doubt that late-term abortion should always be roundly condemned by members of the pro-life community; we’re obliged to call out every threat to the sanctity of life. But we’re also obliged to defend life from the moment of conception, and it would tragic if that message was lost in the tsunami of outrage over late-term abortions. Even more shameful would it be, if our response to late abortions meant that early abortions were enshrined in our law and in our culture indefinitely.
Editor, The Freedoms Project
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