The Apple Argument Against Abortion

In this Crisis Magazine classic, philosopher Peter Kreeft says that if you know what an apple is, you know enough to recognize the truth of the pro-life argument.

 
I doubt there are many readers here who are pro-choice. Why, then, do I write an argument against abortion? Why preach to the choir?
 
Preaching to the choir is a legitimate enterprise. Scripture calls it “edification,” or “building up.” It is what priests, ministers, rabbis, and mullahs try to do once every week. We all need to clean and improve our apologetic weapons periodically; and this argument is the most effective one I know for actual use in dialogue with intelligent pro-choicers. I will be as upfront as possible.
 
I will try to prove the simple, common-sensical reasonableness of the pro-life case by a sort of Socratic logic. My conclusion is that Roe v. Wade must be overturned, and my fundamental reason for this is not only because of what abortion is but because we all know what abortion is.

This is obviously a controversial conclusion, and initially unacceptable to all pro-choicers. So, my starting point must be noncontroversial. It is this: We know what an apple is. I will try to persuade you that if we know what an apple is, Roe v. Wade must be overthrown, and that if you want to defend Roe, you will probably want to deny that we know what an apple is.
 
 
1. We Know What an Apple Is
 
Our first principle should be as undeniable as possible, for arguments usually go back to their first principles. If we find our first premise to be a stone wall that cannot be knocked down when we back up against it, our argument will be strong. Tradition states and common sense dictates our premise that we know what an apple is. Almost no one doubted this, until quite recently. Even now, only philosophers, scholars, “experts,” media mavens, professors, journalists, and mind-molders dare to claim that we do not know what an apple is.
 
 
2. We Really Know What an Apple Really Is
 
From the premise that “we know what an apple is,” I move to a second principle that is only an explication of the meaning of the first: that we really know what an apple really is. If this is denied, our first principle is refuted. It becomes, “We know, but not really, what an apple is, but not really.” Step 2 says only, “Let us not ‘nuance’ Step 1 out of existence!”
 
 
3. We Really Know What Some Things Really Are
 
From Step 2, I deduce the third principle, also as an immediate logical corollary, that we really know what some things (other things than apples) really are. This follows if we only add the minor premise that an apple is another thing.
 
This third principle, of course, is the repudiation of skepticism. The secret has been out since Socrates that skepticism is logically self-contradictory. To say “I do not know” is to say “I know I do not know.” Socrates’s wisdom was not skepticism. He was not the only man in the world who knew that he did not know. He had knowledge; he did not claim to have wisdom. He knew he was not wise. That is a wholly different affair and is not self-contradictory. All forms of skepticism are logically self-contradictory, no matter the nuance.
 
All talk about rights, about right and wrong, about justice, presupposes this principle that we really know what some things really are. We cannot argue about anything at all — anything real, as distinct from arguing about arguing, and about words, and attitudes — unless we accept this principle. We can talk about feelings without it, but we cannot talk about justice. We can have a reign of feelings — or a reign of terror — without it, but we cannot have a reign of law.
 
 
4. We Know What Human Beings Are
 
Our fourth principle is that we know what we are. If we know what an apple is, surely we know what a human being is. For we aren’t apples; we don’t live as apples, we don’t feel what apples feel (if anything). We don’t experience the existence or growth or life of apples, yet we know what apples are. A fortiori, we know what we are, for we have “inside information,” privileged information, more and better information.
 
We obviously do not have total, or even adequate, knowledge of ourselves, or of apples, or (if we listen to Aquinas) of even a flea. There is obviously more mystery in a human than in an apple, but there is also more knowledge. I repeat this point because I know it is often not understood: To claim that “we know what we are” is not to claim that we know all that we are, or even that we know adequately or completely or with full understanding anything at all of what we are. We are a living mystery, but we also know much of this mystery. Knowledge and mystery are no more incompatible than eating and hungering for more.
 
 
5. We Have Human Rights Because We Are Human
 
The fifth principle is the indispensable, common-sensical basis for human rights: We have human rights because we are human beings.
 
We have not yet said what human beings are (e.g., do we have souls?), or what human rights are (e.g., do we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?), only the simple point that we have whatever human rights we have because we are whatever it is that makes us human.
 
This certainly sounds innocent enough, but it implies a general principle. Let’s call that our sixth principle.
 
 
6. Morality Is Based on Metaphysics
 
Metaphysics means simply philosophizing about reality. The sixth principle means that rights depend on reality, and our knowledge of rights depends on our knowledge of reality.
 
By this point in our argument, some are probably feeling impatient. These impatient ones are common-sensical people, uncorrupted by the chattering classes. They will say, “Of course. We know all this. Get on with it. Get to the controversial stuff.” Ah, but I suspect we began with the controversial stuff. For not all are impatient; others are uneasy. “Too simplistic,” “not nuanced,” “a complex issue” — do these phrases leap to mind as shields to protect you from the spear that you know is coming at the end of the argument?
 
The principle that morality depends on metaphysics means that rights depend on reality, or what is right depends on what is. Even if you say you are skeptical of metaphysics, we all do use the principle in moral or legal arguments. For instance, in the current debate about “animal rights,” some of us think that animals do have rights and some of us think they don’t, but we all agree that if they do have rights, they have animal rights, not human rights or plant rights, because they are animals, not humans or plants. For instance, a dog doesn’t have the right to vote, as humans do, because dogs are not rational, as humans are. But a dog probably does have a right not to be tortured. Why? Because of what a dog is, and because we really know a little bit about what a dog really is: We really know that a dog feels pain and a tree doesn’t. Dogs have feelings, unlike trees, and dogs don’t have reason, like humans; that’s why it’s wrong to break a limb off a dog but it’s not wrong to break a limb off a tree, and that’s also why dogs don’t have the right to vote but humans do.
 
 
7. Moral Arguments Presuppose Metaphysical Principles
 
The main reason people deny that morality must (or even can) be based on metaphysics is that they say we don’t really know what reality is, we only have opinions. They point out, correctly, that we are less agreed about morality than science or everyday practical facts. We don’t differ about whether the sun is a planet or whether we need to eat to live, but we do differ about things like abortion, capital punishment, and animal rights.
 
But the very fact that we argue about it — a fact the skeptic points to as a reason for skepticism — is a refutation of skepticism. We don’t argue about how we feel, about subjective things. You never hear an argument like this: “I feel great.” “No, I feel terrible.”
 
For instance, both pro-lifers and pro-choicers usually agree that it’s wrong to kill innocent persons against their will and it’s not wrong to kill parts of persons, like cancer cells. And both the proponents and opponents of capital punishment usually agree that human life is of great value; that’s why the proponent wants to protect the life of the innocent by executing murderers and why the opponent wants to protect the life even of the murderer. They radically disagree about how to apply the principle that human life is valuable, but they both assume and appeal to that same principle.
 
 
8. Might Making Right
 
All these examples so far are controversial. How to apply moral principles to these issues is controversial. What is not controversial, I hope, is the principle itself that human rights are possessed by human beings because of what they are, because of their being — and not because some other human beings have the power to enforce their will. That would be, literally, “might makes right.” Instead of putting might into the hands of right, that would be pinning the label of “right” on the face of might: justifying force instead of fortifying justice. But that is the only alternative, no matter what the political power structure, no matter who or how many hold the power, whether a single tyrant, or an aristocracy, or a majority of the freely voting public, or the vague sentiment of what Rousseau called “the general will.” The political form does not change the principle. A constitutional monarchy, in which the king and the people are subject to the same law, is a rule of law, not of power; a lawless democracy, in which the will of the majority is unchecked, is a rule of power, not of law.
 
 
9. Either All Have Rights or Only Some Have Rights
 
The reason all human beings have human rights is that all human beings are human. Only two philosophies of human rights are logically possible. Either all human beings have rights, or only some human beings have rights. There is no third possibility. But the reason for believing either one of these two possibilities is even more important than which one you believe.
 
Suppose you believe that all human beings have rights. Do you believe that all human beings have rights because they are human beings? Do you dare to do metaphysics? Are human rights “inalienable” because they are inherent in human nature, in the human essence, in the human being, in what humans, in fact, are? Or do you believe that all human beings have rights because some human beings say so — because some human wills have declared that all human beings have rights? If it’s the first reason, you are secure against tyranny and usurpation of rights. If it’s the second reason, you are not. For human nature doesn’t change, but human wills do. The same human wills that say today that all humans have rights may well say tomorrow that only some have rights.
 
 
10. Why Abortion Is Wrong
 
Some people want to be killed. I won’t address the morality of voluntary euthanasia here. But clearly, involuntary euthanasia is wrong; clearly, there is a difference between imposing power on another and freely making a contract with another. The contract may still be a bad one, a contract to do a wrong thing, and the mere fact that the parties to the contract entered it freely does not automatically justify doing the thing they contract to do. But harming or killing another against his will, not by free contract, is clearly wrong; if that isn’t wrong, what is?
 
But that’s what abortion is. Mother Teresa argued, simply, “If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” The fetus doesn’t want to be killed; it seeks to escape. Did you dare to watch The Silent Scream? Did the media dare to allow it to be shown? No, they will censor nothing except the most common operation in America.
 
 
11. The Argument From the Nonexistence of Nonpersons
 
Are persons a subclass of humans, or are humans a subclass of persons? The issue of distinguishing humans and persons comes up only for two reasons: the possibility that there are nonhuman persons, like extraterrestrials, elves, angels, gods, God, or the Persons of the Trinity, or the possibility that there are some nonpersonal humans, unpersons, humans without rights.
 
Traditional common sense and morality say all humans are persons and have rights. Modern moral relativism says that only some humans are persons, for only those who are given rights by others (i.e., those in power) have rights. Thus, if we have power, we can “depersonalize” any group we want: blacks, slaves, Jews, political enemies, liberals, fundamentalists — or unborn babies.
 
A common way to state this philosophy is the claim that membership in a biological species confers no rights. I have heard it argued that we do not treat any other species in the traditional way — that is, we do not assign equal rights to all mice. Some we kill (those that get into our houses and prove to be pests); others we take good care of and preserve (those that we find useful in laboratory experiments or those we adopt as pets); still others we simply ignore (mice in the wild). The argument concludes that therefore, it is only sentiment or tradition (the two are often confused, as if nothing rational could be passed down by tradition) that assigns rights to all members of our own species.
 
 
12. Three Pro-Life Premises and Three Pro-Choice Alternatives
 
We have been assuming three premises, and they are the three fundamental assumptions of the pro-life argument. Any one of them can be denied. To be pro-choice, you must deny at least one of them, because taken together they logically entail the pro-life conclusion. But there are three different kinds of pro-choice positions, depending on which of the three pro-life premises is denied.
 
The first premise is scientific, the second is moral, and the third is legal. The scientific premise is that the life of the individual member of every animal species begins at conception. (This truism was taught by all biology textbooks before Roe and by none after Roe; yet Roe did not discover or appeal to any new scientific discoveries.) In other words, all humans are human, whether embryonic, fetal, infantile, young, mature, old, or dying.
 
The moral premise is that all humans have the right to life because all humans are human. It is a deduction from the most obvious of all moral rules, the Golden Rule, or justice, or equality. If you would not be killed, do not kill. It’s just not just, not fair. All humans have the human essence and, therefore, are essentially equal.
 
The legal premise is that the law must protect the most basic human rights. If all humans are human, and if all humans have a right to life, and if the law must protect human rights, then the law must protect the right to life of all humans.
 
If all three premises are true, the pro-life conclusion follows. From the pro-life point of view, there are only three reasons for being pro-choice: scientific ignorance — appalling ignorance of a scientific fact so basic that nearly everyone in the world knows it; moral ignorance — appalling ignorance of the most basic of all moral rules; or legal ignorance — appalling ignorance of one of the most basic of all the functions of law. But there are significant differences among these different kinds of ignorance.
 
Scientific ignorance, if it is not ignoring, or deliberate denial or dishonesty, is perhaps pitiable but not morally blame-worthy. You don’t have to be wicked to be stupid. If you believe an unborn baby is only “potential life” or a “group of cells,” then you do not believe you are killing a human being when you abort and might have no qualms of conscience about it. (But why, then, do most mothers who abort feel such terrible pangs of conscience, often for a lifetime?)
 
Most pro-choice arguments, during the first two decades after Roe, disputed the scientific premise of the pro-life argument. It might be that this was almost always dishonest rather than honest ignorance, but perhaps not, and at least it didn’t directly deny the essential second premise, the moral principle. But pro-choice arguments today increasingly do.
 
Perhaps pro-choicers perceive that they have no choice but to do this, for they have no other recourse if they are to argue at all. Scientific facts are just too clear to deny, and it makes no legal sense to deny the legal principle, for if the law is not supposed to defend the right to life, what is it supposed to do? So they have to deny the moral principle that leads to the pro-life conclusion. This, I suspect, is a vast and major sea change. The camel has gotten not just his nose, but his torso under the tent. I think most people refuse to think or argue about abortion because they see that the only way to remain pro-choice is to abort their reason first. Or, since many pro-choicers insist that abortion is about sex, not about babies, the only way to justify their scorn of virginity is a scorn of intellectual virginity. The only way to justify their loss of moral innocence is to lose their intellectual innocence.
 
If the above paragraph offends you, I challenge you to calmly and honestly ask your own conscience and reason whether, where, and why it is false.
 
 
13. The Argument from Skepticism
 
The most likely response to this will be the charge of dogmatism. How dare I pontificate with infallible certainty, and call all who disagree either mentally or morally challenged! All right, here is an argument even for the metaphysical skeptic, who would not even agree with my very first and simplest premise, that we really do know what some things really are, such as what an apple is. (It’s only after you are pinned against the wall and have to justify something like abortion that you become a skeptic and deny such a self-evident principle.)
 
Roe used such skepticism to justify a pro-choice position. Since we don’t know when human life begins, the argument went, we cannot impose restrictions. (Why it is more restrictive to give life than to take it, I cannot figure out.) So here is my refutation of Roe on its own premises, its skeptical premises: Suppose that not a single principle of this essay is true, beginning with the first one. Suppose that we do not even know what an apple is. Even then abortion is unjustifiable.
 
Let’s assume not a dogmatic skepticism (which is self-contradictory) but a skeptical skepticism. Let us also assume that we do not know whether a fetus is a person or not. In objective fact, of course, either it is or it isn’t (unless the Court has revoked the Law of Noncontradiction while we were on vacation), but in our subjective minds, we may not know what the fetus is in objective fact. We do know, however, that either it is or isn’t by formal logic alone.
 
A second thing we know by formal logic alone is that either we do or do not know what a fetus is. Either there is “out there,” in objective fact, independent of our minds, a human life, or there is not; and either there is knowledge in our minds of this objective fact, or there is not.
 
So, there are four possibilities:
  1. The fetus is a person, and we know that.
  2. The fetus is a person, but we don’t know that.
  3. The fetus isn’t a person, but we don’t know that.
  4. The fetus isn’t a person, and we know that.
What is abortion in each of these four cases?
 
In Case 1, where the fetus is a person and you know that, abortion is murder. First-degree murder, in fact. You deliberately kill an innocent human being.
 
In Case 2, where the fetus is a person and you don’t know that, abortion is manslaughter. It’s like driving over a man-shaped overcoat in the street at night or shooting toxic chemicals into a building that you’re not sure is fully evacuated. You’re not sure there is a person there, but you’re not sure there isn’t either, and it just so happens that there is a person there, and you kill him. You cannot plead ignorance. True, you didn’t know there was a person there, but you didn’t know there wasn’t either, so your act was literally the height of irresponsibility. This is the act Roe allowed.
 
In Case 3, the fetus isn’t a person, but you don’t know that. So abortion is just as irresponsible as it is in the previous case. You ran over the overcoat or fumigated the building without knowing that there were no persons there. You were lucky; there weren’t. But you didn’t care; you were just as irresponsible. You cannot legally be charged with manslaughter, since no man was slaughtered, but you can and should be charged with criminal negligence.
 
Only in Case 4 is abortion a reasonable, permissible, and responsible choice. But note: What makes Case 4 permissible is not merely the fact that the fetus is not a person but also your knowledge that it is not, your overcoming of skepticism. So skepticism counts not for abortion but against it. Only if you are not a skeptic, only if you are a dogmatist, only if you are certain that there is no person in the fetus, no man in the coat, or no person in the building, may you abort, drive, or fumigate.
 
This undercuts even our weakest, least honest escape: to pretend that we don’t even know what an apple is, just so we have an excuse for pleading that we don’t know what an abortion is.
 
 
One Last Plea
 
I hope a reader can show me where I’ve gone astray in the sequence of 13 steps that constitute this argument. I honestly wish a pro-choicer would someday show me one argument that proved that fetuses are not persons. It would save me and other pro-lifers enormous grief, time, effort, worry, prayers, and money. But until that time, I will keep arguing, because it’s what I do as a philosopher. It is my weak and wimpy version of a mother’s shouting that something terrible is happening: Babies are being slaughtered. I will do this because, as Edmund Burke declared, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
 


Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College, and a popular writer and speaker. This article ori
ginally appeared in the December 2000 issue of Crisis Magazine.

Peter Kreeft

By

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King's College (Empire State Building), in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 63 books, including "Handbook of Christian Apologetics," "Christianity for Modern Pagans," and "Fundamentals of the Faith."

  • Johhn G
  • Phil Atley
  • Nathan Cushman
  • Ted Seeber

    The Republicans had their chance and refused to overturn Roe V. Wade. It wouldn’t have taken the Supreme Court to do it- all it takes is a Consitutional Amendment defining the unborn as persons under the Constitution.

    That is *all* it would take.

    So why the heck won’t the Republican party do it? I submit it is because if we actually win on this issue, there is no other reason for Christians to vote Republican, and a lot of reasons not to.

  • Joe

    If you argue this with the abortion proponent, your discussion might fall apart on step 4. “We know what human beings are.” That’s a key part of their argument: They claim we do NOT know when the human life becomes a human “being”.

    “Life” is a clearly-defined biological term. Most any Biology-101 textbook will have a clear definition of “life” and a clear definition of “organism”. (The definitions you’ll find in Wikipedia are pretty representative of what you’ll find in most textbooks.) We know when something is “life”, and we can easily differentiate cellular life (a skin cell or liver cell) from an organism (a bacterium, an apple tree (as opposed to the apple itself), an otter, a human, etc.) By every definition of “life” and “organism”, the product of conception is a unique, living organism. A separate life. And in the case of human procreation, a unique human life.

    But “being”? That smacks of ensoulment and/or sentience or whatever other smokescreen the abortion proponent wants to toss around. Remember, their argument often relies on splitting definitional hairs — even at the foundational level of the issue regarding whether they are pro-abortion or pro-“choice”. They are eager to remain self-confused by any grey area possible. “Being” is a convenient pothole for them.

    “Life”, on the other hand, is defined by science, and their “science-over-religion” posturing betrays them when they are faced with a purely biological argument.

    I see you came back to this problem in steps 11-13 by examining “personhood” (another convenient roadblock for the abortion proponent.) I consider “being” to be a religious concept, and “personhood” a legal concept. Both are subject to definitional interpretation, and, as we’ve seen in our own country’s Constitutional history, the definition of “person” has been subject to change. (Thus, a major component of the pro-life effort at the political level should be to change the current definition of “person” to include the unborn.)

    I digress.

    My opinion is that you should consider redoing point #4 and avoid discussion of “being” there. (You use “being” subsequent to that, but I think it works OK after point #4 because you are not asserting that we KNOW what “being” is after #4. Just take a look at all the other places you use the term and make sure it doesn’t give an easy hook for the abortion advocate to derail the discussion.)

    Otherwise, it’s an interesting synthesis. Certainly it’s not going to fit into a sound bite (which is how political issues are frequently discussed today), but abortion is more than just a sound bite issue!

  • John2
  • John2
  • Gene

    Let’s forget for a moment that I totally agree with the above argument. Since this was first published in 2000 one can only hope the good professor has learned to write a little better in the past nine years…man that was ponderous!

    And oh, Mr. Ted…..you’re a typical liberal! A constitutional amendment requires passage by the house, a super-majority in the Senate and 2/3 of the states in the union to agree. You think Republicans had that kind of power?

  • Ann

    Of course #4 is the weak spot. That’s the whole debate, isn’t it? Is a fetus a human being or not.

    Unless of course, you’re Naomi Wolf who tried to come up with that schtick that we can acknowledge fetuses are human beings, and also acknowledge that sometimes we have to kill them. But as far as I remember, that didn’t take off too well with the pro-aborts.

  • Administrator

    A reminder to all to be respectful to other commenters. We would like to keep a civil tone.

    Thanks.

    (I removed a small portion of an earlier comment.)

  • Ted Seeber

    And oh, Mr. Ted…..you’re a typical liberal! A constitutional amendment requires passage by the house, a super-majority in the Senate and 2/3 of the states in the union to agree. You think Republicans had that kind of power?

    Republicans have had that kind of power 17 years out of the last 37. More than 2/3rds of the states vote red. But the Republicans refuse to even bring the constitutional amendment for a vote.

  • Ted Seeber

    And oh, Mr. Ted…..you’re a typical liberal! A constitutional amendment requires passage by the house, a super-majority in the Senate and 2/3 of the states in the union to agree. You think Republicans had that kind of power?

    And if I’m a “typical liberal” then why am I against abortion at all?

  • Mother of Two Sons

    We are living the consequences of the 50,000,000 Americans that have been aborted. What would they have accomplished? What would they have brought to the table? How many children would they have had right now? I can only imagine that in Heaven, that might be played back for us…. that would be a cool movie idea….

  • Richard

    The good professor makes an excellent argument against abortion, but the effect will be nothing. Those who favor the murder of innocents do not care about truth. If it was possible in 1972 to argue that a fetus was not human, scientific advancments now prove without a doubt that the fetus is a human being. Therefore, I would have to argue that those who favor abortion do so because of demonic influence. Most so called intellectuals mock those who understand the true nature of evil and its prince, but I think abortion proves the existence of satan. I don’t know how we defeat the devil, except through prayer. I pray that one day the murder of our children will end.

  • Michelle Reitemeyer

    Mr. Kreeft,

    this is beautiful.

    It’s too bad the pro-aborts have proved time and again to be illogical thinkers.

  • Hess Family

    Ted, did you by any chance used to post under the name “Analyst”?

  • Tyler
  • Stephen B. Wise

    In today’s 9/1 Gospel (Luke 4:31-37), Jesus removes a devil from a man. While this is happening, the devil calls out to Jesus by name, and then goes on to say — “I know who you are: The Holy One of God.”

    Even though the devil “really knows” who Jesus “really is,” the devil does not have the capacity to participate in that reality, or to be united with that reality. The same thing can happen to us with sin.

    The catastrophe of today is that most people who support abortion “really know” that the fetus “really is” a human being — and yet they choose to kill it anyway.

    The only way to reverse that, is with a “conversion” of heart.
    It’s too late for the devil but not for us.

  • Analyst

    Ted, did you by any chance used to post under the name “Analyst”?

    Analyst here! Ted and I are not the same person.

    Ted is absolutely right about Republicans having the necessary power for 17 of the last 37 years. I think the reason (Christians no longer having a reason to vote Republican) Ted assigns to the Republicans for not championing a constitutional amendment is far too noble. When in power, Republicans haven’t bothered themselves much with pro-life anything because there’s no money in it for them while they are in office or after they leave office. God knows they sure aren’t driven to promote social justice for the unborn or anyone else at risk.

  • Hess Family

    Analyst here! Ted and I are not the same person.

    [smiley=laugh] I remain unconvinced.

  • Johhn G
  • Johhn G
  • Tired

    I admit that I’m tired. I admit that I am unequivocably pro-life. And I admit that I couldn’t follow that article at all! With all due respect, it only qualifies as “preaching to the choir” (in my book) if it at least inspires us to continue our pro-life advocacy. To the contrary, I’ve rarely heard arguments stated in such a non-persuasive way!

    I am a professor of education and recently had a similar discussion amongst the undergrads in my class. In their disagreement, they still instinctively understood that the issue is far more emotional and thus more complex than confronted/addressed here.

    I’m unlikely ever to waver in my pro-life sentiments, but would love some inspiration to keep my convictions strong. Please try again!

  • John Jakubczyk

    A couple of points.
    the long methodical approach by Dr. Kreeft is designed to help one think through the logical aspects of the arguments. One can do the long systematic approach or address the matter with some very simple and unassailable points, to wit.

    1. It is always wrong to kill an innocent human being.

    2. unborn babies ae human beings. ( This is proven by science and if challenged,then ask the challenger: if the fetus in the womb of a female human being is not human, then what genus and species is it? The person will admit the affirmative, if intellectually honest.

    3. Abortion kills an unborn human being.

    4. Therefore, abortion is wrong.

    And by the way Ted, even when the Republicans were in “power,” there were not sufficient number of “pro-life” senators to pass an amendment. now granted , iZ think that after the East Hearings in 1981, the Congress should have passed a Human life Bill and challenged the Supreme Court’s right to make the stupid claim it did. But too many “scholars” limited the Congress to a constitutional amendment, and given the make-up of the Senate (I think we had maybe 51), it was not going to happen.

    So while you can blame Republicans for a lot of stupid things, this is not one of them.

  • LV

    Republicans have had that kind of power 17 years out of the last 37. More than 2/3rds of the states vote red. But the Republicans refuse to even bring the constitutional amendment for a vote.

    This is a joke, right?

    To begin with, as per Article V of the Constitution, an amendment has to be passed with a 2/3 majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, after which the proposed amendment must be ratified by 3/4 of the states.

    So first, let’s not even look at the states–let’s just look at what the Republicans would need in Congress to get this through.

    When GOP won the House in 1994, it was the first time it had attained even a simple a majority there since 1954–so, with the Democratic Party securely in the possession of NARAL et al, 1994 is the very earliest an amendment like this might have been possible.

    Now, keeping in mind that the Republicans would need 67% in both houses to get an amendment to the states, let’s take a look at what percentage of Congress the GOP has had since then:

    1994: 52.9% of the House, 52% of the Senate
    1996: 52.4% of the House, 55% of the Senate
    1998: 51.3% of the House, 55% of the Senate
    2000: 50.8% of the House, 50% of the Senate
    2002: 52.6% of the House, 51% of the Senate
    2004: 53.3% of the House, 55% of the Senate
    2006: 46.4% of the House, 49% of the Senate
    2008: 44.2% of the House, 49% of the Senate

    So, no–Republicans haven’t had the kind of power they’d need to send a pro-life amendment to the states. They’ve never even been close.

  • Administrator

    Analyst here! Ted and I are not the same person.

    [smiley=laugh] I remain unconvinced.

    Unless Ted/Analyst has been commuting between two quite distant states, I can confirm that they’re two different people. [smiley=wink]

  • Administrator

    For some reason, a few of the comments have been disappearing/ reappearing under this article. It appears to be fixed now, but if a comment suddenly vanishes on this thread, that’s why. We haven’t removed any posts intentionally.

    But as I said, it appears to be fixed.

  • The Hess Family

    Unless Ted/Analyst has been commuting between two quite distant states, I can confirm that they’re two different people. [smiley=wink]

    Ted, Analyst: Please accept my apologies. [smiley=happy]

  • Hess Family
  • Analyst

    The Republicans’ best buds, the (conservative) Blue Dog Democrats, would have jumped on the amendment bandwagon in a flash. The Republicans had the votes but never even tried.

  • Mark

    Analyst, would you please provide us with the specific names of these Blue Dog Democrats who would break with their party and vote pro-life? The reality is that until proven otherwise, 98% of Dems can accurately be defined as pro-abortion.

    Thanks

  • Londiniensis

    Deer Mr Kreeft,

    Excellent essay, it was all going superbly well up to the last sentence. Edmund Burke never said that. Never. Not ever.

    Your article is like a beautiful portrait, where one suddenly notices that the subject has a gap tooth – however wonderful everything else is, one keeps seeing the gap tooth.

    http://tartarus.org/~martin/essays/burkequote.html

  • R.C.

    I deny that Republicans had the power to do what you suggest.

    At no time since the passage of Roe v. Wade was there a pro-life majority in both houses of Congress.

    There was sometimes a Republican majority. But keep in mind that some Republican representatives and senators were pro-choice. Deduct them from the numbers, and you did not have a pro-life majority.

    One could, of course, squeeze a few pro-choicers over on to the pro-life side if you define “pro-life” as including persons who permit abortion in cases of rape/incest, or very very early abortions, or what have you.

    But in that case you are including persons who would not willingly vote for a “Life and Rights Begin At Conception” Amendment; for these half-and-half folks need to have some justification to allow abortion under these extreme circumstances, and Personhood-At-Conception would prohibit abortion 100% of the time.

    Your sole recourse for your argument is to look to the Republican majorities which existed immediately after the Contract With America in 1994-6, in which the Republicans had such a large majority as to make it plausible that leaning on some Democrats and making some big deals would produce the required majorities.

    But in that example, two problems remain: (a.) The filibuster, which could not have been overturned because pro-lifers, being unable to build even a simple majority without benefit of a lot of sweet-talking, would never in your life have been able to muster 60 votes; and (b.) the Democrat pro-choice President, Bill Clinton.

    As for the other part of the Amendment avenue (the states), I’ll state the obvious: A state which “votes red” inasmuch as it continues to vote for its incumbent Senators or Congressmen and they happen to have (R) after their names, cannot be counted upon to vote for a pro-life amendment.

    There was, bluntly, never any chance.

  • Ted Seeber

    I only post under my own name. “Anonymous Coward,” for those of you relatively new to the web, is the term for somebody who hasn’t logged in at the granddaddy of all nerd blogs, slashdot.

  • Ted Seeber

    And by the way Ted, even when the Republicans were in “power,” there were not sufficient number of “pro-life” senators to pass an amendment. now granted , iZ think that after the East Hearings in 1981, the Congress should have passed a Human life Bill and challenged the Supreme Court’s right to make the stupid claim it did. But too many “scholars” limited the Congress to a constitutional amendment, and given the make-up of the Senate (I think we had maybe 51), it was not going to happen.

    That’s because Republican is not equal to pro-life- and to claim that the Republican party is pro-life when they have done *NOTHING* to fix this problem, is just giving evil more power.

    They never event tried a human life bill, let alone a Constitutional Amendment- which makes, at best, their platform to be false advertising.

  • Ted Seeber

    There was sometimes a Republican majority. But keep in mind that some Republican representatives and senators were pro-choice. Deduct them from the numbers, and you did not have a pro-life majority.

    This, in short, is exactly my point. Merely voting Republican is no guarantee of a pro-life vote, and voting for a Democrat is even worse.

  • Administrator

    I only post under my own name. Anonymous Coward, for those of you relatively new to the web, is the term for somebody who hasn’t logged in at the granddaddy of all nerd blogs, slashdot.

    Just so there’s no confusion, while we enjoy the “Anonymous Coward” default on slashdot (we’re also nerds here), we understand that some IC commenters have good reason to post anonymously. We have no problem with that, so long as they don’t use it to take personal shots at other people.

  • Mary

    The tragedy isn’t that Republicans have tried and failed its that Democrats have tried and succeeded.

  • Ann

    I’m tired too (re Tired’s comment above).

    The number of people who have had abortions, or love someone who has had an abortion, is just too high now. Most of these people just can’t come to terms with the fact that they did something seriously wrong. Their mental health would just fall apart, I see it as protective if nothing else, and I’m not sure I blame them for that. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct. To admit you did kill your own child….I don’t know how you keep going after that.

    As for the Democrats, to be a Democratic politician on the national level at least, you must be pro-abortion. End. Of. Story. In fact, I believe it’s the one litmus test Democrats have.

  • Bill Sr.

    I think Supreme Court justice Ginsberg actually framed the whole issue of abortion for us and the reason it is still a continuing point of contention today by the publishing of her recent comments on Roe vs Wade.

    Roe vs Wade, which by the way led King Teddy to change his position from pro-life to pro-abortion, was given birth due to the progressives strategy to assist it

  • Ann

    Well, that piece of the history has conveniently been swept under the rug by progressives.

    However, many pro-aborts still see abortion as a public good, which would relate to what you are saying Bill.

    It becomes an act of compassion to abort the baby with Downs syndrome, another act of compassion to abort the baby that would have been born into a poor family or to a teen mother, etc.

    Hey, the DNC even took “rare” out of the “safe, legal and rare” part of the platform.

  • Ted Seeber

    We are living the consequences of the 50,000,000 Americans that have been aborted. What would they have accomplished? What would they have brought to the table? How many children would they have had right now? I can only imagine that in Heaven, that might be played back for us…. that would be a cool movie idea….

    Now this I agree with. I argue that if it wasn’t for abortion, America could be isolationist and self-sufficient by now, with no demographic bubble of selfish Baby Boomers threatening our way of life (because there would be more in the next generation to out vote them).

  • Ted Seeber

    The tragedy isn’t that Republicans have tried and failed its that Democrats have tried and succeeded.

    The tragedy is on both sides, Mary- that Democrats have tried and succeeded, and that the Republicans haven’t tried.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’m tired too (re Tired’s comment above).

    The number of people who have had abortions, or love someone who has had an abortion, is just too high now. Most of these people just can’t come to terms with the fact that they did something seriously wrong. Their mental health would just fall apart, I see it as protective if nothing else, and I’m not sure I blame them for that. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct. To admit you did kill your own child….I don’t know how you keep going after that.

    As for the Democrats, to be a Democratic politician on the national level at least, you must be pro-abortion. End. Of. Story. In fact, I believe it’s the one litmus test Democrats have.

    Which, just to blow everybody’s mind, is the reason I cannot in good moral conscience vote for a Democrat (note the word choice and compare to my first post in this series).

  • Ted Seeber

    I think Supreme Court justice Ginsberg actually framed the whole issue of abortion for us and the reason it is still a continuing point of contention today by the publishing of her recent comments on Roe vs Wade.

    Roe vs Wade, which by the way led King Teddy to change his position from pro-life to pro-abortion, was given birth due to the progressives strategy to assist it

  • Ted Seeber

    It becomes an act of compassion to abort the baby with Downs syndrome, another act of compassion to abort the baby that would have been born into a poor family or to a teen mother, etc.

    And the latest, from Autism Speaks: Prenatal testing for autism and Asperger’s, so that we can avoid having any more of those pesky genius men with no social skills.

    Makes me sick- but I’ve used that fact to turn several of my neurodiversity movement groups pro-life, because it makes them sick too.

  • Ann

    Oh I hope and pray they never discover a prenatal test for autism.

  • Andy

    I am a professor of education and recently had a similar discussion amongst the undergrads in my class. In their disagreement, they still instinctively understood that the issue is far more emotional and thus more complex than confronted/addressed here.

    But isn’t the instinctive reliance on it being “far more emotional” exactly where the problem lies? All someone has to do is wring their hands and say, “the truth is hard” and we cave because we don’t want to challenge their delicate feelings.

    And they say that faith is what relies on emotion instead of reason. Quite the opposite has been my experience.

  • Tom

    Hmmph. When I saw the title, I thought it would mention that, had Roe v. Wade come 25 years earlier, the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, would probably have been aborted instead of having been given up for adoption.

  • Mark

    I disagree that “blue-dog” democrats would jump at a chance
    to vote alongside prolife republicans. Rep. Pence had
    tried to introduce pro-life amendments into the healtcare
    bill and even “democrat for life” member Steve Driehaus
    voted against the prolife amendment, just following his
    party bosses orders. No need to pretend prolife dems and
    bluedog dems aren’t partisan.

  • Ted Seeber

    Oh I hope and pray they never discover a prenatal test for autism.

    Me too. Far too many Catholic Saints show signs of autism; almost all of our most brilliant scientific minds do.

  • Ted Seeber

    The question isn’t, would the Amendment have passed. The question is, did they even try?

    And I somehow can’t believe that in the Senate- where Senators serve areas, not populations- the greater number of Red States after 1995 would not have prevailed, or in the early 1980s. Had it been tried, that is.

  • R. J.

    Yes.

    “Fetus” is a noun stemming from the adjective “fetal.” Fetal what? Fetal human. Just like embryo comes from “embryonic.” Embryonic what? Embryonic human. “Infant” comes from “infantile.” Infantile what? Infantile human.

    These are all stages of human development, thus all are human. Human development begins at conception on to the embryonic stage and then further.

    It is ridiculous to argue that a person becomes a human only at a certain stage of development. If that was the case, we could argue that an adolescent is not yet fully human.

  • Marc

    Peter,

    I have a friend who is pro-choice. He recently started reading your books and listening to your audio lectures. He is a huge fan of yours. I emailed this article to him. I know if there is anyone who he will listen carefully to, it is you. Thank you for this article and God Bless.

  • Carl

    If the SCOTUS over rules roe vs. wade it goes back to the states.

    As previously stated it wasn’t even close to pass an Amendment.

    But at least going back to the states would be an improvement.

  • RCM

    I think you err in your entire argument because you assume that abortion is about logic. It is not. Abortion is about fear. It is the fear that a woman has that she will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term for 9 months. The majority of women who abort already have a child at home, they fear trying to provide for the ones in the house. They fear what will happen to their work when they have no paid maternity leave. They fear the costs of daycare increasing from one child to two. They fear the impact on their already stressed out relationship. Women fear the situation that occurred in AZ. Many women fear being connected forever to an abusive man. And many just fear the impact an unplanned child will have on their lives.

    In short, abortion is about fear. So abortion is considered to be justifiable homicide. Until you address the fears of 1.5 million women, the rest will not be heard. You are not meeting them where they are at. You are speaking over them telling them that they should care and all they will do is put their fingers in their ears. Give them HOPE and concrete ways out of the darkness.

  • Bob

    I’ve reasoned with pro-choice people the premise that human beings go through constant different stages of “development” through their life time, with different (and progressive) stages of physical, intellectual, and emotional changes. The pro-choice person will agree with this premise, that yes, humans do go through different stages of development through a life time. Does not a one year old develop in to a five year, a ten year old develop in to a twenty-five year old, a twenty-five year old develop in to a fifty year old, and so on? Well is not fetal development in the womb just another series of human development? Does not a three week old human in the womb develop in to a 6 month old human in the womb into a one year old human child outside of the womb? I will get agreement from the pro-choice person that yes, the human development in the womb is similar to the human development of a thirty year old, for example. That yes, essentially, it is a human going through stages of development. The problem at that point is their fall back position is the illogical disconnect that woman have rights, Roe v. Wade is decided law, and that’s that. At that point one has gained their agreement that the fetus is just another stage of human development, so how can anyone stop that human development whether it’s a 3 month old fetus or a thirty year old human?

  • Michael PS

    Many people do peremptorily deny that human beings, as such, have a right to life. They tend to agree with Peter Singer and other Preference Utilitarians that

    the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference.

    And

    As we saw, the most plausible arguments for attributing a right to life to a being apply only if there is some awareness of oneself as a being existing over time, or as a continuing mental self

    and dismiss arguments to the contrary as

  • Deacon Ed

    changed.

    Would we have enagaged in the same sort of argument 70 years ago? The Nazis murdered 6 million; the Marxists 40 million – almost equaling the 50+ million human lives murdered just in the USA alone of those taking up residence in their mother’s wombs. Yet no one would have even thought of presenting the following argument in the NY TIMES of 1940 (using John J’s shorthand logic):
    1. It is always wrong to kill an innocent human being.
    2. (unborn babies) Jews are human beings. ( This is proven by science and if challenged,then ask the challenger: if the fetus in the womb of a female human being is not human, then what genus and species is it? The person will admit the affirmative, if intellectually honest.
    3. Poison gas (Abortion) kills Jews (an unborn human being.)
    4. Therefore, gassing Jews (abortion) is wrong.

    Why? Because 70 years ago everyone knew what an apple was. Today, thought (reason) is irrelevant and that is why the differences between dogs, trees and humans have become blurred (Don’t believe me? Go ask the average publicly- educated sophomore if trees and animals have the same rights as humans). The only reality nowadays is feelings which are ephemeral at best.

    Seventy years ago, because people knew what an apple was, it was enough to simply prepare for war. Those in the free world thought the matter of murder was grave enough not to appeal to Mr. Hitler’s reasonableness.

    I am not advocating a violent solution but reason would not have worked with one person Adolph Hitler, so I am wondering why we think we can reason with millions who live as if one cannot know what an apple is?

    How many more human persons will have to perish while we continue to apply logic?

  • Ender

    This article is a logical attack on abortion and, logically, it works. The problem of course is that support for abortion has never been based on logic but rather on emotion so it is encouraging to note approaches that attack abortion from that angle.

    “Tired” should take heart from, for example, what’s going on in Ohio where a bill was introduced that would outlaw abortions once a heartbeat is detectable. To “argue” for this bill, two pregnant women were given ultrasounds before a packed hearing room of the House Health Committee where everyone in attendance could hear the fetal heartbeats and see movement.

    And for Ted: this is one of five anti-abortion bills introduced this year … since Republicans took control of the General Assembly and the Governor’s office.

  • Maiki

    I think the problem with this argument is that it ignores the issues with the “legal” objection to the pro-life position: E.g. it is not the first/only duty of the law to protect the right to life. Some believe that the right of the mother to do whatever she wishes with her body trumps the life of the fetus. The law is there to protect her self-agency over the life of her fetus (or by extension, anyone physically attached or dependent exclusively on her body).

  • Dennis

    Some comments above disregard this article because it approaches the abortion issue from a logical instead of emotional direction. I agree the emotional aspect tends to be greater than the logical in discussions about abortion, but I also know that several pro-abortion advocates I have spoken to who are at least re-considering their views in light of logic (especially those who believe in an ‘other’ that is above us). We need both emotional and logical means to counter this evil, and cannot afford to throw either one away.

  • Brian English

    “Until you address the fears of 1.5 million women, the rest will not be heard.”

    Any support for your claims regarding the characteristics of the women who have abortions? No wealthy women have abortions? No women at college have abortions? No married women with stable relationships have abortions?

    And when you get right down to it, do any of the “fears” you raise justify killing someone?

  • Brian English

    “It is ridiculous to argue that a person becomes a human only at a certain stage of development. If that was the case, we could argue that an adolescent is not yet fully human.”

    I am sure that is coming down the road. Peter Singer already regards infants as non-persons, so pushing it forward a few years will not be a problem.

  • Deacon Ed

    Gospel, you either believe that your heavenly Father will take care of you or you don’t. When you fear all sorts of things including how a woman would manage caring for a child, it implies that God is not to be trusted and cannot be taken at His word.
    It amazes me how much faith people place in the idea that the government will take care of them but when it comes to God, all bets are off.

  • kt

    Being a volunteer at picketing Planned Parenthood and at our local abortuary I can and do agree with the “fear” reasoning.
    Young women, in their teens, who would like to bear their child (they know it is a child) but mom or dad is adamant and drives the girl to the abortuary.
    Or, the boyfriend, husband, signficant other doesn’t want a “kid” or another mouth to feed while the mother feels she has no “choice”.
    We have to find a way to make women remember that pregnancy is NOT a disease.
    Motherhood, and or giving the child up for adoption, is a wonderful vocation, giving of herself. We have to find love enough for both mom and child and the rest will follow.

  • sibyl

    I completely agree with you — abortion exists because of fear, shame, violence, and selfishness. And in fact this helps to explain why the debate surrounding it goes nowhere. Fear and selfishness aren’t reasonable, and they don’t have reasonable defenses. What they compel us to do is beyond our ability (and usually our desire) to justify rationally.

    The point that is so important about Kreeft’s article is that sometimes reason can help us resist our fear, shame, violent reactions, and selfishness. Sometimes, for example, appeals to reason can convince a person to change their behavior, even that which rises out of extreme emotion.

    You said at the end of your comment that we ought to stop arguing and give women concrete hope, caring and love. I challenge you, RCM, to walk into a pro-life crisis pregnancy center and find out what the poorest of them has to offer.

    I worked in one — in a rough part of town, in a tiny dark storefront where the bathroom was in the semi-finished basement, and where the plate glass window was routinely broken by people throwing rocks. Even there, a woman coming in could get a GREAT DEAL of concrete, caring, non-judgmental help. She could get counseling for domestic violence, help with adoption referrals, money and vouchers for bus far and food (including at times the food itself, which the volunteers simply brought from their own homes to give out), baby food and formula, free refurbished cribs, a helping hand if she needed to find a different place to live or had trouble speaking English. This was a center run entirely by middle class volunteers and sustained by local churches and individual donations. But most important of all, each woman was offered a real choice — that she didn’t have to abort out of fear, in other words, and that if she felt unready for motherhood, there were many, many people waiting to help her through the hard but loving choice to place the baby for adoption.

    Abortion, unfortunately, will probably always exist, like addiction and prostitution. That doesn’t mean we can’t fight it, though, trying to minimize its incredible destruction of women, men and children. And one necessary way to fight it is to help people who support it to see why they must not. Kreeft is matchless in this regard, IMHO.

  • RCM

    Sibyl, How on earth do you know that I do not volunteer at my local CPC? I was in the official pro-life movement for 14 years until I realized that we were talking past women. They were not *hearing* us. And as much as CPCs give in the short term, the ones I am familiar with do not assist long term.

    Brian:”Any support for your claims regarding the characteristics of the women who have abortions? No wealthy women have abortions? No women at college have abortions? No married women with stable relationships have abortions?

    And when you get right down to it, do any of the “fears” you raise justify killing someone? ”
    Yes, actually there is extensive research on women who abort and their reasons why.http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2011/02/01/index.html, http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs…tion.html. Before you point out that the source is pro-abortion, the info is used even by most pro-life groups because the studies are scientific and reliable, even if the motives differ.

    Now, you and I can call abortion “murder” until we are blue in the face, how is that working for us? It is not me and it is not your fellow Catholic or pro-lifer you need to speak to. It is the woman who is considering aborting her child and you have to convince *her* and I think she has been left out of the conversation for way too long. The only organization that I am aware of who is truly trying to reach women where they say they are at is Feminists for Life. Every single woman I know who has ever aborted tells me that they felt trapped and they felt huge relief (initially for some, others it continues) after they aborted. Most aborted because they had no financial resources and one woman aborted because she was in an abusive relationship. These are merely anecdotal, of course.

  • Brian English

    “Yes, actually there is extensive research on women who abort and their reasons”

    I refer to the Guttmacher research myself, but it hardly supports the grim picture you paint. For instance, the one article you cite points out that 82% of the women who have abortions are supported by their partners. Hardly the scared, abandoned women you presented in your first post.

    ” Every single woman I know who has ever aborted tells me that they felt trapped and they felt huge relief (initially for some, others it continues) after they aborted. Most aborted because they had no financial resources and one woman aborted because she was in an abusive relationship. These are merely anecdotal, of course.”

    Here is my problem with your approach. It operates under the assumption that economic fears are to some extent an understandable reason for destroying an unborn child. Most people would not accept a mother killing her children who were already born because of economic fears; why should a different standard be applied to unborn children?

  • Mark

    Mother Teresa argued, simply, “If abortion is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”

    Yes, if God exists, then life begins at conception — and any intentional premeditated termination of that life is murder. The only problem is that some do not believe in God and their concept of moral authority bounces between self and the almighty federal government.

  • Marthe L

    Maybe you would find it unbelievable, but there are still a lot of people who are not sure that life begins at conception. I have even met a practising Catholic woman, who is in fact pro-life, but who said that she only believes that the fetus is a human being is because “the Church says so”! And she is willing to do what the Church says. How many young people out there, now that high school students can choose many of their courses, who have shown no interest in science and taken the bare minimum, and studied just enough to get the minimum passing grade, actually do not know that the fetus is a human being? I would not be surprised that that number is very high… I have heard a lot of people say things like “we do not really know yet” or “more studies are still needed”, and many people have heard those opinions, which are widespread in the media, for a couple of generations at least, without taking the trouble to look any further.

  • RCM

    “Hardly the scared, abandoned women you presented in your first post.”
    I can tell, Brian, that you don’t have children in daycare. For families on the margin, (they feel)one more kid is not feasible. My bro’s coworker right now is considering abortion for this very reason. She and her partner–both work–both have two kids and can barely survive even though they live with family. He wants her to abort and she is debating it. My bro has offered to adopt her child, but I will be surprised if they go that route. Look at the stats. The woman most likely to abort is the woman in the poorest socioecon strata.
    “Most people would not accept a mother killing her children who were already born because of economic fears; why should a different standard be applied to unborn children?”
    I have had 3 children in my life. 2 of whom I miscarried. Do you know that there has not been 1 funeral Mass at all for either of those children, EVEN when I asked? Do you know why? Because the Church Herself treats unborn children differently than born children.Not one of my friends who have also miscarried have had a funeral Mass for their kids. Not even the ones who miscarried in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Even people treat miscarriages different than the death of a born child! I know! I have witnessed it myself from fellow Catholic pro-lifers! So, we are kidding ourselves if we don’t see a difference.

    Peter Kreeft writes a post arguing that the unborn is human and the same, but in reality we treat them different.

    Lastly, people just don’t equate baby with an embryo. For me, even though I was pro-life before I was pregnant, the first time I saw my daughter’s heart beat at 4 weeks I was blown away. But so many of my friends –all mothers–don’t feel the same way about their unborn children. It is how women can still be pro-abortion even after having kids or having an abortion once they have had kids. There is a difference in their minds.

  • Cathy

    I agree that this article is very well written, however, problematic as words have not changed, but definitions of words have changed. Conception was changed in order to protect the birth control pill, in its abortifacient activity, from being accurately described as sometimes inducing abortion.

    Perhaps the most problematic pro-life philosophy in politics, is the assumption that pro-life has a political party. We do not. The problematic Catholic philosophy in regards to politics, is the assumption that Catholics have a political party. We do not. Assuming that all Republicans are pro-life or that all Democrats are pro-Catholic leads to an inherent dependency on a political party for the right to be or not to be, as well as an inherent dissolution of the fact that we are not a pure democracy, but a constitutional republic.

    Perhaps the most frightening aspect concerning overturning Roe v. Wade, is the denial that if overturned on the very aspect of the personhood of the preborn child, then it cannot be a matter that simply hands the judgment of whether or not the preborn child is a person to the states, but by what laws both federal and by the states that preborn child will be justly protected. If personhood is defined at the biological beginning of a human life, be it natural conception or asexual reproduction, then abortion, contraception, IVF, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research can no longer be, lest they be in contradiction to the principle of personhood.

  • Cha Mai Xiang
  • Bob from Lansing

    The article was, as another writer stated “ponderous”.

    I just learned about “Accidents”. The fact that, even though transubstanciation, the bread and wine didn’t taste like Blood and Flesh. The “accidents” remained as bread and wine even though they were literally “flesh and blood”. Speaking of “accidents”…

    I (as an Athiest) see abortion as a terible choice but it is a balancing of two seperate interests. A baby vs. a Woman. A baby has a right to life but a woman has a right to her body. If women are chattle, they should be forced to have children after EVERY sex act. No birth control, no reproductive freedom. Barefoot and pregnant is the way to go. OR, they are people that deserve to live their lives the way the choose.

    Abortion is a terrible decision but, Life begins when when you start minding your own business.

    Bob.

  • Deacon Ed

    doesn’t bother frequenting atheist blogs, I am mystified why you would be interested in the discussions here? Not that you are unwelcome, but I am still curious what you hope to achieve here?

  • Bobby R.

    Praying at my local planned parenthood on the day when abortions are done, I’ve observed served several things:

    It’s really not a financial issues. The cars that pull in to the parking lot for abortions range from Mercedes Benz’s, to Acura’s, to high end SUV’s. The young men and woman (and 90% of the time I’d say the people seeking abortions are 22 years and younger) have ipods around their neck, Abercrombie and Fitch on their back, etc. Obviously, I wouldn’t call them “poor.”

    The mind set almost always seems like they are comming to procure a type of birth control, not really different than a condom or the pill, but not an abortion. Even though it does semm harsh, I believe the shouts of “Mommy and Daddy….don’t kill your baby!” from some of the protesters is effective where some of the girls walking in do respond with looks of terror from awareness of the reality of what is about to happen.

    The greatest humility I come upon and unbelieveable horrific reality of what is happening in our secular society is the days that I go to pray in front of Planned Parenthood. Girls go in with live, viable, innocent developing humans in their wombs, they come out several hours later with empty wombs and their dead babies left in a garbage bag inside. I recommend everyone go and spend some time in front of a Planned Parenthood on the days abortions are done. The truth of the reality will bring you to tears.

  • Paul Rimmer

    Let’s look at this argument.

    1. I agree with this. I know what an apple is. I even know what it really is, so that takes care of (2). Apples aren’t the only things, so I agree with (3) as well.

    A slight aside, it seems like a silly word, skepticism, if it always means something self-contradictory. Maybe it would be better to redefine skepticism as something meaningful. I suspect that many skeptics are actually not skeptics, in the way you use the word. Maybe we should use the word the way they use it?

    4. I know I exist. I don’t completely understand myself or the world around me, but I know what human beings are. With two slight complications. It’s possible that something I thought wasn’t human actually is. For example, I might see a speck of dust on the ground, but that speck of dust might be skin cells. Those cells are human. Also, it’s possible that something I thought wasn’t a ‘being’ really is. Maybe some nebulae in space are self-aware. It’s unlikely, but things like this are possible.

    But both human and being? I’m pretty sure about that one.

    “5. We have human rights because we are human beings”

    I added “beings” at the end of that one to aviod the complication above. I don’t think skin cells have rights. I can step on the dust speck without having to worry “is it human?” My doctor can remove some cancerous skin cells without having to worry “is it unique and human?”

    6. “Morality is based on metaphysics” -> “Our knowledge of morality is based on our knowledge of reality”

    I accept the second one. If all metaphysics means is “knowledge of reality”, why not just call it that? I don’t like the word metaphysics. So I’ll reduce (6) to what you yourself claim is an entirely equivalent statement.

    “Ought” has to relate to “is” or else there is no “ought”.

    7. “Moral arguments presuppose some knowledge of how reality works”

    Just changing (7) in light of (6) and my discomfort with the word “metaphysics”.

    8. I’ll just skip over this for right now. I don’t mind agreeing to the idea, on the face of it, but it seems like more of a correlary.

    9. “Either all human beings have rights, or less than all human beings have rights”

    I like this formulation better, because it would be possible, if not all human beings have rights, that none do. But sure, ignoring the esoteric (junk? is that fair?) philosophy of “what is rights and do they really exist if I can’t see them?”, I’m very strongly in agreement on this point. All humans have equal rights. No matter what anyone says.

    10. “Why Abortion is Wrong: Abortion is wrong if human rights are being violated. Human rights are being violated if the group of cells being aborted is a human being.”

    This seems to be a fair reduction of your argument, for the most part. I don’t like the phrasing of it, because it risks building a straw-man. It lacks the eloquence of your writing. But that’s my weakness, not your’s.

    11 is fine, so long as we also accept:

    “11a. Not all groups of human cells with unique DNA are human people.”

    Tumors can have unique DNA, tumors are groups of human cells. Tumors are not people. Common sense.

    And here’s the problem. I’ll skip through a bunch of your argument and responses to hit on the points where we disagree.

    I disagree with you that it’s a scientific conclusion that a group of human cells becomes a person at conception. I don’t think science can distinquish the moral value of a tumor and a zygote.

    So here’s my counter-argument: The Tumor Test

  • Paul Rimmer

    The Tumor Test:
    “IF I can’t find some major morally significant difference between a tumor and the group of human cells in question, THEN that group of cells is not a human being, or tumors may be human beings.”

    So, if I were to look at a group of tree cells and a group of tumor cells and a group of dead skin cells, we might make the distinction that “one is a alive and one is dead”, or “one is cancerous and the other is not”. Neither of these seem to be morally significant in and of themselves.

    Potential for new attributes is also not morally significant. A sperm cell and an egg may become a person at some point in the future, but destroying either, or both, is not in itself morally significant.

    Unique DNA doesn’t even distinguish. I have unique DNA from all other humans on earth. But cancerous skin cells in my body have DNA that is unique from all other humans, including me. Unique DNA isn’t good enough.

    So what morally significant attribute seperates a fetus from a tumor? I argue it’s brain activity. All human beings that I know have brain waves. Fetuses have brain waves. Tumors don’t. So tumors aren’t human beings (though they are human and unique). Fetuses are human beings, because they share something in common with all humans that no tumor by itself possesses or can possess.

    So what about a zygote, or an embryo before brain activity? Not human. To use your very useful chart (and one of the very best things about this excellent article):

    “So, there are four possibilities:

    1. The fetus is a person, and we know that.
    2. The fetus is a person, but we don’t know that.
    3. The fetus isn’t a person, but we don’t know that.
    4. The fetus isn’t a person, and we know that.

    So let’s go through the stages. A fetus at 25 weeks. By those arguments of viability, not only is the fetus a human person, but its rights don’t (typically) stand in conflict with the rights of the mother, and he or she shouldn’t be aborted. That’s a (1) situation.

    A zygote at day 1-7. Definitely not a person. I go with (4). I accept this dogmatically. It’s common sense. Look at the clump of cells. Then look at any other clump of cells. There’s no real difference. It’s as plain as the fact that apples sxist.

    A fetus at 12 weeks. Here I go with (2) and (3) (since I don’t know, I can’t distinguish between them). It’s possible brain waves aren’t that morally significant. It’s possible our understanding of development is flawed, and much is uncertain around this time. The fetus may be a human person, or it might not be. But this is the “coat in the middle of the road” situation. The only ethical conclusion from this is to treat the fetus as a person, because this group of cells really could be a person, and we don’t want to take the chance of being wrong.

    So that’s my conclusion.

    Embryonic stem-cell research, so long as no brain activity has been measured, it’s completely acceptable. No person, so no rights being violated. Oral contraceptives are also ok here, because they destroy a group of cells far before those cells are a person.

    Most abortions are wrong. They can’t be justified, because it’s not yet possible to get the permission of the person involved, and no sane person would grant such permission.

    The case of abortion when the mother’s life is at stake is a more complex issue. I still stand by life in this case, because I don’t believe in violating rights for the good of someone else. But I respect the conscience of a doctor who disagrees with me about this.

    I just hope the state respects the conscience of doctors who think aborting a fetus is wrong no matter what the circumstance.

    I hope this answers your question, and provides a unique way to look at (what I think is) a very good argument.

    Excellent post! You are a good thinking man, a good Christian philosopher.

  • Brian English

    “If women are chattle, they should be forced to have children after EVERY sex act. No birth control, no reproductive freedom. Barefoot and pregnant is the way to go. OR, they are people that deserve to live their lives the way the choose.”

    (1) Do you think women become pregnant after EVERY sex act?

    (2) So living their lives the way they choose means the ability to arbitrarily destroy another human life? What an extraordinary power.

    “Abortion is a terrible decision but, Life begins when when you start minding your own business.”

    But the issue is, who is minding the unborn child’s business?

    “but I am still curious what you hope to achieve here?”

    Shouldn’t you be out grabbing all the gusto you can in this one life we have? Hanging out on religious websites making snide remarks does not appear to be a productive use of our limited existence.

  • Maiki

    “A zygote at day 1-7. Definitely not a person. I go with (4). I accept this dogmatically. It’s common sense. Look at the clump of cells. Then look at any other clump of cells. There’s no real difference. It’s as plain as the fact that apples sxist. ”

    All humans are clumps of cells. We are just some trillion cells instead of a few hundred. There is an observable difference between the clump of cells of a dead embryo from the clump of cells of a living embryo — one develops and the other doesn’t. There is an observable difference between the clump of cells from my pinky finger and the embryo — one develops into an adult human being and the other doesn’t. There is an observable difference between a rabbit embryo and a human embryo — one has human DNA (And thus develops into an adult human being) and the other doesn’t.

    “Brainwaves” don’t make one human. Anymore than a heartbeat makes you human or breathing makes you human. We need these to survive as complex organisms, but we are human in regards to our genetic makeup, and our living agency (body and soul, if you will).

  • Paul Rimmer

    What a group of cells becomes does not by itself indicate whether it is or is not a human person.

    The argument for this assertion is in the second of my two comments:

    “Potential for new attributes is also not morally significant. A sperm cell and an egg may become a person at some point in the future, but destroying either, or both, is not in itself morally significant.”

    “‘Brainwaves’ don’t make one human.”

    I’ve never met a human who doesn’t have brain-waves.

    If you wish to construct an objection to my argument that I would find convincing, you must do so from the framework I provided.

    Let me know what separates an embryo from a tumor, and we can work through your list together.

  • Maiki

    I just typed a long post, and lost it, but I’ll try to recreate it.

    I’m not using “development” as a sign of potentiality. An Embryo is not human because it will become a “true” human, a 33 yr old adult at some point. An Embryo is fully human at that stage of development. I’m using the term development as a sign of *agency*. Development and growth are the only things embryonic life does, so that is what characterizes its agency. I’m saying: The embryo is exhibiting signs of distinct life.

    Even a Bacterium can be distinguished from a tumor, in that it is a distinct life form with distinct agency, instead of living cells of a larger organism. The flagellum are not the bacterium. But bacteria are alive, because they exhibit the characteristics “not dead” or “not part of a larger living organism” and “a complete organism at that stage of development”.

    Embryos are human beings with no brainwaves. Just like infants are human beings with unfused cranial bones. That is proper of that stage of development. Tumors are not human beings, but diseased organs of a human being.

    Sperm and Eggs are not distinct, complete living organisms at a stage of development. They are haploid gametes of other human beings.

    And embryo is thus alive, and also a member of the species “homo sapiens” — thus it is a human being.

  • Maiki

    A sprout and a tree are more like themselves than a tree and kindling or a tree and a branch. Visibly the kindling and the branch resemble the tree more than the sprout. The sprout doesn’t conduct photosynthesis, has no wood, produces no fruit. But it is a living tree the way the adult tree is and in a way the kindling and the branch are not. There is a difference in kind, even though the visible attributes of the latter pattern match the tree better.

  • Paul Rimmer

    Tumors have unique DNA. They grow and develop.

    Embryos develop into human beings. Embryos are not yet human beings. It is acceptable (all things being equal) to destroy sperm or to destroy an egg. It is acceptable to destroy an embryo.

    What evidence is there that embryos are human beings? I don’t understand this “agency”. It doesn’t seem to me as though the embryo is doing anything that would ethically distinguish it from a tumor. It replicates cells. The way it does so, and the cells that result, are different, but the function, the “agency”, is the same.

    Thinking about this brings up apes and humans. If killing an embryo is wrong, because an embryo is a human person, then killing an ape would be wrong, because by what I observe, an ape seems to be much more like a human person than an embryo.

    Your last point is interesting. I will think about it.

  • Paul Rimmer

    When you write a long post, and then it gets lost.

  • Maiki

    I think my last point most clearly expresses what I’m trying to say — sprout and tree analogy.

    A tumor is just not a human being. It replicates, but it is not “developing”. It is not a separate entity just because it has mutated DNA. It is a diseased organ.

    An Embryo is not developing into a homo sapiens. It is a homo sapiens. At no point is it suddenly a member of a species when it wasn’t before. It is just developing into an adult, but it is always a human being.

    An adult great ape is not a human, it is a great ape. It may be wrong to kill it for its animal rights, but it isn’t wrong to kill it on the basis of human rights because it is not a human. A human embryo is human. It is just a younger human.

    Are you using an alternate definition of the words “human being” than I am? A distinct member (a being) of the species homo sapiens (a human)? A rabbit embryo is a rabbit, an oak sprout is an oak, a fertilized turtle in an egg is a turtle, and a human fetus is a human.

    ———————–

    You might be using some fuzzy notion of “personhood” as some distinct concept separate from our biological reality as individual members of the species homo sapiens. E.g. Angels are persons, the persons of the Trinity are persons, humans are persons insofar as they have a will and intellect, i.e. display a rational soul. I’m worried in using such definitions to determine who has human rights because infants don’t display full personhood, some mentally or physically ill individuals don’t display personhood, and any individual can cease to exhibit personhood under sufficient chemicals or injury.

  • Brian English

    “Embryos develop into human beings. Embryos are not yet human beings.”

    Every embryology textbook says you are wrong about that. An embryo is a human being at that specific stage in a human life. Everyone reading this board looked exactly like that at that stage in their life.

    “It doesn’t seem to me as though the embryo is doing anything that would ethically distinguish it from a tumor.”

    How far do you want to extend this analysis based upon “doing”? An infant does far less than an adult, does that make the infant far less human?

    “because by what I observe, an ape seems to be much more like a human person than an embryo.”

    Because of what you observe? So now we classify based upon superficial observations with the naked eye? How scientific.

  • Brian English

    ” Look at the stats. The woman most likely to abort is the woman in the poorest socioecon strata.”

    Here is a Guttmacher paper on the reasons for abortion, and they are far more complex than women being poor. Saying that you cannot afford another baby is different than saying you are poor.

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.pdf

    “I have had 3 children in my life. 2 of whom I miscarried. Do you know that there has not been 1 funeral Mass at all for either of those children, EVEN when I asked? Do you know why? Because the Church Herself treats unborn children differently than born children.Not one of my friends who have also miscarried have had a funeral Mass for their kids. Not even the ones who miscarried in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Even people treat miscarriages different than the death of a born child! I know! I have witnessed it myself from fellow Catholic pro-lifers! So, we are kidding ourselves if we don’t see a difference.”

    My wife and I lost twins at 11 weeks, so I understand what you are talking about here. The pastor of our parish was wonderful, but the Church position on the spiritual status of miscarried children is definitely unclear. I have read and heard various alternatives — they go straight to heaven, they become angels — but I am not aware of any official position. This is probably because of the long-standing dispute over “ensouling” — when does a soul enter the body?

    However, the fact that an abortion destroys a human life is a scientific fact. It has nothing to do with when the soul enters the body. That is why an atheist like Nat Hentoff can be pro-life.

  • Paul Rimmer

    An ape is more likely to be a person than an embryo. Just by looking at an ape and an embryo, common sense tells us which is more like an human being. It’s the ape. I don’t see how it couldn’t be the ape.

    —-

    If I became brain-damaged to the point where brain waves could no longer be measured, I would no longer be a living human person. I would be a vegetable. It is not wrong to kill vegetables.

    Embryos have no brain waves. It is not wrong to kill embryos.

    There is no other way I can imagine things. I am certain that it is not murder to destroy an embryo.

    I think we have come to understand each other, and you have given me food for thought.

  • Richard

    Okay let’s say it is wrong to terminate a pregnancy. That certainly doesn’t end the discussion. Clearly we know about the differences in the zygote and the fetus as it develops. And certainly many folks, seemingly normal and relatively decent folks see a difference between ending the pregnancy early on as opposed to later. Most pro-life folks don’t seem to acknowledge any moral complexity here. Just a simple evil.

    But the real problem with the pro-life movement is not the politics which has been discussed here. Anyone thinking either party is really morally vested in this subject is extraordinarily naive. The real issue is illustrated by the excommunications in Phoenix. There it appears there was a choice: end the pregnancy or lose both mother and fetus. And there was a husband and four children awaiting the correct decision. For most of the thinking world the right choice was made. But for the fanatic fringe that wasn’t the case. I would also allude to the excommunications in Brazil as another example.

  • Brian English

    “If I became brain-damaged to the point where brain waves could no longer be measured, I would no longer be a living human person. I would be a vegetable. It is not wrong to kill vegetables.”

    So if someone was brain dead you could walk into their hospital room and plunge a knife into their heart?

    “Embryos have no brain waves. It is not wrong to kill embryos.”

    You really see no difference between someone whose brain has stopped functioning at the end of their life because of some traumatic injury, and an unborn child’s brain that has not reached a certain level of development?

    This entire brain wave obsession is the pro-abortion crowd’s last desperate effort to try to attach some scientific basis to their position. Human beings simply do not have brain waves THAT WE CAN DETECT until a certain level of development is reached.

  • Bobby R.

    From America’s medicine’s most prominent human embryology text, “The Developing Human,” whose authors are not imprecise on the matter of life: “Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to produce a single cell – a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

  • Brian English

    “The real issue is illustrated by the excommunications in Phoenix. There it appears there was a choice: end the pregnancy or lose both mother and fetus. And there was a husband and four children awaiting the correct decision. For most of the thinking world the right choice was made.”

    The mother had pulmonary hypertension. According to Dr. Paul Byrne, a pioneer in neonatalogy, an abortion is not necessary to treat that condition, especially in the first trimester. Members of the “thinking world” should try to get their facts straight.

  • Brian English
  • Richard

    Okay Brian, I’m certain you would have the guts to tell the husband and the four kids standing at the bed side that the procedure was not necessary because some other expert who never saw this woman, examined her and the tests and made a diagnosis from such personal examinations says so. This is the kind of comment that illustrates my point.

    There was a doctor there, probably more than one, who did the exam and made the diagnosis and recommended the procedure to save the woman’s life. But I guess if there is an expert out there somewhere that tells you what you want to hear, what you believe, then by all means knock yourself our.

  • Paul Rimmer

    Brian,

    I changed the wording of your questions to get at the real issue.

    “So if a body in a hospital had no brain waves you would kill a human being by plunging a knife into its heart?”

    No. There is no human being to kill.

    “You really see no difference between someone whose brain has stopped functioning at the end of their life because of some traumatic injury, and an embryo’s brain that produces no brain waves?”

    I see very little morally significant difference. The potential morally significant difference, the difference in trajectory, would cause me to place more moral value on the victim of brain injury than on the embryo.

    Any grouping of human cells that has no brain waves is definitely not a human being.

  • Paul Rimmer

    Nowhere in the text you quoted is it claimed that embryos are human beings.

    If the text did claim this, then the text would be obviously wrong. Mistakes are made in all textbooks.

  • Paul Rimmer

    Though this is not relevant to the argument, I think it useful to point out that I am staunchly pro-life. I support the right to life of all fetuses, and support strict legislation and other political and legal actions that will both outlaw and effectively prevent these abortions.

    To this end, I have picketed in front of abortion clinics, written representatives, and provided financial contributions to select pro-life causes.

    My determination is based entirely upon the available evidence. It is my opinion that those who support something as ridiculous as the personhood of a single cell do damage to the pro-life cause. Such a position could only be supported by religious doctrine. There exists no scientific support for such a conclusion,and it violates all common sense.

  • Richard

    I also consider abortion to be wrong in most contexts. I don’t get involved publicly or politically because there are many more evils and causes to worry about and elevating abortion over all is, in my opinion, suggestive of a group of embattled leaders (bishops) trying to maintain their grip on the faithful.

    I was educated in Catholic schools through university graduation, and studied to be a Franciscan for three years. I have been exposed to Catholic theology and thought all my life. I have only been married once. Newt Gingrich is on his third wife but the Church annulled his second (gack!!!). There is so much posturing and phony politics going on with this issue. It is nauseating. And the defender of the Phoenix situation never did respond to the Brazil.

  • Brian English

    “Okay Brian, I’m certain you would have the guts to tell the husband and the four kids standing at the bed side that the procedure was not necessary because some other expert who never saw this woman, examined her and the tests and made a diagnosis from such personal examinations says so. This is the kind of comment that illustrates my point.”

    Actually, you have completely bought into the story put out by the hospital when they got caught. I am sure you were especially attracted to that narrative because it appears to confirm your prejudices against pro-lifers who are, you know, actually pro-life.

    “There was a doctor there, probably more than one, who did the exam and made the diagnosis and recommended the procedure to save the woman’s life. But I guess if there is an expert out there somewhere that tells you what you want to hear, what you believe, then by all means knock yourself our.”

    When the doctors start out with the approach being championed by Mr. Rimmer, that an unborn child prior to 5 or 6 months is nothing but a slab of meat, they probably didn’t try very hard to think of a way to avoid destroying the unborn child. Doctors who actually care about the lives of unborn children say there were other alternatives to treat the illness. The burden of proof was on the hospital and Sr. McBride to convince Bishop Olmstead what they did was justified. They failed, and I would bet they failed badly.

  • Brian English

    “”So if a body in a hospital had no brain waves you would kill a human being by plunging a knife into its heart?”

    No. There is no human being to kill.”

    I would bet the police would have a different opinion on that.

    “I see very little morally significant difference. The potential morally significant difference, the difference in trajectory, would cause me to place more moral value on the victim of brain injury than on the embryo.

    Any grouping of human cells that has no brain waves is definitely not a human being.”

    You appear to be confusing the concept of human life with the legal concept of personhood. I do not know if that is intentional or whether you do not understand the difference.

  • Brian English

    “Nowhere in the text you quoted is it claimed that embryos are human beings.

    If the text did claim this, then the text would be obviously wrong. Mistakes are made in all textbooks.”

    A new human life is created at conception. Go find us an embryology textbook that denies that. Once again, you are confusing life with personhood.

  • Brian English

    “Though this is not relevant to the argument, I think it useful to point out that I am staunchly pro-life. I support the right to life of all fetuses, and support strict legislation and other political and legal actions that will both outlaw and effectively prevent these abortions.

    To this end, I have picketed in front of abortion clinics, written representatives, and provided financial contributions to select pro-life causes.”

    You are either lying, or you a very confused man. Which is it?

    “My determination is based entirely upon the available evidence. It is my opinion that those who support something as ridiculous as the personhood of a single cell do damage to the pro-life cause. Such a position could only be supported by religious doctrine. There exists no scientific support for such a conclusion,and it violates all common sense.”

    A human life is created at conception. That is a scientific fact. It has nothing to do with religious belief. Nine months later, you are going to have a human baby — not a puppy, not a pony. Whether an unborn child is a person is a legal issue.

  • Brian English

    “I also consider abortion to be wrong in most contexts. I don’t get involved publicly or politically because there are many more evils and causes to worry about and elevating abortion over all is, in my opinion, suggestive of a group of embattled leaders (bishops) trying to maintain their grip on the faithful.”

    I see we have a social justice champion (except for the unborn). And if you think the Church’s opposition to abortion is a recent development, I don’t think you were paying much attention in all those classes you took.

    “Newt Gingrich is on his third wife but the Church annulled his second (gack!!!). There is so much posturing and phony politics going on with this issue. It is nauseating. And the defender of the Phoenix situation never did respond to the Brazil.”

    Now I see where you are coming from. This is a political issue for you. But what does Newt Gingrich’s three marriages have to do with abortion?

    And the situation in Brazil was handled terribly, but if you studied for three years to be a Franciscan, you probably should know about the concept of automatic excommunication for abortion. Attacking the Church’s position on life issues because of that one incident is rank opportunism by someone who appears to be hostile to the Church as a matter of principle.

  • Bobby R.

    This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

    Seriously, Rimmer, a medical text book states the above (“the beginning of each of us as a unique individual”), and the best you can argue is that textbooks some times are wrong??

    Then all that stuff I learned as a kid in textbooks about George Washington being the first President and all might be true…..or has a real possibility of being totally wrong?

  • Paul Rimmer

    “Then all that stuff I learned as a kid in textbooks about George Washington being the first President and all might be true…..or has a real possibility of being totally wrong?”

    If a textbook stated that an ape were the first president of the United States, I would find that claim more believable than that embryos are human beings.

    No, I do not believe something simply because it has appeared in a textbook.

  • Paul Rimmer

    “I would bet the police would have a different opinion on that.”

    I don’t think they would. I don’t think I would be tried for murder. Even if a policeman saw me stabbing a human body that registered no brain waves, and thought it was murder, the policeman would clearly be wrong. I stabbed a dead body.

    A side note: all bodies in a persistent vegetative state, that I know of (I’m no doctor) register brain waves.

    Should stabbing dead bodies be legal? That’s far outside the scope of this discussion.

    “Once again, you are confusing life with personhood.”

    I don’t think I am. The distinction should be clear in the two long comments I made in response to Kreeft’s excellent post.

    Here is a further example:

    When skin cancer is frozen off of me, many human cells are destroyed. Human life is lost. This is not immoral.

    It is not the presence of human life, but the presence of personhood, that confers human rights. This is common sense.

    “You are either lying, or you a very confused man, or I am wrong. Which is it?”

    You are wrong. You think a single cell can be a human being. This is impossible.

    “A human life is created at conception.”

    The sperm is human and the egg is human. Both sperm and egg are living cells.

    Human life evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago.

  • Bobby R.

    Then when, Rimmer, does (in your opinion), human life begin? Give specific reasons,facts and examples to back it up.

  • Bobby R.

    Rimmer:

    Science has proven that an embryo has a seperate, individual DNA from its mother and father. Would not that embryo then have a main characterisitc of human life?

  • Paul Rimmer

    “Science has proven that an embryo has a seperate, individual DNA from its mother and father. Would not that embryo then have a main characterisitc of human life?”

    Tumors have unique DNA. Would not that tumor have a main characteristic of human life?

    Naturally, tumors are alive, and they are human (they are composed of human cells). No one thinks destroying tumors is wrong, though it inolves ending human life (at least for that grouping of cells).

    Unique DNA and being alive are not by themselves sufficient for any sort of moral value. No rights are afforded to tumors, sperm cells, or even brain cells. Rights are aforded to a unique human individual. I don’t think embryos qualify, and if it were somehow determined that embryos did qualify as human individuals, then I would start worrying that maybe tumors are human individuals.

  • Paul Rimmer

    Human life originated hundreds of thousands of years ago.

    A gestating group of human cells becomes a person at some indeterminate time between the sixth week (when brain activity begins) to the twenty third week (because of various other developments).

    After the twenty-third week, I am certain that the group of cells is a person. Before the sixth week, I am certain that the group of cells is not a person. I am uncertain about when, in between those times, the group of cells becomes a person. Therefore, to be save, I oppose abortion after six weeks.

    You also asked for facts and reasons. I have already provided these in earlier comments, namely the March 7 comments “The Tumor Test” and “A Response to your ONE LAST PLEA”.

    If you have any specific questions about the reasons provided in those two comments, please ask. It would be best to quote the section of the comment you wish to address, so that I will be sure of the context of your question.

  • Bobby R.

    Let’s talk development…..as a tumor develops over time it only becomes a larger tumor, correct?

    As an embryo develops over time, what does it become?

    You destroy a tumor, you stop it over time from becomming a larger tumor.

    You destroy an embryo, you stop it over time from becomming a……..?

  • Paul Rimmer

    “As an embryo develops over time, what does it become?”

    A human person. That it is not already a human person means that it (like a sperm or an egg) does not have human rights.

    There may be moral problems with destroying embryos because of what they may become. However, it is not murder to destroy an embryo because, as your questions assume, the embryo is not a human person (otherwise, it’s not really becoming anything all that different than what it is; it’s just growing).

  • Bobby R.

    So at what point in the development does the embryo become a human person? Once again, facts….not just your opinion.

    Or maybe the question should be….is the embryo “human LIFE?” When does human life begin?

    (Interestingly, I just “googled” this, and many non-religous, objective dictionaries and encyclopaedia’s basically say “human life begins at conception.”)

  • Brian English

    “When skin cancer is frozen off of me, many human cells are destroyed. Human life is lost. This is not immoral.

    It is not the presence of human life, but the presence of personhood, that confers human rights. This is common sense.”

    You really can’t see the difference between cells that make up a human being and a human being?

    Personhood is a legal concept. You could pass a law saying people under five-feet tall were not persons, but that would not make them cease to be human beings.

    “You are wrong. You think a single cell can be a human being. This is impossible.”

    A new human life is created at conception. That is a fact.

    “The sperm is human and the egg is human. Both sperm and egg are living cells.

    Human life evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago.”

    A human life is not created until the egg and sperm are combined.

    You also now appear to be confusing the emergence of the human species with the start of each human life.

  • Paul Rimmer

    I do not use “person” as a legal concept.

    Indeed, the Oxford Dictionary definition has “Person: a human being regarded as an individual” as the first listed definition. This is also the definition I use.

    “You really can’t see the difference between cells that make up a human being and a human being?”

    I can. Therefore I do not accept that embryos are human beings. An embryo is a clump of cells that are part of another human being. That growing group of cells becomes a human being at some point in time after 6 weeks.

    “A human life is not created until the egg and sperm are combined.”

    I disagree. Both sperm and egg are human life, and human life exists before this combination.

    “A new human life is created at conception. That is a fact.”

    If this is a fact, then it is also a fact that a new human life is created when a tumor arises.

  • Paul Rimmer

    “When does human life begin?”

    Human life evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago.

    Source: The First Humans: Origin and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology) esp. the first chapter.

  • Paul Rimmer

    “You also now appear to be confusing the emergence of the human species with the start of each human life.”

    If we speak about unique human life, we are speaking about when an individual human comes into being, which is sometime after the sixth week of gestation for a group of cells.

    We could talk about when a group of cells with unique DNA begins. In this sense tumors and embryos are morally equivalent.

    I began as dissociated stardust; drawing the line at conception is arbitrary, and results in the absurd conclusion that a single-celled organism is a human being.

    If we speak about human life in general, there is no point at which it is created. It evolved hundreds of thousands of years ago.

  • The Truth Seeker

    I would first like to say that I found not only this article arguing against abortion informative and interesting, but I also found the comments that went with it informative and interesting. But I find your assumption that abortion is wrong because it does not protect the unborn child

  • The Truth Seeker

    I find your assumption to be incorrect.

  • Paul Rimmer

    I think I will cease commenting on this post in the next day or so. I just want people to know, so that they don’t think I’m snubbing them.

    Really, I was hoping to receive a comment from Dr. Kreeft. I wonder that maybe I did not receive a comment because my analysis of his argument is flawed in some obvious way, and therefore not worth commenting on. I will reconsider my argument in light of this possibility. It is far more likely that Dr. Kreeft is very busy, and doesn’t have the time to read or post comments.

    If you do happen to read this, Dr. Kreeft, I wanted to say that you are a great Catholic thinker, and will likely be one of the few whose books will torment generations of future students who are forced to read them. At least your work, compared to the body of philosophical literature, does not lack in clarity.

    God bless to all who responded to my comments. Your insights have been helpful in sharpening my arguments.

  • Paul Rimmer

    I believe that there is good evidence that a fetus from 8 weeks on can register pain, and will react to pain.

    For a utilitarian, I think this is a strong case against allowing elective abortions. Abortion to save the life of the mother, or to prevent later suffering to the child, could be justified under most Utilitarian frameworks.

    But elective termination of pregnancy should not be allowed in a utilitarian framework.

    So, my question for you: What is your own ethical framework, and how does it justify causing severe pain to a fetus as the end goal of an elective procedure? I do not understand.

  • Richard

    I am assuming the visitors here are aware of the debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin…….?

  • Paul Rimmer

    For emphasis:

    I was once an embryo. Before that, I was a sperm and an egg. Before that, I was stardust sputtering out of a supernova.

    The problem with choosing a single cell as the start of a human being is that the determination is entirely arbitrary, and has some strange implications.

    A single cell that becomes a twin: which person existed first, or was it an entirely different person who died so that the twins could be “created”? (And why this “created”? It’s a terrible word for what happens. No new matter or energy is being generated in the process).

    If one day we could form a human by altering a skin cell, then every skin cell becomes a unique individual, because any person born of this process would have started as a skin cell.

    A very strange world.

  • Mena

    Folks, Red States are in progress of destroying abortion through a variety of methods. You have the new mandatory sonograms. You have the new “fetal pain” laws. You have the new “heartbeat laws.” In Virginia, you have clinic regulations that are forcing the shut down of 17 out of 21 clinics in the state. In Blue State New Jersey, you have Gov. Christie yanking tax funding from Planned Parenthood “because we’re all in a fiscal crisis.”

    Get caught up on the Red State strategies. State governments are taking the lead over America going forward, and Washington D.C. will be as helpless to stop them on abortion as it is with Real ID, marijuana laws, Arizona’s immigration crackdown, etc. etc. Washington is powerless whenever states assert their states rights on this issue or that.

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