Philosophy 106 Paper 2; Abortion

Posted: November 10, 2010 in Essays and Papers, Social Concerns
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Why I Am Pro-Life

Every day 115,000 pregnancies are aborted around the world.[1] Is this wrong or is it right? Should it be legal, or illegal? Abortion is a complex and complicated issue that has been the subject of debate for decades, but perhaps it’s not as complex and complicated as it really seems to be. When we use instrumental agents of logic, science, morality and theology, it is possible to sort through the complexity and find simplicity in the argument. It is my hope that in using these tools, you will see the reality behind this long standing debate, and agree as a final cause, that the only moral, ethical and logical side to maintain in this great debate is the Pro-Life position.

The question we all must address first and foremost is, when does life begin? The opinion of when life starts varies from as early as conception to as late as the actual cutting of the umbilical cord, finalizing the infant as an independent agent. The “life” I speak of is essentially that of a “human life,” since a human is the ultimate product of a pregnancy. Though some argue that just because something is living (let’s take an embryo for example) doesn’t make it human simply because it will eventually develop into a human.

But let’s put this into perspective. Think of a child watching TV with his Grandpa. Who is more human, the Grandpa or the child? The answer is that they’re both equally human, despite the grandpa being older and more developed as a human. So if age and physical development do not determine the degree of which something is human, then how can we argue that an embryo is not human simply because is it less “developed?” This is where science enters the picture.

At fertilization the 23 chromosomes from the father and the 23 chromosomes from the mother combine to create a genetically unique individual known as a zygote. From the moment the zygote is formed it has a unique identity with DNA separate from its mother and father, and begins dividing rapidly into cells creating the child. If we trace ourselves back to the earliest point of our existence as individuals, we must trace it back to when our genetic makeup first established us as whom we are individually from our parents. That point in time is fertilization.

Yes, a zygote may not look like a human with legs, eyes and a cute nose. But regardless of appearances, identity is established genetically. And at a genetic level a zygote and embryo are just as human as you or I, just less developed physically. Like the grandpa and the child mentioned earlier. Your DNA was just as complex, and had the same information as to who you are and will be, then as a zygote or embryo, as it is now as an adult. Countless physicians and medical experts consider fertilization the point at which human life begins. Even the Official Senate report on Senate Bill 158, the “Human Life Bill“, acting as a counseling agent stated: “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.”[2] In addition, every step in development after fertilization is not a debatable process from which humanness can be determined. As counseling agent Dr. Tommy Mitchell, a cellular biologist and biochemist, put it; “…at no time in this process is there a scientific point at which the developing individual clearly ‘becomes a person,’ any more than a baby becomes more human when it walks, talks, or is weaned. These milestones in zygote, blastocyst, embryonic, and fetal development are simply descriptions of anatomy, not hurdles met in the test of humanness. From a scientific point of view, the words are arbitrary and purely descriptive.”[3]

 

Using science as a principal agent, we can establish the formal cause of the Pro-Life position in that human life begins at fertilization. Establishing this point of time as that entity being a human, it is therefore subject to human rights. This brings us to the subject of rights in the abortion debate.

Women’s rights play a big role as a preparing agent in the Pro-Choice argument. Pro-Choice advocates maintain that it is the woman’s right to choose what she wants done to her own body. Pro-Life supporters beg the question; what about the rights of the child which has no voice to stand up for it’s right to live? The Pro-Choice objection to this question is that the embryo is not an individual, but a part of the woman’s body, and therefore, the woman has the right to decide for herself whether or not she will have an abortion. The first problem with this argument is that the embryo/fetus has a completely unique genetic identity, as discussed earlier, and is therefore not part of the female’s body, as any part of a woman’s body would have the same genetic code as the woman.

Furthermore, the freedom to choose (in any other situation outside of abortion) is always restricted and prohibited if it entails the harming of an innocent life. So why does it not apply in the event of an unborn child? At what point does the woman have rights and the human life inside of her have none? If we have human rights protecting us from being willingly harmed by others, and human life occurs at fertilization, then abortion is essentially the killing of a human life, and therefore a violation of human rights. One cannot argue they have the right to harm another innocent life. As Ronald Regan once said, “Simple morality dictates that unless and until someone can prove the unborn human is not alive, we must give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it is (alive). And, thus, it should be entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”[4]

Now that it has been established that human life begins at fertilization which entitles that life to rights, we must ask if there are any exceptions. What about the event of rape or deformities of a child. Aren’t these circumstances in which abortion should be legal? These are common objections, and at first they seem valid. But you must consider the following regarding rape cases: First, they are extremely rare, accounting for only 1% of all abortions.[5] Second, think about what rape is. It is an act of violence upon an innocent life. Now think about what abortion is. It too is an act of violence upon an innocent life. The abortion will in no way heal or comfort the woman who has just been raped. It is a situation where we must ask if two wrongs make a right. Violence has already been imposed on one innocent life, why would we impose violence on another innocent life?

In the event of deformities or disabilities discovered in a developing child, we again have another example of infrequency, accounting for only 6% of all abortions.[6] At that, should we really abort a pregnancy because of disabilities? In the UK alone, 9 out of every 10 unborn children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome is aborted.[7] The Pro-Choice argument here is that it is an act of kindness for the child to not live, instead of living with disabilities. But given the choice, what would the unborn child want? Anya Souza is a woman with Down’s syndrome who provides enlightening insight to this question, “I can’t get rid of my Down’s syndrome, but you can’t get rid of my happiness. You can’t get rid of the happiness I give to others either. Its doctors like you that want to test pregnant women and stop people like me from being born. Together with my family and friends I have fought to prevent my separation from normal society. I have fought for my rights…. I may have Down’s Syndrome, but I am a person first.”[8]

 

So if only 1% of abortions are for rape cases and 6% are for disabilities, what are the reasons behind the other 93% of abortions? The other 93% of cases are for social reasons in which the unborn is deemed unwanted or inconvenient.[9] As Mother Teresa once said, “It is a poverty that a “child must die”, so that you may live as you wish.”[10] Clearly, the real formal cause of abortion is a lack of morality in the face of selfishness, not only on the part of the mother, but on anyone who influences the mother as assisting agents to make the life-ending decision.

 

In response, the Pro-Choice objection is the “unwanted child” scenario, that if the parents do not abort the child, they will have an unwanted child, which they will subject to an abusive and unloved lifestyle. This argument is usually accompanied with statistics of child abuse towards unwanted children. But this argument is a logical fallacy of false alternatives, trying to convince people that there are only two options in an unwanted pregnancy; abortion, or an unfair and unloving upbringing of an unwanted child. But there are more choices for children than just these two. Every child is wanted, maybe not by the parents, but there is always someone willing to care for a child, perhaps by the grandparents or adopting parents. In many states, fire stations, police stations and hospitals have a policy that allows anyone to drop off a child within 72 hours of birth, no questions asked, so that the child may receive proper rearing. There are a multitude of choices for an “unwanted” child. In addition, to respond to the statistics of child abuse of unwanted children, child abuse is found mostly with “wanted” children. Child abuse cases have increased since the legalization of abortion. And lastly, is not abortion itself a form of child abuse? “Unwanted” is not the condition of the child, but instead an attitude of the parents. It would be more “unfair” to kill an innocent life on the grounds of curing an attitude of the parents.

As a formal cause of abortion, there are also many health problems concerning abortion procedures. Legalized “safe” abortion still runs an extremely high risk of causing health problems to the woman receiving the abortion. Women who have had abortions are 7 to 11 times more likely to have subsequent infertility, miscarriage, and placenta praevia.[11] 10% of abortions cause a perforated uterus which usually requires an immediate hysterectomy. Altogether, 25-40% of women who have had abortions will have major complications in trying to get pregnant later in life, and will not be able to have children. [12] Another health complication is breast cancer, which medical research shows has a 50% chance of occurring in a woman who has had an aborted pregnancy.[13]

Outside of physical health dangers, there are also emotional dangers with abortion. Pro-Choice advocates often claim that by aborting a pregnancy a woman is relieved of the responsibility of caring for a child, and therefore relieved of stress, which in turn is a mental and psychological benefit. This claim appears to be logical at first, but in reality it is merely a misleading assisting agent to the Pro-Choice cause. Medical research has instead revealed the surprisingly high rate of Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) found in women who have had abortions. PAS is a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome, with severe symptoms of guilt, anxiety and depression. This psychological affliction is both short term and long term, and has caused such severe depression in woman that, statistically speaking, more women commit suicide after an abortion, than women who have never had one.[14] Pro-Choice advocates will often try to point the finger back to Pro-Life advocates in this scenario, claiming that the guilt and depression onset in PAS is a result of guilt and pressure laid on to women from Pro-Life supporters both at home and in society. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The pressure put on women at home and in society is one pro-abortion in nature, as statistics show that 53% of women felt coerced by others to have an abortion, and only 33% actually felt that the abortion was their “free” choice.[15] Isn’t it interesting that the argument for abortion is usually centered around the preparing agent of the woman’s right to choose, yet in the majority of most women that have an abortion, the decision made is one influenced by other people and society in general,.

Now knowing the psychological and physical dangers of abortion, we can proceed to refute another common objection to the Pro-Life argument: The “Back-Alley” argument. This argument persuades that if abortion is made illegal, women will still get abortions, but they will instead be forced into the unsafe and unregulated back alleys to get the procedure done. But the abortion procedure is dangerous regardless of where and how it is done, as is clearly documented and proven. Furthermore, the claim that illegalizing abortion will force women to use rusty clothes hangers to carry out abortions is an incredible exaggeration used as a scare tactic by Pro-Choice advocates. Decades prior to the legalization of abortion, 90% of abortions were done by doctors in their offices. It was a medical procedure then when it was illegal, and it is still a medical practice now being legal. In addition, every country that has ever legalized abortion has experienced little to no change in the rate of criminal abortion.[16] Criminal abortion continues to happen regardless of whether or not it is legal. Lastly, we should also not ignore the moral ramifications of this argument. How can we morally justify legalizing procedures that kill the innocent just to make the killing process less hazardous? How convoluted must our priorities be if we want to find a “safer” way to kill an unborn child? Or care so much for the well being of one life, yet completely disregard the life of another? The “Back-Alley” argument is simply a scare tactic backed with no sound evidence. Multiple studies show a range of 40-85% of women admit that if abortion was illegal, they would not have opted to have one.[17] The only consequence of making abortion illegal would be the saved lives of both children and mothers.

What abortion boils down to as a formal cause is an increasing disinterest in the value of life. It seems that societies worldwide are becoming more and more concerned with comfort and convenience for the self over concerns of the lives of others, in all aspects of life. Regardless of what arguments, beliefs or claimed “rights” Pro-Choice advocates use to jettison away from the moral implications, they can never escape the moral ramifications of devaluing life. Yet as time progresses, more and more people in society are beginning to slip under this spell. The world famous Hippocratic Oath that was for centuries repeated as an oath by all physicians, stated (in its original context); “…I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.”[18] Yet in 1964, this portion of the Hippocratic Oath was removed. This is just one of many examples of the shift in our morality as a society, that continues to erode away and ignore the value of life.

The value of life cannot be ignored, and this is when we must look to the theological perspective as a principal agent of the Pro-Life argument. In a world full of conflicting opinions that are ever changing, we often must look for guidance in a permanent source that never changes. So, what does God have to say about the issue?

In the preparing agent of the Bible we find many passages that clearly show God’s perspective and passion regarding life and its value to Him. Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah 1:4-5 say that God knew us each individually before we even existed in our mother’s wombs. These verses clearly support the Genetic Position, that we are live individuals at conception (and perhaps even live individuals prior to conception on a spiritual level). In Genesis 25:21-23 we read of God referencing Rebekah’s twins as actual people, further indicating that the unborn were considered live individuals. Lastly, in Exodus 21:22-24, God speaks of punishment to anyone who causes a woman to give birth prematurely killing the child. This clearly indicates that causing a woman to lose a child prematurely is wrong. To combine this scripture with science, counseling agent Dr. Tommy Mitchell states, “Since the Bible treats those persons yet unborn as real persons, and since the development of a person is a continuum with a definite beginning at the moment of fertilization, the logical point at which a person begins to be human is at that beginning… Frankly, no other conclusion is possible from Scripture or science.”[19]

In conclusion, if the moment of fertilization brings about a human life, then aborting a pregnancy is killing that human life. And killing a human life is murder. If you believe the murder of an innocent life is wrong, then you must likewise believe abortion is wrong by that same definition. Any other argument raised to justify such an act is merely a diversion to direct you from the simplicity of this inhumane act. At that, it is my hope that I have appropriately explained, as a final cause, that the Pro-Life position is the only morally sound and logical position to hold in the abortion debate.

A human life, no matter how small, no matter how simple, now matter how invisible, is still a human life like you and I. Like it or not, you and I were just as small and fragile at one point in our lives, and though you may disagree with everything I’ve written here, there is one thing we all can agree on: It is a great thing our mothers were Pro-Life while we were inside them. If not, you would not be reading this.


[1] As of 2008, The Guttmacher Institute. (http://www.agi-usa.org)

[2] Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981, p7. Cited in Pro-life Answers for Pro-Choice Arguments, By Randy Alcorn, (Multnomah Press, OR, USA, 1992), p43

[3] The New Answers Book 2, “When Does Life Begin?” (Master Books: Green Forest, AR 2009) pg. 315.

[6] Ibid

[7] D. Mutton, “Trends in Parental Screening for, and Diagnosis of, Down’s Syndrome: England and Whales, 1989-97,” British Medical Journal, October 3, 1998.

[8] “Ability and Disability or Eugenic Abortion,” Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, http://www.spruc.org.uk/students/abortion/disability.

[11] “Induced Abortion: A Risk Factor for Placental Praevia.” by Jeffrey M Barrett, MD, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, December 1981, p769

[12] Aborted Women, Reardon, p106

[13] Dr Joel Brind, professor of endocrinology and breast cancer researcher. Journal of the American Medical Association (Nov 1993).

[15] D.C. Reardon, “Women at Risk of Post-Abortion Trauma,” http://www.afterabortion.org/women_a.html.

[16] The Least of These: What Everyone Should Know About Abortion, Curt Young, 1984, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, p215

[17] Aborted Women: Silent No More, by David C Reardon, 1987, Crossway, Westchester, IL p321-322

[19] The New Answers Book 2, “When Does Life Begin?” (Master Books: Green Forest, AR 2009) pg. 323.

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Comments
  1. matthew2262 says:

    “Why—in the absence of religious beliefs about being made in the image of God, or having an immortal soul—should mere membership of the species Homo sapiens be crucial to whether the life of a being may or may not be taken?”

    -Professor Peter Singer (Bioethics) Princeton University

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v18/n1/baby-killers

  2. matthew2262 says:

    “Abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace, because we are already able to destroy life that is given by God. If a mother can become the murderer of her children, what can we say about other kinds of murders and wars in the world?” -Mother Teresa

    Poplin, M., (2008) “Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service,” Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, pp. 122.

  3. matthew2262 says:

    43% of all women will have an abortionby the time they reach 45. Of these women, 47% will have more than one aborion.

    -Center for Bio-Ethical Reform “Abortion Facts,” http://www.abortionno.org

  4. matthew2262 says:

    “A woman who experiences the spontaneous loss of a child through miscarriage might tell friends or family, ‘I lost my baby.’ If her pregnancy is developing normally, she will tell someone, ‘I’m going to have a baby.’ However, when an abortion is deliberately induced because of unwanted conception, people dehumanize the life in the womb by referring to it as a ‘fetus.’ Interestingly, a pregnant woman who wants her child does not refer to the life in her womb as a fetus. She calls it a baby.”

    -Carol M. Swain, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science and Law at Vanderbuilt University.

    Swain, C.M. (2011) “Be The People,” Nashville, TN:Thomas Nelson, Inc., pp. 50.

  5. matthew2262 says:

    “Abortion is different from other surgical procedures. Even when the fetus has no legal status, its moral status is reasonably the subject of much disagreement. It is disingenuous to argue that removing a fetus from a uterus is no different from removing a fibroid.”
    -Lisa Harris, Assistant Professor and former abortion practitioner, University of Michigan.

    Harris, L., (May 2008) “Second Trimester Abortion Provision: Breaking the Code of Silenceand Changing the Discourse, Reproductive Health Matters Supplement,” Reproductive health Matters 16, no. 31 lib.tcu.edu/staff/bellinger/abortion/Harris.pdf.

  6. matthew2262 says:

    “The embryo is from the start distinct from any cell of the mother or of the father… The embryo is human: it has the genetic makeup characteristic of human beings… The embryo is a complete or whole organism, though immature. The human embryo, from conception onward, is fully programmed and has the active disposition to use that information to develop himself or herself to the mature stage of human being, and, unless prevented by disease or violence, will actually do so.”

    -Robert P. George professor of jurisprudence at Princeton and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and Christopher Tollefsen, professor of philosophy from University of South Carolina.

    George, R. & Tollefsen, C., (2008) “Embryo: A Defense of Human Life,” New York, NY: Doubleday, pp. 50.

  7. matthew2262 says:

    “If abortion is wrong, surely it is wrong because it is the unjust taking of the life of a developing human being… And if one believes that, then what could possibly justify a regime of law that licenses so grave an injustice?… If abortion is not a form of homocide, if the developing embryo or fetus has the moral status of an unwanted growth- such as a tumor- there would be no grounds on which to ‘personally oppose’ abortion. So the question is this: Is the developing embryo or fetus a human being or a mere unwanted growth?”

    Robert P. George professor of jurisprudence at Princeton and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics

    George, R.P. (1999) “In Defense of Natural Law,” New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 205-213.

  8. matthew2262 says:

    “If abortion kills a baby then it ought to be banned to everyone; why allow it? But if it does not kill a baby it is hard to see why we should be uneasy about it; why restrict it?”
    -J. Budziszewski, University of Texas Philosopher

    Budziszewski, J. (1999) “The Revenge of Conscience,” Dallas, TX: Spence, pp. 24.

  9. matthew2262 says:

    “All of this has great relevance to pregnancy. We start from the basic premise that no two humans are genetically identical except for identical twins. (Identical twins are formed when the same sperm fertilizes one egg. Then, after the first cell division, each of the two cells develops independently thereafter.) Thus, when a woman becomes pregnant, the fetus, like a transplanted organ, can be identified as foreign, since only half of the developing life is identical to the mother’s biology. That, of course, would cause big trouble, were defenses not available to prevent the fetus from being destroyed. Happily, in a normal pregnancy, the immune system is prevented from attacking the developing fetus as if it were an unwanted foreign object via B-lymphocytes and antibodies they produce. In addition these antibodies participate in the growth and development of the placenta.

    One of the vital areas of the placenta is the layer known by the tongue-twisting name of syncytiotrophoblasts. (We’ll call them syncoblasts, for short.) Syncoblasts are made up of giant cells which regulate the flow of nutrients between mother and fetus. They also act as a vital barrier between the maternal immune system and the fetal immune system, both of which would otherwise react to the other as foreign to self, especially since much of the early fetal HLA response is inherited from the father! Clearly, trouble could brew in such an atmosphere, were not the immune systems of both mother and fetus kept from reacting to each other. Meanwhile, the mother’s immune system protects the placenta from attack by microorganisms.”

    http://www.rialab.com/book_ch5.php

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