I’m writing this in response to an article written by Atheist blogger Adam Lee, called Questions for Pro-Lifers. Please read his article before reading this one, or it may not make much sense.
Adam starts out his article with a pretty common strawman. Not promising. Abortion is not an inherently religious issue. It is not only Christians who want abortion outlawed. There are Atheists who desire the same, because they see abortion the same way I do -- a human rights violation that needs to be put an end to. In fact, I’m a member of an organization called Secular Pro-Life which seeks to show that abortion is not a religious issue, it’s a scientific and philosophical one. To top it off, there are also Christians (and people of other faiths) who are pro-choice.
Second, I’m not vague on the details. If you want to know my views on what would or should happen once abortion is legal, I have answers to these questions. And I will provide them below.
What would my ideal society look like? Abortion would be illegal in all cases (including rape and incest), except for life of the mother. I have already addressed these before, so see the appropriate links for my reasoning. How would these violators be punished? The abortionists bear the most moral culpability, so they would be the ones punished most severely. At most, the woman would be seen as an accomplice. But she would be let off if she would give up the name of the abortionist. It would not be unreasonable to charge a woman for having her child killed, any more than it is unreasonable to charge a woman for hiring a hitman to kill her husband.
So without further ado, I will address the numbered questions in his article (and by the way, do me a favor -- don’t call me anti-choice, and I won’t call you anti-life; these terms are not conducive to good discussion on the matter).
1. First, it’s worth pointing out that “fertilized egg” is a misnomer. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, both egg and sperm cease to exist and a new human zygote has been created.
Regarding whether the large number of miscarriages constitutes a humanitarian crisis that urgently needs medical research, my answer is no. Allow me to explain.
Pro-choice philosopher Tony Ord made a similar argument in an article for The American Journal of Bioethics, entitled “The Scourge: Moral Implications of Natural Embryo Loss.” My answer here will be brief. I am planning on addressing the article in full in the future. My shorter answer is that such a large number of early human embryos spontaneously aborting does not constitute a humanitarian crisis that we need to address.
All humans die, some just die sooner than others. Some afflictions, like cancer, AIDS, etc., deserve our on-going research to prevent/cure these afflictions and save human life. Other causes of human death, such as natural causes (old age), do not. We are not spending hours and money on researching why we die of natural causes in an attempt to prevent it (that I am aware of, although there is no good scientific reason for why we must die). It’s possible it may never be prevented. We try and find ways to extend life as much as we can, such as recommending a good diet, exercise, etc. But in the end, death will claim us all.
In the same vein, some miscarriages cannot be prevented. A miscarriage at a very early age of gestation may never be prevented, like natural causes. We do try and recommend ways a woman can avoid a miscarriage (such as telling her not to smoke or drink while pregnant). On top of that, many conceptions miscarry because the entity that resulted was not an actual human being in the first place. Many human conceptions are just hydatidiform moles, or other non-human entities that result from the union of sperm and egg. Remember that the fusion of sperm and egg is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of human conception. Other entities can result from the sperm/egg fusion.
2. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say for certain how I would write or enforce the law. I would propose that we have all abortions illegal, just as we have all instances of murder illegal. There does not need to be an exception for the woman’s life, as there will always be that exception (doctors must save all lives they can, if possible).
As for enforcing the law, my friend Kelsey is a lawyer. She answered this question in a Facebook comment and I’d like to include it here, since her answer is much better than mine would be:
“Enforcement is a problem with any criminal law. People experiencing miscarriages should not be presumed guilty and forensically investigated, for the same reasons that low-income people wearing expensive clothes should not be automatically investigated for theft. There needs to be some reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before police can search a person. El Salvador does not have a Fourth Amendment; I propose that we keep ours. When abortion was illegal in the United States, police used informant tips, stings, and other traditional tools to catch abortionists. But law isn’t everything -- we need a pro-life culture. It used to be that the medical profession policed itself and did not tolerate abortionists. That kind of cultural change needs to happen before an abortion ban can be enforced effectively. It’s a long process.”
3. I don’t believe an exception for the mother’s life needs to be written into a law. Doctors must do the best good that they can, which may include having to perform an operation to save the mother’s life that results in the foreseeable, but unintended, death of the unborn child. There doesn’t need to be an exception written in, any more than there needs to be an exception written in to laws against speeding because someone may occasionally need to break them to rush a loved one to the hospital.
The problem with “health” exceptions is that they are often written so vaguely they can allow any sort of abortion (the Doe v. Bolton sister case to Roe v. Wade defined health in this way, so that it can justify just about any abortion).
4. See my article for why abortions in the case of rape should not be allowed. I think that all rapists need to be accused and punished. I don’t think she should need an abortion for a rape to come to light.
5. Unborn humans are just as intrinsically valuable as older humans (toddlers, teenagers, adults, etc.). Since the punishment for killing a toddler is the same as the punishment for killing an adult (and the punishment in some states, like my home state of California, for killing an unborn child against the mother’s will is the same as for killing adults), then I think the punishment should be the same. Life in prison or capital punishment, whatever the punishment is in the state for murder. (Whether or not capital punishment is a moral form of killing is a topic for another article. My stance on it is irrelevant for now, my point simply being that whatever the punishment for murdering someone outside the womb should be, the same punishment should be prescribed for murdering an unborn human.) The doctor should also lose his/her medical license.
6. Again, I’m not an expert at law, so I can’t adequately answer this question. In many cases, the woman doesn’t really understand what she’s doing. Abortion doctors often lie to the woman considering abortion, calling it simply a “clump of cells” or “mass of tissue” when they know full well the unborn are human beings (in a biological sense). Some women are even coerced into having an abortion by a boyfriend or parent.
Provided there is no coercion involved, and the woman fully understands what she is doing (rather than placing blind faith in the doctor), I believe that the woman should at least be considered an accomplice and punished as such. However, as it was before abortion was legalized in the United States, the woman should be let off if she gives up the name of the abortionist.
7. I have explained why both answers are different. The abortionist is the active agent in the unborn child’s death, and the woman is merely an accomplice (of course, that’s assuming she doesn’t try to abort the child herself). If she does try to abort the unborn child herself, then she bears the moral culpability and should be held responsible for it. It’s tragic that many women injure and kill themselves attempting to self-abort, but the law should not be faulted for making it more dangerous to kill innocent human beings.
8. I am not opposed to IVF, in theory. However, considering the fact that more embryos are created than are needed and discarded, I do believe that IVF is immoral. If you can’t create just as many embryos as you need to implant, then the practice should be discontinued. Or you could freeze the embryos and allow another woman to implant them (which is currently practiced; they’re euphemistically called “snowflake babies”).
9. I do agree that we should make effective contraception widely available, as a fallback. I am opposed to contraception for religious reasons, and as such I don’t think I should hold others to that standard. I would rather someone use contraception to prevent conception rather than aborting a human being after she has been conceived.
10. I’ve actually addressed this in a previous article.
11. What does it prove that many prominent Christian evangelicals were pro-choice (which is a dubious claim, in and of itself)? Many prominent Christian evangelicals were also pro-life.
The Bible is clearly a pro-life collection of books. Anyone who calls themselves a Christian and believes God would be okay with abortion either doesn’t know God, or has never read the Scriptures. Christianity has always been a pro-life religion. While there are no explicit statements in the Bible against abortion, there are explicit statements against abortion in Christian documents, dating back at least to The Didache in the late first or early second century A.D. The Didache clearly states, “Do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.” (The Didache 2.2).
Other early church writings regarding abortion:
“You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay a child by abortion. You shall not kill that which has already been generated.” (Epistle of Barnabas 19.5; second century).
The fetus in the womb is a living being and therefore the object of God’s care.” (Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, 35.6; 177 A.D.)
Christianity has historically been a pro-life religion.
Hopefully these answers have been enlightening, and as always I welcome comments from anyone. Feel free to keep the conversation going.
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