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The Case Against ABORTION
Plain Truth Magazine
August-September 1977
Volume: Vol XLII, No.8
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The Case Against ABORTION
Jeff Calkins

Killing another human life for the sake of your own convenience is murder. If a fetus is another human life, then abortion is murder.

   Depending on your point of view, an abortion can usually be described in one of two ways:
    A doctor injects Novocain into the abdomen of a woman. The doctor then takes a three-and-a-half-inch-long spinal needle and places it on the spot where he first injected the Novocain. He pushes it in all the way. He takes out some yellow liquid. The process is repeated three times. The needle, connected to some tubing, is left in her abdomen. The doctor connects the tubing to a bottle of saline solution. After what seems to be an eternity, the doctor removes the tubing and the needle. The woman is told to go back to her room. Within twenty-four hours she will face a process exactly like childbirth: breaking of the bag of waters, cramps, labor. But when the baby is born, it will be dead. Its skin will be purple, burned and bruised. It will be relegated to a bucket of chemical solution in some back room of the hospital.
    A frail, inexperienced 14-yearold girl is taken advantage of sexually by her stepfather; she has no choice but to submit to his advances, even though she barely comprehends what's going on. Two months later she discovers she is pregnant. At her age, labor promises to be a traumatic, frightening experience. To prevent further psychological, and possibly physiological damage, a social worker convinces her to get an abortion. Twenty-four to ninety-six hours after she enters the hospital, the possible horror of an incestuously caused pregnancy is over.
   (These descriptions are adapted from In Necessity and Sorrow: Life and Death in an Abortion Hospital, by Magna Denes)
   Make no mistake about it: Abortion can be a devastating, agonizing event in a woman's life. There are many women who, if they carry their pregnancy to term, face grievous suffering. And yet abortion might be murder. The thought of burning skin off a fetus with saline solution, or tearing it limb from limb, as happens when suction is used, is also horrifying.

Agonizing Dilemma

   Precisely because abortion does raise such excruciating problems, the subject must be dealt with as logically as possible. A woman in the agonizing dilemma of whether to have an abortion wants to know what is right; wants to know what an abortion means in God's eyes. It doesn't do any good to tell her it's an individual matter. That doesn't help her if she wants to know when right and wrong transcend being just "individual matters."
   Logically, a fetus is either a separate human being from its mother, or it isn't. If it isn't, then abortion, given the acceptability of limiting one's offspring, has no more moral significance than clipping one's toenails. But if it is, then abortion is the killing, and therefore usually the murder, of another human being. It is this very lack of middle ground which makes the subject of abortion so volatile.
   Since all civilized human beings do not condone murder, abortion is an extremely serious issue, an issue which turns on one question: Is the fetus a separate human being? Once we determine the answer to this question, we can solve some of the stickier gray areas which always arise when we talk about abortion. Suppose abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother? If the fetus is indeed human, then we can answer this question by knowing whether it is justifiable to kill in self-defense; it is the fetus itself that threatens the mother's life. In the cases of rape or incest, the question would be the rights of an innocent bystander when tragedy occurs.
   While these situations touch on abortion, they are really different subjects. Killing in self-defense and the rights of bystanders in tragedies are different from the main question about abortion: Is it or is it not a need to "terminate" a separate human being? If it is not, then no amount of suffering or inconvenience, possibly short of life itself, will justify such "termination," because this is the same standard we now apply to human beings after they are born. We still condemn parents who murder their children, even if the existence of those children is bringing about a great deal of suffering to the family as a whole. If the fetus is indeed a child, then we must condemn abortion.

Burden of Proof

   The burden of proof is clearly on the shoulders of those who say that abortion is permissible. There are few human acts which are more clearly and irrefutably wrong than murder. With the possible exception of torture, murder is perhaps the most undebatably immoral act a human being can commit. Every sane human being agrees that murder is wrong. This is because someone else is hurt, and will never have a chance to live again in this present world. Murder is the permanent wrong, the one immoral act for which there can be no restoration. Therefore, unless we can conclusively know that the fetus isn't a separate human being, abortion must be avoided. It could be murder.
   Kevin Axe, writing in U.S. Catholic, has phrased the issue with unusual clarity: "The most logical and moral response to this uncertainty about when life begins is not to take chances. Since full human life might be present from the moment of conception, a person who aborts might be killing a human being."
   Before abortion can be viewed as morally permissible, we must know using the same standard of certainty that we do in murder cases beyond all reasonable doubt that the fetus is not another human being.
   When we look at the "data," however, we discover that not only is it impossible to conclusively prove that the fetus isn't another human being, but also there is evidence, both medical and biblical, that the fetus indeed is another person.

Where Do You Draw the Line?

   Abortions are currently being performed on fetuses up to 24 weeks old; the irony is that doctors are also having success in keeping alive 24-week-old babies after premature birth. Most pro-abortionists try to draw the line at viability or self-sufficiency; the idea is the abortion is wrong only after the child can survive apart from its mother. By these standards, the abortion of a 23-or 24-week-old fetus is nothing less than infanticide. However, "viability" is a deceptive criterion; its essence is the fetus' dependence on the mother's womb for "life support." Yet adults are sometimes dependent on the "life-support system" of an iron lung, but we do not sanction killing them. Just because someone is dependent on someone else to live, does not exclude him from the human race.
   If not at self-sufficiency, then, where does another life, separate from the mother's, begin? A few medical facts stand out:
   The fetus has a detectable heartbeat; separate from the mother's, as early as the eighteenth day after conception.
   Brain waves, evidence of which is the current legal criterion for life, are in evidence at seven weeks.
   The "unviable" fetus responds to pain, makes respiratory efforts, and moves spontaneously, which are other legal criteria for life. The fetus displays personality in that it can learn, acquire likes and dislikes, and become bored or excited.
   Most importantly, from the moment of conception the fetus is genetically a separate organism from the mother, having its own individual chromosomal structure.
   The upshot is that the line can't really be drawn anywhere but conception, where living tissue becomes distinctly identifiable from either its mother or father.
   Inevitably, the pro-abortionists argue that at conception the fertilized egg is self-evidently not a human being. It is, it is contended, a mere "glob of tissue." And yet we cannot categorically state that such a "glob of tissue" is not accounted by God as a human being. The former head of one abortion clinic, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, feeling personally chastened after realizing that he had presided over 60,000 killings, notes that "our capacity to measure signs of life is becoming more sophisticated every day, and as time goes by we will undoubtedly be able to isolate these signs (heartbeats, brain waves) at earlier and earlier states in fetal development."
   Certainly a being who is a separate genetic organism from its mother and which exhibits its own heartbeat and brain waves cannot be absolutely defined as "not a separate human being." And yet these are the characteristics of the fetus, measured with our current technology, at seven to eight weeks.
   The simple fact is that we do not know how early signs of separate life such as brain waves really do occur, because knowledge of such signs may be limited by technology. Because of the inherent physical limitations of our equipment, we cannot definitively state that vital life signs aren't there before seven weeks only that we haven't detected them yet. There is no proof that they aren't there.

A Biblical Look

   The biblical criterion for "meaningful life" (a phrase so dear to pro-abortionists) is the possession of the spirit in man (I Cor. 2:11). By this theological criterion, a "blob of cells," even if it doesn't seem human, is human if it has the spirit in man. The next question is, naturally, when does the spirit in man enter into a human being?
   We cannot say for sure. There are two admittedly vague biblical indications: the various references to the "breath of life" (e.g., Gen. 2:7) and the reference to the "life being in the blood" (e.g., Lev. 17:11). The former strengthens, though does not prove, the pro-abortion argument, while the latter, if applicable to the fetus, would positively disprove it. However, one can counter on both sides that such phrases only serve literary or poetic purposes, and are not philosophical statements which could apply one way or the other. So we must look elsewhere.
   It is undeniable that metaphorically Bible writers speak of fetuses as individual persons. Psalms 139 is perhaps the most striking: "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (verses 13-16).
   The phrase "the lowest parts of the earth" is recognized by many commentators as a biblical metaphor for the womb. This passage is poetic, but there is no denying that in the course of this poetry the psalmist imputes, by the use of the pronoun "me," individual personality to himself while yet unborn.
   The phrase "in thy book all my members were written" at the very least shows that God takes notice of the individuality of the fetus, and we certainly cannot categorically rule out the possibility that God does indeed ascribe a personality to the fetus, a personal individuality which God remembers (possibly in His "book"?). And since we cannot rule this out, it invalidates the pro-abortion argument that the aborted fetus could not be human because it could not be resurrected.
   Jeremiah's case is perhaps less poetic, more straightforward. He wrote that God told him: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee..." (Jer. 1:5).
   The imputation of personality to the fetus of Jeremiah in this passage is clear, and there is no way of proving that God did not begin to ascribe such personality from the moment of conception.
   Isaiah said that "from the womb, from the body of my mother he [God] named my name" (Isa. 49:1, RSV). Again, God treats a fetus as a separate, distinct personality, even with its own name, before birth.
   In chapters 25 and 38 of Genesis, unborn children, in each case twins, are ascribed individual differences so much that they already, before birth, symbolize character traits in the various nations which would eventually become their progeny.
   And Ecclesiastes 11:5 is particularly interesting. The Living Bible translates the passage: "God's ways are as mysterious as the pathway of the wind, and as the manner in which a human spirit is infused into the little body of a baby while it is yet in its mother's womb." While this seems to be a definitive antiabortion scripture, it could be argued that The Living Bible is far too loose in its translation. The Revised Standard Version, staying much closer to the original, renders Ecclesiastes 11:5: "As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything."
   This rendering indicates, though not as explicitly as one might wish, that the biblical criterion for a human being the spirit in man is present in the fetus. But even if the wording is ultimately deemed too vague to be conclusive, there is one thing which is conclusive: We, as human beings with our finite knowledge, cannot absolutely determine when a fetus (or embryo, or a "glob of cells" take your pick) has the spirit in man.
   And because of the very stringent biblical condemnation of infanticide, we must not take chances. If we indeed do not know whether a fetus has the spirit in man, then we could be committing murder if we practice abortion.

Separate Human Being?

   While most scriptural passages indicate that the fetus is a separate human being, there is one passage which might seem to show otherwise, and therefore bears examination.
   Translated literally, Exodus 21:22-24 states: "And when men contend and they strike a pregnant woman and her child goes forth, and injury is not, he shall surely be fined as the husband of the woman may put upon him, and he shall give with the judges. [The sense is "according to what the judges determine."] And if injury is, thou shalt give soul for soul, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand." (Each word is taken from the Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament by George Ricker Berry)
   The pro-abortionist argues that since the person who strikes the woman does not pay with his life for the accident, the Bible does not count the fetus as a separate life.
   Logically, however, we cannot come to so definitive a statement. Consider the following:
   The accident could have taken place at any time during the woman's pregnancy, even as late as the eighth or ninth month. In such a case, it is not at all clear whether the net effect of the whole affair would have been to precipitate a live premature birth, with no harm coming to the baby. In such a case, the offender would simply be paying for the inconvenience caused to the woman and her husband for having altered the natural timetable. The verse does not specify the condition in which "her child goes forth." We therefore cannot necessarily assume that the offending party would even be causing the death of the fetus.
   If indeed he did cause the death of the fetus, it would have been accidental, and fall into the legal category of manslaughter. Why then does not the verse say anything about the offender fleeing to the city of refuge (Num. 35:11-15), as was normally the case in manslaughter? The answer is that the flight to the city of refuge was not a punishment for manslaughter, but a humane provision in the Mosaic system to protect the offender from being executed by vengeful relatives and was the custom in the region at the time (and still is to this day among some peoples). We cannot absolutely claim that such an offender might not have availed himself of the city of refuge in such cases as described in Exodus 21:22. Furthermore, the offended husband and wife are recompensed, much the same way as when a person who causes accidental death is sued for a rather large sum of money by the victim's relatives.

Hearts and Minds

   At this point pro-abortion arguments become emotional issues concentrating on the often heartbreaking situations where abortion does, on the surface, seem the best way to alleviate clear human suffering. This is where abstract logical analysis meets reflexive human emotion. We see the great potential for suffering for a woman who can't really afford to have the child she is carrying, but we must exercise mental discipline and logical abstract thinking to realize that she might indeed be committing murder by aborting, and that (excluding abortion to save the mother's life) even the possibility of murder is the greater evil.
   Murder is murder, and to commit it would be a worse evil than enduring even great amounts of suffering a fact we recognize when we are talking about children or adults whose very existence causes inconvenience or suffering. There is no other logical choice than to conclude that abortion is wrong.

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Plain Truth MagazineAugust-September 1977Vol XLII, No.8
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