Skip to comments.10 FALLACIES IN THE ABORTION DEBATE
Posted on 11/08/2002 1:09:07 PM PST by Tomalak
1. The foetus cannot be taken seriously as a person
An unborn baby in its 7th
Before I knew much about the abortion debate, I was entirely uninterested in the unborn baby. When it was mentioned, I accepted uncritically that the "foetus" was just some sort of overdeveloped sperm of no value or worth. Pro-abortion rhetoric convinced me that the baby in the womb was somehow an entirely different class of human from you or me, as though the mere act of leaving the womb and inhaling oxygen conferred humanity on someone. I'm not sure I considered it rationally at the time, but I supported abortion because I had been led to believe there was nothing at stake in the destruction of a human foetus.
The facts were what changed my mind. Of course the unborn child is not some special class of human being, somehow less of a person because it exists in the womb. By any scientific criteria you can name, a complete human life is formed at the moment a sperm fertilises an egg. The creature formed is alive - growing, maturing and replacing its own dying cells. It is human - already unique from any other human who has ever existed, of the species homo sapiens sapiens, with 46 human chromosomes, and can only develop into an adult human as opposed to any other creature. And it is complete - the person in question will grow a great deal over the years that follow conception, but all that is added is just replication of what is already there. There is no scientific doubt whatsoever that a 23 week old baby inside the womb is every bit as human and every bit as alive as a 23 week old baby outside the womb. Yet one is given the full legal rights we all take for granted, and the other can be killed as an inconvenience.
An unborn baby, 24
It is obvious why the pro-abortion lobby talk always in terms of a "foetus". It sounds so much less personal and less human to speak of "terminating a foetus" than of killing a baby. All sorts of medical euphemisms are used from time to time: cluster of cells (which of us is not a cluster of cells?), blob of protoplasm and so on. They will call the unborn child anything but a baby.
Some pro-abortion debaters argue that their side talks of foetuses and the other side talks of babies, as suits their agenda. So there is no reason to say one particular side is being dishonest in their use of language to suit their argument - one uses medical terms and one uses more emotional terms, that is all. But this ignores the reality of how people speak from day to day. When a woman is pregnant, all inquiries are after the baby, not the foetus. No one talks about the foetus kicking. No mother who suffers a miscarriage talks about losing their foetus. It is only when the discussion turns to abortion that the medical terms are rolled out to describe the baby that will be killed. It is only when defending abortion that we dehumanise the baby to make the argument for killing her easier. This is not a new tactic. From 'Untermenschen' to 'Nigger', bigots have always invented terms they can use to avoid describing that which they want to kill as human. But calling a Jew 'Untermenschen' does not make him any less human and calling a baby a 'foetus' (a word ironically actually meaning "little child") does not make her any less human.
No pro-lifer argues that the baby should take precedence over the mother. But to fail to recognise that there are two human lives in this question is wilful blindness. In circumstances where neither will die, why must a life be taken at all?
2. 'Pro-choice' is a neutral position on abortion
One of the stranger arguments people often make with abortion is that they don't want to take sides on the matter - what they favour is for the mother to choose whether to abort, they themselves being neutral on the issue. Implicit in this is the idea that on one side is a group of people opposed to abortion under any circumstances and on the other side a group of people supportive of abortion in all cases, whether the mother wants it or not. Being "pro-choice", it follows, is the neutral, middle-ground position.
This isn't an argument that stands up for long. No sane person advocates abortion in every case, so to base one's claim to be neutral between an argument that does exist and an argument that doesn't is clearly nonsense. But the key point that refutes the idea of "pro-choice" equating to neutrality is that it asserts that the choices of the mother should always take precedence over the life of her son or daughter. By siding with "choice", one is declaring oneself opposed to the idea that innocent human life should take precedence over another human's choices, and siding with the abortion-rights idea that what they like to call "a woman right to choose" should come first instead.
The debate on abortion is not between those who want no abortions and those who want all aborted, but between those who want abortion for the convenience of one or both parents, and those who think human life should take precedence over human choice. In the life/choice dichotomy that is the abortion debate, you can be indifferent as to which takes precedence, you can be undecided, you can be unsure, and you can have no opinion at all. But what you cannot be is neutral, because there is no neutral position. Either life comes first or choice does.
3. Restricting abortion means imposing religious morality on others
Many people of all faiths and of none oppose abortion, but it is suggested by some that to be pro-life is to hold a religious position. Therefore, to support pro-life laws is to suggest imposing a religious viewpoint on everyone else, equivalent to making it illegal to eat pork because of what the Koran dictates.
If abortion is a religious issue, then nearly everything is. What people usually mean by this is that abortion is exclusively a religious issue, of no concern to those who do not share the unproven faiths of pro-lifers. As many religions stress the value of an eternal human soul, and many pro-lifers express themselves in religious terms, the two are not unconnected. But it is entirely wrong to suggest that an ethical issue like abortion becomes entirely a religious matter because the religious give their views on it. The book of Exodus commands that no one should commit murder. That does not mean murder is an exclusively religious issue, and it certainly doesn't mean that laws against murder would breach a tradition like the United States' separation of church and state.
Not only is it false to say that opposition to abortion is a religious position, rather than ultimately one of civil or human rights, but it is insulting. Do such people really believe that it is impossible for an atheist to care about the unborn? Do they honestly think that the supreme value and importance of innocent human life is something only a religious person can understand? I certainly hope not.
So it would not be imposing religious morality to restrict abortion. But would it be wrong on the grounds that it is imposing any sort of morality? Well the trouble with this argument is that every law is imposing morality. A law that bans theft imposes anti-theft morality on others. No one has a problem with this because no one is really a moral relativist in practice. We all know that individuals have certain rights that surpass the wishes of others to do as they please. Whether the Lockean rights to life, liberty and property, or the more expansive rights of the European Human Rights Act, all of us accept that some individual protection should be granted. For the unborn, pro-lifers ask only for the most basic right of all - the right to life. This is not about imposing on anyone, but about preventing the greatest imposition of all: an execution of a person innocent of any crime, and guilty only of being an inconvenience. That would be the true imposition, the true case of illegitimate force.
Ironically, pro-abortion people always accuse their opponents of what they are most guilty of. It is they who want to make laws based not on an objective criterion like the protection of innocent human life, but on the subjective valuations of the mother. Try telling someone who favours abortion that abortion should be illegal because it kills, and they will say that that doesn't matter, because it only kills a foetus. Explain that a foetus in a human womb is a human being by any scientific definition, and they will say that it is not alive. Tell them that the baby in the womb is in fact alive, and they will say that the baby may be a human life, but it is not what they consider to be a person. So by an entirely arbitrary and subjective notion of what does and does not deserve the right to life through being their notion of a person, they defend themselves. That is a truly unjust case of imposing morality, every bit as much as justifying slavery because although the black man is a human and is alive, he is not a person in the sense that you mean it.
4. "I would never have an abortion, but the choice is for others to make for themselves" or "If you don't like abortion, don't have one"
It is not inconsistent for someone who would never box in their life to want boxing to remain legal. Someone may hate the very taste of coffee, but that does not mean they need ban it. They could always simply stop drinking it. It would not necessarily be hypocritical for someone who hates fox-hunting to believe in others' liberty to hunt. Some try to extend this liberal principle to abortion: just because someone may think abortion immoral, distasteful and wicked, it is argued, they need not oppose it.
Having categorised boxing, coffee and hunting as three things one can quite consistently dislike without believing they should be banned, we ought to examine some things one could not consistently oppose without wanting them banned. A clear example would be rape. It would be utterly absurd to say "Don't like rape? Then don't commit any". This is because when someone is saying they find rape distasteful, they are not simply talking about disagreeing with the choices others make, as may be the case with hunting, but they are opposed to the very idea that anyone should force a woman to have sex with them.
The question is whether abortion goes into the first category - a matter of choice, like boxing or coffee-drinking, with no essential rights involved - or the second - a matter of fundamental individual rights, which cannot be negotiated and are not simply about the preferences of one person. Whichever side one takes in debating it, abortion does not fit into the first category, as both of the above statements wrongly suggest.
If one holds that innocent human life is sacred and valuable and that this value remains whatever the preferences of others, then abortion is clearly a matter of individual rights. No one can hold that abortion is a violation of individual rights while thinking it should remain legal anyway. That is what is so absurdly hypocritical about those who claim they personally oppose abortion but still want it legal. Logically, the only reason to believe that it would be wrong personally to have an abortion is if you thought the baby that would die has a right to life. But if your own baby has a right to life, why doesn't anyone else's? If the baby in your womb is an innocent human being, how does that change for babies that end up in the bodies of those who would be willing to have an abortion? Does the body know at conception whether the mother is pro-life or pro-abortion and produce a human baby in the first case but not the second? What if the mother changes her mind in the middle of the pregnancy? It is here that the absurdity of this position becomes clear. They are essentially arguing that someone's right to life should depend on the standpoint their mother took on abortion - that their own children have a right to life but the children of pro-abortion women do not. If this is not hypocrisy, nothing is.
Equally, to say that opponents of abortion should simply "not have one" is to miss the argument completely. Pro-lifers are not saying that it is their personal preference that individuals have rights, but that innocent human life should be protected whether in the body of a fervent pro-lifer or a conscienceless woman on her seventh abortion. It makes no sense at all to argue that if someone doesn't like slavery, they don't have to buy a slave. Yet that very argument was used in the US in 19th century, and is used now as a defence of abortion. Abortion is either murder or it isn't. To sidestep this question and pretend it is merely a matter of preference, like the choice between washing powders, reveals either ignorance or dishonesty.
5. Abortion is ultimately an issue of women's rights
One of the more desperate and feeble attempts to shut the abortion debate down can be seen in those who argue that because men cannot become pregnant, and so cannot have an abortion, the issue is nothing to do with them. They go on to suggest either that men's opinions have no right to be heard at all, or that abortion benefits women against men.
The answer to this is a simple biological fact: half of unborn babies are female. So for every male aborted, a girl dies too. The ratio is actually less favourable to women in countries where boys are valued more highly than girls. For example, in India it has now become common for women to pay for a cheap ultra-sound scan and then pay for a cheap abortion if the baby is revealed to be a female. They then rinse and repeat until a boy comes along. So the idea that abortion is a blow for women is belied by the reality of millions of girls being killed in the most brutal and cruel way.
Well, okay, maybe abortion does kill at least as many girls as boys, it is conceded, but with men unable to become pregnant, women are the ones who have abortions, and usually get to decide. Therefore, the issue is for women to decide on, not men. But this argument is contrary to all democratic principles. We do not require that only servicemen get to air their views and cast their vote on matters relating to war. Nor do we demand that only the sick get a say in healthcare. Democracy gives everyone a say. One need only see where such an argument will lead to see its greatest flaws. To argue that because only women can commit abortion, they should be the only ones to decide the laws relating to it is equivalent to arguing that rape laws should only be determined and discussed by men, because they alone can commit this offence. Democracy means everyone having their say, whether or not the issue in question directly affects them, or directly benefits them.
6. No consistent pro-lifer can support capital punishment
Because pro-life opinion tends to be most prominent on the political right, which is usually most sympathetic to capital punishment, some argue that there is a contradiction here. How can someone be pro-life and still favour the death penalty?
The answer is that like "pro-choice", "pro-life" is perhaps not an accurate way to describe opposition to abortion. Most people oppose abortion because they put special value on innocent human life. They believe it either to be sacred, or that its worth cannot be wished away simply by being inconvenient. I am not pro-life in the sense that I oppose taking any life, because I eat meat and do not object to killing animals to that end. Nor am I pro-human life in the sense that I oppose taking a human life in any circumstances. In war, I support shooting the enemy, and where a murder has been committed, I am willing to support execution of the killer. The key word is innocent. It is simply not possible for an unborn baby to commit a murder. So there is no contradiction in supporting executing murderers and opposing executing innocent babies. The same principle inspires both convictions: that innocent human life is so valuable it should not be destroyed, and that those who take an innocent human life should pay a high price.
It is not those who are pro-life and pro-capital punishment who are inconsistent, but those who favour abortion and oppose capital punishment. Their position is to execute the innocent and protect the guilty.
7. It is hypocritical to be pro-life if one does not adopt babies or pay for their upkeep oneself
Like the feminist argument, this sort of accusation attempts to shut down the debate, this time by suggesting that one must demonstrate personally one's commitment to the children who would result from restricting abortion. Certainly, it is a wonderful thing if one can afford and is willing to help with such cases. But to argue ad hominem that because someone does not or cannot carry out their convictions in terms of direct assistance, their argument is wrong, is to confuse the argument with the arguer. Something is no more or less true depending on who says it. Accusations of hypocrisy are easy to throw around, but while they may harm the reputation of the accused, they do not affect their argument.
To say that one cannot oppose abortion without being willing to adopt half a dozen children is like saying that one cannot support a war without offering oneself up to fight or that one cannot oppose slavery without being willing to feed and clothe many former slaves. To support the right to life, liberty and property of a person does not mean one must support them in other ways. An injustice is an injustice.
Again, the greatest hypocrisy comes from the general position of the left. If a man impregnates a woman, they say, then it is only right that he take responsibility for the baby. Even if the father didn't want her, he should still pay child support to her meals, clothing etc. He chose to risk pregnancy, they tell us, so he should take responsibility for the consequences.
This all sounds reasonable enough, and it would be, if only they applied the same argument to women. But they don't. They do not say that the mother chose to risk pregnancy and now must take responsibility for the baby that results. Instead they say the choice over whether the baby lives or dies is entirely up to her, and one she can determine to her own convenience. This is real hypocrisy and inconsistency.
8. Restricting abortion would make no difference; it would just mean more women dying from 'backstreet abortions'
Though the argument is often stated this way, clearly something different is meant, as more women dying would be a difference. First, do abortion laws and a pro-life climate reduce the number of abortions? The best example of this is Poland. When the Soviets left, Poland's religious and humanitarian traditions resurfaced. In the 1980s, there were about 100,000 abortions a year. By 1990, this figure was 59,417. So clearly, when people begin to believe that abortion is wrong, they start to change their behaviour. It would be bizarre indeed to suggest that social attitudes are totally unaffected by the abortion laws and the democratic endorsement of them.
But what about the accusation that abortion means more deaths from backstreet abortions? In fact, the declining number of deaths by backstreet abortion continued pretty much unaffected in both Britain and the United States after abortion was legalised. It should also be emphasised how few this was: around three dozen a year in the whole of the United States, or fewer than one per state. So either illegal abortions were very rare, or very safe. If they are very safe, then one cannot argue that an abortion ban would be a threat to women's lives. If they were very rare, then clearly, pro-life laws did discourage illegal abortions, saving lives of the women in question, and the babies who were conceived.
As a final example of this tendency, Poland banned abortion except in cases of rape, incest or disability in 1993, and in the following year, 782 babies were legally aborted (as against 100,000 a decade ago) but no one at all died from an illegal abortion.
9. Abortions are justifiable because they keep down the population, lower crime and spare some children a miserable life
The utilitarian argument for abortion is more cruel than most, but it deserves to be dealt with. Even if one accepts that the unborn child is an innocent human life, that does not mean protection for her, the argument goes, because such protection would mean an excessive population, enabling poorer babies to be born and go on to commit crimes, or ensure someone is born into an unhappy home.
First, one must question the idea that the population of this country, or any modern Western country is too high. In Britain, our population is actually predicted to be more or less stable over the next fifty years, dipping a little. For stability in a population, each woman must have an average of 2.1 children (2 to replace herself and the father, and 0.1 to account for deaths in childbirth etc.). In Britain it is currently about 1.8, and we are predicted to face 2 million immigrants over the next decade. Our problem is not too many children, but too few. Much of modern Europe is now losing its culture through so many abortions necessitating mass-immigration.
Second is the argument that abortion disproportionately affects the sort of class of people who become criminals, and therefore abortion cuts crime. Killing another human being in order to do this is a brutal enough solution. To execute them in their infancy for a crime they cannot any longer commit is barbaric. A good criminal justice system and police force, and respectable social attitudes cut crime best. We should not think that killing innocents is an adequate or moral replacement.
Third comes the suggestion that many babies would be better off aborted than adopted or unwanted. The arrogance of such a position is clear: who are they to decide this for people who have not yet even been born? What gives them the right to declare another person's life so miserable it must be cut off just as it is beginning?
Ultimately, civilised morality is based on non-negotiable principles: the right to life being one of them. To say that such notions can be overrun for the convenience of society in general is a monstrous and pointless defence of abortion. If innocent human life deserves protection, then it is irrelevant. If it does not, then it is superfluous.
10. Even if it kills a tramp to throw him out of my house into the cold, I have a legal right to do it
Some in the abortion debate concede the immorality of abortion, but defend it legally as a matter of control of one's body. One may have a duty to look after another human being, but for the law to enforce that duty is imposing on the person an unreasonable burden. It may be cruel to throw a tramp out of one's house into a blizzard, but one has the legal right. But pregnancy is unlike any property situation. To extend the tramp analogy, if one had invited the tramp into one's home, then sucked his brains out before throwing him out into the cold, the law would look on it slightly different. Since nearly all abortions are for consensual sex - the choice to risk pregnancy - the baby is not an imposition, but a chosen tenant.
One also wonders about the legal rights and duties of parents and their children. No mother would legally be allowed to throw her baby out into the cold one day because she had paid for the house, as was her right. Why? Because certain legal obligations are imposed along with motherhood. We therefore grant the right to life and to "impose" to a born baby, and rightly, but not an unborn baby. This is not a permanent obligation, and this mother could look after the baby until the point at which she could give her up for adoption. But this could just as well be done by a pregnant woman who did not want her baby in the womb. What we do not allow with born babies of 23 weeks in the womb is for the mother to kill them. Sadly, for no reason anyone can explain logically, we do allow babies of 23 weeks inside the womb to be "evicted" in a murderous way. No one suggests the baby is not a human life, nor that she is guilty of any crime. But still we let our own convenience come first.
Rather than make the case against abortion, I thought I'd just puncture some of the pro-abortion myths. This turned out to be more structured and more fun. Hope it inspires some thought. I'll close with a quote that sums up the pro-life position fairly and succinctly:
"The old law permitted abortion to save one life when two would otherwise die. The new law permits abortion to take one life when two would otherwise live." - Herbert Ratner.
Ronald Reagan, while sitting as the fortieth president of the United States, sent us this article shortly after the tenth anniversary of Roe v. Wade; we printed it with pride in our Spring, 1983 issue, and reprint it now, after Roe's twentieth anniversary, just as proudly.
The 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is a good time for us to pause and reflect. Our nationwide policy of abortion-on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy was neither voted for by our people nor enacted by our legislators not a single state had such unrestricted abortion before the Supreme Court decreed it to be national policy in 1973. But the consequences of this judicial decision are now obvious: since 1973, more than 15 million unborn children have had their lives snuffed out by legalized abortions. That is over ten times the number of Americans lost in all our nation's wars.
Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court's result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right. Shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision, Professor John Hart Ely, now Dean of Stanford Law School, wrote that the opinion "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be." Nowhere do the plain words of the Constitution even hint at a "right" so sweeping as to permit abortion up to the time the child is ready to be born. Yet that is what the Court ruled.
As an act of "raw judicial power" (to use Justice White's biting phrase), the decision by the seven-man majority in Roe v. Wade has so far been made to stick. But the Court's decision has by no means settled the debate. Instead, Roe v. Wade has become a continuing prod to the conscience of the nation.
Abortion concerns not just the unborn child, it concerns every one of us. The English poet, John Donne, wrote: ". . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life the unbornwithout diminishing the value of all human life. Wesaw tragic proof of this truism last year when the Indiana courts allowed the starvation death of "Baby Doe" in Bloomington because the child had Down's Syndrome.
Many of our fellow citizens grieve over the loss of life that has followed Roe v. Wade. Margaret Heckler, soon after being nominated to head the largest department of our government, Health and Human Services, told an audience that she believed abortion to be the greatest moral crisis facing our country today. And the revered Mother Teresa, who works in the streets of Calcutta ministering to dying people in her world-famous mission of mercy, has said that "the greatest misery of our time is the generalized abortion of children."
Over the first two years of my Administration I have closely followed and assisted efforts in Congress to reverse the tide of abortion efforts of Congressmen, Senators and citizens responding to an urgent moral crisis. Regrettably, I have also seen the massive efforts of those who, under the banner of "freedom of choice," have so far blocked every effort to reverse nationwide abortion-on-demand.
Despite the formidable obstacles before us, we must not lose heart. This is not the first time our country has been divided by a Supreme Court decision that denied the value of certain human lives. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 was not overturned in a day, or a year, or even a decade. At first, only a minority of Americans recognized and deplored the moral crisis brought about by denying the full humanity of our black brothers and sisters; but that minority persisted in their vision and finally prevailed. They did it by appealing to the hearts and minds of their countrymen, to the truth of human dignity under God. From their example, we know that respect for the sacred value of human life is too deeply engrained in the hearts of our people to remain forever suppressed. But the great majority of the American people have not yet made their voices heard, and we cannot expect them toany more than the public voice arose against slaveryuntil the issue is clearly framed and presented.
What, then, is the real issue? I have often said that when we talk about abortion, we are talking about two livesthe life of the mother and the life of the unborn child. Why else do we call a pregnant woman a mother? I have also said that anyone who doesn't feel sure whether we are talking about a second human life should clearly give life the benefit of the doubt. If you don't know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn.
The case against abortion does not rest here, however, for medical practice confirms at every step the correctness of these moral sensibilities. Modern medicine treats the unborn child as a patient. Medical pioneers have made great breakthroughs in treating the unbornfor genetic problems, vitamin deficiencies, irregular heart rhythms, and other medical conditions. Who can forget George Will's moving account of the little boy who underwent brain surgery six times during the nine weeks before he was born? Who is the patient if not that tiny unborn human being who can feel pain when he or she is approached by doctors who come to kill rather than to cure?
The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life? The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law the same right we have.
What more dramatic confirmation could we have of the real issue than the Baby Doe case in Bloomington, Indiana? The death of that tiny infant tore at the hearts of all Americans because the child was undeniably a live human beingone lying helpless before the eyes of the doctors and the eyes of the nation. The real issue for the courts was not whether Baby Doe was a human being. The real issue was whether to protect the life of a human being who had Down's Syndrome, who would probably be mentally handicapped, but who needed a routine surgical procedure to unblock his esophagus and allow him to eat. A doctor testified to the presiding judge that, even with his physical problem corrected, Baby Doe would have a "non-existent" possibility for "a minimally adequate quality of life"in other words, that retardation was the equivalent of a crime deserving the death penalty. The judge let Baby Doe starve and die, and the Indiana Supreme Court sanctioned his decision.
Federal law does not allow federally-assisted hospitals to decide that Down's Syndrome infants are not worth treating, much less to decide to starve them to death. Accordingly, I have directed the Departments of Justice and HHS to apply civil rights regulations to protect handicapped newborns. All hospitals receiving federal funds must post notices which will clearly state that failure to feed handicapped babies is prohibited by federal law. The basic issue is whether to value and protect the lives of the handicapped, whether to recognize the sanctity of human life. This is the same basic issue that underlies the question of abortion.
The 1981 Senate hearings on the beginning of human life brought out the basic issue more clearly than ever before. The many medical and scientific witnesses who testified disagreed on many things, but not on the scientific evidence that the unborn child is alive, is a distinct individual, or is a member of the human species. They did disagree over the value question, whether to give value to a human life at its early and most vulnerable stages of existence.
Regrettably, we live at a time when some persons do not value all human life. They want to pick and choose which individuals have value. Some have said that only those individuals with "consciousness of self" are human beings. One such writer has followed this deadly logic and concluded that "shocking as it may seem, a newly born infant is not a human being."
A Nobel Prize winning scientist has suggested that if a handicapped child "were not declared fully human until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice." In other words, "quality control" to see if newly born human beings are up to snuff.
Obviously, some influential people want to deny that every human life has intrinsic, sacred worth. They insist that a member of the human race must have certain qualities before they accord him or her status as a "human being."
Events have borne out the editorial in a California medical journal which explained thre years before Roe v. Wade that the social acceptance of abortion is a "defiance of the long-held Western ethic of intrinsic and equal value for every human life regardless of its stage, condition, or status."
Every legislator, every doctor, and every citizen needs to recognize that the real issue is whether to affirm and protect the sanctity of all human life, or to embrace a social ethic where some human lives are valued and others are not. As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the "quality of life" ethic.
I have no trouble identifying the answer our nation has always given to this basic question, and the answer that I hope and pray it will give in the future. American was founded by men and women who shared a vision of the value of each and every individual. They stated this vision clearly from the very start in the Declaration of Independence, using words that every schoolboy and schoolgirl can recite:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We fought a terrible war to guarantee that one category of mankind black people in Americacould not be denied the inalienable rights with which their Creator endowed them. The great champion of the sanctity of all human life in that day, Abraham Lincoln, gave us his assessment of the Declaration's purpose. Speaking of the framers of that noble document, he said
This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all his creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on. . . They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children's children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages.
He warned also of the danger we would face if we closed our eyes to the value of life in any category of human beings:
I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a Negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?
When Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to guarantee the rights of life, liberty, and property to all human beings, he explained that all are "entitled to the protection of American law, because its divine spirit of equality declares that all men are created equal." He said the right guaranteed by the amendment would therefore apply to "any human being." Justice William Brennan, writing in another case decided only the year before Roe v. Wade, referred to our society as one that "strongly affirms the sanctity of life."
Another William Brennannot the Justicehas reminded us of the terrible consequences that can follow when a nation rejects the sanctity of life ethic:
The cultural environment for a human holocaust is present whenever any society can be misled into defining individuals as less than human and therefore devoid of value and respect.
As a nation today, we have not rejected the sanctity of human life. The American people have not had an opportunity to express their view on the sanctity of human life in the unborn. I am convinced that Americans do not want to play God with the value of human life. It is not for us to decide who is worthy to live and who is not. Even the Supreme Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade did not explicitly reject the traditional American idea of intrinsic worth and value in all human life; it simply dodged this issue.
The Congress has before it several measures that would enable our people to reaffirm the sanctity of human life, even the smallest and the youngest and the most defenseless. The Human Life Bill expressly recognizes the unborn as human beings and accordingly protects them as persons under our Constitution. This bill, first introduced by Senator Jesse Helms, provided the vehicle for the Senate hearings in 1981 which contributed so much to our understanding of the real issue of abortion.
The Respect Human Life Act, just introduced in the 98th Congress, states in its first section that the policy of the United States is "to protect innocent life, both before and after birth." This bill, sponsored by Congressman Henry Hyde and Senator Roger Jepsen, prohibits the federal government from performing abortions or assisting those who do so, except to save the life of the mother. It also addresses the pressing issue of infanticide which, as we have seen, flows inevitably from permissive abortion as another step in the denial of the inviolability of innocent human life.
I have endorsed each of these measures, as well as the more difficult route of constitutional amendment, and I will give these initiatives my full support. Each of them, in different ways, attempts to reverse the tragic policy of abortion-on-demand imposed by the Supreme Court ten years ago. Each of them is a decisive way to affirm the sanctity of human life.
We must all educate ourselves to the reality of the horrors taking place. Doctors today know that unborn children can feel a touch within the womb and that they respond to pain. But how many Americans are aware that abortion techniques are allowed today, in all 50 states, that burn the skin of a baby with a salt solution, in an agonizing death that can last for hours?
Another example: two years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a Sunday special supplement on "The Dreaded Complication." The "dreaded complication" referred to in the articlethe complication feared by doctors who perform abortionsis the survival of the child despite all the painful attacks during the abortion procedure. Some unborn children do survive the late-term abortions the Supreme Court has made legal. Is there any question that these victims of abortion deserve our attention and protection? Is there any question that those who don't survive were living human beings before they were killed?
Late-term abortions, especially when the baby survives, but is then killed by starvation, neglect, or suffocation, show once again the link between abortion and infanticide. The time to stop both is now. As my Administration acts to stop infanticide, we will be fully aware of the real issue that underlies the death of babies before and soon after birth. Our society has, fortunately, become sensitive to the rights and special needs of the handicapped, but I am shocked that physical or mental handicaps of newborns are still used to justify their extinction. This Administration has a Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop, who has done perhaps more than any other American for handicapped children, by pioneering surgical techniques to help them, by speaking out on the value of their lives, and by working with them in the context of loving families. You will not find his former patients advocating the so-called "quality-of-life" ethic.
I know that when the true issue of infanticide is placed before the American people, with all the facts openly aired, we will have no trouble deciding that a mentally or physically handicapped baby has the same intrinsic worth and right to life as the rest of us. As the New Jersey Supreme Court said two decades ago, in a decision upholding the sanctity of human life, "a child need not be perfect to have a worthwhile life."
Whether we are talking about pain suffered by unborn children, or about late-term abortions, or about infanticide, we inevitably focus on the humanity of the unborn child. Each of these issues is a potential rallying point for the sanctity of life ethic. Once we as a nation rally around any one of these issues to affirm the sanctity of life, we will see the importance of affirming this principle across the board.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the English writer, goes right to the heart of the matter: "Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other." The sanctity of innocent human life is a principle that Congress should proclaim at every opportunity.
It is possible that the Supreme Court itself may overturn its abortion rulings. We need only recall that in Brown v. Board of Education the court reversed its own earlier "separate-but-equal" decision. I believe if the Supreme Court took another look at Roe v. Wade, and considered the real issue between the sanctity of life ethic and the quality of life ethic, it would change its mind once again.
As we continue to work to overturn Roe v. Wade, we must also continue to lay the groundwork for a society in which abortion is not the accepted answer to unwanted pregnancy. Pro-life people have already taken heroic steps, often at great personal sacrifice, to provide for unwed mothers. I recently spoke about a young pregnant woman named Victoria, who said, "In this society we save whales, we save timber wolves and bald eagles and Coke bottles. Yet, everyone wanted me to throw away my baby." She has been helped by Save-a-Life, a group in Dallas, which provides a way for unwed mothers to preserve the human life within them when they might otherwise be tempted to resort to abortion. I think also of House of His Creation in Catesville, Pennsylvania, where a loving couple has taken in almost 200 young women in the past ten years. They have seen, as a fact of life, that the girls are not better off having abortions than saving their babies. I am also reminded of the remarkable Rossow family of Ellington, Connecticut, who have opened their hearts and their home to nine handicapped adopted and foster children.
The Adolescent Family Life Program, adopted by Congress at the request of Senator Jeremiah Denton, has opened new opportunities for unwed mothers to give their children life. We should not rest until our entire society echoes the tone of John Powell in the dedication of his book, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, a dedication to every woman carrying an unwanted child: "Please believe that you are not alone. There are many of us that truly love you, who want to stand at your side, and help in any way we can." And we can echo the always-practical woman of faith, Mother Teresa, when she says, "If you don't want the little child, that unborn child, give him to me." We have so many families in America seeking to adopt children that the slogan "every child a wanted child" is now the emptiest of all reasons to tolerate abortion.
I have often said we need to join in prayer to bring protection to the unborn. Prayer and action are needed to uphold the sanctity of human life. I believe it will not be possible to accomplish our work, the work of saving lives, "without being a soul of prayer." The famous British Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, prayed with his small group of influential friends, the "Clapham Sect," for decades to see an end to slavery in the British empire. Wilberforce led that struggle in Parliament, unflaggingly, because he believed in the sanctity of human life. He saw the fulfillment of his impossible dream when Parliament outlawed slavery just before his death.
Let his faith and perseverance be our guide. We will never recognize the true value of our own lives until we affirm the value in the life of others, a value of which Malcolm Muggeridge says:. . . however low it flickers or fiercely burns, it is still a Divine flame which no man dare presume to put out, be his motives ever so humane and enlightened."
Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.
The Human Life Foundation, Inc.
215 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10016
It truly doesn't matter if you kill a cell, nor does it matter if you kill an egg. If you claim that egg should be protected the instant it becomes fertilized then that is an arbitrary religious criteria and would prove that "fallacy" number 3 is not.
It is hardly less arbitrary than if I pick a certain number of weeks or stage of development to start protecting the foetus. I don't believe I'm on a slippery slope, only in a moral grey area. We can all agree on the immorality of partial birth abortion and on amorality of killing unfertized eggs. Then we could agree to leave the rest grey with the understanding that a foetus in later stages of development deserves more protection. To insist on black and white morality is to impose a religious view.
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