Abortion: Genocide in the Womb

Jason Dulle


Every second 87.5 babies are being aborted somewhere in this world. Annually, that adds up to more than 46 million babies who never see the light of day. In the United States 2.3 babies are aborted every minute, totaling 1.2 million per year. Nearly 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since 1973. Currently, more than one out of every five babies is aborted in this country.1

Who gets abortions? Common knowledge tells us it is young, unwed single females who are not ready for children. Not exactly. Since 1990 the majority (61%) of women obtaining abortions are mothers.2 Less than one in five is a teenager (19.3%).3 A full 56.1% are in their twenties. Most women seeking abortions are single (64%). Only 18% are married.

Why do women obtain abortions? One out of four wants to postpone having children (25.5%). One out of five cite financial reasons (21.3%), while one out of ten do so to avoid disrupting their job or education (10.8%). One out of nine aborts their baby because they are having relationship problems, or their partner does not want the baby (14.1%). One out of ten say they are too young to have children, and/or their parents want them to have an abortion (12.2%). One out of eleven simply does not want any more children (7.9%). Only 1% of all abortions are due to rape or incest, 2.8% are due to maternal health concerns (including mental health), and 3.3% are due to fetal health concerns.4

The Real Issue

It is often said that abortion is a very complex issue with no easy answers. I disagree. While abortion may be emotionally complex, the moral answer is quite simple. The abortion issue hinges on the answer to one question: What is it? Is the unborn a human being, or not? If the unborn are not human beings, no justification for abortion is necessary; however, if the unborn are human beings, no justification is adequate. I am going to argue that the unborn are human beings, and as such they are entitled to the same right to life shared by all other human beings. My argument is as follows:

(1) It is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being
(2) Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being
(3) Therefore, abortion is wrong

If the premises are true, the conclusion logically follows. Anyone who will deny the conclusion, then, must deny the veracity of at least one of the premises.

Most people agree with the first premise. It is a universally accepted moral premise. Those who argue for abortion rights usually take exception with the second premise, namely that the unborn are human beings.5 It is claimed that no one knows when life begins, but this is not true. The disciplines of science and philosophy are decisive on this matter. The unborn are human beings from the moment of conception.

The Scientific and Philosophic Evidence


The answer to the question of when a human being comes into existence is primarily a question of biology (science). The philosophy of religion and ethics come into the debate to answer the question of how we ought to treat human beings. Put another way, whether the unborn are human is a scientific question; whether they are valuable is a philosophic question.

The scientific data is conclusive that a zygote (the one-celled organism resulting from a successful union of a male sperm and female egg) is a (1) complete, (2) individual (3) living (4) human (5) being.

Consider the following statements from prominent embryology textbooks:6

The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology: "[The Zygote] results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm ... unites with a female gamete or oocyte ... to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual."7

In the seventh edition of the same book we find the following:

"Zygote. This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm during fertilization. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo)." (p. 2)

"Embryo. The developing human during its early stages of development. The embryonic period extends to the end of the eighth week (56 days), by which time the beginnings of all major structures are present." (p. 3)

"Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell - a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." (p. 16)

"Human development begins at fertilization." (p. 18)

"The zygote is genetically unique because half of its chromosomes come from the mother and half from the father. The zygote contains a new combination of chromosomes that is different from that in the cells of either of the parents." (p. 33)

Essentials of Human Embryology: "In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. ... Fertilization takes place in the oviduct ... resulting in the formation of a zygote containing a single diploid nucleus. Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point... This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development."8

In the second edition it states, "The chromosomes of the oocyte and sperm are...respectively enclosed within female and male pronuclei. These pronuclei fuse with each other to produce the single, diploid, 2N nucleus of the fertilized zygote. This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development."9

Human Embryology & Teratology: "Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed... Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with a secondary oocyte or its investments... The zygote ... is a unicellular embryo... "The ill-defined and inaccurate term pre-embryo, which includes the embryonic disc, is said either to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or ... to include neurulation. The term is not used in this book."10

"Although human life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed. ... The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity."11

Before We Are Born: "Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zygtos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being."12

Additional embryology sources:

The testimony of geneticists and biologists is equally clear. Consider the following testimonies from geneticists and biologists before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee (April 23-24, 1981) on the question of when life begins:

The conclusion of the Senate subcommittee was that "physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being-a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings."24

Why do all of these biologists, geneticists, and medical doctors affirm that human beings come into existence at conception? What is the scientific basis? There are two scientific principles that make the humanity of the unborn clear:

Law of Biogenesis

The Law of Biogenesis states that (1) life only comes from life, and (2) that everything reproduces after its own kind. A rock cannot produce a living thing, and a cat cannot give birth to a dog. The second prong of the law of biogenesis has bearing the subject of abortion.

We know a newly conceived zygote has being; i.e. it exists. To determine what kind of a being the unborn is, we need only look at its parents. If the parents are human, then the zygote is human as well.


We can also determine what kind of being something is-even if we do not know who its parents are-by looking at its genetic code. What kind of being is a zygote? The genetic fingerprint of a zygote is distinctly human (human DNA; 46 chromosomes); therefore, its being is necessarily human. The zygote's genetic signature gives it away as a human being.

The scientific data is conclusive that a complete, individual, living, human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. Everything a human being needs to develop itself toward maturity is there from the moment of conception. Scott Klusendorf writes, "What the facts of science make clear is that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. True, they have yet to grow and mature, but they are whole human beings nonetheless."25 The second premise of my argument, then, is firmly established by science. The conclusion of the argument stands.


The philosophic data is just as clear on the humanity of the unborn from conception onward. The law of identity informs us that the distinct being brought into existence at conception has an identity that remains the same from the moment it begins to exist, for as long as it continues to exist. Simply stated the law of identity affirms that a thing is itself and not something else. Whatever a thing is, it will remain that thing for as long as it exists.

Every living thing is something when it comes into existence as a living thing. It isn't nothing that becomes something.26 What that something is remains that something throughout its existence. Philosopher Dianne Irving said, "Scientifically, there is no point from fertilization (or cloning) to death when the human nature of that human being changes at all; it keeps on continuously creating specifically human enzymes, proteins, tissues and organs -- which only a human being can do."27

Beings don't change from one kind to another. That is why there is no such thing as a full or potential human being. "Fetuses and embryos are not potential persons who with time and the right environment could become full persons. Rather they are persons with the potential to mature according to their kind."28

What does change is one's properties: size, hair, etc. These changes continue from conception to death. For example, you were once 10 pounds, whereas now you are much larger. But you are not more human. There's more of your physical body, but not more of you. That is why it is a serious mistake to define humanness based on some outward appearance, level of development, or ability. These things are always changing, and arbitrary. Furthermore, the minute we do so we will arbitrarily "define out of meaningful existence all sorts of human beings" we normally consider valuable.29 When human value is based on some acquired characteristic rather than their participation in the genetic lineage of human beings, all of us become dispensable. As Maureen Condic wrote, "Once the nature of human beings as organisms has been abandoned as the basis for assigning legal personhood, it is difficult to propose an alternative definition that could not be used to deny humanity to virtually anyone. Arguments that deny human status to embryos based on form, ability, or choice can be readily turned against adult humans who have imperfect form, limited ability, or who simply constitute an inconvenience to more powerful individuals or groups."30

Some insist that the unborn are not human because they do not look like human beings. But appearance is not a reliable way to define humanness. Humanness is not a quantitative kind of thing, but a qualitative kind of thing. It's a be-like thing, not a look-like thing, or a do-like thing.31 "To insist that the unborn at six weeks look like the newborn infant is no more reasonable than to expect the newborn to look like a teenager. If we acknowledge as 'human' a succession of outward forms after birth, there is no reason not to extend that courtesy to the unborn, since human life is a continuum from conception to natural death."32

Evidence from Reason

There are only four differences33 between us and the unborn, none of which are morally relevant:

1. Size -- Men are generally bigger than women, but that does not give us the right to deny them their life. Shaquille O'Neil is bigger than me, but that does not make him more human, or give him more value.

Does an adult female have the right to terminate the life of a 1-year old baby boy because she is bigger than him? Of course not! So why can an adult female terminate the life of a 1-month old human being? Is it because humans at that stage of development are sooo small? Exactly how big does one have to be before they are protected from being killed with impunity? What is it about that size that magically transforms someone from something that can be killed into something that is valuable and worthy of our protection?

2. Level of Development -- Newborn babies are less developed than four year old children, and four year old children are less developed than 20 year old adults, and yet all have the same value. Why is the unborn denied that same value? What level of development must one achieve before they are valuable, and who gets to decide that?

The unborn differ from the born in their degree of development, not their kind, in much the same way newborns differ from adults in their stage of development, not their kind. If we can recognize the latter, why don't we recognize the former?

3. Environment/Location -- How does where you are have anything to do with what you are? How is it that being in a womb robs a human being of his/her value/rights? Are there any other places humans might reside where they cease being the subject of basic rights? Maybe Washington D.C.?

Virtually everyone agrees the unborn gains the right to life once s/he is born. But how does one's travel down an 8" birth canal give them value? "Although it is customary to divide human development into prenatal (before birth) and postnatal (after birth) periods, birth is merely a dramatic event during development resulting in a change in environment."34

4. Degree of Dependency -- Newborns are entirely dependent on their parents. Does this mean they have no value? Adults on insulin and the elderly are more dependent than healthy teenagers. Does this make them less valuable as a person?

Having demonstrated that none of the differences between the born and unborn are morally significant, we must conclude that our right to life begins when we come to be, not when we come to be born.35

Human Being vs. Human Person

While we have thoroughly established the humanity of the unborn from conception onward both scientifically and philosophically, some pro-abortion advocates are not satisfied. They seek to undermine the conclusion of the argument by taking exception with the first premise of the argument, rather than the second: It is wrong to take the life of an innocent human being. The part they dispute is not the moral claim itself, but the object of the moral claim. They argue that it is wrong to take the life of an innocent human person, not a human being.

These abortion advocates make a distinction between being a human being and being a human person, and argue that only the latter are valuable and the subject of human rights. Human beings can be killed, whereas human persons cannot. Value belongs to personhood, not being (existence). On this view there are two stages of human life: the stage at which we come to be (exist), and the stage at which we become valuable (attain personhood). I am going to argue that such a distinction is philosophically untenable, and as such, the argument still stands.

It is important to note a few things about this argument. First, it is not new. People have made this same distinction in the past to discriminate against other human beings who were considered undesirable for one reason or another. The personhood argument was used to justify enslaving the black man. It was used to subjugate women to men. It was used to justify killing Jews and Indians. When an idea has been used to promote such evils as slavery and the Nazi death camps, we should evaluate it very carefully. Millions and millions of people have died because of this philosophy, so to make such a radical distinction between two types of humans that have such radical consequences, we had better be very certain that the difference is genuine. Given the fact that we have come to see its application to blacks, women, Indians, and Jews was mistaken in the past, it is not unreasonable to think it is equally mistaken when applied to the unborn.

The second thing to note about this argument is that it is philosophical, not scientific in nature. Personhood is a philosophical notion involving metaphysics that cannot be justified scientifically. It must be justified philosophically. This is important because pro-abortion advocates often accuse pro-lifers of unjustly bringing metaphysics into the debate, when in fact they do the same. The question is not whether one has metaphysical assumptions that come to bear on the abortion debate, but whose metaphysical assumptions are better supported philosophically.

When someone makes the claim that there is a difference between a human being and a human person, an honest question would be, What's the difference? Many abortion advocates would be unable to provide an answer. Others, however, will provide a list of differences.

This brings me to my third observation about this argument. All of the supposed differences are functional or psychological in nature. A human person is someone who exhibits and/or exercises those functions, whereas a human being does not. It's interesting to note that the advocates of personhood theory each have different lists of criteria that demarcate a human person from a human being. Some, such as Peter Singer, consider rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness to be the sine qua non of personhood. Singer writes in Practical Ethics, "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. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings."

Jan Narveson says persons are those with an immediate capacity to "make conscious, deliberate choices."36 They are "individuals with complex personal consciousness", sentient, "able to think in the subjective sense," have "genuine experiences," an awareness of himself as an individual, an articulate grasp of his surroundings, be aware of their own history as a thinking subject, possess values and "thoughts, plans, hopes, and interests."37

Philosopher Mary Ann Warren suggests a person is one who possesses consciousness, self-awareness, rationality, self-motivated activity, and an ability to communicate by whatever means on many possible topics. Joseph Fletcher asserts that a person is one who possesses self-awareness, self-control, a sense of the past and future, the ability to relate to others, the ability to communicate, and curiosity. Ronald Bailey says that the criteria for death (brain death) might be a clue as to the criteria for valuable life.38 Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard, suggests that we need a clear boundary to confer personhood on a human being and grant it a right to life. . . . [T]he right to life must come . . . from morally significant traits that we humans happen to possess. One such trait is having a sequence of experiences that defines us as individuals and connects us to other people. Other traits include an ability to reflect on ourselves as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die.

In response, we might ask these individuals, Where did you get your list from? Given the fact that they have different lists doesn't bode well for the objectivity of their criteria. The fact of the matter is that the lists are quite subjective. Given the arbitrary and subjective nature of the lists, why can't we invent our own list of personhood criteria? How about we say a person is one who has white skin? If they object to our list, we can ask them on what grounds their list is justified but our list is disallowed.

The philosophical question pro-abortionists and pro-lifers disagree on is what gives humans their value. There are only two possible answers. Either (1) human value is derived from some intrinsic, unchangeable quality that is rooted in human essence/nature, or (2) human value is derived from our participation in some extrinsic, degreed quality. Put another way, humans either possess valuable in light of their shared humanity, or they acquire value when they can exemplify some additional requirement. The former view is called essentialism, and the latter is called functionalism.

What constitutes personhood? Is personhood to be defined in functionalist, or essentialist terms? Is personhood a degreed property, or something that inheres within the essence of a human? Essentialists argue that "being a person is not a result of acquired accidental attributes; rather, it is being a certain type of individual, an individual with a rational nature."39 All things that exist have being. But being is subdivided into two categories: personal and impersonal. Rocks are impersonal; humans are personal. Given what we know about the law of identity (anything that exist will remain itself so long as it exists), it is false to assert that humans can start off as impersonal beings, and then acquire personhood at some later point in time. While our properties may change, our essence remains the same. If humans are personal beings at any point in their existence, then they are personal beings throughout their entire existence, including in the womb.

It is true that we cannot express our personal nature until the apparatuses necessary to express such personality have developed, but the unborns' inability to exercise certain personal characteristics at an early stage of development does not change their personal nature. Indeed, given the law of identity, if they were not personal beings to begin with, they would never be able to exhibit personal attributes. A tree, for example, can never become personal no matter how long it lives to be because personalness does not inhere within the nature of a tree. Personalness, however, does inhere within the nature of a human being. It is not a quality added later. Surely it is more reasonable to value the one possessing the potential for personal characteristics than the full expression of that potential itself.


Where is the Objective Standard?

All functional definitions of personhood suffer from the problem of authority: how do we determine which functions are valuable and define human worth, and who gets to decide that? Why is consciousness decisive for personhood rather than some other characteristic-say, for example, the ability to direct one's own internal growth toward maturity? The fact of the matter is that value-laden functions are invented by the pro-abortion advocate out of thin air. Not only are the criteria themselves subjective, but so is their application. After all, how can we be sure when someone begins exercising the value-laden functions of personhood? How can we know when they begin to make plans and conscious decisions? How developed does one's psychology need to be before they can be considered a person of right, and who gets to decide that? How many of the various value-defining criteria do they have to exhibit to be considered a person? One? Three? Five? Anyplace we might settle on seems to be just another subjective stopping point. "When human life and human dignity are granted only when an individual passes certain 'tests,' human dignity is put on the auction block for constant reevaluation."40

Jan Narveson recognizes, and even admits the arbitrary nature of personhood criteria. He writes, "One possibility, therefore, would indeed be to draw a line that, while arbitrary in its precise location, is still in roughly the right place." Since we're talking about someone's life or death, "roughly the right place" is not good enough. Or consider Peter Singer. In response to a question regarding his position that it is morally acceptable to kill a one-month old newborn, Singer responded, "You have to ask yourself, does a baby have a right to life as soon as it's born? Or does its right to life come into existence gradually? Of course it's gradual, but that doesn't help the policy makers. If you're trying to shape policy, you need to try and draw lines somewhere. So I came up with an arbitrary point, as a way of demonstrating the fact that babies, unlike older children, don't yet have the capacity for seeing themselves as independent beings."41

"Arbitrary" says it all.

Functionalism Values the Wrong Thing

A functional view of humanity treats the full expression of a capacity as more important than the capacity itself; and a function as more important than the being that has it. We should value the being who possesses the capacities because apart from the individual possessing those capacities they could never develop into the states functionalists value so much. This leads us to value the one possessing the qualities from the moment he/she begins to exist.42 Patrick Lee and Robert George wrote,

It is true that an embryo or fetus (or infant) lacks the immediately exercisable capacity for self-awareness, rationality, or free choice. Yet, the embryo or fetus does have the basic, natural capacity for such actions as consequent to its nature, that is, as entailed by the kind of entity it is. The embryo or fetus, precisely in virtue of the kind of entity he or she is, has the capacity to develop himself or herself to the point where he will perform such actions. And no one has been able to give an intelligible reason why we should base full moral rights on immediately exercisable capacities - which can come and go - rather than on the basic, natural capacities that a human being at any stage of development has in virtue of the kind of entity it is.43

A dog has a particular nature, part of which includes barking. If the dog never develops the ability to bark, we would not say it failed to become a dog. It is a dog so long as it exists "even if it never acquires certain functions that by nature it has the capacity to develop. In contrast, a frog is not said to lack something if it cannot bark, for it is by nature not the sort of being that can have the ability to bark. A dog that lacks the ability to bark is still a dog because of its nature. A human person who lacks the ability to think rationally (either because she is too young or she suffers from a disability) is still a human person because of her nature. Consequently, it makes sense to speak of a human being's lack if and only if she is an actual person."44

Circular Reasoning

Personhood theorists define personhood based on the characteristics of post-natal humans, begging the question in favor of abortion. It's quite convenient to define a person in such a way as to exclude the very group you want to discriminate against in the first place, and then conclude that because those in that group are not persons it is morally acceptable to kill them.45

In defining personhood using characteristics unique to post-natal human beings, they propose that this particular stage of human development can be used to define and evaluate the worth of all previous stages. But how do they justify making this the benchmark for the paradigm, rather than some other stage?46 Can one arbitrary stage of life be used to define the value of all other stages? Who determines which stage is the ideal stage of personhood?

Some personhood theorists are explicit that they are defining person in such a way so as to exclude the unborn. Peter Singer admitted to doing so in an interview with Robert Brennan; a correspondent for the National Catholic Register. Brennan said, "You separate the species part of human beings from the personhood of humans through standards such as being able to plan for the future, having an understanding of one's environment and having a pronounced sense of self-awareness - that is why you have the position that newborn infants do not possess a complete personhood." Singer responded, "Yes. I'm looking for what it is that might make a morally significant distinction between beings who have the fullest right to life, if you want to put it that way, from those who don't have such a serious right to life. I don't think that distinction can be just whether you happen to be a member of the species Homo sapiens or not, irrespective of the characteristics or capacities that you might have. I think there's something wrong with assuming that every member of the species Homo sapiens is somehow a more morally significant being than every member of every other species."47


If the ability to exercise particular psychological functions are the sine qua non of valuable persons as functionalists assert, many counter-intuitive examples come to mind that should cause any proponent of functionalism to re-evaluate his/her philosophy of personhood. I shall examine three examples: infanticide, those in a coma, those who are asleep.


Newborn infants do not exhibit the psychological functions that define one as a person according to personhood theory. Given the tenants of personhood theory, then, what prohibits us aborting newborn babies in the same way we abort unborn babies? Most abortion proponents have a moral intuition that infanticide is immoral, but some abortion advocates who take personhood theory seriously believe infanticide is morally justifiable on the grounds that newborn babies are not yet persons.

Peter Singer is perhaps the most notable proponent of infanticide. He rightly notes that birth is an insignificant dividing line for evaluating human value. Singer wrote, "Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons"; therefore, "the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee."48

Philosopher, Michael Tooley, is not bothered by infanticide either. In 1972 he said a human being "possess[es] a serious right to life only if it possesses the concept of a self as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states, and believes that it is itself such a continuing entity."49 Since only those capable of recognizing themselves as a self have the right to life, and infants do not recognize themselves to be selves, they can be killed just like the unborn. He is not clear when it comes to firmly establishing the exact point one gains interests, but he is sure that infants under one week of age do not qualify as persons.

John Harris-professor of bioethics and law at the University of Manchester (UK), founding member of the International Association of Bioethics, and official ethics consultant for British physicians-declared before the British Parliament's Commons Science and Technology Committee:

I don't think infanticide is always unjustifiable. I don't think it is plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal. … People who think there is a difference between infanticide and late abortion have to ask the question: What has happened to the fetus in the time it takes to pass down the birth canal and into the world which changes its moral status? I don't think anything has happened in that time. … There is a very widespread and accepted practice of infanticide in most countries. We ought to be much more upfront about the ethics of all this and ask ourselves the serious question: What do we really think is different between newborns and late fetuses? … There is no obvious reason why one should think differently from an ethical point of view, about a fetus when it's outside the womb rather then when it's inside the womb.50

Professor Jonathan Glover of King's College, London, has argued that infanticide is morally justifiable and that the "sanctity of human life" is a fallacious concept. According to Glover "questions about killing should be decided by considering the autonomy of the person whose life is at stake, the extent to which his life is worth living and the effects of any decision on other people." In Causing Death and Saving Lives Glover argues that what is needed is a "coherent policy" that would begin with the idea that "infanticide is sometimes right."51

Not all personhood theorists are comfortable with infanticide. They recognize it to be morally problematic, even though the principles of their personhood theories justify it. For example, Jan Narveson admits that his personhood theory (based on libertarianism) excludes newborns just as it does the unborn. Concerning the border of personhood he said, "We are being amply conservative in this respect if we draw our line at birth or even several weeks beyond."52

This will not do, however, because the fact of the matter is that a newborn baby does not have cognition or self-consciousness. There is no functional difference between the unborn and the newly born-just a difference in location. "If the immediate capacity for self-consciousness makes one valuable, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. According to the scientific journal Nature, infants do not acquire conscious memories until nine months after birth.53 Best case scenario, infants acquire limited self-awareness three months after birth, when the synapse connections increase from 56 trillion to 1,000 trillion."54

According to Narveson, infanticide is not so much a moral wrong as an unnecessary practice, at least in an ideal world.55 While infanticide might be justifiable under his personhood criteria, it is not preferable for the following reasons:

1. Given the availability of abortion-on-demand, it is practically unnecessary
2. Given the above, ideally all children who make it out of the womb should be wanted children.
3. There is an overwhelming social interest in treating children well, including newborn children.
4. Infants are no longer naturally dependent on their mothers.
5. Infants are readily portable, allowing them to be given to others who may want them.
(He is asserting that newborns have value if and only if they are loved and/or wanted by genuine persons. Why should we accept that?)
6. Newborns will have the capacity to make deliberate choices "very soon."
(This is true of fetuses as well. If we can wait for newborns to develop deliberate choice, why can't we give the unborn a few extra months as well?56 Besides, why is sooner rather than later relevant to the issue?)
7. Infanticide is a rather odd concern to begin with because those who carry their fetus to term do so because they want the child, and thus would not kill it.
(This abandons moral philosophy in favor of social science. Furthermore, it misses the point. The question isn't why would parents want to destroy their newborns?, but rather why shouldn't parents destroy their newborn in light of his view of human value? The unpopularity of infanticide does not speak to this question.57)

Notice how all of these reasons run contrary to Narveson's personhood principles. If infanticide is wrong for reasons unrelated to personhood, could it not be that abortion is also wrong for similar reasons? In abandoning his personhood criteria for human value to argue against infanticide, Narveson demonstrates the bankruptcy of personhood criteria for determining human value and rights.

Mary Ann Warren is also troubled by the problem of infanticide for personhood theory. Like Narveson, she discards her functional criteria for personhood to argue against infanticide on the grounds that newborns are "so close" to being human persons. Furthermore, it would be wrong to kill newborns when there are so many infertile couples who would want the child. In extreme conditions of hardship and in the presence of severe genetic deformities, however, infanticide is justifiable.

Those in a Coma

Humans who are in a coma do not exhibit the value-defining characteristics offered to us by personhood theorists. Someone in a coma, then, is not a person, and has no human rights such as the right to life. Why can't we kill them, then?

Functionalists argue that it would be wrong to kill an individual in a coma because the situation is only temporary. But why does this matter? To even "make such an objection the functionalist must appeal to some other criteria for personhood and protection of that patient besides the particular functions deemed necessary for personhood. But in doing so one must admit that the functions are not the sine qua non for personhood. One must appeal to some essential quality, which may or may not be expressed at any given time."58

Those Asleep

This counter-example is similar to the former. It differs primarily in that we are dealing with a shorter duration of time. Humans who are sleeping do not exhibit the value-defining characteristics offered to us by personhood theorists. Someone who is asleep, then, is not a person, and has no human rights such as the right to life. Why can't we kill them, then? Narveson addressed this issue in Moral Matters: "Of course, we are not conscious when we are asleep or stunned, and we suppose that we continue to have rights when in those conditions…[T]he sleeping body you see before you is mine. Before going to sleep, I had extensive plans about what to do when I awake, and I'm not about to allow others to make incursions on my body while asleep. The owners of sleeping bodies are the active nonsleeping persons that precede and follow the sleeper, and in whose service the sleeping body sleeps. It is those owners who have rights - among them the right not to be killed or damaged while asleep."59

While much could be said of Narveson's explanation, I will limit myself to two points. First, if we can consider a human being valuable because they exhibited valuable properties in the past, why can't we consider a human being valuable because they will exhibit valuable properties in the future? The fact of the matter in both cases is that they are not exhibiting valuable properties right now. If value is tied to personhood, and he ceases to be a person while sleeping, then he ceases to have rights. Whether someone had plans to do some X upon waking, prior to sleeping, is simply irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that they fail to meet the criteria for personhood at the moment, and thus we have no reason not to kill them unless we resort to some sort of an essentialist view of human value. Ironically, Narveson has to borrow from essentialism to protect his own hide from being killed while asleep-the very view he is speaking against. If one must borrow from his opponents' worldview to correct the problems created by his own, maybe he has the wrong worldview to begin with.

Either sentience, consciousness, personal interests and the like are necessary for personhood and human rights or they are not. If they are not always necessary-as in the case of newborns, those in a coma, and those asleep-then we cannot selectively enforce them when we choose and forego them when it suits our fancy to do so.60

Secondly, how can one own his sleeping body if he ceases to exist while sleeping?61 The owners who have rights cease to be when they begin to sleep. As such, those who are sleeping are not persons, and there is no logical justification for why they cannot be killed. Narveson's explanation for the counter-example of sleep is incoherent.

It will not do to make a list of criteria that excludes the unborn, and then disregard that criteria to make exceptions for a host of groups one wants to protect, but make no exception for the unborn. When a view of human value is so defined that it excludes groups of humans we intuitively understand to be valuable, it should alert us to the fact that the view itself is flawed at its core.

Equal Rights

A functional view of humanity cannot ground the notion of human equality and equal rights, for there would be nothing equal about us. Many of the acquired properties functionalists assert as value-defining properties are had in degrees. If human value is determined by acquired characteristics, and those characteristics come in degrees, then it follows that human rights come in degrees as well. "Secular bioethics cannot account for human equality or human dignity. If humans have value only because of some acquired property like self-awareness or sentience and not in virtue of the kind of thing they are, then it follows that since these acquired properties come in varying degrees, basic human rights come in varying degrees. Do we really want to say that those with more self-awareness are more valuable than those with less?"62 Greg Koukl makes explicit the danger personhood theory poses to human rights: "The danger is, when value is functionally defined, there is no basis for inalienable human rights. Whatever can be functionally defined, can be functionally defined away."

If we are to take functionalism as a viable alternative to essentialism, the functionalist must explain why we should be treated as equals if there is nothing we share equally. Given functionalism, the notion of equal rights is ignorant, if not immoral. The only way to ground equal rights is to acknowledge that there is something all human beings share equally: human nature. This requires essentialism.


Functionalism is a deficient form of philosophical anthropology in that it is subjective, suffers from the problem of authority, is incapable of grounding human equality and equal rights, and is required to resort to some form of essentialism to justify excusing certain groups of people from being killed.

Functionalism cannot be applied consistently. One must abandon their personhood criteria to prevent the killing of infants, those who are sleeping, those under anesthesia, or those in a coma. While functionalism makes exceptions for these groups, mysteriously they are unwilling to make the same exception for the unborn. This sort of unjustified inconsistency makes the whole theory suspect.

Personhood is not something that instantiates when certain functions are realized; personhood is what grounds those functions even when they have not been actualized. "A human person does not come into existence when human function arises, but rather, a human person is an entity who has the natural inherent capacity to give rise to human functions, whether or not those functions are ever attained. And since the unborn human being has this natural inherent capacity from the moment it comes into existence, she is a person as long as she exists."63

Frank Beckwith sums up well, all that has been said so far:

The unborn-from zygote to blastocyst to embryo to fetus-is the same being, the same substance, that develops into an adult. The actualization of a human being's potential, e.g. her "human" appearance and the exercise of her rational and moral powers as an adult (which abortion-choice advocates argue determine the unborn's intrinsic value), is merely the public presentation of functions latent in every human substance from the moment it is brought into being. A human may lose and regain those functions throughout her life, but the substance remains the same being.

Moreover, if one's value is conditioned on certain accidental properties then the human equality presupposed by our legal institutions and our form of government…is a fiction. In that case, there is no principled basis for rejecting the notion that human rights ought to be distributed to individuals on the basis of native intellectual abilities or other value-giving properties, such as rationality and self-awareness. One can only reject this notion by affirming that human beings are intrinsically valuable because they possess a particular nature from the moment they come into existence. That is to say, what a human being is, and not what she does, makes her a subject of rights.64


Objections and Responses

Having established scientifically and philosophically that the unborn are human beings from the moment of conception, and having established philosophically that there is no distinction between a human being and a human person, let us turn our attention to various objections raised by pro-abortion advocates against the pro-life view. The following objections will be answered:

Objection: "Nobody knows when life begins."65
Response: For the sake of argument, let's assume this is true. If our lack of knowledge about the temporal origin of life justifies a woman's choice to abort her unborn child, does it equally justify her choice to kill her born child? No? Why not? If the fact that no one knows when life begins gives a mother the right to determine that her unborn child is not a life-and subsequently kill him/her-why doesn't that same agnosticism give her the right to kill her children this side of the womb? After all, who can know if they are a life or not, given the fact that no one knows when life begins. Maybe life has not begun for her newborn baby. Maybe life has not begun for her two year old. Who are we to tell her when their life began, given humanity's universal ignorance on this matter?

Of course, only the most extreme pro-abortion advocates would accept this line of reasoning. Most assume to know when life begins. At the very least, it begins at birth. Some might say earlier. The problem is that no matter where you might draw the line, that line is an arbitrary, biological fiction. If they draw the line at six months, I would ask, Why six months? Why not five and a half? Why not six months and three days? What is the objective basis on which you arrived at this particular demarcation line? What sort of change occurred from five months and thirty days to six months that magically changed the unborn from a piece of valueless tissue that can be killed at the mother's discretion, to a valuable human being worthy of protection, even from its mothers desire to kill it? If they say birth, I would ask them the same question pro-abortion advocate John Harris asked: "What has happened to the fetus in the time it takes to pass down the birth canal and into the world which changes its moral status?"66 To think an eight inch journey down a birth canal can magically transform one into a valuable human being is fanciful metaphysics indeed.

The bottom line is that pro-abortion advocates choose to draw the line in such a place so as to justify killing those human beings they want to be able to kill, while protecting those they don't. The fact that this objection cannot rationally explain why a mother cannot kill her two year old, without contradicting its own assertion of truth, demonstrates that this objection is fatally flawed.

But there are even deeper problems with this objection. Given such agnosticism, could it not be the case that pro-lifers are right-that life really does begin at conception, and abortion unjustly robs an innocent human being of his/her life? Given your confession of agnosticism, why take the risk? The fact of the matter is that something is being killed here. Should we not proceed with extreme caution when so much is at stake? Would it not be more prudent to err on the side of life until such a time when we can be sure when life begins? After all, if we wanted to demolish a building, we would not proceed with the demolition until we were absolutely certain that no one remained in the building. Likewise, we should not abort the unborn until we are sure that doing so does not abort a life. Given what is at stake, we would do well to apply our best thinking to the issue, rather than settling for shallow slogans like "choice" and "no one knows when life begins."

The foolishness of proceeding to kill something before fully knowing what it is that is being killed is not all that is wrong with this objection. The objection itself is scientifically false, and utterly foolish on its face.

It is scientifically false in that it assumes there is a period of non-life from which life suddenly springs forth into existence at some later point in time. There is never a period of non-life. Life is a continuum. It began once, and has never ceased since then. The real question is when does the life of an individual human being begin? At what point did the chain of continuing life pass from the previous generation to the unborn? The biological answer is conception. Life is characterized by (1) metabolism, (2) growth, (3) reaction to stimuli, and (4) reproduction. All of these are present in the unborn from the moment of conception. Our own personal life, then, is a continuum from conception to death.67 Human embryologist, C. Ward Kischer wrote, "At any point in time, during the continuum of life, there exists a whole, integrated human being."68 So we do know when life begins.

The objection is foolish on its face because even apart from scientific knowledge, it is clearly evident that the unborn are alive. If they were not alive, abortion would not be necessary. Abortion is only needed because the unborn is alive. Abortion terminates that life.

It seems rather clear that those who offer this objection are not referring to life in a biological sense, because even the most scientifically ignorant individual recognizes that something can grow without being alive. They must be referring to life in a philosophical sense, equating "life" with "value." The real objection, then, is not that no one knows when biological life begins, but no one knows when valuable biological life begins. No one knows whether human life is valuable from conception onward (intrinsic value), or whether human life becomes valuable at some time after conception (extrinsic, or acquired value) after certain identifiable characteristics are exhibited. If humans are valuable, and yet that value is not intrinsic to them in virtue of their identity as a member of the human species, then that value must be conferred on them. Who confers that value? Upon what authority do they do so? What is their criteria for conferring value? Do they have an objective basis for this criteria, or is it subjective?

Since the question of when life begins is settled, the only thing left to dispute is the philosophical question of whether all human life-regardless of size, location, degree of dependency, or level of development-is equally valuable because of its shared humanity, or if human value is obtained at some later time when some particular function/state is instantiated. As we have already seen, essentialism is better supported philosophically. It does not fall prey to the many weaknesses inherent to functionalism.

Objection: “Men don’t get pregnant.  Abortion is a woman’s issue.  Men cannot and should not have a say in the matter.”
Response: Given this line of reasoning, we should reject the right to abortion provided by Roe since that case was decided by nine men.

One could argue that a man’s lack of involvement in pregnancy makes him more objective regarding the morality of abortion because he is less tainted by personal involvement. (Frank Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007], 128.)

More importantly—as Frank Beckwith points out—“arguments don’t have penises, people do.”  Arguments stand or fall apart from anyone’s genitalia.  And since a woman could not say this to another woman who was putting for the same arguments against abortion, therefore this is irrelevant to whether the pro-life position is correct or not. (Beckwith, Defending Life, 127)

It is wrong to construe abortion as merely a woman’s issue.  Abortion is not just a women’s issue, but a human issue because it affects everyone in society, including the fathers of the unborn children. (Beckwith, Defending Life, 128).

Objection:Opposition to abortion is anti-women.”
Response: “[O]pposition to abortion is no more anti-woman than opposition to rape is anti-man.” (Dennis Prager, "An Open Letter to Charles Johnson"; available from http://townhall.com/columnists/DennisPrager/2010/01/26/an_open_letter_to_charles_johnson; Internet; accessed 26 January 2010.)

Objection: "You are denying women the right to choose what to do with their own bodies."
Response: No one in this debate is opposed to choice in the general, abstract sense. But choices do not hang in mid-air. We choose particular things: where to go to college, who to marry, how to spend our money, who to associate with, where to work, etc. When it comes to abortion, what is it that is being chosen? It is the choice to kill something. Our right to choose to kill depends on what it is that is being killed. In the case of abortion, we are either killing an innocent human being, or we are merely removing excess tissue. As previously demonstrated, the unborn are human beings. Abortion, then, is not about choice in some abstract sense, but about the concrete choice of killing an innocent human being.

The abortion debate is not about choice, but about whether the unborn are genuine human beings with the right to life despite what some may wish to do with it. It is the biological and moral status of the unborn that decides the abortion question. Freedom of choice is only a relevant issue once we have answered this question. And this question has been answered. The unborn are human beings with the right to life from the moment they come to be. That being so, the right to choose an abortion is no more a right than slavery was a right to choose property rights or segregation was the right to choose free association.

While the ability to make free, personal choices is a good thing and must be protected by law, that does not mean there are no limits to choice. None of our choices are entirely sovereign. The very existence of our legal system is evidence of this fact. Laws serve to restrict freedom in one manner or another (we don't have the choice to molest children, torture others, slander others, drive 100 mph, etc.). They must limit the spectrum of choices we can make for the good of the individual making the choice, and the good of those affected by the choice. In the case of abortion "no one's right to personal autonomy is so strong that it permits the arbitrary execution of others."69

As for bodily autonomy, the question of abortion is not about the woman’s body, but about the unborn.  If the unborn is not part of its mothers body, then we have to consider both the autonomy of the mother and the autonomy of the child.  And indeed, the unborn baby is not part of the woman's body. It is a separate living being, evidenced by its own unique genetic fingerprint. The fact that the baby lives inside of its mother's body is irrelevant. Just because you may own a house does not give you a right to kill its tenants. The act of abortion is not directed at the woman's body, but the distinct human being who is living inside of her body.

Only the most ardent of abortion advocates believe in unrestricted abortion throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy.  Most abortion advocates draw the line somewhere, even if they differ on the precise location.  Some will say abortion is no longer permissible once the baby reaches viability (roughly 23 weeks).  Others draw the line at seven months.  Others draw it at partial birth abortion.  Wherever the line is drawn, the fact that a line is drawn between morally permissible and morally impermissible abortions demonstrates that the argument for the moral permissibility of abortion from bodily autonomy is an ad hoc, rather than principled argument.  Here’s why: 

A woman owns her body during the entire pregnancy.  She does not cease to own her body after the second trimester, seventh month, or whatever other line one wishes to draw.  If the justification for abortion is that a woman owns her body, and she owns her body during the entire pregnancy, then to forbid her to choose an abortion at any time during that pregnancy is to violate her bodily autonomy.  If she wishes to rid her body of the child, she can do so whenever and however she wants to—that is, if bodily autonomy is an absolute right.  But if her bodily autonomy can be denied when X obtains, then clearly the right to bodily autonomy is not absolute, and thus cannot serve as the grounding for abortion rights.  Bodily autonomy may be normative, but there are circumstances in which it should be superseded by weightier rights/values. 

One might wonder, then, if bodily autonomy is not absolute and can be superseded by some X, why is it that a woman’s bodily autonomy trumps the life of the unborn early in pregnancy?  Why does the child’s right to life trump the mother’s bodily autonomy when the child is eight months old, but not when she is three months old?  There is no ontological distinction between them, and thus they should be treated the same.  If a woman’s bodily autonomy can be superseded by an eight month old fetus, then it can be superseded by a three month old fetus.  As such, the argument from bodily autonomy fails.

Objection: "You are denying women their right to privacy."
Response: Privacy, like choice, is limited. There are times at which we are justified to intrude into someone's private life and personal choices: when those choices are inhumane and violate the well-being and freedoms of another, particularly when that other is defenseless against such abuse.

Privacy is limited by morality, particularly when what one is doing in private results in social harm. We do not have the right to beat our child so long as it is private, nor do we have the right to kill our neighbor in private, so the real issue here is not privacy per se, but whether the unborn are human beings, and thus worthy of government protection. Ironically, that is the one question that Roe vs. Wade admitted they could not answer: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."70

Retired Judge Andrew Napolitano was asked in an interview: "You talk, in a few spots, about the right to 'be left alone.' And when you refer to it in most cases, you refer to a right to privacy as it pertains under the Fourth Amendment with regard to unreasonable searches and seizures. But do you think the rights being talked about there extend to abortion, which is the justification given for legalizing it in Roe v. Wade?" Napolitano responded:

Well, of course it doesn't, because the right to privacy does not give you the right to commit a crime. Most murders are committed in private. The right to privacy has to do with government intrusion into your private decisions, into your private thoughts, into your papers and into your home and your dresser drawer. I mean, even many of the strong pro-abortion people in the country dislike Roe v. Wade; they wouldn't have grounded it in the right to privacy because it doesn't make sense. The right to privacy lets you kill a baby but it doesn't let you kill an adult? That's the illogical extension there.

However, there is a natural right to privacy -- whether it was in the Fourth Amendment or not. … Everybody desires to be left alone at some point; no one desires a cop in the bathroom or the bedroom or the kitchen or the office. Those legitimate natural yearnings -- speech, travel, thought, religion -- those are natural rights which the government must protect. According to (former Supreme Court Justice Louis) Brandeis, the greatest of those rights is the right "to be left alone. Today we call it the right to privacy.71

Objection: "If we outlaw abortion women will be forced to seek dangerous back-alley abortions, putting their lives at risk."
Response: First, no one is forced to break the law; they choose to break the law. Secondly, are you saying that the government has a responsibility to protect people from negative consequences that might result from breaking the law? Should the government be faulted for making it difficult and unsafe to kill another human being? Should we legalize the robbing of banks to alleviate the risk of death faced by poor bank robbers who are forced to rob banks because of their poverty? Yes, some women may die while attempting to break the law and kill their unborn child, but that does not mean we should legalize their act of murder.

Even abortion-choice advocate, Mary Anne Warren admits this is a bad argument: "The fact that restricting access to abortion has tragic side ffects does not, in itself, show that the restrictions are unjustified, since murder is wrong regardless of the consequences of prohibiting it." [Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," in The Problem of Abortion, 2nd ed., ed. Joel Feinberg (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1984), 103.]

As for the old myth that if abortion were illegal, thousands and thousands of women will die in back-alley abortions as they did prior to the legalization of abortion, this is simply not true. In 1960 Dr. Mary Calderone, former medical director for Planned Parenthood, wrote, "In 1957 there were only 260 deaths in the whole country attributed to abortions of any kind. In New York City in 1921 there were 144 abortion deaths, in 1951 there were only 15; and, while the abortion death rate was going down so strikingly in that 30 year period, we know what happened to the population and the birth rate."72

She wrote again in the same publication that "90% of all illegal abortions are presently being done by physicians …. [A]bortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by physicians." If 90% of illegal abortions were being performed by trained physicians in 1960, we should expect no less in the 21st century if Roe were to be overturned and abortion made illegal. The "coat hanger" myth is a convenient rhetorical device for the naïve.

The Allen Guttmacher Institute reports that there were approximately 200 deaths from illegal abortions in 1965, which rapidly declined even before Roe was decided in January 1973. At the time of Roe it was down to about 40, and then dropped below 20 within several years and has remained at that level since.73

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 39 women died from illegal abortion, and 24 from legal abortion in 1972-the year prior to the legalization of abortion-not 5,000 to 10,000 as claimed by abortion advocates.74

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, cofounder of NARAL who subsequently became a pro-life advocate, tells how he and his organization lied about the number of deaths in order to garner support for legalized abortion: "How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L. we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always "5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year." I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the "morality" of the revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics. The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason which had to be done was permissible."75

Objection: "When mothers are forced to raise unwanted children they often abuse them."76
Response: Are you saying the best way to eliminate potential child abuse is to eliminate the potential child? If the unborn are human beings, then abortion is the worst form of child abuse.

If homicide is an acceptable means of preventing child abuse, should we also kill children who are currently being abused?

Objection: "Many poor women cannot afford to raise a child (or more children)."
Response: Are you saying we should exterminate human beings when they begin to cost us too much? Is homicide justifiable on economic grounds? Should we kill grandma when the cost for her care exceeds our income? How about toddlers? They are quite costly as well. If killing a human being is justified on economic grounds, why can't financial hardship justify killing children this side of the womb? What does the child's location have to do with it?

Objection: "I don't think unwanted children should come into the world."
Response: Should unwanted children be permitted to stay in the world? Should we kill a two year old whose parent(s) does not want him/her anymore? The real issue is not whether the child is wanted or unwanted, but whether or not there are children in the world (i.e. whether or not it is a child), and how we treat those children.77 Is the unborn a child in the world even though we cannot see them? That is the definitive question. The fact that the unborn are hidden behind a veil of flesh does not rob them of their rights or value.

Objection: "What are we going to do with all these unwanted children? If you will not take personal responsibility to care for them, you should not condemn those who get abortions."
Response: Do you mean to argue that someone's right to life depends on whether other people want them? What if there was a group of toddlers who were not wanted. Should we be allowed to exterminate them? Orphanages are full of unwanted children. Why shouldn't they be killed, given the premise of your argument?

Your argument assumes that my failure to assume responsibility for unwanted babies gives license to mothers everywhere to terminate the lives of their children. This sort of reasoning is absurd. Imagine if I were to say, "Unless you agree to marry my wife, you have no right to oppose me beating her." Or imagine if I were to say, "Unless you adopt my two daughters by noon tomorrow I will execute them. If you are not willing to adopt them, you have no basis on which to object to my right to choose." Would your refusal justify my homicide?

Why don't we solve the homeless problem this way?: gather up all of the homeless and inject them with a lethal poison. What if I told you that you have no right to object to this unless you are willing to provide for the homeless. Would you object to that? After all, they are a group of socially undesirable people; i.e. they are not wanted. If being unwanted robs someone of their human value and right to life, then why not kill the homeless? Is it because they are bigger than the unborn? What does size have to do with value? Is it because they are not in a womb? What does location have to do with value?

Objection: "Embryos are just a clump of cells."
Response: So are adults. They just happen to be a bigger and more complicated clump. Even at the zygote stage of its life (unicellular) it possesses all the properties it needs to actively develop itself toward maturity according to its kind.

Are you saying human beings with more cells have more value than those with less cells? Apparently you believe human value resides in the number of cells a human being possesses. How many cells, then, must a human being accumulate before they attain value, and how did you determine that?

Actually, an embryo differs from a clump of cells in that an embryo is a whole, "self-integrating organism capable of directing its own maturation as a member of the human species,"78 while a clump of cells is merely a part of a larger whole, unitary organism. Maureen Condic explains the difference in detail:

The critical difference between a collection of cells and a living organism is the ability of an organism to act in a coordinated manner for the continued health and maintenance of the body as a whole. It is precisely this ability that breaks down at the moment of death, however death might occur. … What does the nature of death tell us about the beginning of human life? From the earliest stages of development, human embryos clearly function as organisms. Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells. … Embryos are in full possession of the very characteristic that distinguishes a living human being from a dead one: the ability of all cells in the body to function together as an organism, with all parts acting in an integrated manner for the continued life and health of the body as a whole. Linking human status to the nature of developing embryos is neither subjective nor open to personal opinion. Human embryos are living human beings precisely because they possess the single defining feature of human life that is lost in the moment of death-the ability to function as a coordinated organism rather than merely as a group of living human cells.79

Objection: "No one is certain when conception occurs, and thus no one can be certain when a human being comes into being."
Response: It is true that there is debate among embryologists concerning the precise moment of conception. Some argue that conception occurs when the sperm penetrates the ovum, others when the pronuclei of the paternal chromosomes mix in the oocyte, while others argue that conception occurs at syngamy: the time at which the paternal chromosomes cross-over and form a new, unique, diploid set of chromosomes. The second option is likely, but there is no question that conception has occurred by the time of syngamy.

This argument commits what Frank Beckwith calls the fallacy of the beard: just because we can't define precisely when stubble ends and a beard begins does not mean we can't tell the difference between a bearded face and clean-shaven one. Likewise, just because we don't know the precise moment conception occurs does not mean we can't know that the event has occurred, and recognize the presence of a human being when we see it. The simple fact of the matter is that before conception occurs we have two gametes, and after it occurs we have a new human being.

But what does this scientific uncertainty have to do with the question of abortion anyway? Nothing. Syngamy occurs at the unicellular stage of human development; abortion occurs at the multi-cellular. All abortions involve multi-cellular embryos or fetuses; i.e. those who have already undergone syngamy. There is no question, then, that the "thing" being aborted is a human being. While we may not have epistemological certainty concerning the precise moment it came into existence, it is absolutely clear that what is being aborted is a distinct human being at the time it is aborted.

It should also be pointed out that all personhood theories rely on some sort of functional criteria to establish personhood. If there is some ambiguity regarding the precise moment conception occurs, there is much more ambiguity regarding the precise moment when various functions are obtained by the developing human. I doubt that such ambiguity will cause any functionalists to abandon their position on abortion.

Objection: "If you will not kill human embryos simply because they possess human DNA, then you should not scratch your arm either, for in doing so you kill thousands of cells containing human DNA."
Response: Value is not inherent to human DNA, but to the human being to which the DNA belongs. While human DNA is necessary to be a human being, it is not sufficient. Every cell in your body except for gametes (reproductive cells) contains the full human genetic code. Skin cells, for example, possess a full set of human DNA. But does that make an individual skin cell an individual human being? No. There is a biological and qualitative difference between a human being (an embryo) and a skin cell, even though both possess the same DNA. It is a difference between parts and wholes.

While the presence of human DNA is necessary for a biological entity to be considered human, it is not sufficient to ground the presence of a human being. Individual human cells, tissues, and organs possess human life, but they are not human beings. As Dianne Irving wrote, "There is quite a difference, scientifically, between parts of a human being that only possess 'human life' and a human embryo or human fetus that is an actual 'human being.'… A human kidney or liver, a human skin cell, a sperm or an oocyte all possess human LIFE, but they are not human BEINGS - they are only parts of a human being. If a single sperm or a single oocyte were implanted into a woman's uterus, they would simply rot."80 Human beings, unlike other cells possessing human DNA, are self-integrated, whole organisms with the inherent inertia capable of directing their own growth towards maturation.81 While an embryo is a unitary whole, somatic cells are mere parts of a larger whole, unitary organism. Embryos will actively develop themselves into a mature human being if provided the proper environment to do so, whereas somatic cells can only replicate themselves for the survival of the larger organism to which they belong.

Human value is not derived from the mere presence of human DNA, but from the existence of the unitary organism itself to which the DNA belongs. We know something is an individual human being because it has an intrinsic ability to direct its own activity/development towards maturation. Somatic cells do not have this ability. While they are human, they are not individual human beings, and thus do not possess moral value. It is its nature as a whole, self-integrated, and self-organized organism that makes the embryo a human being.

Objection: "I am opposed to abortion, except in cases of rape and incest."
Response: Why are you opposed to abortion in all other cases? Given your pro-life views, I would venture to say it is because you think abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. But does abortion do something different to those children conceived by rape/incest? While I understand the emotional appeal of this position, it is not a rational option for pro-lifers to take because it is inconsistent with the pro-life logic. If it is wrong to take the life of the unborn because they are valuable human beings, and the unborn "thing" produced by the rape or incest is a human being, then it is wrong to purposely take its life just as it is wrong to purposely take the life of a human being not conceived by rape/incest. A human being is what it is regardless of the circumstances surrounding its conception.

Rape is an unjust assault against an innocent women, but aborting the baby conceived as a result of the rape is to commit a second unjust assault, this time against an innocent child. How can we decry the injustice of one, but allow the other? Would we allow a woman to kill her three month old because he was conceived by rape? If it is not morally permissible to kill the child conceived by rape/incest once it is outside the womb, why is it permissible to kill the child while it's still in the womb? Certainly its 8" journey down the birth canal did not change its nature, identity, and worth.

You might respond that it's not fair to require a woman to carry the baby because of the emotional pain it will cause her. Everyday, when she looks at the child, it will remind her of the incident. I do not doubt the emotional complexities involved in carrying the baby to term, but the moral question is not complex at all. The moral question is not determined by asking Will this cause me emotional pain?, but by asking What is the unborn? If the unborn are human beings possessing intrinsic moral value, then abortion is not an option. Adoption may be an option, but abortion is not.

To see why this is so ask yourself, Is it morally acceptable for the victim to kill the rapist? He brings her emotional pain, doesn't he? Is it ok for the victim to kill the family member who molested her? After all, she may have to face that person every day of her life for many years. Clearly the answer is no. If it is not morally proper to take the life of the human being guilty of committing the moral evil, why would it be morally proper to take the life of the innocent human being in the womb? Since when do we force another human being to forfeit their life so someone else can feel better?

If one did abort the child who was conceived in the context of rape/incest, how exactly would this help the situation anyway? Would aborting the baby unrape the mother? AbortionNo.org asks, "Will the baby' s death miraculously heal her injury? Will killing this child cause her to forget the horror of her assault? Or will all the guilt and pain and injury of the rape simply be compounded by the guilt and pain and injury of the abortion?" (http://abortionno.org/Resources/abortion06.html) On an emotional level, aborting the child will only add emotional pain to an already painful circumstance.

It may not even be true that rape victims desire an abortion. David Reardon wrote, "For example, it is commonly assumed that rape victims who become pregnant would naturally want abortions. But in the only major study of pregnant rape victims ever done, Dr. Sandra Mahkorn found that 75 to 85 percent chose against abortion. This evidence alone should cause people to pause and reflect on the presumption that abortion is wanted or even best for sexual assault victims."82 In one major study, 70% of women who became pregnant through sexual assault had their babies, and none regretted their decision. Contrary to popular thought, 78% of those who chose abortion regretted their decision, and acknowledge that abortion was not the proper solution [Makimaa and Sobie Reardon, Victims and Victors: Speaking Out About Their Pregnancies, Abortions and Children Resulting from Sexual Assault (Springfield, IL: Acorn Books, 2000) 19-22.]. Some victims of rape actually find healing in the child.

Objection: "Pro-lifers want to force women to carry a child conceived by rape or incest."
Response: Frank Beckwith writes: "It is the rapist who has already forced this woman to carry a child, not the pro-lifer. The pro-life advocate merely wants to prevent another innocent human being (the unborn entity) from being the victim of a violent and morally reprehensible act (abortion), for two wrongs do not make a right."83

Objection: "While I am personally opposed to abortion I don't think it should be illegal."
Response: So you believe a civilized society should make it illegal for a woman to kill an innocent human being? If you were alive 100 years ago, would you have said that you were personally opposed to lynching black people, but don't think it should be made illegal? You can't respond, "But they are persons" because that begs the question of who is and who is not a person. Besides, those who supported the lynching of blacks reasoned that blacks were not persons, just like pro-abortion advocates do today.

Michael Gershon wrote, “How can the violation of a fundamental human right be viewed as a private matter? Not everything that is viewed as immoral should be illegal…but when morality demands respect for the rights of a human being, those protections become a matter of social justice, not just personal or religious preference.” (Michael Gershon, “Giuliani's Abortion Muddle”; available from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/22/AR2007052201176.html; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007.)

In the Lincoln vs. Douglas senatorial debates, Lincoln argued against Stephen Douglas’ position that while he was personally opposed to slavery, he did not believe the federal government should outlaw it because the majority of each state should be able to choose their own position on the matter.  Lincoln said, “When Judge Douglas says that whoever, or whatever community, wants salves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do a wrong.”  Lincoln’s point was that to claim something is morally wrong is to claim it is morally impermissible.  To argue that one has a right to participate in a morally impermissible act is to say the impermissible is permissible. 

I find this line of reasoning pertinent to the abortion debate today.  Many people—particularly politicians—proclaim their personal opposition to abortion all the while advocating for the continued right to abortion in this country.  But they can’t have their cake and eat it too.  If they truly believe abortion is a moral evil, then they cannot advocate it as a right in this country.  No one would buy the statement, “While I personally oppose annihilating Jews, I think one ought to have the right to do so.”  So why does anyone buy it when it comes to abortion?

Objection: "While I am personally opposed to abortion, I don't believe we ought to legislate onto others what is for ourselves an article of faith."-John Kerry
Response: Opposition to abortion is not an "article of faith," but a tightly reasoned moral conclusion based on what we know about the identity of the unborn through science and philosophy, irrespective of our religious beliefs. It just so happens that the scientific and philosophic data coincide with some religious views about the unborn. Does this disqualify the pro-life position? If so, then we cannot legislate against stealing or murder since prohibitions against these practices are taught in religion as well. If that is how we approached law, we would not have many laws at all. There is a considerable overlap between religious values/morals and law.

Law is a moral enterprise on its face, and one's moral views are most often informed by their religion, so it is to be expected that one's religiously-informed morals will shape their politics. After all, religion is meant to be a picture of the way the world really is. It would be quite strange to think abortion really is the murder of a human being, and yet enact legislation to permit such an evil.

To claim you personally believe abortion is murder, but that you cannot legislate that belief because it is informed by your religion, reveals the fact that you do not take your religion seriously. Nobody would say that while they personally belief child molestation is morally evil because it exploits the young and helpless, it should be legal. Why? Because they really believe that it is evil, and the purpose of law is to limit evil. Those who truly believe abortion takes the life of an innocent human being would not allow it to be legal.

Michael Gerson wrote, “How can the violation of a fundamental human right be viewed as a private matter? Not everything that is viewed as immoral should be illegal…but when morality demands respect for the rights of a human being, those protections become a matter of social justice, not just personal or religious preference.” (Michael Gershon, “Giuliani's Abortion Muddle”)

Objection: "Your view that the unborn have a right to life is a religious view, disqualifying it from the public square."
Response: When pro-lifers claim the unborn are valuable human beings possessing the right to life, pro-abortion advocates dismiss this as a religious claim. But how is this any more religious than claiming a ten-day old newborn, or a ten-year old child is a valuable human being possessing the right to life? If pressed, people would be hard pressed to justify the right to life of these people without an appeal to some philosophical or religious intuition. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

What else is human dignity grounded in if not religious belief? It surely isn't Darwinian materialism. On a Darwinian worldview we are just another animal on the farm, struggling in our survival for life. As cosmic accidents we cannot possibly possess any intrinsic value at any stage of life. So whence do our human rights come?

Even if this was just a religious issue, it would not mean the State could not or should not prohibit abortion.  What if a religious group believes that life does not begin until a baby is two years old, and thus routinely kills infants and toddlers?  Would the State refuse to prohibit this practice because it is a “religious issue”?  Of course not!  The State would argue that infants and toddlers are human persons with the right to life, irrespective of one’s religious beliefs.  Likewise, it is an undisputed scientific fact that unborn are human persons from the moment of conception, and thus the State ought to protect their right to life as well, irrespective of one’s religious beliefs. (Frank Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007], 116. )

Objection: "If Mother Nature spontaneously aborts 25-40% of all embryos, why would it be wrong for us to do so as well? Do you honestly believe all those embryos are children that die?"
Response: First, it would be improper to speak of a miscarriage as a “spontaneous abortion.”  Michael Egnor writes:
A point of idiom: natural death of an unborn child is a 'miscarriage'. "Spontaneous abortion" is an oxymoron. We don't refer to natural death of an adult as 'spontaneous homicide'. It's an attempt to elide the distinction between intentional killing and unintended death. … [N]atural death of zygotes/embryos/fetuses in no way mitigates the moral evil of abortion. Intentional killing is not rendered moral by the existence of unintentional death. (Michael Egnor, “In Which I Answer Tantalus Prime’s Queries about Abortion”; available from http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/12/in_which_i_answer_tantalus_pri041981.html#more; Internet; accessed 27 December 2010.)

Secondly, even if 25-40% of all embryos die in miscarriage, this does nothing to change the fact that embryos are human beings. Furthermore, it doesn't follow that if Mother Nature kills embryos that we have the right to purposely kill some more. Mother Nature killed over 200,000 Southeast Asians in 2004. Does that mean we can kill Southeast Asians as well? Of course not. While nature may be responsible for spontaneously aborting a high number of embryos that does not give us the license to deliberately abort more. Besides, scientists believe that many of these spontaneously aborted embryos were aborted because they were not fully formed human organisms.

In many Third-World countries there exists a high infant mortality rate. Does this mean those newborns/infants are not human beings of moral value? Does it mean the women in those countries can purposely kill their newborns? Of course not. So what follows from the observation that Mother Nature spontaneously aborts 25-40% of embryos? Nothing.

Objection: "Human embryos have the ability to twin up to 14 days from conception, so while the embryo is genetically human, no individual human person who is the subject of rights can be said to exist until after 14 days."
Response: While embryos possess the ability to twin during the first 14 days of life, the fact remains that it "behaves like a single organism with an intrinsic goal-directedness for which its cellular parts interact and communicate with one another unless one of the cells is separated from the whole."84 The pre-14 day old embryo functions as a single organism during this time, in exactly the same manner it does after the 14 days have transpired. If an embryo functions as a single, individual organism, it should be considered as such.85

Besides, this objection does not serve well as an argument for abortion, because virtually all abortions occur after 14 days. Even if it were true that embryos were not individual human beings until after 14 days, it would still not justify abortion. There is no question that the object of abortion is an individual human being.

Liberal bioethicist and abortion supporter, William Saletan, argues that individuation is at best irrelevant to the debate, or at worse good reason to not abort embryos:

I've never found this argument reassuring, since it just means we could be aborting two embryos instead of one. But what's interesting is how we came up with the argument. We didn't pick the 14-day line based on twinning. We drew the line first, then added the twinning rationale. The 1979 U.S. report that first authorized the 14-day line never mentions twinning. Neither does the 1984 Australian report. The British report does, but its lead author, Mary Warnock, explained in a memoir last year that implantation and neural development drove her committee's decision, and individuality was just "another factor." Not until 1994 did government reports make twinning a central theme.

Moreover, twinning doesn't start at 14 days; it ends there. If you wanted to minimize the risk that embryos used in research were individuals-i.e., if you wanted to maximize the chance that they might twin-you'd ban research before the blastocyst stage, when most twinning occurs. That would preclude hES [human embryonic stem-cell] research. The longer you wait, the lower the odds of twinning, and the more certain it is that what you're dissecting is an individual. Fourteen days is when you can no longer tell yourself there's the slightest shred of doubt. The only reason to draw the line that late is to maximize the opportunity for research.86

Philosopher Robert Wennberg provides an analogy to bring the absurdity of this argument home:

Imagine that we lived in a world in which a certain small percentage of teenagers replicated themselves by some mysterious natural means, splitting in two upon reaching their sixteenth birthday. We would not in the least be inclined to conclude that no human being could therefore be considered a person prior to becoming sixteen years of age; nor would we conclude that life could be taken with greater impunity prior to replication than afterward. The real oddity - to press the parallel - would be two teenagers becoming one. However, in all of this we still would not judge the individual's claim to life to be undermined in any way. We might puzzle over questions of personal identity... but we would not allow these strange replications and fusions to influence our thinking about an individual's right to life. Nor therefore does it seem that such considerations are relevant in determining the point at which an individual might assume a right to life in utero.87

Objection: "Outlawing abortion will not stop abortion."
Response: True, but it does not follow that laws against abortion are unjust. Outlawing rape does not prevent all rape, but no one is suggesting that rape should be legal, or that rape is not morally reprehensible because of this. Besides, laws against abortion will dissuade many women from seeking abortions. The issue is not whether some women will break the law, but whether we should enshrine in law the right to kill innocent, defenseless human beings.

Furthermore, the purpose of law is not to prevent crime per se. Lawmakers recognize that some people will choose to break the law. What the law does do is give the citizenry grounds to prosecute moral wrongs. While lawmakers hope the punishment prescribed by the law would serve as a deterrent to breaking the law, this is not the goal of enacting legislation. The ultimate goal is the safety of society. Society is protected by the law when it deters people from choosing moral wrongs, and when it gives us grounds to punish individuals who disrupt the social order by making choices that adversely affect innocent people.

Objection: "A fetus is not a human, so it can be aborted."
Response:This objection commits a categorical error.  A fetus is not a distinct type of life, but a term used to describe a particular stage of human development.  A fetus is on the same level as “adolescence, toddler, adult,” etc.  You were once a fetus.

G. Tracy Mehan III points out that we typically use the term “fetus” to dehumanize the unborn in an attempt to justify abortion: “[C]onsider the first time you and your spouse saw the ultrasound pictures of your child, pre-viability. One of you didn't say, ‘Oh look, Honey, it's our fetus!’ No one calls an unborn child a fetus except when the subject of abortion comes up. Then the mental filters go up, screening out the humanity of the being about to be destroyed.” (G. Tracy Mehan III, “Neither Partial, nor an Abortion”; available from http://spectator.org/archives/2006/11/14/neither-partial-nor-an-abortio; Internet; accessed 28 January 2011.)

Objection: "Pro-life rhetoric causes violence against abortion providers."
Response: According to AbortionNo.com "in more than a quarter century of pro-life activism, seven abortion providers have actually lost their lives. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms says that since 1982 there have been 49 bombings and 150 acts of arson at abortion clinics (assuming that each of these property crimes was committed by someone whose motive was opposition to abortion is problematic). Each of the unconscionable killings was tactically stupid and morally indefensible. Each was carried out by a deranged individual acting alone."

Objection: "Women should have the right to abort children who will be born with terminal, debilitating, or genetic handicaps. It is best for the child, and for the family."
Response: Can we kill post-natal children, or adults who develop genetic handicaps after birth? No, because we recognize that having a handicap, or suffering from a terminal illness does not rob one of their human value. So why do the presence of such handicaps justify killing the unborn given the fact that they are just as human? Is it because they are small? What does size have to do with value and rights? Is it because they are in the womb? What does location have to do with value?

Objection: If you are pro-life with respect to the unborn, by the same logic you should also be opposed to capital punishment.  If you are not opposed to capital punishment but are opposed to abortion, you are being hypocritical, and this undermines the pro-life ethic. 
Response: This is often called the seamless garment argument.  It is advanced by both abortion-choice and pro-life advocates alike (pro-life advocates who are opposed to both abortion and capital punishment).  This argument fails for a couple of reasons.

First, even if the pro-life ethic demanded that one be opposed to both abortion and capital punishment, the pro-life ethic would not be undermined merely because someone inconsistently applies that ethic.  An individual’s logical inconsistencies do not dictate truth.  Even if the pro-lifer is logically inconsistent, it could still be the case that the pro-life ethic is true, and thus abortion is wrong.  It is non-sequitar to think the pro-lifer’s inconsistency in applying the pro-life ethic is evidence against the truth of the pro-life ethic.
Second, the seamless garment argument misunderstands the nature of the pro-life ethic.  “Pro-life” does not mean we are opposed to taking the life of anything and everybody.  It means we are opposed to the unjust taking of innocent human life, or murder (as opposed to mere killing).  To argue that consistency of the pro-life ethic demands that one oppose capital punishment as well as abortion confuses guilt with innocence.  The unborn are innocent human beings who possess the right to life; murderers are guilty human beings who have forfeited their right to life by unjustly taking the life of another human being.  To kill an innocent and defenseless human being in the womb is an unjust taking of life, while killing those who are guilty of unjustly robbing others of their right to life is the just taking of life.  “The right to life is not an absolute; it can be forfeited. This moral right is only prima facie; it stands only until challenged by some greater law, like justice or protecting the lives of the innocent.” (Greg Koukl, “The Bible and Capital Punishment”; available from http://www.str.org/free/studies/capipuni.htm; Internet, accessed 20 January 2005.)

Some pro-lifers have turned the seamless garment objection back against pro-choicers who support abortion rights but oppose capital punishment.  Pro-lifers argue that if one is opposed to capital punishment because it takes the life of a human being, then they should be opposed to abortion as well.  If they aren’t, then at best they are being inconsistent, and at worst this undermines their pro-abortion position.  While this may be true and fitting for some pro-choicers, it is not be true of all.  It is possible for a pro-choicer to be logically consistent in opposing capital punishment but approving of abortion if he believes the right to life is based on being a person, and thinks the unborn are not persons while victims of capital punishment are.  I would disagree with his presuppositions, but his position is logically consistent given his presuppositions. 

Objection: What gives humans value is their soul.  If the unborn lack a soul, then there is nothing morally wrong with aborting them.”
Response: It should be noted that this is a theological/philosophical argument that could only be made by a substance dualist (someone who believes humans are composed of two substances—matter and spirit).  Materialists/atheists cannot make this argument.

The first problem with this argument is that it assumes the truth of the creationist view of the soul.  This view holds that God creates a new soul every time a baby is conceived.  Given this view, it makes sense to ask when God ensouls the unborn, and thus when they obtain moral value.  Another view about the origin of the soul holds that the soul comes into being simultaneous with the natural creation of the body (traducianism).  If traducianism is true, then there cannot be a time when the unborn lack a soul.  It is beyond the scope of this paper to argue for traducianism, but it should be clear that the cogency of the objection rests on a particular view of the soul’s origin that is theologically speculative and suspect.

Secondly, if creationism were true, how could we possibly know when God ensouls unborn human beings?  Is it at 6 months, 5 months, or 1 week?  Perhaps God ensouls different babies at different intervals of time.  It would be impossible to know, and thus it is always possible that an abortion is killing an ensouled, and hence valuable human being.  If there is any question as to when the unborn receive a soul, this seems to me to be a good reason to oppose abortion since we may be killing a valuable human being unawares.

Thirdly, James tells us that “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26a).  In other words, a body without a spirit/soul is a corpse.  Is the unborn a corpse?  No, it is clearly alive from the moment of conception onward, so it must have a soul from the moment of conception onward.  Indeed, the soul is the vivifying force in humans.  If there’s no soul, there’s no life.  This gives us good reason to believe, then, that the unborn possess souls from conception onward, which gives them moral value from conception onward, which makes abortion morally wrong at any stage of gestation.

Objection: “Pro-lifers only care about the unborn. While they tell women not to abort, they do nothing to help those women after they have heeded their advice.”
Response: Helen Alvare, Greg Pfundstein, Matthew Schmitz, and Ryan T. Anderson dispel the myth that pro-lifers only care about the unborn:

In the United States there are some 2,300 affiliates of the three largest pregnancy resource center umbrella groups, Heartbeat International, CareNet, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA). Over 1.9 million American women take advantage of these services each year. Many stay at one of the 350 residential facilities for women and children operated by pro-life groups. In New York City alone, there are twenty-two centers serving 12,000 women a year. These centers provide services including pre-natal care, STI testing, STI treatment, ultrasound, childbirth classes, labor coaching, midwife services, lactation consultation, nutrition consulting, social work, abstinence education, parenting classes, material assistance, and post-abortion counseling.....
If pro-life Americans provide so many (often free) services to the poor and vulnerable—work easily discovered by any researcher or journalist with an Internet connection—why are they sometimes accused of caring only for life inside the womb? Quite possibly, it is the conviction of abortion advocates that “caring for the born” translates first and always into advocacy for government programs and funds. In other words, abortion advocates appear to conflate charitable works and civil society with government action. The pro-life movement does not. Rather, it takes up the work of assisting women and children and families, one fundraiser and hotline and billboard at a time.
(Helen Alvare, Greg Pfundstein, Matthew Schmitz, and Ryan T. Anderson of The Witherspoon Institute, “The Lazy Slander of the Pro-Life Cause”; available from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/01/2380; Internet; accessed 29 January 2011.)


1. Rachel K. Jones and Kathryn Kooistra of the Guttmacher Institute, “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States, 2008,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Volume 43, Number 1; March 2011; pp. 41-50.  Available from http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/4304111.pdf; Internet; accessed 10 January 2011.
2. Rachel K. Jones and Kathryn Kooistra of the Guttmacher Institute, “Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States, 2008,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Volume 43, Number 1; March 2011; pp. 41-50.  Available from http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/4304111.pdf; Internet; accessed 10 January 2011.
3. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, "An Overview of Abortion in the United States", May 2006; available from http://www.guttmacher.org/presentations/abort_slides.ppt; Internet; accessed 05 June 2007.
4. Bankole, Akinrinola; Singh, Susheela; Haas, Taylor. Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries. International Family Planning Perspectives, 1998, 24(3):117–127 & 152 As reported by The Alan Guttmacher Institute.
5. Some radical feminists such as Eileen McDonagh take exception with the innocence of the unborn, and thus justify abortion. McDonagh says "the fetus is not innocent but instead aggressively intrudes on a woman's body so massively that deadly force is justified to stop it." Eileen L. McDonagh, Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 192.
6. Most of the following quotes were gleaned from the research of Abort73.com, available at http://abort73.com/HTML/I-A-1-medical.html.
7. Keith L. Moore, Ph.D. & T.V.N. Persaud, Md., The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), 2-18.
8. William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology, 3rd edition (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2001), 1.
9. William J. Larsen, Human Embryology, 2nd edition (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1997), 17.
10. Ronan R. O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), 5-55, quoted in "Medical Testimony"; available from http://abort73.com/HTML/I-A-1-medical.html; Internet; accessed 20 June 2007.
11. Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), pp. 8, 29.
12. Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects, 4th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993), 1.
13. Bruce M. Carlson, Patten's Foundations of Embryology, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996), 3.
14. Bradley M. Patten, Human Embryology, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1968), 43.
15. Jan Langman, Medical Embryology, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975), 3.
16. Keith L. Moore, Essentials of Human Embryology (Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988), 2.
17. Ida G. Dox, et al, The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary (New York: Harper Perennial, 1993), 146.
18. E.L. Potter, M.D., and J.M. Craig, M.D, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975), vii.
19. Douglas Considine, ed., Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, 5th ed. (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976), 943.
20. Marjorie A. England, Life Before Birth, 2nd ed. (England: Mosby-Wolfe, 1996), 31.
21. Louis Fridhandler, "Gametogenesis to Implantation," Biology of Gestation, Vol. 1 ed. N.S. Assau (New York: Academic Press, 1968), 76.
22. The Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, Report to Senate; cf. Exley, Abortion: Pro-life by Conviction, Pro-choice by Default, p.18; Geisler, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues, p. 149.
23. Most quotes were gathered from the Newfoundland Right to Life Association, "Abortion Facts and Information"; available from http://home.thezone.net/~nfrtla/abortion-facts-and-information.htm; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007. Other quotes came from Randy Alcorn, "Scientists Attest to Life Beginning at Conception"; available from http://www.epm.org/articles/life_conception.html; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007.
24. Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981, 7.
25. Scott Klusendorf, "The 5-Minute Pro-Lifer"; available from http://prolifetraining.com/Articles/FiveMinute5.htm; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007.
26. Greg Koukl, "Slavery, Abortion, & Inalienable Rights"; available from http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5630; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007.
27. Diane Irving, "Cloning: When Word Games Kill"; available from http://www.all.org/abac/dni001.htm; Internet; accessed 09 February 2005.
28. J.P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae, Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 269.
29. Greg Koukl, "I am Not a Freak"; available from http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5308; Internet; accessed 25 May 2007.
30. Maureen Condic, "Life: Defining the Beginning by the End"; available from http://firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0305/articles/condic.html; Internet; accessed 12 May 2005.
31. "Once the nature of human beings as organisms has been abandoned as the basis for assigning legal personhood, it is difficult to propose an alternative definition that could not be used to deny humanity to virtually anyone. Arguments that deny human status to embryos based on form, ability, or choice can be readily turned against adult humans who have imperfect form, limited ability, or who simply constitute an inconvenience to more powerful individuals or groups."--Maureen Condic, "Life: Defining the Beginning by the End"; available from http://firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0305/articles/condic.html; Internet; accessed 12 May 2005.
32. John Jefferson Davis, Abortion and the Christian (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1984), 59, quoted in Frank Beckwith, "Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part Three): Is the Unborn Human Less than Human?"; available from http://www.equip.org/free/DA020.pdf; Internet; accessed 12 March 2006.
33. These four differences are from Scott Klusendorf, "Back-to-School Survival Guide"; available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/life/backtosc.htm; Internet, accessed 24 October 2002.
34. Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D., "When Do Human Beings Begin?: 'Scientific' Myths and Scientific Facts"; available from http://www.all.org/abac/dni003.htm; Internet; accessed 24 May 2007.
35. Scott Klusendorf, http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2007/05/10-questions-for-secular-critics-sk.html.
36. Jan Narveson, "Why Libertarians Should be Pro-Choice Regarding Abortion"; available from http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/%7Ejnarveso/abortion.htm; Internet; accessed 13 July 2006.
37. Jan Narveson, Moral Matters, 178-9.
38. Brain death is accepted as the definition of death "because the irreversible collapse of the brain destroys the capacity for self-directed integral organic functioning of human beings who have matured to the stage at which the brain performs the key role in integrating the organism. What is left is no longer a unitary organism at all. Obviously, the fact that an embryo has not yet developed a brain (though its capacity to do so is inherent….) does not mean that it is incapable of self-directed integral organic functioning. Unlike a corpse - which is merely the remains of what was once a human organism but is now dead - an embryo is a unified, self-integrating human organism. (http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-george073001.shtml)

"Our point was that brain death is accepted as the criterion of death not because the brain is needed for mental functions, but because without a brain at that stage of life then the organism ceases to be. The function their brains perform is precisely to organize the various tissues and organs so that there is a unitary, self-integrating human organism - a function performed by other bodily parts in human beings at the embryonic stage."--Patrck Lee and Robert George (http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-lee080901.shtml)
39. Patrick Lee and Robert George, "Acorns and Embryos"; available from http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/7/georgelee.htm; Internet, accessed 12 May 2005.
40. Albert Moher, "The Age of Infanticide: The Culture of Death Marches On", available from http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=2/11/2004#1245732; Internet; accessed 12 February 2005.
41. Ronald Bailey, "The Pursuit of Happiness - Philosopher Peter Singer - Interview"; available from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_7_32/ai_67589548; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
42. Steve Wagner, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
43. Patrick Lee and Robert George, "Human-Embryo Liberation"; available from http://nationalreview.com/comment/lee_george200601250829.asp; Internet; accessed 31 January 2006.
44. Frank Beckwith, "Abortion, Bioethics and Personhood: A Philosophical Reflection"; available from http://www.cbhd.org/resources/bioethics/beckwith_2001-11-19.htm; Internet; accessed 10 May 2005.
45. Dennis Laub, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
46. Steve Wagner, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
47. Robert Brennan, "Life or Death: A Conversation with Peter Singer"; available from http://ncregister.com/site/article/2539; Internet; accessed 26 February 2005.

This sort of "ethical" reasoning is not unique in Peter Singer's ethical theory-making. In reference to euthanasia Singer said, "Hey, wait a minute, let's look at what we're doing and see if we can find a coherent ethic for it." Found in Ronald Bailey, "The Pursuit of Happiness - Philosopher Peter Singer - Interview"; available from http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_7_32/ai_67589548; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
48. Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 1st ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 122-23.
49. Michael Tooley, "Abortion and Infanticide," in Rights and Wrongs of Abortion, ed. Marshall Cohen, Thomas Nagel, and Thomas Scanlon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), 57.
50. Quoted in Albert Mohler, "The Age of Infanticide: The Culture of Death Marches On"; available from http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=2/11/2004#1245732; Internet; accessed 11 February 2004.
51. Quoted in Albert Mohler, "The Age of Infanticide: The Culture of Death Marches On" available from http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=2/11/2004#1245732; Internet; accessed 11 February 2004.
52. Jan Narveson, Moral Matters (Broadview Press, 1999), 175.
53. Conor Liston & Jerome Kagan, "Brain Development: Memory Enhancement in Early Childhood," Nature 419, 896 (2002), found in Scott Klusendorf, "Abortion, Research Cloning, and Beyond: Knowing Right From Wrong"; available from http://www.str.org/free/bioethics/UofM.pdf; Internet, accessed 08 Sept 2004.
54. Scott Klusendorf, "Abortion, Research Cloning, and Beyond: Knowing Right From Wrong"; available from http://www.str.org/free/bioethics/UofM.pdf; Internet, accessed 08 Sept 2004.
55. Bob Ashley, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
56. Dennis Laub, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
57. Scott Klusendorf, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
58. Body & Soul, 325.
59. Quoted in Dennis Laub, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
60. Body & Soul, ch. 7.
61. Stephen Thomas, "Three Problems: One Solution: A Response to Jan Narveson's Arguments for Abortion on Demand"; available from http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/narveson.pdf?docID=142; Internet; accessed 26 May 2007.
62. Scott Klusendorf, "Preach and Equip"; available from http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2007/01/preach-and-equip-sk.html; Internet; accessed 05 June 2007.
63. Frank Beckwith, "Abortion, Bioethics and Personhood: A Philosophical Reflection"; available from http://www.cbhd.org/resources/bioethics/beckwith_2001-11-19.htm; Internet; accessed 10 May 2005.
64. Francis Beckwith, "Gimme That Ol' Time Separation: A Review Essay, Philip Hamburger Separation of Church and State. Chapman Law Review, vol. 8:309, p. 324.
65. In the oral arguments for the 1998 Supreme Court case Webster v. Reproductive Health Services of Missouri, Attorney Frank Susman, arguing for 20 abortion clinics, declared that "the basic question whether [the fetus] is a human life, or whether human life begins at conception, is not something that is verifiable as a fact ... only by reliance upon faith." Found at http://www.all.org/abac/aq0203.htm
66. Quoted in Albert Mohler, "The Age of Infanticide: The Culture of Death Marches On" available from http://www.crosswalk.com/news/weblogs/mohler/?adate=2/11/2004#1245732; Internet; accessed 11 February 2004.
67. Philosopher Dianne Irving said, "Scientifically, there is no point from fertilization (or cloning) to death when the human nature of that human being changes at all; it keeps on continuously creating specifically human enzymes, proteins, tissues and organs - which only a human being can do." See http://www.all.org/abac/dni001.htm. Human embryologist, C. Ward Kischer said, "At any point in time, during the continuum of life, there exists a whole, integrated human being." See http://www.all.org/abac/cwk004.htm
68. C. Ward Kischer, Ph.D., "When Does Human Life Begin? The Final Answer"; available from http://www.all.org/abac/cwk004.htm; Internet; accessed 30 May 2007.
69. Frank Beckwith, "Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part Two): Arguments from Pity, Tolerance, and Ad Hominem"; available from http://www.equip.org/free/DA020.pdf; Internet; accessed 12 March 2006.
70. Justice Blackmun, Roe v Wade, Article IX.
71. http://www.family.org/cforum/feature/a0040306.cfm
72. Mary S. Calderone, "Illegal Abortion as a Public Health Problem," American Journal of Public Health, July 1960.
73. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, "Trends in Abortion in the United States", January 2003; available from http://www.agi-usa.org/presentations/trends.pdf; Internet; accessed 05 June 2007.
74. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Centers for Disease Control Surveillance Summaries, 9/4/92, p. 33. See http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5511a1.htm and http://www.grtl.org/docs/roevwade.pdf.
75. Bernard Nathanson, M.D., Aborting America (New York: Doubleday, 1979), 193.
76. Child abuse has risen since 1973 when abortion was legalized across the United States; it has not decreased:

1973 = 167,000 reported cases of child abuse
1980 = 785,100
1987 = 2,025,200
2000 = 1,726,000

These figures derive from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Center of Child Abuse & Neglect; National Analysis of Official Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting, available from http://www.godandscience.org/abortion/sld030.html.
77. Greg Koukl, lecture on tactics.
78. Patrick Lee and Robert George, "Reason, Science, and Stem Cells"; available from http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-george072001.shtml; Internet, accessed 30 September 2004.
79. Maureen Condic, "Life: Defining the Beginning by the End"; available from http://firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0305/articles/condic.html; Internet; accessed 12 May 2005.
80. Diane Irving, "When Do Human Beings Begin?: 'Scientific' Myths and Scientific Facts'"; available from http://www.all.org/abac/dni003.htm; Internet; accessed 09 February 2005.
81. Patrick Lee and Robert George, "Reason, Science, and Stem Cells"; available from http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-george072001.shtml; Internet, accessed 30 September 2004.
82. David Reardon, PhD., "Rape, Incest and Abortion: Searching Beyond the Myths"; available from http://afterabortion.org/rape.html; Internet; accessed 10 March 2006.
83. Frank Beckwith, "Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part Two): Arguments from Pity, Tolerance, and Ad Hominem"; available from http://www.equip.org/free/DA020.pdf; Internet; accessed 12 March 2006.
84. Francis Beckwith, "The Explanatory Power of the Substance View of Persons"; available from http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/ChristianBioethics.pdf; Internet, accessed 17 May 2005.
85. Francis Beckwith, "The Explanatory Power of the Substance View of Persons"; available from http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/ChristianBioethics.pdf; Internet, accessed 17 May 2005.
86. William Saletan, "Organ Farming: The Too-Weak Rule"; available from http://www.slate.com/id/2123269/entry/2123273/; Internet; accessed 28 September 2005.
87. Robert Wennberg, Life in the Balance: Exploring the Abortion Controversy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), 71, quoted in Frank Beckwith, "Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part Three): Is the Unborn Human Less than Human?"; available from http://www.equip.org/free/DA020.pdf; Internet; accessed 12 March 2006.

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