May 23, 2024

Conversations for Life 

Countering Pro-Abortion Rhetoric with Grace and Truth 

Some things seem best not discussed. In polite society, it’s generally recommended to avoid all inflammatory topics, and in particular, religion and politics. Since abortion hits both of these, and represents the single most divisive issue in our society, sidestepping the subject seems prudent, if not life-preserving. In an effort to keep the peace and maintain a congenial atmosphere, most would agree to let this sleeping dog lie. Outside of the realms of pro-life rallies and pro-choice protests, little is said on the topic and silence tends to prevail, leaving the issues surrounding abortion largely unaddressed. So much so, that for many people, abortion has become a non-issue all together and conveniently dismissed. 

Remarkably, this silent treatment takes place despite the fact that abortions occur commonly and exact a widespread and costly toll. Of the adult surgeries done in North America, abortion is the most commonly performed, with one in four pregnancies ending in abortion.1 Following the American legalization of abortion in 1973, untold millions of preborn children have been brutally killed, skulls crushed, bodies dismembered, and remains suctioned from the womb. This procedural reality is accurately portrayed in the excellent movie, “Unplanned,”2 which, in its opening scenes, graphically depicts the black and white ultrasound image of a baby fetus being suctioned apart, juxtaposed with bright red blood filling an adjacent container. I know this from my own medical training experience, when I helped provide anaesthesia for long slates of “therapeutic” abortion cases, and remember all too well the vacutainer filling in spurts and starts with blood and body parts, as the gynecologist tried to make light of the situation with attempts at dark humor. 

The murdered preborn aren’t the only casualties. Of course, women who have had an abortion suffer, as well, both in coming to their decision, and in the months and years that follow. They are the ones that have to live with the fact that their choice resulted in the death of their developing child; a decision which is often associated with deep regret, and even lifelong remorse.3 As well, there is the societal injury, devaluing human life, and not just for the preborn, but for all stages of life, from the infant through to the elderly and the infirm. Although the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe versus Wade may help to stem part of this tide – allowing state legislators to place some restrictions on abortion in their jurisdictions – it won’t necessarily do much for Canada, where abortion-on-demand is readily available nationwide, right up to and including the time of delivery. Like the totalitarian state of North Korea, Canada has no laws protecting the unborn, rendering the womb a most dangerous place for many. 

At the center of the abortion debate is a war on words. As Eric Bentley aptly summarized, “Ours is the age of substitutes: Instead of language we have jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and, instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas.”4 To render abortion more palatable and foster societal agreement, it is referred to as a “reproductive health choice,” and defined as “the termination of a pregnancy by removal of an embryo or fetus.” This use of medical euphemisms functions to desensitize and confuse people about what it actually is – the murder of an innocent preborn baby. Pro-abortion activism is rife with slogan usage. These catchy phrases make use of prepackaged ideas to allow for easy acceptance and to divert attention away from the grim reality of the abortion procedure. However, resorting to slogans as the primary means of propelling their anti-life views only betrays their impoverished philosophy and indefensible moral position. As such, there is ample opportunity to speak truth into this void.  

As professing Christians, remaining silent in the face of widespread abortion is not an option. Jesus demonstrated unending compassion and concern for the most vulnerable in society, of which the preborn would be considered the most preeminent. As followers of the Risen Lord, like Him, we need to demonstrate concern, as well. Something needs to be said to stop the killing. So, rather than opposing the pro-abortion rhetoric with counter sloganeering, fighting fire with fire, pithy with pithy, tit for tat, our conversations need to “be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:6). This is because the battle over the sanctity of human life isn’t just our personal fight, but rather the Lord’s, and needs to be waged on His terms. As such, “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:4-5). It’s a battle that won’t be won in the political arena or the court room, but in the heart of hearts of each and every person, and not only by political might and legislative muster, but by the transformative work of the Holy Spirit, “as we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). The ambition of this essay is to provide an approach for followers of Christ to winsomely counter pro-abortion slogans with productive dialogue that will not only help persuade others to adopt a prolife stance, but point them to the Gospel and the need for a saving faith in Jesus Christ. 

Biblical Foundation for Prolife Stance 

Before engaging with those who hold pro-abortion views, it’s worthwhile considering the firm foundation on which our argumentation rests, and in the process, better appreciate their shaky one. All philosophical systems of thought rest upon a series of background assumptions or beliefs. These include a metaphysical starting point on which the system is based and from which all thinking derives – an ultimate commitment – as well as an understanding of how things are known, and known that they’re known – an epistemology – and an ethical guide for how we should live our lives – a moral standard. For Christians, the Bible is that objective starting place. The Triune God of Scripture – the creator and sustainer of the universe – is understood as being behind everything that exists. Similarly, Christian epistemology is based upon Biblical revelation. We know things because God has made them known to us through His Word, our understanding of which is enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s revelation, we are brought into the Kingdom of light and are able to make sense of our experiences and understand things in their proper relationship to Him, “the alpha and the omega” (Rev 1:8). As King Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is Understanding” (Prov 9:10). Likewise, the Christian moral standard is clearly detailed in Scripture, and summarized by Jesus as, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39). 

By contrast, those who reject Holy Scripture and the knowledge of God, which has been made plain in the created order, begin their thinking with themselves. Attempting to function in an automatous fashion, they set stand-alone reason as their starting point, and base their thinking and their means of knowing things on their own wits and wisdom. In regard to moral behaviour, they become their own arbiter of right and wrong, and base their ethics on their own darkened sensibilities, shaped by the surrounding values of the culture, “everyone doing as he sees fit” (Ju 21:25). Rene Descartes, who was considered the father of the so-called Enlightenment Period, formalized this approach with the assertion, “I think therefore I am.” Descartes reckoned that his ability to think – while being shut off from all external stimuli and influences – provided him with the definitive foundation for being. He referred to this ultimate commitment as the Archimedean point, named after the ancient Greek mathematician, who boldly claimed to be able to move the earth if he had a place to stand and a long enough lever. 

However, like Archimedes’ metaphorical image, Descartes’ maxim isn’t workable. For Archimedes to move the earth with a lever, he would need to have, in principle at least, a place to stand separate from the created order. Otherwise, there would be no net movement, just a lot of huffing and puffing. It would be like trying to punt a boat by pushing off from the boat floor rather than the river bottom, or attempting to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Similarly, if we base reality on our finite capacity to think, disengaged from all else, we have no way of making sense of our experiences and our relationship to the world, beyond the confines of our subjective thoughts. We are in the woods and unable to see the forest for the trees. Like Archimedes, we also require a separate point from ourselves and the created order to objectively understand reality – a transcendent point – which only the Bible, as the transcendent Word of God, can provide. 

With this in mind, the Christian approach to the ethical issue of abortion becomes quite straightforward – just don’t do it! We know abortion is wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong. While quoting Scripture may not be the most effective means of persuading a non-believer to reject abortion, it’s essential that we, who stand on God’s word, understand the Biblical underpinnings of the pro-life position. Although people from antiquity were largely indifferent to the practice of abortion, historians agree that “the language of the Christians from the very beginning was widely different. With unwavering consistency and with the strongest emphasis, they denounced the practice, not simply as inhuman, but as definitely murder.”5 This is because the verdict about abortion in the Bible is clear. The opening pages of Genesis present humankind as set apart from all other living things, created not by his law-word, but “formed from the dust of the ground” into the image of God (Gen 2:7). The sanctity of human life is explained to Noah that, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen 9:6). This prohibition against murder makes the top-ten list of commandments given to Moses and is twice repeated in the Torah (Ex 20:13, Deut 5:17). Furthermore, Scripture condemns child sacrifice and makes clear not to murder the innocent (2 Ki 21:16; Ps 106:37,38; Jer 19:4), but to celebrate children as “a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Ps 127:3).  

As God incarnate, Jesus lived and redeemed the entirety of human life and experience, from its very beginnings in the womb to death in the tomb. By living a perfect life before the Father, he sanctified every phase of human life, including embryonic development, when his cousin, John the Baptist, leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at his presence (Lk 1:44). And Jeremiah was reassured by the Lord that he was known by God in the womb, and before he was born, was “set apart and anointed as a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5). Therefore, our inherent value as image bearers doesn’t begin at birth, nor at any other arbitrary cut point preceding it, such as womb implantation, or measurable brain wave activity, heartbeat, quickening, viability, or the babe’s first breath. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that we were chosen before the very foundations of the world (Eph 1:4). So, although our souls are inextricably connected to our physical bodies, our value is not dependent on us attaining any particular stage of development nor age of maturity. It follows then that the preborn are precious to God and deserve our unfaltering protection.  

Proverbial Approach to Argumentation 

Since abortion is an emotionally charged and polarizing topic, articulating a counter view requires a thoughtful approach. We need to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16), not “nasty as serpents and stupid as pigeons,” as Preston Manning quipped. Considering our response, then, we would do well to draw from Biblical wisdom and take a lesson from King Solomon, who said, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” (Prov 26:4-5). In this context, the term fool carries moral rather than intellectual meaning. Similar to its use in Psalm 14, “A fool says in his heart there is no God,” fool refers to emptiness of belief rather than stupidity. While at first blush, the two verses of this proverb may seem contradictory, their purposeful juxtaposition underscores how they necessarily complement each other and work together. In the first portion, “not answering a fool according to their folly” (verse 4), we are warned not to be drawn into argumentation based on secular thought, otherwise we are at risk of also being mired in confusion. In the second portion, “answering the fool according to their folly” (verse 5), we are encouraged to show understanding of the unbeliever’s viewpoint and temporarily put on their worldview glasses.  

When applying this proverb to the real world of abortion dialogue, it works best to reverse the order, and begin by showing an understanding with the pro-abortionist position, followed by drawing out their position to its natural conclusions, and then showing its failings. The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, a prolife equipping ministry, applies this method superbly.6 After first exposing the visual evidence of what abortion does to preborn children, the dedicated team of staff, interns, and volunteers winsomely articulate why human rights must begin when a human’s life begins. They do so by making use of a proven-effective three-part approach to proactively engage Canadians in productive conversations on the topic of abortion.  

First, they establish a point of contact by demonstrating a level of understanding and some degree of agreement. This acts a bit like an olive branch and can help diffuse initial tensions around the topic. Second, they ask them to consider an analogous scenario involving a toddler rather than a preborn baby. This brings the conversation out from the realm of the abstract fetus and into concrete relatable terms of a living child. Third, they pose an “if/then” question to gently challenge the pro-abortion stance by demonstrating its inconsistency and contradiction. During the entire process, the aim is to steer the conversation towards the humanity of the preborn child. This is because once the pro-abortionist sees the truth of abortion and faces the reality of their stance – that abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being – they are more likely to soften their position, and even accept the prolife view. The hope then is to make the Gospel attractive and direct those who have held a proabortion view towards Jesus Christ, in whom there is forgiveness of sins and regeneration of sinners. 

To illustrate this three-part approach, and provide some example responses, five brief scenarios are outlined below that address common appeals for abortion. For a more comprehensive review of the topic, Randy Alcorn’s book, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Questions is highly recommended.7 

Scenario (1) Responding to abortion as a right to bodily autonomy 

Appealing to abortion as a right to bodily autonomy is quite popular, as evidenced by the recent enshrinement of the right to abortion in France’s constitution, celebrated with the rhetorical slogan, ‘my body, my choice’ emblazoned on the Eiffel Tower.8 The contact point here is our agreement in general terms with both the right to bodily autonomy, and the importance of free choice. When Jesus died for our sins, he freely gave up his body, implying, of course, that he was not coerced, but free to do so, and that it was his body in the first place, to give up, and not Rome’s. No State should have the power over another’s body. The Nurenburg Code, 9 which was written in response to the Holocaust of Nazi Germany, has  these protections, as has the more recent Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights,10 which in no uncertain terms upholds our fundamental rights to voluntarily choose to receive medical intervention or not. Up until COVID-19, the medical community honored this right, even to the point of allowing Jehovah’s Witness patients, who refuse blood products, to die of exsanguination, bleeding to death rather than being transfused. Those who were concerned about the COVID vaccines used this same slogan, “my body, my choice,” to protest against vaccine mandates. Governmental over-reach during the pandemic demonstrated how easily our fundamental rights, including the right to assembly and freedom of movement, can be immediately stripped away. Since our civil freedoms have been hard won, and are worth fighting to preserve, we can respond in guarded agreement to the pro-abortionist on this point with, “Yes, I agree. Bodily autonomy and personal freedoms are very important.” 

To then build on this point of agreement, and move the conversation from abstract general terms into relatable specific terms, we can make use of an analogy between the preborn and a toddler. We could say, for example, “but imagine a mother made a choice to end the life of her 2-year-old child. Would that be an appropriate choice for her to make?”  

If they respond with “no” (which is the only reasonable response), then we have established that although personal freedom and choice are important, they aren’t ultimate. They have limitations. Not all things done with a person’s body are right, nor should they all be legally protected. A person isn’t permitted to expose themself or urinate in public, nor steal or strike another at will. Our rights and freedoms need to be considered in the context of the rights and freedoms of others, and restrictions are required to prevent one person from bringing harm to another. Abortion, of course, is an example of harm in the extreme. 

If there is agreement that killing the toddler would not be a good choice, then we can challenge them on the topic of abortion by asking, “Well, if it isn’t right for the mother to choose to end the life of her toddler, why would it be right for her to end the life of her preborn child?” This question draws the rhetorical slogan in this context to its logical conclusion, and demonstrates its inconsistency. 

If, at this point, an appeal is made for abortion on the basis of bodily autonomy along the lines of “every woman should have control over her own body, reproductive freedom is a basic human right,” we can respond by saying that the time for the mother to exercise reproductive freedom of choice has passed. She already made the choices to have sexual intercourse and to do so without contraception, and now there are the rights and freedoms of two bodies that need to be considered –mother and child – not just her body. As a pro-abortion advocate, Mary Anne Warren admitted, “the right to control one’s body, which is generally construed as a property right, is at best a rather feeble argument for the permissibility of abortion. Mere ownership does not give me the right to kill innocent people whom I find on my property.”11 

Scenario (2) Response to abortion as a solution to an unwanted pregnancy 

Over 60% of unintended pregnancies end in abortion.12 The commonly used slogan to justify this outcome is, “Every child a wanted child,” with the argument that it’s unfair to bring children into a world where they aren’t wanted. The clever use of rhetorical language brings to mind a utopian world filled with lovingly cared for children, with no more child abuse and no more abandonment. And what could possibly be wrong with that? Plenty, of course, considering that the implied flip side of this slogan is “Every unwanted child a dead child.” It’s an attitude that says that the worth and dignity of the lives of children are not related to being created in God’s image, but are solely dependent upon whether or not the parent wants them. 

The reasons given for abortion of an unplanned pregnancy are many and varied, and often relate to challenging circumstances, such as teen pregnancy, a broken-off relationship, lack of finances, insufficient social supports, current or anticipated educational training, or bad timing with career aspirations. These reasons, of course, have more to do with convenience rather than necessity, and convenience should never be an acceptable reason to kill someone. Besides, abortion as a proposed solution to these circumstances doesn’t get to the root of the problem, but only results in a compounding of the problem: still having to deal with the challenging circumstance, while now being a parent of a dead child. 

Despite these concerns, we can nonetheless empathize with a teen parent or a financially-strapped single mother facing an unintended pregnancy, and agree that their circumstances are challenging. As a parent, I can certainly attest that it’s difficult enough to raise children with two parents and a stable income, let alone being a single parent with few supports. So, our point of contact here can be one of agreement, phrased, “Yes, I agree. That sounds very difficult. The care of a child certainly takes a level of responsibility and finances.” 

Then, to build on this point of agreement, and bring the conversation from abstract generality into a real-world example, we can trot out the toddler and say, for example, “but imagine that a high school student carried through with her pregnancy because her parents promised to support her. However, let’s say that when this child turned 2-years-old, the girl’s parents could no longer provide any further financial assistance. Should the mother, at this point, be allowed to kill the 2-year-old because of lack of finances?” 

If there is agreement that killing the toddler would not be appropriate, then we can challenge them on the topic of abortion by asking, “Well, if it isn’t right for the mother to kill her toddler for lack of finances, why would it be right for her to kill her preborn child for the same reason?” Again, this question draws the rhetorical slogan to its logical conclusion, that lack of finances, or any of the other challenging circumstances, cannot justify the taking of a life. 

As Gilbert Meilaender wisely said, “If we seek to save ourselves by doing away with the child who is unwanted, we hand ourselves over to the destructive powers of the world… and we act as if those powers are ultimately worthy of our worship, as if they could save, and take our stand beside King Herod after he heard the news the Magi brought.”13 Rather than be brought to that murderous place, we want to celebrate children, and to point those who would harm them towards a solution that might benefit both the mother and the child; solutions for life, not death. This could include listing readily accessible supports that young mothers can access to assist them in their pregnancies, and mentioning the utility of adoption agencies to help find parents who would desire more than anything else to care for their child as their own. 

Scenario (3) Response to abortion for pregnancy due to sexual assault 

Although rape leading to pregnancy is not a common cause for abortion, and certainly not the driver for our society’s desire for abortion-on-demand, it’s nonetheless a terrible crime and needs to be highlighted as such. Our point of contact can be simply that: “Yes, I agree that rape is a heinous crime and should be severely punished. Steps should be taken to prevent rape from happening and there should be ample support for the pregnant mother.” 

To then build on this point of sympathetic agreement, we can again make an analogy about a toddler and say, for example, “But imagine the mother of a 2-year-old who left her physically-abusive husband. Should it be permissible for her to kill her toddler, if looking at the child reminded her of her past trauma with her husband? 

If there is agreement that killing the toddler would not be appropriate, then we can challenge them on the topic of abortion by asking, “Well, if it’s not okay to kill the 2-year-old child because of past trauma, why is it okay to kill a pre-born child?” 

The psychological turmoil of recovering from sexual assault, however grievous, is not undone by abortion. Though the child may serve as a constant reminder of the assault that the mother suffered, and although she may forever be reminded of the perpetrator as the father of her child, none of this serves as sufficient warrant to take the life of an innocent baby. Sympathy and supports are needed for the victim, to be sure, but abortion for such cases does nothing to bring healing to the situation. If anything, the procedure of abortion with its invasive nature and cold instrumentation applied to the woman’s reproductive organs, actually mirrors the violence of rape, and only compounds the trauma of the assault with the additional guilt and shame of killing an innocent child.  

The same response can apply to pregnancy from incest, also a terrible situation. However, in both instances – pregnancy resulting from sexual assault or from incest – the value of the child remains. No circumstance around conception, no matter how adverse, changes the nature or worth of the preborn child. And in both cases, the child is the innocent party, and shouldn’t have to receive the blame for the crime and be saddled with the death penalty.  

Scenario (4) Response to abortion for pregnancy that threatens the mother’s life 

Promoting abortion as an argument to promote safety of the mother is really a non-issue. Even under restrictive abortion laws, exceptions have always been made to protect the mother’s life. The reality of the matter is that this is an exceedingly rare situation. On infrequent occasion, high-risk pregnancies are managed in our intensive care unit at the hospital, either because of pre-existing maternal illness or complications that arise during the pregnancy. In all such cases, the intention is always to save lives, not take them. If in the course of the delivery, the baby dies, the tragic loss is understood as an unintended outcome of the life-saving efforts. Even modern medicine has its limitations. 

Nonetheless, for the sake of argument and to achieve a connecting point of agreement, we can say to those who make this pro-abortion argument that, “Yes, I agree it would be a terrible situation to face a life-threatening pregnancy – bad enough when one person’s life is in danger, let alone both mother and child at risk.” 

Then to begin to draw out this argument, we can ask, “But imagine that a 2-year-old child has a disease that could kill the mother, if she became exposed. Should it be permissible to intentionally kill the child to prevent the mother from dying? 

The answer is clearly “no.” A multiplicity of other options would be explored to both manage the child’s condition and protect the mother’s life, of which killing the child would never make the list. If then there is agreement that killing the toddler would be wrong in this scenario, we can ask, “Well, if it’s not alright to take the life of the toddler, why should it be permissible to kill the preborn child for the same reason.” There are situations where an expectant mother may have a serious medical condition, which is complicated by pregnancy. But even so, efforts can – and should – always be made that value the lives of both mother and child. 

Scenario (5) Response to abortion for a disabled child 

It’s very natural for parents to want a healthy baby. Depending on the nature of the disability, raising a handicapped child can be an emotional challenge that incurs additional financial burdens. In an attempt to reduce the likelihood of disability, amniocentesis is routinely offered to women during the mid-trimester of pregnancy to detect genetic anomalies. The procedure entails the removal of a sample of amniotic fluid from the uterus for genetic analysis, specifically for Down syndrome (Trisomy-21) and neural tube defect (a condition affecting the babys brain or spinal cord). Test results allow parents the opportunity to “terminate the pregnancy,” if the risk of debility is unacceptable to them. Although considered low risk, amniocentesis can still result in needle injury to the fetus, leaking of amniotic fluid, Rh blood-group sensitization, infection, and in some cases even miscarriage.14 As a result of the procedure, normal pregnancies have been compromised and healthy babies lost. As well, abortions undertaken based on genetic testing tend to dehumanize the preborn and reduce them to a commodity – something to be kept or discarded depending upon the desire or convenience of others. This diminishes their God-given worth and dignity. By contrast, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt 19:14). He didn’t qualify “healthy children without disability,” but implied that all children give us a glimpse of heavenly citizenship.  

Nonetheless, we can appreciate the desire for parents to have a healthy baby and the natural disappointment there would be on learning that their preborn child has a disability of some sort. So, our point of contact can again be one of agreement, phrased for example as, “Yes, I agree that it would disappointing to be told that your developing baby has a disability; everyone wants a healthy child.” 

Then to build on this point of agreement, we can move the conversation forward by making use of an analogy to a disabled child, and ask, “What if a mother doesn’t learn that her child is disabled until it’s a toddler. Should she be allowed to take its life then? This use of analogy broadens the discussion and gently challenges prejudices surrounding physical and mental disabilities. 

If there is agreement that killing the disabled toddler would not be appropriate, then we can challenge them on the topic of abortion by asking, “Well, if it’s not okay to kill the 2-year-old disabled child, then why should it be permissible to kill a pre-born disabled child?” This question demonstrates the inconsistency of their argument. It’s a complete contradiction to show concern for children with leukemia, give financial support to those with multiple sclerosis, and cheer on others in the Special Olympics, and then say it’s best to kill the disabled child before its born. 

To up the ante, those in favor of abortion might well ask, “But what if the fetus has a condition not compatible with life?” Certainly, there are those tragic cases. Babies are sometimes born anencephalic, for example, and have an undeveloped brain, destined to die. But even in these extreme cases, our response must remain undeterred. Even though such little ones will be unable to survive in the long-term, it doesn’t mean that we should be the ones to take their lives from them. Rather, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate compassion and provide palliative care to mitigate any suffering. No one knows for sure if the child may actually have a few minutes, or hours, or even days of life. Parents should be given that time with their precious child, and be supported in their time of grief. As per Edward Trudeau’s adage, “The role of the physician is to cure sometimes, relieve often, and comfort always.” 

The justification of abortion on the grounds of disability devalues the lives of those who live with disability in our society, and betrays a form of discrimination towards handicapped persons, termed ableism. In our contemporary era of doctor-assisted suicide, this sentiment calls into question whether a disabled life is worth living, or in the case of abortion, if the disabled baby be permitted to live, throwing all of these lives in jeopardy. During WWII, an estimated 300,000 physically and mentally disabled people, who were deemed unworthy to live, were systematically murdered by the National Socialist regime: a mass crime considered the forerunner of the extermination of European Jews.15 Mahatma Gandhi said, “The true measure of any society is how it treats its weakest members.” What will our measure be, if we allow the murder of the disabled preborn by not speaking up? 

Humanity and Personhood of the Preborn 

In all of these scenarios, a common pro-abortion rebuttal is simply that abortion should be permissible because “the fetus isn’t human.” They maintain that if the preborn are somehow non-human, this would justify their sub-human treatment. In keeping with this sentiment, Mary Anne Warren provocatively said, “A fetus has no more right to life than that of a newborn guppy.”16 This certainly seems to be the case in Canada, where being considered a human being doesn’t officially begin until after the baby exists in the birth canal, and why abortion for partial delivery remains permissible in our country. If the preborn are but a “clump of cells,” as many insist, then why not? Why should a nondescript entity, like a so-called clump of cells be treated with dignity and given human rights and protections; be kept alive if unwanted; be carried to term if deemed a reminder of rape trauma; be allowed to develop and grow, if in doing so, it places a woman’s life in danger; or be permitted to be born at all, if disabled from the get go? 

Why not, indeed, unless, of course, the opposite is the case, and the preborn are human, no different than you and I when we were at their stage of development. Basic biology makes the humanity of the preborn abundantly clear. When a human sperm and human ovum fuse to produce a human zygote – the first diploid cell that forms following fertilization – the entire human genetic blueprint of the individual is established. In that moment, the complete DNA sequencing that determines the uniqueness and novel giftedness of a human being is present, which then gets worked out and developed from the implantation of the fertilized ova in the uterus, onward to birth and beyond. So, if the preborn aren’t human, what possibly could they be? If two gorillas conceive, is it not a preborn gorilla that is developing? Or two dolphins, a preborn dolphin? Even children know that gorillas don’t give birth to dolphins. So surely then, if a living organism has human parents, he or she is also a human being, no? “Yes, and Amen” is the only cogent answer; there are simply no other possibilities available from which to choose.  

After losing the humanity debate, abortion advocates continue to argue their position by pointing out that although the pre-born may be considered human from a biological standpoint, they aren’t human persons from a societal standpoint, and therefore can be rightly denied human-right protections, which are afforded to the rest of us. In brief, that although the preborn are human by nature, they remain expendable because they lack the additional qualifier of personhood. It’s an exclusivity argument that says to be valued in society, you need to be human plus, where the plus is usually equated with a set of capacities, such as consciousness, self-awareness, ability to feel pain and form relationships. If these are lacking, then abortion can be justified. Human fetal life may have value to a certain extent, but lacking personhood, the preborn child’s claim on us cannot be sufficient to rule out abortion. 

When asked what the differences are between preborn and born humans, people cite the preborn’s small size, their location in utero, their dependency on the mother, or their lack of awareness, all of which are simply markers of development. The differences between born and preborn babies lie solely in their differences in age. If not tampered with, the preborn baby will naturally mature and achieve all the human-plus markers. They just need time. To discriminate based on age is a form of racism termed “ageism,” the very same that Canadian elderly are unjustly experiencing in our society today.17  

When it comes down to it, there’s no significant difference between discrimination based on age, to that based on any other parameter, including race or gender or ethnic background. They are all forms of discrimination and are counter to the Scriptural understanding that we are all equal before God, since “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28) and “God shows no partiality” (Ro 2:11). So, by latching onto the developmental age of the preborn as a justification for abortion, those who make this argument, unwittingly or not, end up joining ranks with the likes of the colonial slave owners and the Nazi war criminals, who deemed those under their control as unworthy of liberty and life base on their own schemes of discrimination. The preborn are human persons, and qualify for membership in the human family simply because they are begotten of human parents.  

Gospel Call 

Consequently, abortion isn’t a fundamental human right to be demanded for, but rather a deplorable human rights violation to be repented of. The demand for human rights, bodily autonomy, equality, justice, and free choice, so often seen on pro-abortion placards, only really make sense within a Christian worldview. If we live in a chance universe, where life is but a crap shoot, then none of these intangibles have any tangible meaning at all. If Bertrand Russell was right when he said, “we are but a statistical anomaly in the chaos,” then the immaterial realities of rights, equality, justice…and free choice, are simply human constructs, and as such, can just as easily be knocked over as propped up. It’s only because we are created in the image of God, that we have dignity; and it is only because we have been paid for by the blood of Jesus, who died for us on the cross to atone for our sins, that we have value. Nothing matters but the Gospel, but because of the Gospel, everything matters: our lives have meaning, and our activities have purpose. 

As the Bible makes clear, creation was commanded into being and set upon a designed trajectory with a planned end date. At that predetermined time, Jesus Christ, the risen Lord of the universe, will return. When he does, there will be a general resurrection, “when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn 5:28-29). Judgement is coming for those who have done evil, and abortion is such an evil. Those who promote abortion need to realize this, both for the sake of the children who are in harm’s way, and for their own eternal sake. They need to realize that abortion is a sin, and in the process, acknowledge that their lives lived in disobedience to the Holy God are sinful, and like all of sin, are deserving of eternal punishment. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 6:23). At the same time, they need to be told that while abortion is a sin, it’s not the unforgivable sin. Forgiveness is available, for those who promote abortion, as well as, for those who have had an abortion.  they are repentant and turn to the Lord for forgiveness, salvation is possible by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  

Our prayer for those who promote abortion is that they not only turn away from their pro-abortion stance and accept the pro-life view, but that they turn away from their sinful lives and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We wish for them to not only recognize the value of the preborn, but to recognize their personal need to be born again. After all, it’s not just a matter of endorsing a prolife perspective, but a matter of life and death. It would take a miracle for pro-abortionists to come to a saving faith, some might say, but so did our salvation. And if Christ can redeem us, then he can redeem anyone, even those who promote abortion. Finally, ours is not to persuade, but to be faithful witnesses to the truth. So, as we converse with those who promote abortion, we should do so prayerfully, in the hopes that our engagement with them, undertaken with gentleness and respect, might lead them to Christ. Preborn children are precious, but so too are all of God’s children, at whatever biological age of development, and at whatever point in faith development. Soli Deo Gloria

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4 Eric Bentley in New Republic 29 December 1952.
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6 Canadian Center of Bioethical Reform (
7 Alcorn, Randy. Prolife Answers to Prochoice Questions. Eternal Perspective Ministries; Multnomah Books ©2000.
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10 Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights.
11 Mary Anne Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion” in The Problem of Abortion, 2nd Ed. Joel Feinberg (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1984), p. 103.
13 Meilaender, G. Bioethics: A Primer for Christians. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. ©1996; p. 38.
14 Kong, CW et al. Risk factors for procedure-related fetal losses after mid-trimester genetic amniocentesis. Prenatal Diagnosis. 09 October 2006.
15 Uwe Neumaerker, director T4 memorial foundation (
16 Mary Anne Warren; On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion, The Monist, Volume 57, Issue 1, 1 January 1973, Pages 43–61.
17 Fraser, S. Ageism and COVID-19: what does our society’s response say about us? Age and Aging. Volume 49, Issue 5, September 2020, Pages 692–695.

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