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Feedback archiveFeedback 2004, 2008

Questions regarding abortion and ethics

Published 20 August 2004; Edited and reposted: 19 January 2008(GMT+10)

Kristen of the USA asks for advice on how to argue the pro-life case, and Dr Sarfati’s answer has much wider application. [The article has been slightly updated with more recent article links.]

I have a couple of questions regarding abortion and ethics.
First, how does one present an effective argument for God-given absolutes, fully applicable to modern society, to a person who believes that no one should impose his beliefs on other people?
I talked with a Democrat a couple of weeks ago who claimed to believe that human life begins at conception but said that she can’t impose her beliefs on other people through laws against abortion. She also said that she is not responsible for other people’s moral decisions since eventually everyone will be ‘accountable to their Maker.’ I then asked her if she believed that God had the authority to make moral judgments and, while she implied that she did, she said that she does not want to impose her religion on other people, either. This sort of thinking is apparently becoming fairly common, as polls show that about half of Americans think that all abortion is murder, but only one third think that all (or even almost all) abortion should be outlawed.

Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life—Lord Melbourne, objecting to the Evangelical anti-slavery activists

Second, can one argue that human life begins at conception without arguing that eating a fertilized chicken egg is the moral equivalent of killing a chicken?
I had always considered human life to begin at conception but a chicken’s life to begin when the egg is incubated and starts to develop. I started thinking about this, however, when my pastor surprised me by saying that he doesn’t believe human life begins at conception. He wasn’t sure when he believes it does begin, although he said it must be early in the pregnancy, possibly when the embryo attaches itself to the uterus. I pointed out that conception is when it scientifically begins, as well as the only logical, non-arbitrary time for it to begin, but he did not seem convinced.
Thank you for answering my questions.
Sincerely,
Kristen,
USA

Dear Kristen,

I have a couple of questions regarding abortion and ethics.
First, how does one present an effective argument for God-given absolutes, fully applicable to modern society, to a person who believes that no one should impose his beliefs on other people?

First, always try to discern the hidden assumptions behind your opponents’ beliefs. This person tries to bluff you into thinking that it’s a question of whether one should impose one’s beliefs on others. However, all laws impose morality—laws against murder and rape impose on murderers and rapists the moral view that murder and rape are wrong! In reality, the only question is ‘Whose morality should be imposed?’ The pro-abortionist has no qualms about imposing his pro-abortion morality on the unborn babies! So what this hypothetical person really means is that s/he doesn’t want Christian morality imposed on him or her, not that s/he doesn’t want to impose a humanist morality on the unborn baby if that baby has committed the capital crime of being ‘unwanted’.

‘I’m personally opposed, but …’, really is one of the biggest liberal shams around,…. OK, why be personally opposed to abortion? If the baby is not a human being, then it’s as silly to be ‘personally opposed’ to abortion as to be ‘personally opposed’ to removing a wart. But if it is a human being, then it is no longer a matter of personal opinion but a duty not to murder this being.

Here is a good example of why we ask people to search our website before writing to us. My article Stem Cells and Genesis refutes a number of faulty pro-abortion arguments including this one, as well as a number of others that your opponents have raised.

I would also suggest Creation: ‘where’s the proof?’ as a parallel. This one answers people who claim, in effect, that we should abandon our own presuppositions and be ‘neutral’. This really means adopting humanist presuppositions instead.

I talked with a Democrat a couple of weeks ago who claimed to believe that human life begins at conception but said that she can’t impose her beliefs on other people through laws against abortion.

Often a faulty moral argument can be refuted by an astute substitution. Her argument is just like ‘I believe that slaves are truly created equal, but I can’t impose my anti-slavery beliefs on slave owners through laws against slavery.’

Note that the Supreme Court once declared that slaves were non-persons, in the notorious 1857 ‘Dred Scott decision’ under Roger Brooke Taney, thus Congress could not outlaw slavery. In the equally notorious 1973 Roe v. Wade case, liberal justices on the Supreme Court led by Harry Blackmun invented a constitutional right to abortion and declared that the unborn was not human. [See also Oh, the Humanity! Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade by Greg Koukl (off-site)].

The parallel of abortion with slavery is further enhanced by noting that pro-slavery advocates like 19th century British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne said: ‘Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life’. See how your Democrat acquaintance is not saying anything new! See also The Bible vs slavery and apartheid [and Anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce: Christian hero].

Another moral parallel you could use against someone like this Democrat is to substitute ‘2-year-old’ for ‘unborn baby’ in any pro-abortion argument she cares to make. See this response to someone Offended by the term ‘Baby Killers’.

She also said that she is not responsible for other people’s moral decisions since eventually everyone will be ‘accountable to their Maker.’

By that ‘reasoning’, we should not outlaw rape, murder or slavery either.

Note that the common tactic, ‘I’m personally opposed, but …’, really is one of the biggest liberal shams around, and Christians should not fall for that, even when a churchgoer says it. OK, why be personally opposed to abortion? If the baby is not a human being, then it’s as silly to be ‘personally opposed’ to abortion as to be ‘personally opposed’ to removing a wart. But if it is a human being, then it is no longer a matter of personal opinion but a duty not to murder this being.

I then asked her if she believed that God had the authority to make moral judgments and, while she implied that she did, she said that she does not want to impose her religion on other people, either.

But she is willing to allow humanists to impose their religion on the unborn.

This sort of thinking is apparently becoming fairly common, as polls show that about half of Americans think that all abortion is murder, but only one third think that all (or even almost all) abortion should be outlawed.

Thanks to Janine Suter

4D ultrasound image of human baby in the womb, taken at 20 weeks

4D ultrasound image of human baby in the womb, taken at 20 weeks.

This merely shows that many Christians haven’t been taught to think logically. But if they really believe that abortion is murder, then why don’t they act like it? After all, if a politician was in favour of terrorism, no one would say, ‘that’s unfortunate, but his policies on the economy, health and education are better.’ Obviously, if some people are not protected from murder, all other ‘rights’ like education, healthcare, housing are beside the point.

And it won’t stop—at the Nuremberg trials of leading Nazis, one defendant claimed he had never intended for millions to be killed. The judge sharply told him that this was the logical result from the first time he had an innocent killed. The Holocaust was already on its way as soon as the State declared there was such a thing as a single class of innocent human not worthy of protection. [See also Judgment at Nuremberg]

Also, be wary of polls—they can distort real feelings by the way they ask questions. For example, a number of polls have asked whether a person supports stem cell research. I would answer yes, because I support adult (somatic) cell research. But then this is turned into support embryonic stem cell research, which I do not. [See Stem cells and Genesis for much more information.] Similarly, many pro-lifers would allow for abortion if it were really necessary to save the mother’s life, but not for any reason not involving life-for-life. But then pollsters may include those as opposing outlawing abortion, although in practice such a view would result in making practically all current abortions illegal.

Second, can one argue that human life begins at conception without arguing that eating a fertilized chicken egg is the moral equivalent of killing a chicken?

Does it matter? God gave man permission to eat animals (Genesis 9:3), so the eating of chickens and fertilized eggs are both equally morally permissible. In any case, the eggs you buy for food are normally unfertilized. Further, a fertilized egg is the first stage of the new chicken. An egg is not a chicken in the same way that a child is not an adult. But both egg and chicken, and child and adult, are different stages in development of a single individual organism,

I had always considered human life to begin at conception but a chicken’s life to begin when the egg is incubated and starts to develop.

No, both lives begin at fertilization. Your own logic below entails this.

I started thinking about this, however, when my pastor surprised me by saying that he doesn’t believe human life begins at conception. He wasn’t sure when he believes it does begin, although he said it must be early in the pregnancy, possibly when the embryo attaches itself to the uterus. I pointed out that conception is when it scientifically begins, as well as the only logical, non-arbitrary time for it to begin, but he did not seem convinced.

You are right. If life began only when the embryo attaches, then something not alive attached! Clearly the embryo must be alive before it attaches, otherwise what is it? Conception is the only logical place for life to begin, because it is then that all the genetic information for a new human being is present. Implantation (and birth) affects the way this being obtains food and oxygen, not the essential nature of the being itself.

The Semitic Totality Concept taught in Scripture entails that as soon as human biological life begins, it is a human person. There is nothing to indicate that there is any secondary event of ‘ensoulment’ after the beginning of biological life. In particular, the Psalmist teaches that life begins at conception (Psalm 51:5), i.e., he explicitly states that it was ‘me’ that existed from conception, not some blob of cells that later became ‘me’. An Old Testament Jew would have thought it bizarre to claim that there was a time when any human entity was alive but not a person. This is so even though such a person didn’t know the precise details of fertilization.

Science elaborates on this biblical principle by showing that the union of sperm and egg (fertilization or conception) is the scientifically irrefutable beginning of the individual’s life, so can be equated with the biblical term.

Also, even if your pastor were right that we don’t know when life begins, it doesn’t help the pro-abort’s case. If a civil engineer doesn’t know whether a condemned building has occupants, he would be criminally negligent if he blew it up before finding out. If an undertaker doesn’t know whether a person is alive or dead, he should never bury him. So even if we don’t know whether the unborn child is alive, the responsible thing is NOT to kill her; the benefit of the doubt should always be in favour of life, not death.

Thank you for answering my questions.

You’re welcome.

Sincerely,
Kristen,
USA

Sincerely
Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
CMI–Australia

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