Religious conservatives grasp at straws when trying to justify their pro-life (anti-abortion) position, usually appealing to either religious doctrine or the idea that abortion is “killing a baby” and killing is wrong. The logical faults with these arguments are obvious, but I see the arguments of religious individuals who are horrified with abortion as a desperate attempt to justify their correct intuition — correct, because abortion is wrong. It is the killing of a defenseless creature we ought to protect. Even most pro-choice people admit abortion is a last resort and unwanted pregnancies should be avoided. This conceeds the unethical nature of abortion, and simply states it is overcome by other factors. This means where you fall on the pro-choice/pro-life debate is a subjective question of how you balance these factors, not “anti-science” as some claim. I address several of these factors in this article, and I also outline several often-ignored reasons why abortion is wrong, and they’re hopefully more sophisticated than the usual religious tripe you’ve heard before. Note that these are all arguments for why abortion is ethically wrong and should be avoided, not an argument that we should make abortion illegal, which is a bad idea and doesn’t even make abortion less common, only more dangerous.
Many pro-choice arguments are flawed in that they can be applied equally to justify abortion and (post-birth) infanticide. An MIT pro-choice student group made the argument that “unwanted life can be worse than no life at all,” implying the right of a child to a mother who wants them and who is prepared for motherhood, financially and otherwise. Lack of such preparation of the mother is apparently grounds for killing the fetus, because death is better than a bad life. So why not kill a three-month-old baby whose mother is poor, or doesn’t care for them much? Would it not, too, be a form of euthanasia? More selfish are the arguments for the woman’s right not to be a mother and instead to be able to have a career or whatever, which could as easily justify infanticide. Don’t want to kill your chances at a career? Kill your baby instead!
The same MIT student group argues: why should a woman have to “face all consequences from something she did not do alone”? Another argument for the killing of a fetusor baby based on inconvenience to the mother, but this time with a hint of the common pro-choice accusation of misogyny: this is just men telling women what to do with their bodies, and if men could get pregnant, then abortion would have been legal a long time ago. (Nevermind the fact that women have been able to vote since 1920 in the United States.) But this argument also falls with the comparison to infanticide. Men can’t get pregnant, but they can have children, and many of them don’t want children. Many men would find it convenient to get rid of their children so they don’t have to pay child support. So why is infanticide illegal? Perhaps because the desires of the parent are outweighed by the rights of the child.
Anyone who has seen a newborn baby knows how undeveloped they are, and the distinction between a baby right before birth and right afteror right before ’viability’ and right after, if you prefer is similar to the distinction between magma and lava — that is, it’s basically the same thing but in a different location. This means nearly every pro-choice argument can be applied equally to justify infanticide, rendering it useless. The exception is the argument of the bodily autonomy of the mother: the fetus has no right to the body of the mother. Apparently this bodily autonomy of the mother extends to the right to cut up the fetus and suck its body parts out with a hose, or the right to crush the skull of the fetus, or the right to poison the fetus to death — all common methods of abortion. If the fetus were simply removed in a fashion similar to birth, and allowed to die of natural causes, this argument may apply, but otherwise a double standard exists between the bodily autonomy of the mother and the bodily autonomy of the fetus. In any case, the argument for bodily autonomy is weak: the fetus didn’t ask to be created, and the mother created it anyway, so she should be responsible for it. The tenancy agreement of the fetus was made implicitly on conception.
We don’t eat dog or cator dogs or cats, if you prefer to avoid the mass nouns and see them as individuals because it would be abhorant to us to eat creatures which would remind us of creatures we love, even though, for example, pigs are at least as cognitively sophisticated. But pigs are gross and roll in the mud, so it’s okay to eat them. Eating them won’t break anyone’s hearts unless their hearts were already bleeding. Similarly to our aversion to caticide and dogicide, we should avoid abortion because feticide reminds us of infanticide. Even if you are not killing a real baby, you’re making people feel on a visceral level that you are, which is suffering in its own right. This is not a hypothetical argument: at least a third of people in the United States think abortion should be illegal in all cases. Such people are horrified by abortion. Even if it does not actually involve killing babies, these people think it does, and their hearts break in sympathy.
Abortion is the first step on the road to the destruction of the sanctity of human life. Human life must be sacred, not for religious or spiritual reasons, but because we are humans and therefore want the value of human life to be enshrined in the law. (One reason why suicide is illegal in some places.) Because of the similarity morally between late-term abortions and early infancy infanticide, there is a slippery slope to infanticide. But more generally, allowing humans to kill other humans always makes human life cheaper.
Abortion can also lead to eugenics. Parents can screen their fetuses for certain traitssuch as sex, and abort if the they don’t like what they find. This logic has made female infanticide in China not uncommon, so it’s easy to see how it could cause abortion, too. One of the problems is that parental screening of fetuses need not be logical. It will be more likely to be determined by what is fashionablesex in China and what is determined to be desirable given the social and political climate.
If people become much less likely to have autistic babies, then those who do have autism will have less resources, be less understood by society, and be more likely to face discrimination. If the gender ratio becomes to imbalanced, the problems are obvious. And any narrow form of selection can lead to loss of genetic diversity in the population. But beyond just the utilitarian argument against eugenics via abortion, I think it’s a bit sad that we think some babies just aren’t good enough to be born.
By permitting abortion, we tell mothers they are free to abdicate their motherhood. If you don’t want to be a mother, it’s okay, you don’t have to be a mother. This is an unhealthy message which may persist in the minds of women once they do decide to have a baby. If motherhood is not a responsibility, but a choice, then mothers will be more likely to neglect their children or give up their older child for adoption when things get tough. The same basically applies to fatherhood. If a man’s first reaction to hearing that he got a woman pregnant is to plead with her to get an abortion, then he has been trained to run away from fatherhood and not take the role seriously. This is good for nobody.
In general, people are not taking the role of parenthood serously anymore. People would use abortion to put off parenthood until a more convenient time, but we know from positive psychology that building a family is going to have a much greater positive impact on your happiness than trying to advance your career or lounge around for another decade. And procrastinating parenthood may lead to not being able to see your grandchildren grow up, or your children “make it” in the world. So why do people routinely make the wrong choice in Western society? Abortion plays a role. It makes it easy not to see parenthood as a responsibility and as a core part of the human experience, but rather as more of a hobby, which some may be interested in, and other people might try bowling instead. If abortion should be illegal, it should be to stop mothers from shooting themselves in the footnot to mention shooting the fetus in the head.
They say the risks of abortion are less than the risks of childbirth, and science confirms this: one study showed the risk of death from giving birth is 14 times higher than from abortion. This is given as an argument in favor of the pro-choice position. The problem with this argument is that it’s a false comparison; many mothers who get abortions now end up having children later anyway, so the risk is actually additiveabortion now + birth later vs. birth now. When a woman undergoes multiple abortions, the subsequent abortions are also progressively less safe, and can lead to, for example, Asherman syndrome, which can cause pain and infertility. A 2015 review also found a link between abortion and future issues with pregnancy including premature birth and low birth weight. With the risks of abortion alone, it may be unethical to perform abortions — at least in some cases, such as when the mother has already had one or more abortions.
There are also societal health risks to abortion beyond the health of the motherand child…. The kinds of reckless people who have unprotected sex and need abortions are also the kinds of reckless people who spread STIsthe infections formerly known as STDs, and it’s better if they settle down and become parents rather than continuing to spread disease. Ideally, they would use protection, but are they going to? In fact, I would bet the availability of abortions correlates negatively with condom-use, because the possibility of abortion removes one of the major reasons to wear a condom. If we could also abort HIV and Hepatitis B, this may be fine, but as it stands, abortion may just promote risky sexual behavior and be a net negative to our health.
There are not enough babies for the people who want them but cannot have them. Not by a long shot. Adoption is too expensivearound 20-50k and many couples are priced out of parenthood. In fact, 90 percent of couples who want to adopt are never placed with a baby. It’s not a large logical jump from this to the fact that getting an abortion destroys one couple’s chances to raise a baby. As gay couples cannotyet reproduce, this makes abortion inherently homophobic in addition to classist. The argument here is not that we should force unwilling mothers to give birth, but that carrying a baby to term and giving it up for adoption rather than aborting the pregnancy is probably the right thing to do. You will be the hero to some couple, somewhere, rather than dashing their dreams of parenthood.
Abortion is wrong. Most of the arguments that say it isn’t either rely on an appeal to the bodily autonomy of the mother while ignoring the bodily autonomy of the fetus, or could as easily be used to justify post-birth infanticide. Abortion, like infanticide, is naturally horrifying to people. We don’t like the idea of killing babies, because babies are precious. Human life in general is precious, and shouldn’t be discarded for the convenience of a woman who wants to avoid motherhood. Abortion is also risky, and a bad decision for many reasons. Worst of all, abortion deprives couples, especially poor or gay couples, of the ability to raise a baby together. This is a crime against humanity morally equivalent to infanticide. So why does everyone want to go out and get an abortion? Is our culture so sick that we have lost sight of the importance and magnificence of bearing children and carrying on the human race? I wonder why young women now, unlike ever before, so commonly view motherhood as a burden to be avoided rather than a gift — a miracle. In any case, I think governments would do well to help mothers prepare for motherhoodfinancially and otherwise rather than helping them avoid it through such unethical means as abortion.
We routinely perform unnecessary cosmetic surgery on the penises of babies. This is weird, and indicates that maybe we don’t have it all figured out when it comes to babies. Babies are innocent and pure, and the fact that we care so much about them gives any argument about them a major rational blind spot. Rather than consider rational arguments, people on both sides regurgitate the few talking-points they’ve heard before, and view the other side’s position as not only incorrect, but dangerous. This attitude stops thought, stops discussion, and stops progress.
I don’t agree withstrongly disagree with the pro-life opinion I expressed in this essay. This was a thought exercise: take on a position I disagree with, and try to make it as strong as possiblecalled steelmanning, in contrast to strawmanning, which is the opposite. The purpose of strengthening the position you disagree with as much as possible is so that when you then knock down the position, you know for sure you really have arrived at the right conclusion. Being right is important, but so is knowing why you are right.
I won’t do the second step of actually knocking down the steel man position here, but I may in a future article, and I encourage anyone interested to do so. The point is that anyone who has shamed pro-lifers without having considered all of these arguments hasn’t done their homework, and has just been parroting what they’ve heard. I’ll admit to having done the same thing, and before writing this article I was therefore unaware, for example, of the difficulty in finding a baby for adoption, and unaware of the uncomfortable applicability of many pro-choice arguments to infanticide. I hope you’ve learned something, as I have.