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The case against abortion

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.