What’s Wrong with the Pro-Life Position?

Atheism and ChristianityOne commenter to this blog made the excellent point that the label “pro-life” for the anti-abortion movement is a bit odd.  In this contentious debate, I wanted to label those in each group as they prefer, but who’s not pro-life?

In the Christian view, life on earth is “the cramped and narrow foyer leading to the great hall of God’s eternity” (William Lane Craig).  What a dismal view of life—something simply to be endured as we wait for the real Life to begin.  By contrast, the atheist, certain of only the one life we all know exists, is the one who lives life to the fullest.  It can be argued that the atheist is the one who’s truly pro-life.

But let’s leave the conventional labels alone and consider the pro-life position.  If there were no downsides of carrying a fetus to term, if carrying the fetus to term were nothing more than a minor inconvenience for the mother, the abortion question wouldn’t be an interesting issue.  But of course there are downsides—big ones.  To bring a child into the world, poorly cared for in the womb, unwanted and unloved by its mother, abandoned by its father, neglected or abused, or growing up in squalor or in an abysmal home—for me, that potential harm eclipses the harm of denying a cell the chance to grow into a person.  Demanding that the state step in and declare that it knows the consequences better than the mother seems an odd position to take for typically conservative Christians.

The pro-life advocate has a quick answer: carry the child to term and give it up for adoption.  But this does nothing to address the problem of the woman unable to or uninterested in caring for herself and the baby properly during the pregnancy.  Or of the baby with identified birth defects.  Unhealthy babies are far more likely to live out their childhood in foster care.

“Just put it up for adoption” is hopeless naïve when only two percent of all births to unmarried women ended in an adoption.  For teen mothers, the rate is even less.  Let’s not pretend that if the mother’s life and home situation aren’t conducive to raising a baby until adulthood that she’ll always put the baby up for adoption.

Even if a teen mother chose to have her baby adopted, the consequences of the pregnancy are dramatic.  She’ll miss school, she’ll be ostracized, and she’ll go through an emotional meat grinder when it comes time to give up her baby.  And since the statistics say she won’t, that she will almost surely keep the baby, she’ll have no chance to get back on track for the life she had planned.

I have a mental image of an anti-abortion activist looking with satisfaction on the girl he just talked out of having an abortion, with no understanding of the shackles he may have placed on her life or the hellish environment to which he has may have consigned that child-to-be.  Infuriating.

The alternative to abortion rights is compulsory pregnancy.  My claims are simple: that (1) some lives are truly abysmal and (2) creating such a life (for the mother or the child) is a bad thing.  I doubt that my argument has convinced any pro-lifers to budge in their position, but I do demand that they acknowledge the terrible burden that making abortion illegal would place on a million women each year.

Next time: What Does the Bible Say About Abortion? Not Much.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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30 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with the Pro-Life Position?

  1. A semantic suggestion from a former adoptions social worker: babies (and children) are not “given up” or “put up” for adoption; they are released or placed for adoption. The first two terms do a disservice to both the adopted child and the relinquishing mother (and sometimes father) who is making the best choice for her child. Language can be powerful.

  2. Pingback: A Defense of Abortion Rights: the Spectrum Argument | | Cross ExaminedCross Examined

  3. So Bob thinks Murder is situational? Well at least he is finally being consistent within his materialistic relative moralism. Way to go Bob you finally made sense of your worldview.. Exactly what a moral relativist atheist should think.

  4. Bob said:

    “Any point you’re making is lost in the sarcasm and venom. Perhaps a restatement would make it clearer?”

    I have no venom ( sorry if you interpret that I did) I was serious for once you stuck to your moral relativistic worldview.

    You think murder of the baby is situational. ( Again we see your moral relativism.) The Christian says that abortion is murder ( taking the innocent life of a human being) This would be an absolute moral position. The mothers situation are irrelevant. It is absolutely wrong ( no matter what we think) to murder the innocent baby. This moral absolute truth exist outside of ourselves. (This is the Christian worldview) Which you deny, and that is fine.Your article says if one does not murder the baby that would be bad, because of the many situations that would arise to the poor mother who never wanted the baby. So your position is relative to the mothers feelings. So it is OK in your moral relative subjective opinion to murder the baby. Because is would be the less of the two evils. Notice your morality is all relative to the feelings you have. So for once you are consistent with your worldview of moral relativism. So that is what I was glad to see.. No sarcasm intended. And don’t forget some mothers may agree with you and some may not. In your worldview neither one of you is wrong, it just depends on what is relative to them. (Which reduces your worldview to arbitrariness but that is another subject). In the Christian worldview of objective moralism only one of them can be right. So good job on your consistency.

    • You think murder of the baby is situational.

      Nope. “Murder” is always wrong, by definition. Killing a baby is wrong in my opinion.

      (And if you want to call a single cell a “baby,” well that’s just ridiculous.)

      This would be an absolute moral position.

      You’re saying that the wrongness of abortion is built on an absolute moral foundation? Show me. All I see so far is that it’s your opinion.

      It is absolutely wrong ( no matter what we think) to murder the innocent baby. This moral absolute truth exist outside of ourselves. (This is the Christian worldview)

      Clearly stated. I just need a reason to believe it.

      Your article says if one does not murder the baby that would be bad

      (1) it’s murder in your opinion, not mine.

      (2) a cell is not a baby (I’ve raised babies, and I’m kind of an expert in what a “baby” is).

      (3) news of a pregnancy can be very, very good news or very, very bad news. Obviously, in the first case, you wouldn’t want an abortion.

      Notice your morality is all relative to the feelings you have.

      You seem to delight in making this more complicated than it is.

      I have my opinions and you have yours. “Right” is relative to who is saying it. Easy.

      And don’t forget some mothers may agree with you and some may not.

      Y’know what we could do? We could give mothers the choice about what to do (up to a certain point) because whether the pregnancy is terrific or terrible is decided by them.

      In your worldview neither one of you is wrong

      Wrong again.

      In the Christian worldview of objective moralism only one of them can be right.

      Yes. Not a very helpful definition, though, because “right” changes with time. Slavery was right and now it’s not. Genocide was right and now it’s not.

      That darn relativism–keeps coming up, doesn’t it?

  5. Bob said:

    “Nope. “Murder” is always wrong, by definition. Killing a baby is wrong in my opinion…”

    So are you saying “Murder” is “Always” wrong? So it is absolutely wrong no matter what? It is “Always” wrong no matter what?

    You then say killing a Baby is wrong in your opinion. But is killing a baby for someone who thinks it is not wrong just as equal to your opinion?

    • Look up “murder.” It’s wrong, by definition.

      No, it’s not absolutely wrong … or is it? You’ve yet to provide any evidence of anything being absolutely wrong. I don’t blame you–I can’t come up with any either.

      I can’t understand your last sentence. Please rephrase.

    • Bob C said: So are you saying “Murder” is “Always” wrong? So it is absolutely wrong no matter what? It is “Always” wrong no matter what?

      What do you say Bob C, is the killing of babies always wrong?

      If killing babies is always wrong, then why does your God do it Himself? If killing babies is always wrong, then why did your God command His followers to do it?

  6. Retro asked:

    “..What do you say Bob C, is the killing of babies always wrong?

    If killing babies is always wrong, then why does your God do it Himself? If killing babies is always wrong, then why did your God command His followers to do it?”

    Well first of all I never said killing. I said “Murder” ( taking the life of an innocent being).

    When God ordered Killings of peoples it was for their evil acts of Idolatry, sexual sins, murder ,and other injustices. All includes the breaking of God’s absolute Moral laws. God is just.

    And for someone who said he sincerely repented and asked for God to forgive him ( which from your actions I do not believe you) you know judge this God, of wrong doing? Have you lost your mind?

    • When God ordered Killings of peoples it was for their evil acts of Idolatry, sexual sins, murder ,and other injustices.

      It’s a weird idea to punish sexual deviancy with death! God’s got a twisted set of priorities.

      And then that whole Canaanite thing–they sacrificed babies, which made God so mad that he came and killed all their babies! (Oh–and everyone else, too.) I think God needs to retake Justice 101.

      All includes the breaking of God’s absolute Moral laws. God is just.

      God can kill children but people can’t. God can break any moral laws he wants without being called “immoral”–is that it?

      Being god must be a sweet gig!

    • Bob C wrote: When God ordered Killings of peoples it was for their evil acts of Idolatry, sexual sins, murder ,and other injustices. All includes the breaking of God’s absolute Moral laws. God is just.

      And what evil acts or sins did the Canannite infants commit?

      Have you lost your mind?

      Maybe I have.

  7. “No, it’s not absolutely wrong … or is it? You’ve yet to provide any evidence of anything being absolutely wrong. I don’t blame you–I can’t come up with any either.”

    What kind of evidence are you looking for?

    Where is you evidence that morality is not absolute?

    • Don’t try to wriggle out of your burden of proof, please. You’re the one making the claim that absolute morality exists. I’m simply waiting here, patiently, for any evidence for this remarkable claim.

      So far, not so much.

  8. “Don’t try to wriggle out of your burden of proof, please. You’re the one making the claim that absolute morality exists. I’m simply waiting here, patiently, for any evidence for this remarkable claim.”
    I asked what kind od evidence are you looking for?

    • It’s an enormous claim, so I expect enormously compelling evidence. But let’s start with whatever you’ve got.

  9. Well Bob along with your moral relativism. I know you are a naturalist, materialist. So the only evidence I would think you would expect would be from the natural material physical world? Right?
    So being we do not find morality, ethics, laws of logic, under rocks or in the closet, how can I give you evidence of these things?

    Help me out here? What kind of evidence will you accept in your worldview?

    • Well Bob along with your moral relativism. I know you are a naturalist, materialist.

      You haven’t handled labels well before, and you’re juggling quite a few here. Be careful that you don’t cut yourself again.

      So being we do not find morality, ethics, laws of logic, under rocks or in the closet, how can I give you evidence of these things?

      You’re saying that I have a hard time accepting the existence of morality and logic? Uh, no. But thanks for checking.

  10. Article III of the bill of rights states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course that means we can put our religious beliefs into action in whatever way we deem fit and the government can’t do a darn thing about it. I believe this is a bold attempt to undermine the bill of rights and to grab alot more power for the executive branch of our government. Actually it is in direct violation of their oath of office (preserve, protect & defend the Constitution) and thus an impeachabe offense!
    We do have religious freedm in our country and the president is trying to take this freedom away and is confident he can do so!
    We can think that this could never happen here and well, everyone uses contraception anyway so, what’s the big deal. But consider this, every dictatorship, totalitarian state, marxist state and police state have started out by taking away freedom’s enjoyed by it’s citizens.
    Ask yourself how could someone care more about a supposed right to a free abortion procedure than to the free exercise of one’s religion? This defies logic!

    • Actually, you’re referring to the First Amendment, but I know what you’re talking about. Sounds like we agree that it’s fundamentally important.

      Of course that means we can put our religious beliefs into action in whatever way we deem fit and the government can’t do a darn thing about it.

      Well, there are a few restrictions. A church couldn’t have human sacrifices, for example, no matter how central that is to the religion. Polygamy was outlawed by the Supreme Court in the late 1800s, which impinged on the Mormon church. But in general, religion is quite free in the U.S.

      I believe this is a bold attempt to undermine the bill of rights and to grab alot more power for the executive branch of our government.

      What is?

      Ask yourself how could someone care more about a supposed right to a free abortion procedure than to the free exercise of one’s religion? This defies logic!

      What defies logic is how giving people a choice infringes on the exercise of your (or anyone’s) religion.

      Of course, it does infringe on how your religion can control other people. I don’t have much sympathy for that loss.

  11. Actually, a truly Christian world view respects a woman’s absolute right to moral agency in this matter, on the following grounds:

    1) God does not condemn the soul of a conceptus nor harm whatever essential quiddity or life-force it has.
    2) God has women having the babies, not men, which indicates that God means for women to make these choices.
    3) A woman’s conscience is as powerful a part of her being as the functioning of her womb, and her decision to terminate a pregnancy is as much part of God’s work as her decision to continue it.
    4) God is entirely able to use a woman’s decision to terminate as a message from him – mainly aimed at the people around her to question themselves about why she made her decision and how they should choose to modify their behaviour (removing the beam from their own eye before attempting the mote in their neighbour’s).
    5) A woman’s decision about her own pregnancy has to be between her and God, within the guidance made by medicine and the protections of existing law for post-24-week gestations, and to intrude upon that decision legislatively for reason’s of someone else’s religious views interferes directly with that woman’s personal relationship with God. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.
    6) Specifically with regard to married couples, a marriage is between two persons, and when a couple decide to terminate a pregnancy, having a legislator intrude upon that for his or her own religious reasons is like having that legislator participate in the love-making which generated the pregnancy in the first place: in other words, he/she has no right to access the marital bed or the marital relationship, even to *further* “protect” a fetus beyond the protection currently extended. Insisting that somebody else’s religion should trump the equally-faith-based decision of a couple violates that couple’s right to their moral and religious integrity.
    7) Ultimately, the woman who is pregnant takes the greater part of every consequence of every decision she makes about that pregnancy: not legislators, not her husband if there is one; and if a baby results from that pregnancy then that person’s life remains her responsibility until it grows to adulthood. God respects women more than men do on this subject, and we women know perfectly well what we are doing, and ultimately who this decision lies between: it’s just me and God. Your opinion, even your heartfelt belief, doesn’t count.

    Christians respect every personal relationship God has, and we know that we cannot fully know his mind, so we work to create better consitions for humankind, respecting everyone’s moral agency and trusting to God to deal with the consequences. The anti-choice arguments claiming to be Christian are historically and theologically inaccurate – even 20 years ago evangelicals were comfortable with saying that a fetus was not the equivalent of a baby.

    Beware false prophets – like ALEC and the Koch brothers, who are widely-exposed as manipulating honest people’s moral values into support for radical political repression.

    • Well said. I wish more Christians felt this way.

      As for a legislator intruding in the decision to terminate being as ridiculous as a legislator intruding in the bedroom, here in the US the latter isn’t too far off. Some Republican candidates for president seem eager to place all sorts of constraints on people’s love making (access to contraception, access to the morning-after pill, etc.). It’s disturbing how sex makes some religious people think weird.

      Another commenter made what I thought was a great comment, that if abortion were morally abhorrent, we’d know it from the women who carry, bear, and then nurture the child. And yet it seems to be mostly men who imagine themselves the know-it-alls about morality.

  12. Can I ask a question? Why is it ok to murder an innocent child at any age? No matter if its 5 or was conceived yesterday. A baby is seperate from its mother the moment it is conceived. It has its own DNA and is growing into a unique person. Is it ok to kill someone just because of what stage of development they are in?

    God bless you, Alyssa

    • Alyssa: I don’t think it’s OK to murder an innocent child. I also don’t think that a single cell that you can’t see without a microscope is a child.

      I’ve raised two children. I’m pretty much an expert on what makes a child, and something that’s invisible isn’t one.

      BTW, this post and many more are at the new site for this blog:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/

      You’re welcome to come there, sign up for email notifications of new posts, and comment on the posts there.

      -Bob

  13. One last thing, reading your last comment you seem to think only men support the pro life cause. “if abortion were morally abhorrent, we’d know it from the women who carry, bear, and then nurture the child. And yet it seems to be mostly men who imagine themselves the know-it-alls about morality.”
    I am a pro life woman and I know plenty of others. We carry life within our womb. We have no right to extinguish it

    • Alyssa: Yes, I realize that there are pro-life women. I’m simply wondering about the gender imbalance.

      As for the sentiment expressed in your last line, that’s fine. I have no problem with that view. Use it to guide your own actions, and encourage it on others.

      But here’s the problem: you being so sure that you’ve got it all figured out that you want to impose your view on everyone else in the country by law. That’s where I see the problem.

  14. Your opinion is a valid opinion but I think that it is a child from the moment of conception. The child has a separate identity from the mother and is a human being. I’ve been around children my whole life too. I have a classroom of 43 of them. The child is not invisible, as you say, but simply to small for your eye to see. The question is does size mean someone is human? Is it at a certain hight that a child becomes a child?
    I’m not trying to force my beliefs on anyone. I’m simply saying that freedom goes both ways. Obama shouldn’t be forcing us to pay for contraceptives and abortions either. Yes of course I would like to see every human life respected, valued, and wanted but I can’t control others. I can talk to them and try to win every victory I can but they are humans to and have a right to there own opinion.

    • Alyssa:

      The child has a separate identity from the mother and is a human being.

      Sure, let’s call it a human being. But it’s not a child, baby, or person. I talk about that more here.

      I’m not trying to force my beliefs on anyone.

      If you’re not trying to undermine others’ ability to get abortions, then I’m not trying to force my beliefs on you either.

      Obama shouldn’t be forcing us to pay for contraceptives and abortions either.

      And the Christian Scientists? Should they be forced to pay for any health care since they don’t believe in it for themselves? What if a religion had policies about race (the LDS church only allowed African Americans to become leaders in the church in the 70s, I believe)? Should we respect those?

      Truth is, the First Amendment gives religion much freedom, but not complete freedom. Where there is a clash, the state wins (example: the 1890 Supreme Court case that made Mormon polygamy illegal).

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