One of the front-page stories on Digg.com earlier today was a blog post titled "Pro-Life..Pro-Choice…Both?". The author argues that they are pro-life in the sense that they "respect and cherish all life" but pro-choice in the sense that they "support the existing life and the choice she makes over a possibility of life". So the argument being made is that the unborn is not a "life", it is not a separate human being, and therefore it can be aborted. (At first I typed "can be killed" but if it's not a "life" its life can't be taken from it.)

Before examining this argument further, there are some other peripheral arguments made in the post that I'd like to briefly comment on:

Does that mean someone should force me to continue getting pregnant since I seem to be biologically capable of producing healthy life? No, that does not seem right either. So, I cannot in good conscience support forcing another woman to give birth if she is not ready or willing.

When discussing abortion, the last thing I want to do is come off as being uncaring and insensitive about what is a very emotionally charged issue (for good reason). Especially as a man, who will never directly face this issue on a personal level (only, at most, secondhand), I need to be careful to state that I am aware of these issues and want to be sensitive to them. These caveats do not, however, make my opinions themselves on the matter any less valid than anyone else's.

I've found that from reading pro-choice literature, the word "force" or "forcing" is usually used. I think this is a bit misleading. Let's say for the sake of argument for the remainder of this post that abortions for those who are the victims of the heinous crimes of rape and incest may due to these extraneous circumstances have abortions freely. (For the sake of argument.) Approximately 1% of abortions currently occur because of rape or incest. This means that using "force" language to describe the other 99% of abortions is not accurate. Certainly the pregnancies may not be wanted, they may be accidental, but they are not forced. Being pregnant is the natural progression of getting pregnant, and given that we are discussing the 99% of pregnancies that are not forced, this should not really be an issue.

What is the issue? As I've suggested before in some of my other posts on abortion, I don't think that, ultimately, the abortion question is as complicated as it often seems. Greg Koukl sums up the dichotomy well:

– If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification for abortion is necessary.

– If the unborn IS a human being, then no justification for abortion is adequate.

The question is, "What is the unborn?" If it is a human being, it should not be killed, because killing any human being (let alone one unable to defend itself) merely because it is unwanted is immoral. However, if it is not a human being, then why should any justification to remove it be needed?

This all serves to lay foundation in advance of the blog author's main argument, which is as follows:

To me, being pro-life means that I respect and cherish all life. There are times when the sacrifice of life is necessary in order for another life to survive and that is how nature works. Problems arise when I try to respect and cherish two conflicting lives – the life of a pregnant woman and the potential life she carries. That is where I have to take a step back and support the existing life and the choice she makes over a possibility of life. [Original post]

If I understand the argument correctly, the unborn is not a life, it is a potential life (I'll henceforth reword this term as pre-life for the sake of brevity). Therefore, given that the pregnant woman is life not pre-life (a fact which no one disputes) then her life takes precedence over the pre-life she carries. If I accept that the unborn is pre-life, then I would entirely agree with this reasoning. But this brings us back to the original "main question" suggested above: What is the unborn?

Here is why I think this is such an important question. The zygote, formed at conception, is human. It could not be anything else. It is genetically distinct from its parents. It possesses the same DNA that it will possess all its life; human DNA, since it came from human parents. Some pro-choice defenders even concede this point, one noting that "Pro Choice defenders stick their feet in their mouths when they defend abortion by claiming the zygote-embryo-fetus isn't human. It is human." [as quoted here, unfortunately I couldn't find an online copy of the essay cited]

It is not a "potential life" or "potential human", it is a developing human with great potential. This unbroken stream of development begins at conception (when it becomes genetically distinct from its parents), proceeds in a continuous and unbroken stream of development throughout pregnancy, and continues to develop and grow after birth. What is this … "thing" if it is not human? And if it is human, we should not kill it. As stated previously, killing any human being (let alone one unable to defend itself) merely because it is unwanted is immoral.

Someone suggesting that the unborn is not "life" but instead somehow "pre-life" will need to demonstrate some sort of non-arbitrary and fundamental difference which occurs at a specific time during the unborn's life at which the unborn turns from pre-life into life. By non-arbitrary, I mean it must be one that can be readily agreed upon, and by fundamental I mean non-trivial, a criteria that is centrally important. Because if we are at all not sure whether, at point "A" in development, whether this thing is "life" or not, we should not dispose of it, lest we run the risk of killing an innocent human being.

What is the unborn? I see no reason to suggest that the unborn that is readily aborted during the first trimester (the first, second, third trimesters being also somewhat arbitrary) would not be allowed to be aborted during the third trimester, or even in a partial-birth abortion, or for that matter after birth. The unborn, in fact, is fully human at its conception, albeit at an earlier stage in its development, but fully human, and fully worthy of protection.

Although I am a Christian, I have not based any of these arguments on religious principles per se, although moral principles (which I think can be shared by both sides of this discussion) have been used where appropriate. I don't consider myself a right-winger either, for what it's worth.

Further resources:
Stand to Reason: Bio-ethics articles – A collection of excellent articles by Greg Koukl and other STR authors
Pro-Life Training articles – A second collection of great articles by former STR-er Scott Klustendorf

Sorry for so many posts about this lately, but the Dr. Henry Morgentaler controversy has stirred up the abortion issue again. The great and awful thing about the Internet is that any idiot can post their opinions online; unfortunately, many do. You may consider me as just such an idiot, but please at least listen to my reasons for what I think first, because, unlike most of the pro-Morgentaler writing I've read, I actually give reasons and don't just make blind assertions.

Today's article is "Courageous Morgentaler is worthy" by Jennifer Charles which apparently appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, or at least it's currently on their website.

Awarding the Order of Canada to Dr. Henry Morgentaler has re-ignited the flames of the national abortion debate. The issue is whether a woman should have the right to a safe abortion. I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to deny a woman that choice.

This is not the issue. The issue is whether or not it is moral to have elective abortions. If it is moral, then we could ask the question "should a woman have the right to a safe abortion," for which the answer is clearly yes. But this author assumes the answer to the first question and asks an obvious and frivolous question in an attempt to poison the well.

What gives anyone the right to force a woman to bear a child? Whether she has the baby or not is a traumatic and life-altering decision that only she can make.

Like the previous article the idea of "forc[ing] a woman to bear a child" comes into play. This again clouds the issue. No one is forcing a woman to get pregnant (as previously noted even if we exclude rape and incest from this discussion that is less than 1.5% of all cases).

The concern here is for the rights of the child (as the article author calls it) which do not supersede the rights of the mother, but neither should the rights of the mother supersede those of the child. Why should the rights of the mother come first? Is it because the child is not as in a late stage of development as the mother? Well, a toddler is in an earlier stage of development than a teenager … is it okay then to kill a toddler?

To me, it is far more responsible to decide not to bring another human being into the world …

I totally agree! Not getting pregnant in the first place is the best way …

… than to do so when the pregnancy is not planned and the circumstances are wrong. If a person feels that abortion is morally wrong, that does not give him or her the right to impose that opinion on women who are the ones affected.

Here's the problem: There is no neutral position with regards to abortion. A pro-choice position is a pro-abortion position. Take a look at any other moral issue. Take slavery for example. Could we say "Slavery is a matter that should be left up to each individual; who are you to impose your views about slavery on others?" No, we wouldn't accept that. Why would abortion be any different?

All laws are based on moral principles. We are right to impose our "opinions" on others if they are committing immoral acts. (And if a person takes a moral relativist view, which I certainly do not, then we shouldn't have any laws at all.)

And that brings us back to the central question: Is abortion immoral or not? And when answering that, we need to keep in mind a simple dichotomy:
– If the unborn is not a human person, then no justification of abortion is necessary.
– But if the unborn is a human person, no justification is sufficient.

It's not enough to state whether the unborn is or isn't; you have to give reasons why. And it's no good to say "We don't know when life begins" because if we're not sure if an unborn child (embyro, whatever) is a human person or not, shouldn't we err on the side of caution and not kill it?

I would ask these people to empathize with any woman who finds herself in this position.

I do emphasize with a women who finds themselves in this position. At least, I try to. I can't say that I could ever fully understand the emotional anguish a woman might feel in such a situation. That's why we need to have more support services for pregnant women, especially given the medical risks and emotional risks involved with abortions. Of course, it's also important to emphasize with the unborn child (again, the article author's term) as well.


Recently Dr Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada, which is the highest civilian honor Canada awards, recognizing "a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation."

Today I read an editorial in The Calgary Herald titled Morgentaler deserves Order of Canada by Catherine Ford, ostensibly about the award, but in practice a summary defense of abortion. Let's examine her arguments to see whether they make sense.

(Click below for my commentary; it's a bit long to put on the blog's front page)

Yesterday I watched Horton Hears a Who, the modern cinematic remake of the classic children's book. Truthfully, I didn't remember the book too well before watching the film. It was actually an enjoyable movie though.

There are some clearly religious overtones in the movie, which I'll comment on later in a second post, but for now I wanted to focus on one of Horton's slogans in the movie: "A person's a person, no matter how small."

As some movie reviewers also noticed, "It’s already been adopted by some pro-lifers in the abortion debate." It's an important message: Just because a person is very small, they are no less of a person.

This in fact is the first part of SLED, an acronym serving as a helpful reminder of four supposed differences between the unborn and a "real" human being. There is a short description of what SLED stands for after the break, but I wanted to point out that the current Q&A question on William Lane Craig's site is an excellent summary of the rational pro-life position: William Lane Craig on Abortion. Note that nowhere in his argument does he make an appeal to faith or the Bible. He could have, but it's not necessary; the argument is powerful enough (I'd say conclusive) without such an appeal.

Click below for a summary of SLED.


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