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What’s God Got to Do with It? (A Reponse on Abortion to David Swindle, et al.)

I thought I’d throw my hat into this debate in support of the notion that elective abortion is, indeed, murder.

David Swindle argues,

“Miscarriage is a basic fact of reproduction. Not every pregnancy will result in a new human being. That’s life and we accept that. And because of that at an instinctual level we do not comprehend the death of a first trimester human being as the same thing as the death of a developed human being.”

That’s false, and his article is an attempt to tell me what I believe.

First, if you believe that a human “life” begins at conception, then the moment the sperm met the ovum a “human being” has already begun. They are “human” and are a “being” in a state of gestation. The “result” of a human being, as David states, has already come to fruition. But, you have to “perceive” life as beginning at conception. I’ll address this in a minute.

Secondly, justifying that killing because it may not survive a miscarriage is like justifying the murder of your neighbor because next week he could get hit by a bus.

That’s patently false logic. (I love ya anyway, David 😉 )

Now, I agree that not all killing is murder. Death in military combat and to save a victim’s life is justifiable – although distressing. So, let’s determine which types of abortion aren’t murderous.

Aborting to save the life of a mother isn’t murder because much like any situation where another party’s life is in danger, you need to save them. The potential fetus is jeopardizing the life of the mother – much like someone with a gun in a dark alley – and the danger should be neutralized.

Eliminating a fetus conceived through rape or incest isn’t murder because the offending party (and resulting fetus) is using a woman’s body for their own gain, without her consent, and with potentially deadly consequences. We would no more want an evil scientist to probe us and do experiments on our bodies. In addition, legalizing rape or incest and their consequences would have a chilling effect on the social fabric of American society.

There are also cases involving fetuses with serious genetic disorders, serious congenital defects, and still birth. This isn’t murder because it a parent’s responsibility to do whatever they can to protect their children from harm and give them the best life possible. Eugenics and assisted suicide, in this case, aren’t even a consideration or comparison. The closest comparison would be pulling the plug on a family member in a vegetative state.

So, that leaves elective abortion. The fetus is healthy and barring any problem will be born. Yet, the mother, for various reasons usually related to convenience or finances, chooses to abort.

Pro-life advocates use the logic that life begins at conception and it’s illegal to terminate a life unjustly. The term “life” is a philosophically vague term and many pro-lifers use the notion of a “soul” imbued by God at the moment of conception as the method to define said life.

Most pro-choice advocates reject this notion as unprovable and therefore irrelevant. They use fetal viability – the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb – as the method to determine when “life” starts. Indeed, our current abortion laws use that exact milestone as a way to determine the legal limit as to when abortions can be performed. It’s a legal precedent that establishes a legal definition for “life” – however arbitrary it may be.

I believe in God, but I reject the notion of divine inspiration when determining when “life” begins in a legal framework. People need proof. And, science provides that proof.

In 1973 when Roe v. Wade was determined, fetal viability – life – was said to begin at 28 weeks gestation. Today, because of medical advances, fetal viability is generally considered around 24 weeks. There is also legislation introduced to decrease that further to 20 weeks. But, on average, we have shaved one week off from the point of viability every decade. Using this trend and assuming there are no leaps in medical technology, it would take 200 years to remove it completely.

But, consider this:  In 2002, Doctors at Cornell University’s Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility created an artificial womb.  Although the embryos were terminated early due to federal in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) regulations, they were successfully able to create an artificial womb where an embryo attached itself and began to grow. Dr. Hung-Ching Liu stated, “We hope to create complete artificial wombs using these techniques in a few years.” That was eight years ago – a lifetime in terms of technological advancement.

Technology is advancing but the laws are not.

Indeed, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor predicted in 1983 in the case of Akron vs. Akron Center for Reproductive Health:

“The Roe framework … is clearly on a collision course with itself.”


“As medical science becomes better able to provide for the separate existence of the fetus, the point of viability is moved further back toward conception.”

If the legal definition for “life” is viability and if technology is progressing to the point where viability is no longer an issue, the only question left is, “Do we wait until the technological understanding is made real before we redefine the point of viability – and thus, life – to day one?”

No, we don’t.

Slavery in America was abolished in 1865. But, protections from discrimination and Jim Crow laws  – “technical” slavery – weren’t enacted for another 100 years with the Civil Rights Act. What changed about blacks in one hundred years? Nothing. They were still human beings before the 1960s and before 1865. Only America’s perception of blacks and legal ethics changed.

And, that is the case here. At some point the technology to bestow viability upon a fetus at any point throughout gestation is going to be available. Only our perception and legal ethics of what “life” is will be in question. And, there’s no reason to wait 200 years for that perception and those ethics to change.

For those reasons, elective abortion is, indeed, murder.

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