Making a Clear and Concise Case for Life
By: Tim Barnett – http://www.clearthinkingchristianity.com/blog/
If you were given 5 minutes to make a thoughtful and persuasive case for the pro-life position, could you do it? Do you have the moral logic of the pro-life argument committed to memory? Does your case rely solely on some passages of Scripture, or are you capable of using modern science and sound logic to defend your view?
My goal here is to help you lay out the fundamental case against abortion. I’m going to attempt to boil down the pro-life argument to its bare bones, so that anyone can defend it with considerable comfort and confidence.
The moral logic of the pro-life position can be expressed as a simple syllogism with premises (P) followed by a conclusion (C).
P1: It’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being without proper justification.
P2: Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being without proper justification.
C: Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.
This is a valid argument since the conclusion follows necessarily and inescapably from the two premises. Therefore, to show that the pro-life argument is false, the abortion-choice advocate must show that the argument is not sound. That is to say, they must demonstrate that one or both of the premises are false. Keep in mind that to just blindly deny the conclusion to the argument would be completely irrational.
It’s only fair to ask, are there any good reasons to believe that premise 1 and 2 are true? Let’s examine each starting with premise 2.
The most common way to get out from under the second premise that, elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being without proper justification is to simply deny that the unborn is a human being. After all, if the unborn is not human than the argument doesn’t apply to abortion. Many uninformed people choose to argue in this fashion, but as I will show, this has serious scientific problems. Here are just three pieces of positive scientific evidence to help make your case that the unborn is – as a matter of fact – a distinct, whole human being.
First, the unborn has a unique genetic fingerprint. At the moment of conception the unborn gets 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 chromosomes from the father. These 46 chromosomes make up his or her DNA. This first cell that we all develop from is different from every other cell in the mother’s body. Every cell in the mother’s body has the mother’s DNA, but not this one. This cell – called a zygote – has it’s own unique genetic makeup and it gets this unique genetic makeup at the moment of conception.
Second, the unborn has a unique genetic signature. This genetic signature proves it’s a human being – a member of the species homo sapiens. When forensic scientists find a corpse, or blood, or a hair with follicle intact, they can analyze the DNA to find out if it belongs to a human or something else. This is because human DNA has a very particular genetic signature.
Just as an interesting fact, the basic genetic differences between any two people on the planet would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from different people groups (i.e. African and East Asian). We actually share 50 percent of our DNA with a banana. Yet no forensic scientist would ever confuse human DNA with that of a banana.
Third, the law of biogenesis demonstrates that humans always produce humans. This isn’t complicated. Dogs makes dog, cats makes cats, and, you guessed it, humans make humans. This is just elementary biology.
Therefore, using modern science we can say, with confidence, that the unborn is a unique individual given its genetic fingerprint and that this individual being is a human being given its genetic signature and the law of biogenesis.
A very common challenge that might come up at this point is that the unborn is “just a clump of cells” and “doesn’t look like you or I.” Don’t let this comment sidetrack the discussion. Technically speaking, we’re all “just a clump of cells.” You and I are just a larger clump. The source of this challenge comes from a confusion of the stages of development with the human being going through those stages. Just as an oak tree goes through many stages of development – seed, sprout, sapling, and finally tree – the human being also goes through many stages of development over its lifetime, initiating at the moment of conception.
Of course, the appearance of a human zygote doesn’t look like a human adult. But what does that matter? A human zygote looks exactly like a human zygote is supposed to look at that stage of development. Furthermore, human fetuses look a certain way, and human babies look another way, and human teenagers look another way still, and human seniors look a different way from that. Comparing the appearance of an individual at different stage of development is irrelevant. No matter the stage of development and the consequent appearance at that stage, they are all human beings.
Therefore, we can confidently affirm that the second premise is true. Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent and defenseless human being without proper justification.
In case you are wondering what I mean by, “without proper justification,” this might be a good time to add some clarification. I am simply saying that the reasons people give for killing an unborn human wouldn’t be proper justification for killing a newborn human, and, therefore, would not qualify as proper justification.
For example, would economic hardship be proper justification for killing a newborn baby? Of course not! We don’t kill people because they are a financial burden. Since the unborn is just as much a human being as a newborn, it would be equally wrong and without proper justification to kill an unborn human for the exact same reason.
Almost all abortion-choice advocates assume the unborn is not human like the newborn. But as we have already demonstrated this assumption is completely false.
This brings us back to the first premise (P1). Since premise 2 has a solid scientific and rational basis for its veracity, the abortion-choice advocate is left to attack premise 1. The problem is, premise 1 seems so obviously true. This is a morally intuitive principle that most honest people are willingly to acknowledge. Isn’t it just obvious that it’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being? So how do they get out from under the weight of this moral claim? What normally happens is they will say it’s not wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being, but it’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human person.
So they make a distinction between a human person and a human non-person. On this view, it’s wrong to kill a human person, but it’s fine to kill a human non-person. So this new challenge can be summed up as follows: “The unborn may be human, but they are not persons.”
How do you respond? I ask a question in response. I simply ask, “What’s the difference?” This question puts the burden of proof on the person making the assertion.
The abortion-choice advocate is putting human beings into 2 categories: human beings who are not persons and human being who are persons. This distinction permits the killing of human beings that are not persons (like the unborn), but does not permit the killing of human being who are persons (like you or me).
Please understand the seriousness of this distinction. This same rationale was used to justify killing Jews, African-Americans, and Native Americans. They were all, at one time, arbitrarily disqualified from being persons, and as a result, were denied fundamental rights including the right to life. The exact same thing is happening right now in our culture with the unborn.
If you can’t kill humans who are persons, but you can kill humans who aren’t persons, then you had better be very clear about the differences between the two. What you find, however, is that all of the criteria that they use to deny personhood to the unborn are arbitrary and self-serving.
The four differences that are commonly cited to support this distinction are: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. You can remember all four attributes with the acronym SLED. Let’s look at each one briefly.
First, they will try to argue that the unborn is too small to be a person. Since when does size equal value? Just ask yourself, are men more valuable than women because they are generally larger? Do taller people have more worth than shorter people?
It’s obvious that embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Clearly, your size should have no bearing on your worth. Humans are valuable because of what they are, not because of their size. Therefore, we cannot disqualify the unborn as human persons based on size.
Second, people will point to the unborn’s level of development to argue that they are not persons. But does one’s level of development really determine their value? Are four year-old girls any less valuable than 14 year-old girls simply because they are less developed?
Of course embryos and fetuses are less developed than you or I. But again, why is this relevant? Some people say that self-awareness makes you a human person. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human persons. You see if we disqualify the unborn because it’s less developed, then we also have to deny personhood to other humans.
For example, a one-week old infant lacks the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, the developmentally handicapped and those with Alzheimer’s disease. Do we really want to say that these aren’t human persons as well? This is exactly where this line of reasoning takes you.
Third, it is often argued that the unborn doesn’t become a person until it leaves the womb. This, again, is irrelevant. In what way does your environment determine your value? Does where you are have any bearing on who you are? Does your value as a human person change when you move from one location to another? If not, then how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from human non-person to human person? If the unborn are not already persons, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable. The truth is they have been valuable all along.
Apologist Greg Koukl illustrates this point beautifully by sharing a story of a little girl named Rachel who was born premature at 5 months. She was born at only 1 lb 9 ounces and quickly dropped to under a pound soon after. She could rest in the palm of her daddy’s hand. Doctors worked heroically to save her life. Now if a doctor came into the hospital room where little Rachel slept in her mother’s arms and killed her we would consider him barbaric and a murderer. However, unborn little girls and boys at the same age and level of development are being killed by doctors all the time through abortion procedures because they are in a different location.
Finally, some will argue that the unborn is not a person because they are dependent on their mother for survival. Why is your degree of dependency relevant to your value? The unborn depends on its mother for food, shelter and protection, but does viability equal value? If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin, kidney medication or any other medical intervention to keep them alive cannot be considered persons either. Conjoined twins, who share blood type and bodily systems, would also have no right to life. In fact, all newborns and many elderly people are very dependent on others for their survival. Clearly, degree of dependency does not determine personhood.
As you can see, the main differences that are cited to disqualify the unborn as persons turn out to make no significant difference.
Therefore, the first premise is also true. Since both premises are true, the conclusion follows necessarily and inescapably. Our conclusion, not simply our assertion, is that elective abortion is wrong and, as a result, should be stopped.
This is the pro-life case in a nutshell. Try to commit the basic points to memory so that you can quickly, naturally and persuasively make the case for life.